Monday, December 21, 2009

A Feeling of Completion

I got a holiday card from my agent wishing me well. He said he hoped to see a new book from me in the new year. (Imagine me lowering my head and shaking it!) I'd been promising him a book for the last three years. I'd been focusing on a novel, but, well, I put that piece of crap away. It just wasn't working. I wasn't believing the story. If I wasn't believing it, I knew YOU wouldn't believe it. There's a plotting issue that I can't seem to rectify.

I turned my attention to short stories. It felt good tackling something that felt like I could finish. That book project was also supposed to go to my agent this year, but it looks like a January delivery. However, I feel hopeful.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Knock it off, Conservatives!

Click on picture to enlarge. The sign is too funny to miss!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Holiday Party and Toy Drive

I have hosted the Gay Asian Pacific Support Network's Annual Holiday Party and Toy Drive for the last several years. This year is no different. We eat and be merry. Everyone brings a toy. It really is a highlight to my season. Click here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

World AIDS Day

I'm hosting this amaaaazing event at UCLA called 48 Hours to Action. It's on Tuesday, December 1st, World AIDS Day. More here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Short Story Advice

The late Kurt Vonnegut was influential in my adolescence. I just remember connecting with his work when I was a teenage boy. He has advice for those of us attempting the short story form. Click here. Good stuff.

I love tip number 5: Start as close to the end as possible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

They Shoot Journalists, Don't They?

It breaks my heart when I read that civilians are dying due to political strife in the Philippines. It frustrates me when I read that journalists are also being killed. Read the story here.

Sadly, this is nothing new in the Philppines. The southern region, in particular, has been devasted by violence. The disappearance of a protagonist's father, a journalist in the Philippines, is what incites the action in my novel Letters to Montgomery Clift. Volumes can be written about how writers are targeted in the Philippines.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

CNN's Hero of the Year

This guy is Efren Penaflorida. And he's my new hero!
He educates youth in the slums of the Philippines. See his acceptance speech at being named CNN's Hero of the Year. It made me tear up. "Find the hero in you." Click here.

Promise Fulfilled

Thank you all for coming to my Promising reading series. Here are the happy writers: Travers, Myriam, and Ian. Kudos to all!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Precious Gem

There was a lotta hype around this movie. Going into it, I was skeptical. I had read the book and sang its praises years ago. As a matter of fact, I remember thinking that this could never be made into a movie. There's no way Hollywood could make this story. I went to a private screening where Lee Daniels, the director, spoke of making the movie. Yup, Hollywood refused to make it. Fortunately, he found funding elsewhere. Regardless, I was expecting some cheap version of a powerful novel that left a distinct impression on me.

Within the first ten minutes, I knew that this movie would be a fine homage to the novel written by Saphire. Lee Daniels said he stalked the author for eight years, trying to get rights to do the movie. His determination paid off. The movie is the novel, yet it's not. It is two fine, creative mediums telling the same story.

I've seen Precious twice now and would highly recommend it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Book Trailer

More and more, authors are being asked to be more innovative. There's the movie trailer where you sit in a dark theatre and get glimpses of movies to come. Well, now there is the book trailer. This is where modern technology meets writing and authors are asked to put together a clip explaining a book.

Above is a trailer for Tod Davies. She's an author and publisher talking about her work. It's probably a little more sophisticated than other trailers. Her husband is director Alex Carson. You can see me laugh (early in the trailer, 'round .32).

When my next book comes out, I'll probably do one of these.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Promising on November 20

The Promising Series
Features D. Travers Scott, Myriam Gurba,
Ian MacKinnon, and Michelle Sewell

The Promising Series is the only reading series in Los Angeles that exclusively features Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender writers. A goal for the series is to celebrate established authors and introduce the next generation of LGBT writers.

“Recently thousands of queer people marched in Washington,” said Series Curator Noël Alumit. “Clearly, we’re doing all we can to be seen and heard. I like to think this reading series is a part of a movement: we MUST be recognized. ”

The next reading will be held on Friday, November 20th 2009 at 7:30pm.

