high-powered corporate and labor attorney in the biggest law firm in
Manila, she was a beautiful young Filipino divorcee with a toddler
daughter when, in 1993, she was swept off her feet by a handsome
foreign consultant from America whom she met at a client's office.
It sounds like fine fodder for good fiction, but that's the
real-life tale of Victoria Smith of Agoura Hills, winner of the Ventura
County Writers Club's fifth annual short-story contest.
A lovely leading lady in her own right, the well-spoken Smith went on
to marry her American beau and move with him to Canada and then the
United States -- settling last year in Agoura Hills, where with her
husband's blessing she began to truly follow her passion to write by
joining the Ventura County Writers Club and writing fictional pieces in
earnest. This was her first time entering a short-story contest.
Selected from among 115 entries, Smith's sexually charged tale
of marriage, fidelity and other matters of heart and soul, titled
"Portrait of the Other Lady," made it through the tiered, blind judging
of the Writers Club -- which narrowed the field to the top 10 -- and
The Star, which selected Smith's story as No. 1.
(No. 2, "A Promise to Eloise," is a story of enduring love and
the cycle of life, by Greg Elliot of Agoura Hills. No. 3 was "El
Norte," a modern-day tale of an adolescent Mexican boy desperately
seeking a new life in America, by Mary Ann Holstrom of Santa Susana.)
The winners were honored with cash prizes -- Smith earned $500
-- and plaques at the Writers Club's fifth annual Write Fest writers
conference Nov. 20 at the Clarion Palm Garden Hotel in Thousand Oaks. A
beaming Smith and her family were in attendance.
"I'm just so proud of her," said Steve Smith, Victoria's
husband of 10 years, who stayed for the awards ceremony, then dutifully
took their children -- 14-year-old Francesca, an Agoura High freshman,
and Travis, 7 -- to In 'N' Out Burger for lunch.
"My husband is a darling," Smith said during an earlier interview. "He's a dear heart."
Supporting her fully in her decision to give up law to write,
she said: "He was so sweet. He said: 'Honey, don't feel guilty that
you're not earning money. Consider this my gift to you, that you could
do this for yourself.' "
She seems to have earned the gift. Hard-working all her life,
Smith, the eldest of 10 children, is a dedicated sister and daughter
who, by tradition and her high-paying job, has resolutely helped
support her family in the Philippines.
She was 33 when she and Steve moved from her tropical native
land to the cold climes of Alberta, Canada, and then Michigan, where
she entered the master's of law program at the prestigious University
of Ann Arbor. Just after earning her law degree, she became pregnant
She gladly shelved her career to become a full-time mother and, eventually, to blissfully settle in sunny California.
Though she lives in relative comfort, her culture and her
conscience have driven her over the years to bargain-shop, often at
flea markets (like the lead character, Sandra, in her short story) and
often on the eBay online auction site; that is where she found the two
paintings that inspired her award-winning story -- a reproduction of
the sensuous 1864 Franz Xaver Winterhalter oil "Portrait of Madame
Rimsky-Korsakov" and an untitled portrait of an old woman from eastern
Europe. But, Smith said, her sexual tale of a middle-aged woman in a
dull marriage is not autobiographical.
She added, however, that she is proud to take bold writing strokes as a Filipino writer.
"Filipinos by nature are a very timid culture in terms of
speaking out," she said. "I acknowledge humbly that I am one of a few
among my countrymen -- of course, I am an American, but I am one of a
few (native) Filipinos -- who do speak out."
As for Smith's future, she said, she intends to take the
California bar exam in February 2006. "But to tell you what," she said,
"this whole writing thing has totally grabbed my heart, and I feel like
my passion is in that right now. It's something I could do that would
still develop my talents, use my talents without having to work outside
"I was always in love with writing," she said. "A law career does not allow that."