Friday, December 29, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
"When I speak of writing, the image that comes first to mind is not a novel, a poem, or a literary tradition; it is the person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and, alone, turns inward. Amid his shadows, he builds a new world with words. This man--or this woman--may use a typewriter, or profit from the ease of a computer, or write with a pen on paper, as I do. As he writes, he may drink tea or coffee, or smoke cigarettes. From time to time, he may rise from his table to look out the window at children playing in the street, or, if he is lucky, at trees and a view, or even at a black wall. He may write poems, or plays, or novels, as I do. But all these differences arise only after the crucial task is compete--after he has sat down at the table and patiently turned inward. To write is to transform that inward gaze into words, to study the worlds into which we pass when we retire into ourselves, and to do so with patience, obstinancy, and joy."
These words just did it for me. I kept thinking: yes, yes, YES! It also is a piece about his father. This is the third holiday season without my dad. I still miss him.
(Oh, I was caught by the New Yorker cover. It's quite striking. Notice the lesbian kiss on the lower left.)
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Saturday, December 16, 2006
I feel like my lips are moving but nothing comes out.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Earlier this year, I sent out a story for a contest. I didn't think I'd win. But I thought I'd get an "honorable mention." Yes! The winner was announced, along with a list of honorable mentions. I didn't make the list. Nothing!
I felt disappointment for a moment, just a moment. Life goes on. Looking back, I think I'd gotten more Nothing!'s than Yes!'s. I think that's why so many artist's will go on and on about piece that was published 15 years ago in the school newspaper. One Yes! covers all the Nothing!'s.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I call this blog, "The Last Noel" because all my life I've been called the First Noel. If someone sings that darned Christmas song one more time, so help me....Well, I can't get away from the Firsts of my name as I was involved with two Firsts recently. I ran the First Los Angeles Half Marathon today--and it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. Ur, the route went right by apartment, so I took a little break (went to the bathroom, changed running gear, and checked phone messages) before completing the remaining six miles.
The first issue of a new online journal made its debut not too long ago. It's called Subterraneans.
It is a "journal of lesbian and gay writing." And, yup, I'm in the first issue. www.subterraneansonline.com.
It's edited by Angela Brown, former Executive Editor at Alyson Books. They were kind enough to give new life to an old short story. It's called "Tito Abalez on the Brink of Manhood" and was published in the Asian Pacific American Journal several years ago.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
This is why my next book is coming out in soft-cover-- so my non-profit, artist, and other financially challendged friends and family will love me more. My second book can be got for less than $15!
"New releases of hard-cover novels cost $25 and more these days. If you buy just two a month, that's $600 a year."
From "Ten Sure Ways to Trim your Budget"
Read more from "Shouts and Murmurs" in the New Yorker:
Monday, November 20, 2006
Over the weekend, Skylight Books held an event honoring the 10th anniversary of the novel "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace. Agent Bonnie Nadell filled in for Mr. Wallace who couldn't make it. Radio personality Michael Silverblatt extoled the book and the writer, saying if he can't interview a genius like Nabakov, atleast he is grateful to have access to David Foster Wallace.
"Jest" is a book I'd been meaning to read for the longest time, but the sucker is 1000 pages. It isn't exactly a light, breezy read. The stucture is supposed to resemble a calculus formula. Frankly, I find the book daunting and hope to read it in 2007. Oy!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
My car was in the shop and the bus stop is quite a walk away. Walking there, I thought, I wish I had a skateboard. (I can run for miles, so I save my legs for that. Walking close to a mile in hard soled shoes ain't good for the feet.) I went to Target and got a skateboard. When I got home, I got on my skateboard, coasted to 7-11 and got a cupcake. In the parking lot of the 7-11, with my skateboard in one hand and a cupcake in the other, I felt like a little kid.
I'm 38 years old and I felt like I was a boy with my whole life ahead of me. The parking lot, the taste of chocolate bread in my mouth and a long piece of wood with wheels under my arm, sent me to a far, faraway place. If you see me around Silverlake riding my skateboard, you know that I'm trying to catch a lost era of my life.