The reading will feature:

D. Travers Scott has worked as a writer, critic, and artist, appearing everywhere from underground ‘zines to Harper’s and This American Life. For the first time, the best of Scott’s celebrated short fiction are gathered together in Love Hard: Stories 1989-2009, collecting work originally appearing in award-winning anthologies, queer media, erotica, and live performance, along with new stories never before published. Together, they offer the first comprehensive overview of Scott’s ongoing explorations of masculinity, sexuality, urban environments, family, love, and the power of writing. Scott is also author of two novels: the internationally acclaimed Execution, Texas: 1987and the Lambda Literary Award winner, One of these Things is Not Like the Other. He is currently completing a PhD at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California in Los Angles, where he lives with his husband.
Myriam Gurba is a teacher and writer. She lives in a small blue house in Long Beach with two rabbits and a Midwestern trannie. She is the author of Dahlia Season, a novella and short story collection which won the Edmund White Award.

Ian MacKinnon is a gay centered performance artist and curator of queer theatre events in Los Angeles. He is a member of Queer Exchange, a group of LGBTQ multidisciplinary artists who perform, tour, and conduct workshops around California. In his solo work Ian combines spoken text, gay centered Jungian psychological theory, digital video, and music to evoke issues central to the queer community and to Gay Liberation. He graduated with honors and a BFA in Acting from Meadow's School of the Arts at SMU. Ian was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for "Best Off Off Broadway Performance" for his piece, Spanked, performed at the New York International Fringe Festival, and toured to The New Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.
Michelle Sewell is an award-winning screenwriter, poet, and founder of GirlChild Press. Throughout her work as a poet and a social worker, she has maintained that there must be a place for women and girls to develop and express their truest selves. With that in mind she has created open mics, workshops, and writing circles to foster a "sacred space" environment for women. The Jamaican-born artist/activist’s work has appeared on NPR, in does your mama know?, Sinister Wisdom, Other Countries: Voices Rising, Campaign to End AIDS Anthology, and Port of Harlem Magazine. She is also a columnist for Swerv Magazine and Velvet Park: Dyke Culture in Bloom.

The Promising Series will take place on Friday, November 20 at 7:30pm. Skylight Bookstore, 1818 North Vermont, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 660-1175.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Seeing the Sartorialist

As you know, I am surrounded by books. Yes, I write, but I also host events at Skylight Books. Author events are nothing new to me. A book and author must be pretty amazing for me to schlepp somewhere to stand in line and get a book signed. Last night was such a case.

I'd been a fan of Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist, for quite some time. He's a photographer and writer. I became familiar with his work from reading the pages of GQ. I follow him on twitter and regularly visit his blog. Click here.

I don't consider myself a fashionista, but I dig his work. He photographs everyday people and shows off an individual's personal flare. The people he photographs aren't models, actors, or designers. They're just folks on the street who express themselves through clothes.

When I view his work, I see an artist photographing artists, people who wear a coat, fling a scarf, or wear a hat as a means of personal expression. Last night, on the rooftop of the Beverly Center, I stood in line to shake the hand of a man who makes ordinary Joes and Janes supermodels.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Short Story Reality

As many of you know, I'm putting together a short story collection. I've written about the difficulty of trying to get a collection published. Recently, a short story writer came to Skylight Books to promote her book of short stories. She said her agent wouldn't even send out the manuscript. Fortunately, she won a book contest that published her collection.

Here's an article sent to me from the Utne Reader on selling short stories. Click here. Thanks, Mark, for sending this link along.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

James and Me

I had the pleasure of hosting James Ellroy when he came to Skylight Books. The first time I met him, I was scared of him. He has an overwhelming personality and he's VERY conservative politically. He's also an amazing writer. (And he was kind enough to blurb my second novel.)

I've had the pleasure of introducing him several times now and he never fails to entertain. He's boisterous and rude and you can't pull your eyes and ears away from him!

