Saturday, September 30, 2006

Literary Coming of Age

I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories. I wrote my first book so I could explore the growing process of a gay Filipino kid. I'm not through with this topic. There's a little bit of that in my second book. Let's face it, childhood haunts me and I often wonder how we make it through those tough and tender years.

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

Literary Fitness

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

Literary Resignation

I did another round of edits. I sent it off this morning. My editor e-mailed me back and said from this point on, there will be no new writing. And I wanted to say, WAIT! Let me take one more look. Then I realised it's time to let this baby go. It'll never be perfect. It is what it is. It's been with me for five years and I should do other things, write other novels, maybe start dating again.

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

Literary Blurbs

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

Literary Book Fair

People will often categorize my writing. Noel is an Asian American novelist. Mr. Alumit is a gay story teller. Noel Alumit is a post-modern west-coast writer. One title that I enjoy is being called a Los Angeles writer. Los Angeles is my home. It shaped my identity and art. On Sunday, the 17th, I get to moderate a panel on LA. It's at 1:15. I get to discuss Los Angeles as a character in fiction with the likes of Diana Wagman and John Morgan Wilson.

There will be much fun had by all.

Check out the website:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Literary Lama

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

Literary Second

I finished another round of edits this weekend. I have another one to go. This book is dedicated to my late father. I hope I honor his memory well by it. It's been with me for a long time--over five years now--and I'm looking forward to closing this chapter of my life (sorry for the writing reference. I'm tired.)

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

Literary Outing

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

Literary Readiness

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

Literary Gentrification

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.