I had a skateboard when I was in elementary school. It was such a freeing time. I still remember it romantically. Maybe that's why I tried to capture a little bit of it in my second book. In this paragraph, the boy Emerson is still grieving the loss of Jun, his older brother.
"Sometimes on rainy days, he’d shut his door, and pull out the skateboard, pushing it from one end of his room to another. Sometimes Emerson pulled out the skateboard just to look at it. There were dark footprints from where Jun used to stand on it. The varnish was almost gone. The red plastic wheels were nicked and turning brown."
Monday, November 13, 2006
My agent called and asked me about the new book. I said, We should be getting galleys of Talking to the Moon soon. He said, "No, the NEW book." I blushed. I told him my third novel is coming along S-L-O-W-L-Y. I have to do things like work, which takes up a good amount of time and energy. This is nothing new. Most artists know what I'm talking about.
Earlier this year, I promised to get a new novel to my agent. Uh, I'm nowhere near. The least I could do is get fifty pages to him by the end of the year. It's no novel--hey, it's something.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I did a really crappy eight miles today, basically walking the last two. Why am I doing this? Because I have pent up energy about my novel. Because I have the need to finish something wonderful by the end of the year. Because running this half-marathon will somehow remind of a time in my life when I felt physically and mentally strong. Right now, I feel like jelly.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I was hosting an event at Skylight. It was for a pretty coffee table book called Casa Mexicana. Photographs by Tim Street-Porter. This book attracted several interior designers. There was a disntinguished man in the audience. I started chatting with him. I asked, "Are you a designer?" He said, I used to design hair. He told me his name was Vidal.
It took me a second to realise that he is famed hair stylist Vidal Sassoon (pictured). Back in the day, there were some names in fashion that brought awe to this gay teenage boy: Calvin Klein, Yves Saint Larent, and Vidal Sassoon.
He told me that he doesn't design as much these days. He's asked to do more lecturing. Talking to him, I was thrown back to the 80's, reading Gentleman's Quarterly--when they had male models, not celebrities on the cover. Vidal Sasssoon products was plastered all over the magazine. I sat in my room reading GQ, wondering if I had it in me to someday be a gentleman.
In GQ, tips were given on behavior and appearance. Prepare to pay atleast $100 on a date or your chest should be precisely seven inches bigger than your waist. Of course, my concecpt of Gentleman and gentelmanly behavior has changed in the last 20 years. Some of the best dates had been spent curled up with someone in front of the TV, eating chinese take-out. Price: $10. I don't think my chest has ever been precisely seven inches bigger than my waist (there have been times in my life when my waistline was bigger than my chest.)
One concept about being a Gentleman that hasn't changed is humility. Mr. Sassoon, despite his contribution to pop culture, was humble and upon leaving, he said to me: "It was lovely to meet you."
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I hosted an event at Skylight with Janet Fitch. It was the end of her tour for her new book "Paint it Black." On her tour, she talked about people who hoped to see the same lyrical language that was in her first book, the bestselling "White Oleander."
Ms. Fitch said the character in her second novel is completely different from the protagonist of her first book. The language has to be different also. She talked about how she, in some ways, resembled her first protagonist--a lost girl. Now, she feels more like her second protagonist--a tougher girl.
Are we our protagonists? I wondered. My first protagonist was looking for home. My second protagonist is looking for resolution, redemption. Hmmmmm.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I often wondered why writers would list Playboy as a credit. And I thought the phrase "I buy Playboy for the articles" was highly suspect by those of my gender. Any one who knows me could tell you that "girlie magazines" are not my thing.
Instead of Hugh Hefner, I went as Darth Vader. (I couldn't find a decent smoking pipe to complete my costume.) I had the November issue of Playboy in my apartment and began leafing through it. You know what? I found it truly fascinating. Of course I skipped the pages about the "Girls of the Hawaiian Tropic," but found the writing interesting. There was an interview with Arianna Huffington, a piece on Islam, and a short story by Sam Lipsyte. I also enjoyed the fashion spread, which had writers (Michael Eric Dyson, Andrew Ross, Tony D'Souza, Ishmael Beah, Walter Kirn, Victor Rivas Rivers) wearing the coolest coats, under the clever heading of "Book Jackets."