He has some interesting writing tips that I might try.

1. He outlines the sh*t out of a book before he writes a word! Hundreds of pages of notes before he writes a novel. He figures it out waaaaaay before hand.

2. He said imagination trumps research. I research the heck out of a project. I interview people, read tons of books to get a feel of a period. He said research does not necessarily make a good book. Imagination makes a good book.

3. He cuts himself away from the world. He doesn't watch TV, see movies, read papers. All of his writing is prior to 1972. He doesn't want to be in the current state of the world today. (I'm partially there. I don't have a TV.)

4. Writers grow. This may sound obvious, but I'm a writer with two books under his belt. James has seventeen! He may be famous for The Black Dahlia, but he said he's done with writing about murdered women. I wonder about writing about other things, other communities. I'm curious what my future books will be, then again, I'm curious about the future person I will become who will write those future books.

This quote is currently taped to my bathroom mirror:

"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us." Joseph Campbell

To see me nervously interview James Ellroy, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Summer 2010

I sent my agent part of my short story collection. He was VERT encouraging. I hate to admit it, but I do need a few kind words to keep writing. It was like when I'd run a marathon and I'd feel like I'd hit a wall. There would be those few strangers yelling, "You can do it!" or "You're almost there!", then I'd feel energized again.

I'm still hoping to get a book to him this year. For a collection, ten stories is a good number. I have six of the ten. I'm steadfastly working on the seventh. I have the remaining three, but they're in pieces. If I'm focused, I can get my agent a completed manuscript sometime in December.

I've never tried to publish a collection of short stories, but I'm not stupid about it. A collection of shorts is one of the hardest things to get published. I know atleast three amazing writers who didn't get their collections published. And those were during better economic times.

I'm guesstimating that my agent will give me notes by early 2010, I'll do revisions, and have something ready to sell by Summer, 2010.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel and Mudslides

I am thrilled that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm hoping this will make it harder for the conservative right to aim useless attacks at a man trying to do some good for our country. Rush Limbaugh was a blowhard in the first place, but calling names at a Nobel Peace Prize winner just makes you look like an ogre kicking a puppy. When China gives grief to Nobel Peace Prize winner the Dalai Lama, they just look like one great big bully. This Prize will certainly affect dynamics in politics.

In other news, I'd been worried about people in the Philippines. They'd seen some real bad weather lately. Now, I'm particularly stressed because there are reports of mudslides in the Mountain Provinces of the Philippines, where my family is from. An area that was particularly hard hit was La Trinidad, Benquet Province--where my father's family is from! I e-mailed family members wondering about their safety. No word yet.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Returning to My First Love

Last weekend, I participated in the West Hollywood Bookfair. I'd participated before and always have a great time. This year was significant for me. I usually go as an author, reading something from a book or moderating a panel. This year I went as a "performer," a title I hadn't claimed in a really long time. I performed a monologue from my first show "The Rice Room: Scenes from a Bar."

Acting was my first love. I began pursuing it professionally when I was a teenager, getting my first agent at sixteen. I went to college majoring in Theatre. I thought I'd be doing it for the rest of my life. Then I discovered writing, a blind date that turned into a full on love affair. I found myself juggling two lovers.

About five years ago, around the time my father died, I sort of abandoned my first love. I felt the need to be alone, something writing allowed. I experienced a kind of transition when dad left, I truly felt like my childhood had passed away. My first love was a part of that. I'd heard that a son doesn't truly become a man until his father dies. I understood that.

Earlier this year, I began thinking about my old lover. In rekindling an old relationship, I talked about it with friends who encouraged me to go about it. I called up my agent, a very patient man, and asked him if he'd be willing to represent me again. He was kind enough to say, yes. I made sure my union cards were all in order and started auditioning again.

The fine theatre artist Michael Kearns asked me to be a part of his Queer Renegades at the Weho Bookfest. I took it as a positive sign. I went about memorizing lines again and rehearsing. It felt strange yet familiar.

I think that's why I decided to remove the "Literary" from my posts this year. My creative life will encompass more from now on.

Ironically, I started a short story about an actor. I do think I have a Hollywood book in me. If my return to acting will facilitate more stories, what a wonderful result that will be.

For a tour of the Weho Bookfair, click Here. Thanks to Karen Ocamb for sharing this link.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mother Nature--Dang!

It's been hard hearing the death toll rise in Manila. The storm was worse than Katrina. The pictures and videos from the region is heartbreaking. Hundreds have died and, unfortunately, more deaths are expected. Another storm is expected this Friday.

I donated money to the Red Cross and I plan to drop by an organization that is collecting food and clothes for the victims this week. I can't help but feel helpless over this. I'm e-mailing friends there hoping for their safety.

I'm sure they'll pull through. Filipinos know endurance, baby. Know it well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fire under my ass

Y'know, there's nothing like a little firm direction to get you going. Years ago, I was dragging my butt on finishing my first novel "Letters to Montgomery Clift." For three years, I looked at it and put it away, looked at it and put it away. I found myself in a writing class taught by Mona Simpson. She told me to finish it and I had the ending done in one month.

I'd been working on two books, a collection of short stories and a novel. I'd been flip-flopping between them for two years. Out of the blue my agent called and asked me how I was doing. He wanted to know when he would see my next book. I sort of panicked. I told him that I'd get pages to him...soon.

It's not that I'm afraid of my agent. I just really respect him and his agency. Within a week, I prepared part of a manuscript and shipped it off to him. Now, I'm waiting for notes.

In the last week, I've readied the first 50 pages of my novel for him to read as well. It's amazing how a little pressure does wonders.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hi Tech Tour of Hi-Fi

(Click pic to enlarge)
From the organizers:
On Sat. Sept. 26 there will be a series of four Mobile Media Guides to Los Angeles' Historic Filipinotown. This is the culmination of Public Matters' first year of Pdub Productions, our collaboration with The Pilipino Workers Center, HyperCities, Remap L.A, USC, local youth and community members. And we have quite the event to wrap it up.

There are free walking tours btwn. 1-6 and then a big Barrio Fiesta fundraising party that evening at the Pilipino Workers Center, 153 Glendale Blvd.

Tour-goers will use GPS-enabled Nokia tablets to access audio, photos and maps that bring to life immigrant perspectives and time periods. Each guide features one central figure of the period but is augmented by many other personal stories of life in Historic Filipinotown or Los Angeles during the time period: a Filipino “Fountain Pen Boy” (1898-1945), a Filipino Farm Worker (1945-1965), a Latina Teen (1965- 2002), and a Filipina Caregiver (2002-present).

Highlights of the day include:
* High-tech meets history: Free Mobile Hi Fi Immigrant Guides Walking Tours from 1-6 pm
* A jeepney returns to the U.S.: The world premiere of the Pilipino Workers Center Jeepney. It will be our largest piece of "mobile media" and actually will be tricked out to play the guides.
* Celebrity Jeepney Tour: led by L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti at 1 pm.
* A Barrio Fiesta fundraiser: from 6:30-9:30 including food, performances, music, an outdoor screening of the youth videos from the project, a raffle, and more.
* Illustrations of jeepney parts by Emmy-winning animator and Simpsons Assistant Director Jess Espanola. Proceeds will keep the jeepney running!
* Jeepney T-Shirts
* Pdub Productions Youth Media Screening: at the Barrio Fiesta
To make reservations and purchase tickets and for the most complete and up-to-date event into, visit our event blog:
Even if you can't make it, please consider making a donation, buying a ticket for someone else, or simply passing on the info.
And...if that's not enough, for those of you who crave yummy reasonably priced food (who doesn't?), The Good Girl Dinette is donating all of their tips next Wed. Sept. 23 to the project. They were recently named as one of "L.A.'s 99 Essential Restaurants" by Jonathon Gold. 110 N. Ave. 56 in Highland Park. Dine, tip often, and tip well!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Look, I'm a renegade

Hey, you all. I hope you can check this out. I'm planning to actually perform--as opposed to being authorly and simply read stuff.
It's at the park located on Melrose and Robertson. It should be fun.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Oh, Marcos!