I guess I'll have some explaining to do when guests come over and see Playboys on the floor.
Monday, October 30, 2006
The fun part of this publishing process is sending in my acknowledgment page. From day one, I'd add a name of someone or list a book that had been helpful to me in writing "Moon." I looked it over and realised just how many people I depended on to help me with my novel. Sheesh, there was a lot of kindness out there.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Skylight Bookstore, the place where I'd been hosting events for the past six years, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend. It has become a vital part of literary life in Los Angeles. We'll be having all sorts of food and fun stuff this weekend. C'mon by.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I'd been been so wrapped up with preparing for the publication of my second book that I hadn't had time to write--truly write. Yes, time and effort should go to the birthing process before you start on having another kid, but trying to have another kid is the fun part, right? And I need a little fun these days.
Anyway, I got a glimpse of creative writing again when I was driving to my job in downtown and, out of nowhere, a character from a story that I'd been thinking about entered my head and wouldn't leave.
Before I checked work e-mails and returned phone calls, I had to get those ideas down on paper. It felt good to write again.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
I went to the Southern California Booksellers Association Author's Feast Dinner at the Biltmore Hotel (above) on Grand Ave. I wore a tie and blazer and sat among booksellers, authors, booklovers and talked books, books, books. It was also an awards dinner and we applauded those who got notices in fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and mystery. (My first novel was nominated several years ago along with Alice Sebold and TC Boyle. Mr. Boyle won.)
This is the best part of the book biz that I like. People there just seemed to love books and respect writers. I went as both a bookseller (for Skylight books) and as an author. (Of course, I had to mentioned that I have a new book coming out next year and please keep an eye out for it.)
What I like about being around book people is that they are so smart. I never think that I'm talking to a ditz (which is something I always felt when I went to entertainment industry functions). The conversations were filled with substance. I enjoyed talking with religous scholar Jonathon Kirsch about his new book on the end of the world as proclaimed in the bible. I was in awe when Historian Lilian Faderman talked about the contributions of Los Angeles to the gay world. I loved listening to novelist Susan Straight tell me that there's a hot new writer on the scene--Alex Espinoza--who wrote a novel that I've GOT to read.
In the end, I hung out with other independent bookstore folks from Vromans in Pasadena and Booksoup in West Hollywood. We sat around and talked about writing and writers. We shook our heads at the number of magazines who are cutting their book review sections. We talked about starting a reality TV show about writers who work in a bookstore. We laughed and said no one would watch it.
I enjoyed this evening. It was stimulating.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I'd been looking at typeset pages of my novel. It's interesting seeing the type laid out. It does make a difference seeing my name written on the cover page. A swirly--is that a word?--font is used to spell Noel Alumit. It's interesting. It gives my name a ponderous, romantic, old-world feeling. As opposed to the Times New Roman font I always use, hoping to appear direct and modern.
A font makes a big difference.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Last night I went to see a friend's play. It's called "The Fat of the Land" by Don Cummings. It's interesting seeing work by a playwright. The words have to be heard and not read. It takes one actor to change the intention of a sentence.
It's always a sticky sitch going to a friend's play. The stars have to be aligned for everything to work. It's not just the writer, it's the actors, designers, and director working together.
One of the reasons I turned away from the stage and toward the novel is because I didn't want to have to collaborate that much. Novelists are control freaks.
I thoroughly enjoyed "Fat." Go see it. It's an honest to goodness play. There wasn't incredible light or sound effects. No extravagant costumes or scene changes. It's about people and their lives and their relationships to each other. It's playing in Hollwyood. Check out Don Cumming's website: www.doncummings.net.
Monday, October 09, 2006
This is me and fellow performance artist Kristina Wong.
Author Fred Smith's next book "The Right Side of the Wrong Bed" will be out in 2007. He judged this year. He had so much fun he wants to judge next year!