(Imelda and her deceased hubby)

10 nice things to say about Marcos On his 20th death anniversary
By Benjamin First Posted 14:52:00 09/09/2009

CALIFORNIA, United States—Seeing the massive show of love and support for Cory Aquino, Imelda Marcos reportedly expressed hope that someday her late husband also would be honored in the same way, perhaps at a state funeral. Having grown up during, and survived, the Marcos regime, Imelda’s wackiness no longer surprises me. But her wish left me with a jaw-dropping realization: They haven’t buried that dictator!?!

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’s death. He died in exile in Hawaii in September 1989, three years after being chased out of Malacanang. But the dictator’s remains are still lying in a refrigerated crypt somewhere up north. Someone should tell the dictator’s handlers that what he said was, “I do not intend to die,” not “I do not intend to be buried.” Still, in the spirit of reconciliation, and since we have just relived the glorious days of the People Power Revolution, bid farewell to Cory Aquino, and commemorated the martyrdom of Ninoy, it’s perhaps time to also focus on the positive side of the late strongman.Besides, it is also Marcos’s 92nd birthday (September 11) and the 37th anniversary of the imposition of Martial law (September 21). What can I say—September has really been an unlucky month for us.So allow me to present my list—and, believe me, I tried real hard to come up with these—of the 10 nice things one can say about Marcos.

1. Marcos taught us to disdain bullies. Ferdinand Marcos was not the first, or the last, president to abuse his power. But, certainly, he set a seemingly unbreakable record. The nightmare of his 21 years in power still haunts us today, a powerful, constant reminder of a chapter in our history that must never be repeated.

2. Marcos taught us to disdain leaders who flaunt their wealth. Marcos and Imelda did not invent wealth-flaunting. The elites have been doing that for generations well before he came to power, and it’s still happening today, of course. But the Marcoses certainly took the brazen display of extreme affluence, in the face of extreme poverty, to a new low. I mean how can how one justify owning 3,000 pairs of shoes?

3. Marcos taught us to be suspicious of leaders who acquire wealth. The current president just ran into this problem, of course. And the last one too. Yes, politics is still widely-considered as an easy road to easy money, but too much greed is now generally accepted as dangerous to one’s political career. And we have to give credit to Marcos for this, for making Filipinos extremely suspicious of political leaders who suddenly get rich.

4. Marcos taught us to disdain politicians who brazenly cheat in elections. Now, I said “brazenly.” For yes, election Philippine-style is still dirty. But given our experience with Marcos, there’s a line, especially in national races, that I suspect candidates will not cross for fear of sparking a severe backlash. (Or maybe not.)

5. Marcos taught us to be suspicious of leaders who warn the nation that because of some unspeakable danger to the country they simply must have more power. “Emergency powers” and “martial law” are two phrases any Philippine president must use with extreme caution nowadays. If not, you run the risk of facing ordinary Filipinos asking: “What was that again Mr./Madame President? You say the communists, the rightists, the terrorists are about to attack? Oh, and the Martians too, perhaps? And that’s why you need to throw all these people in jail, shut down all these newspapers and TV stations and kill those who say you’re a corrupt liar? Sir/Madame, I think we’ve seen this movie before. Napanood na ho ata naming ‘tong sineng ito.”

6. Marcos taught us that there is a big difference between discipline and fear. “Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan (For our nation to develop, we need discipline).” That was the regime’s slogan for Marcos’s New Society. It worked for a time, mainly because people knew that by discipline, the dictator meant, “Shut up and submit, or else.” It got so bad that one US official observed that the Philippines in the 70s and 80s had turned into a country of “40 million cowards and one SOB.” Well, Filipinos were willing to let that be the case only for so long.

7. Marcos showed that friendship with powerful world leaders is no guarantee that one can hold on to power indefinitely. Oh, Marcos and Imelda look so happy and proud in photographs with Ronald and Nancy Reagan. They were friends after all. Reagan even sent his Vice President George H.W. Bush to Manila to praise Marcos’ “adherence to democratic principles.” Well, a few years later, the dictator was gone after the Reagan White House finally realized he had turned into a liability.

8. Marcos taught us to be wary of leaders who try to glorify themselves in songs, slogans, or big, ugly monuments. I was actually thrilled when Marcos imposed Martial Law in 1972. I was eight years old when it happened, and for a few weeks I didn’t have to go to school and there was nothing on TV but cartoons. But then, once back in school, my schoolmates and I had to learn these new weird songs about the new order and how everything was great about the regime.
And then there’s that gigantic bust up north. I’m glad nobody blew it up as some groups reportedly planned to do. For it stands as a powerful reminder of the twisted mind that once ruled our country.

9. Marcos taught us to be creative—in fighting back. Only in the Philippines could yellow confetti become a symbol of protest. And nuns praying the rosary in front of tanks—you just won’t find such an act of defiance in other places. But even before the People Power Revolt, during the darkest days of dictatorship, Filipinos were already coming up with creative ways to defy the regime. Students at the University of the Philippines used to launch lightning rallies, in which they march from one floor of Palma Hall to another, while yelling slogans and waving banners, and then quickly putting the banners away and dispersing before the cops showed up.
Even the artists dared try new things. Take my old boss and drinking buddy, the poet Pete Lacaba, who wrote a seemingly harmless, apolitical poem titled “Prometheus Unbound.” When read vertically, the first letter of every line said, “Marcos, Hitler, Diktador, Tuta”—the famous anti-dictatorship slogan, “Marcos, Hitler, Dictator, Puppet.”

10. Marcos made us laugh and helped demonstrate that, even during dark times, Filipinos can still maintain a healthy sense of humor. Marcos and his crazy war medals. Imelda and her theory of a hole in the sky about the Philippines through which cosmic rays pass to protect the country from disaster. Admit it, Marcos and Imelda made us laugh. If it weren’t for all the people who died and suffered during the regime, we could look back to that time as funny and fun years.
Marcos and Imelda jokes kept us entertained even as we endured tyranny. And we didn’t even have cell phones back then for speedy mass distribution. I distinctly remember a classic during one of the rallies after Ninoy’s assassination and Marcos’s face often looked swollen as he reportedly battled lupus. The protest poster read: “Mamaga sana ang mukha ng nagpapatay kay Ninoy. (I hope whoever had Ninoy killed gets a swollen face).” Well, it’s funnier in Tagalog.And without Marcos, what would have happened to Willie Nepomuceno, one of the most talented Filipino humorists ever? He was so good with his Marcos impersonation, that during the critical hours of the 1986 People Power Revolt, when the dictator appeared on TV to prove he was still in charge, there were those who believed it was a ploy—with the popular comedian in the starring role.

Of course, Nepomuceno’s career faced a crisis when Marcos was kicked out of the country, and later died. But he quickly bounced back, doing other politicos, including former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada. Fortunately, like the late tyrant, Willie Nepomuceno did not intend to die.

Not much of a list, but can you blame me? It’s tough to say anything nice about a dictator in a freezer.

In any case, to Marcos supporters, let me say this: There may never be a grand funeral for the late dictator, with big adoring crowds, a military honor guard, 24/7 TV coverage, and flattering commentary in media.

But don’t worry. We will never forget Marcos and what he did to our country. Ever.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Showing Some Promise

The Promising Series on September 25
Features Ama Birch, Richard Villegas, Kim Savo
And NPR/BBC Journalist Cash Peters

(Los Angeles) The Promising Series is the only reading series in Los Angeles that exclusively features Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender writers. A goal for the series is to celebrate established authors and introduce the next generation of LGBT writers.

“I think Americans are really interested in what we have to say,” said Series Curator Noël Alumit. “From marriage to the military, our lives have become important topics of conversation. We should let people know what we think and feel!”