Frontiers Magazine editor Alex Cho (in white) with his friends. Alex also judged and his magazine was our media sponsor.
My fellow "commentor" Elizabeth Mediano.
Buds Sanjay and Ericson also judged.
Jenny told me she had a blast. I'm glad. I hate asking people to donate their time and energy and then have a crappy time doing it.
Clint had this outfit made especially for the evening. The red fur is detachable.
Nick Verreos is just the sweetest guy. I was thrilled that he agreed to judge the event.
In the end, a rush to congratulate the winner Maria Roman (in orage with a crown on her head). The final question--which I wrote--was: if you had one minute with President Bush, what would you say to advocate for your community. She said, she would ask him not to cut AIDS funding, because we desperately need the funds. I knew she nailed it.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Saturday, September 30, 2006
This evening I saw a cinematic coming-of-age story of a gay Filipino kid in "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros." Nathan Lopez (right) as Maximo is simply wonderful. This charming movie has been getting great reviews from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Times. Friends from the Philippines were telling me about this flick for some time now. It unflinchingly looks at the life of this FABULOUS boy amidst the poverty and corruption of The Philippines. The locales in the film will not be seen in Philippine tourist manuals anytime soon. This boy's soul flies regardless of the circumstances surrounding him. If it's playing in your town, go quickly.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
It hit me. My book will be out in six months and I feel like crap. I learned about the kind of stamina it takes to promote a book. When I was promoting "Letters to Montgomery Clift" I got sick more times than I was used to because my body was breaking down from the effects of book promotion. I'd have to speak about my book a million times, each time trying to make it sound fresh and interesting. I shook a lot of hands--a major way germs are spread--and ate a lot of fast food.
I learned the importance of staying fit and healthy. In the last few months, doing edits and rewrites, my workout regimen became non existent.
Okay, here's to becoming fit again. I went back to kung fu last night and I did another 8 miles this morning.
Monday, September 25, 2006
I began running more deligently. I did 8 miles the other day--something I hadn't done in a long time. I can get healthy again.
I'll see galleys--the roughcut in book form--make slight tweaks, then off to the printer. My editor thinks he'll have actual copies by December.
To tell you the truth, I'm kind of scared. I've wanted this journey to end for the last two years. Now, it's coming to a conclusion. Be careful what you wish for.
I feel like a knight in dimming armor, coming home.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
You know when you look at the back of a book and there are quotes (aka blurbs) from other writers saying nice things about the novel or author? It's part of a marketing strategy for you, the reader, to be convinced that this story is worth spending time and money on.
Well, those little blurbs may actually take some effort to get. A friend's publisher sent his book out to thirty writers to blurb. Not a single writer provided one.
At a luncheon, I met Michael Chabon. I asked him if he'd consider blurbing "Letter to Montgomery Clift." He said he only does it for friends. I wasn't his friend, so I slumped away.
I'd been asked to blurb books. I'm not asked to blurb a book that often, so I happily consented. Right now, we're looking for blurbs for "Talking to the Moon." My editor and I threw some names around. I personally asked two authors I really admire--I mean REALLY admire--to provide blurbs. They said they would, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm gritting my teeth believing that they'll read my novel and decide that they simply can't put their award-winning, bestselling names behind this mess of a book. Then they'll spread the word to their circle of writer-friends, booksellers, and literary critics that my second novel was a real stinker. This means my book is dead in the water even before its published. Then these writers I really admire avoid me at book fairs and writers conferences, whispering how I showed so much promise until THAT second book of his surfaced. And then--oh Gawd, Noel, get some sleep.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
There will be much fun had by all.
Check out the website:
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I spent the last three days in the presence of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. I, and three thousand others, listened to His Holiness interpret ancient Buddhist text. It was on the second day that I looked up from my notebook and realised--holy cow! I'm getting instruction on compassion and altruism by a Nobel Prize Winner in Peace!
Let me tell you receiving Dharma, or Buddha's instruction, is no easy task. I confess that I was proud of myself. I only nodded off once or twice during the three days.
As the days passed, I noticed the audience would get slightly smaller each day. Some people had no idea of how hard it can be to learn Dharma. It was difficult wrapping your brain around text that went:
"Either within or likewise without
Or somewhere in between the two
The conquerors have never found the mind
So the mind has the nature of illusion."
There were a hundred and 12 of these stanzas we had to wade through. His Holiness would speak in Tibetan, then an interpreter would take over. I was reminded of old school days, having to interpret William Shakespeare's Sonnets. This task was far more exhausting.
Regardless, it was special to witness His Holiness live. Reading sacred text and hearing the Dalai Lama's interpretation of them was a highlight in my life. It was even more amazing that His Holiness would say that these teachings from A Commentary of the Awakening Mind by Nagarjuna was difficult and that even he gets confused. I became more humbled--see, you don't have to know everything.
I was able to put these lessons of love and compassion to the test on the last day of the teaching. There were so-called Christians across the street from where the Dalai Lama was screaming at us, yelling epithets, and saying we're going to hell unless we choose Jesus.
Normally, I would have yelled back or atleast shot them the finger. Instead, I just started laughing. They simply looked ridiculous.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
I've had my head in my hands over this novel. I learned alot about myself writing it. I hope readers learn something about themselves when they read it.
Friday, September 08, 2006
My editor sent me another batch of edits. They're not as intense. They're more t0uch-up changes really. I have the weekend to get them done.
In addition, I'll be doing a reading on Sunday, September 10 at the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro. I'll be on at noon. I enjoy doing these. I'm reminded that there's a readership out there. That's something I forget sometimes hunched over my computer.
I'll be doing it with Anna Alves, Evangaline Genaden, Evy Ibarra, and Irene Soriano. It'll be hosted by Alan Aquino.
Check us out, if you can.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The following is taken from an e-mail that my editor sent me. It'll give me an idea of what to expect for the next few months. I'm done with the major revisions. It goes to copyeditors now.
"Copyediting takes about a week; once I have edits returned, I'll email them to you for your approval. I'll explain how this works when we're there but in short what I'll need for you to do is email me back the document with any tweaks, revisions per the copyeditors instructions. I'm guessing that I'd send this to you on Sept 11, so the faster you can go through the edits (and they'll be fairly light) the faster I can get the book typeset.
"My hunch is that the book will be typeset by Sept 20 or 21. From there galleys get printed, taking another week. That said, we ought to have galleys in hand around Sept 27-Oct 2. These will be uncorrected, so while galleys are being mailed, I'm going to send typeset pages to you and to a professional proofer for one last round. This will be your last and final chance to correct or add anything. I stress this because after you retrun typeset pages, that's it, so you'll want to make sure we have everything including acknowledgements, dedication, etc.
"We'll collate your corrections with the proofers and this will be the book that goes to press. Actual printed books should be here about Novemebr 20. That's a lot to take in so let me know if you have any questions. Also, now is the time to consider blurbs. Depending on who the writers are and how well you or I know them, it might be ok to send manuscript pages. Things can get really rushed by year end so I want to warn you that the pace can turn brisk out of nowhere and the production dept might ask from out of nowhere to have blurbs turned in right away. Just an FYI"
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Someday I want to have a book of short stories published. It would be connected to my nieghborhood. It would be called "Music Heard in Hi-fi." Hi-fi being the nickname for Historic Filipinotown. I have three shorts stories--I'm short by atleast seven. It's been something that I'd be toiling with for years. I just can't seem to get it together to write short stories because novel writing takes up a chunk of time.
The need to revisit this goal came about after watching the wonderful "Quinceanera," a coming of age movie about the inhabitants of neighboring "Echo Park." One of the most striking things about the film was the obvious gentrification of the neighborhood. It's something that I see going on in Hi-fi. Who would have thought the crack house around the corner is now worth a million dollars.
Of course gentrificaton brings up alot for me. In one hand, it's sad seeing my neighborhood being turned into condos. On the other hand, it also means my mother has a better nest egg if she chooses to leave.
On one foot gentrification means darker skinned residents may have to go. On the other foot, gay people, a community I so identify with and who are a big part of this gentrification movement, are adding a much needed diversity to these streets.
On one thigh (I've run out of hands and feet), a hipster cafe (Tribal Cafe on Temple) means ridding the neighborhood of those charming mom-and-pop stores that I grew up with. On the other thigh, I love iced mocha lattes and love that I can order such a thing in the nieghborhood I grew up in.
As a friend of mine once said, "Noel, if they're selling lattes in your neighborhood, it's over." Meaning having to accept that the neighborhood is turning into something else. I better get to writing that book of short stories, so that even I can remember what Hi-fi was like.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I'm working on the last 80 pages of my novel. It needs to be in by Wednesday. I thought this would be a breeze, but I just spent three hours rewriting three pages! I'm not a perfectionist, but I kept trying to get just the right feel to a scene. All because of an editor's note in the margins of the page, that read: "I guess I don't know where this is coming from." I thought the purpose of the scene was clear, but I was wrong. So, I'm clarifying. All last week was about cutting, now it's about fleshing things out. A simple comment from my editor like "This character needs more motivation for him to react this way" caused me to go into a late night writing fit finding more motivation for a character to do what he does. Ah, the writing life.
Friday, August 25, 2006
My novel feels like this torn up piece of parchment. I'm done with the small little edits. Barrel through, I kept telling myself. Now, onto the big stuff.
For the last coupla days I'd been struggling with restructuring the first part of my novel. It's been playing havoc with my head. I'd leave my apartment and think about: HOW THE DREK AM I SUPPOSED TO FIX THIS?!?!
It got so bad that I began to vigorously clean. Anyone who knows me knows that things must have gotten really bad with rewrites if Noel turned to cleaning.
Just when I was about to crash my car into the nearest oak tree, it somehow came together this evening. Let me tell you that I felt this incredible lightness overtake me.
Rewrites are due by the end of this month--which ain't too far away. Back to cutting board.
Monday, August 21, 2006
You know what I like about this guy in the photo? He's seems to be having a great honest to goodness vacation. He's out in nature, proud at having caught a fish. He looks like he's known a good meal or two. A cigar in his mouth. Me? My vacation time is usually spent on my creative endeavors. Right now I'm using vacation time to do rewrites on my second book. In the past, I'd use vacation time because I had a show. My last two "vacations" were attached to creative projects. I vacationed in New England because I booked a show there. I vacationed in The Philippines because I was a journalist writing for a travel magazine. Someday, I'm going to have one of those vacations when I plan two weeks and just go away. (Then again, I'd have to pay for flight and lodging myself.)
Monday, August 14, 2006
I'm feeling dull about my rewrites. I'm happy to be doing them, but my head hurts working on them right now. I can't give them my full attention. I have a major report due at work. (Ah, the day job) All of my mental energies are going to that. My writing has been primarily technical ("For Objective One, the collabortive membership had not changed from contract year one...."). I want to get it done before I take my vacation next week. I'll have two weeks that will allow me to concentrate only on my novel.
At this time, I'm doing the easy part of rewrites like replacing a comma or fixing some bad word-choicing. I'm reserving the big changes (like cutting out a major character and making the story still hold water) for next week.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Chapter Two is the new Chapter one.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
I wrote an e-mail to my editor and actually said, "Can we cover his ass more?" I asked that the emphasis be focused on his upper back and face. Otherwise, I think the image conveys a beautiful sense of dreaming--something that I explore in the story.
The cover of my first book....
When I was unpublished I hated when I heard an author whine about his covers. In the back of my mind, I thought: shut up already--be satisfied you've got a book. Now, I'm that author. (Life Lesson: Be careful who you curse. You become who you cursed.)
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Notes from my editor came in the mail for "Talking to the Moon." He wrote a three page, single spaced letter with his suggestions. He also sent back my 382 page manuscript with his mark-ups in red ink.
I was overwhelmed with his comments. It was like sending my beautiful child to school and having him return all beat-up, scarred, and told he doesn't play well with others. I had to call some novelist-friends of mine to calm me down.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in.
I put in my request for vacation days.