The next reading will be held on Friday, September 25th 2009 at 7:30pm.

The reading will feature:

Cash Peters is an author and broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California. He can currently be heard on Marketplace on American public radio, and every week live on BBC Radio 5 Live. Cash has written seven books altogether, including his latest, Naked in Dangerous Places.

Ama Birch has had a wide variety of jobs: barista, prep chef, personal assistant to a mortician, stagehand on rock concerts, carpenter, amanuensis, educator, day camp counselor, and Christmas ornament shop clerk. Ama has written three full-length pieces for the theatre, and she has self published two chapbooks of poetry. Currently, she is living wherever she is working and looking forward to the publishing of her first full-length book of poetry Sonnet BOOM

Richard Villegas graduated from the University of Southern California’s Masters in Professional Writing program in the spring of 2008. He has published an essay and poetry in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Latino Arts Anthology 1998-2000, respectively. He currently teaches small people in LA Unified as he revises and revises and revises his novel, A Genealogy of Cannibals.

Kim Savo serves as a deputy federal public defender in Los Angeles, defending poor people accused of federal crimes. She writes to stay connected to her own humanity and to make visible the humanity of her clients. Before becoming a lawyer, she taught literature and composition at East Los Angeles Community College and the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Echo Park with her partner of 13 years.

The Promising Series will take place on Friday, September 25 at 7:30pm. Skylight Bookstore, 1818 North Vermont, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 660-1175.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writing Time

I was reading Peter Varvel's Blog. Click here. I got to thinking: what is writing time? This morning I went running and used it as a space for me to think about a story. I'd been thinking about this particular story for months now.

As I made my way through the trees of Griffith Park, the first sentence came to me. I had other parts rolling around in my head, but couldn't get started. I NEEDED that first sentence to get me going. Finally, it came:

They always make me ugly--that's what men do to women they're afraid of.

I know it's a draft and will be reworked, but for now, I'm quite proud of it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In Honor

Earlier this month marked the 10th anniversary of the killing of Joseph Illeto, the Filipino American postman who was targeted because of his race. A Jewish daycare center was also attacked. Fortunately, no one was killed.

This incident inspired my second novel Talking to the Moon. I had to write about it as a way of dealing with ugliness in the world. Hate crimes, injustice, unfairness. I had the pleasure of meeting Ish Illeto (above), Joseph's older brother. He's talked about how his brother's death was constantly ignored by the media and politicians.

Perhaps, that's one of the reasons why I wrote the novel. I wanted to give attention to this incident. Though my novel has nothing to do with the Illeto family, I've spoken at public venues about the book, reminding them all of Joseph Illeto.

In Talking to the Moon, I get my revenge. I wrote a scene about how the brother Emerson is at a press conference. He's completely ignored by the press and by the politicians present. He manages to find his own powerful voice and chastises people for not paying attention to the death of his brother.
Here's a commentary on the API Equality-LA website. Click here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pure Excitement

I went white water river rafting last weekend up in Kern County. I absolutely f-ing loved it! Some friends and I spent two days going down the Kern River, breathing in lovely mother nature.

That's me on the left. I was put up front because of the sorry lot that went on this trip, I was one of the more athletic ones. That's not saying much about the other folks. Anyway, most of the river was really scenic. I found it meditative.

Of course, this was river rafting and there were several rapids we had to overcome. There was one point where we got stuck on a rock and our raft filled with water. Thanks to the quick thinking of our guide, we freed ourselves. Atleast two of my teammates were thrown over and had to be rescued.

Here's a picture of me up to my neck in water. The rapids were overwhelming. It was definately a highlight of my year.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Oh, Nora!

I spent part of Saturday at the Historic Filipinotown Street Festival. With Cory's death, I wanted to see what the mood was. I ate halo-halo, an icy dessert, in a restaurant there. They had the TV on and the news was all about Cory's contributions to the country. (This included an interview with Hilary Clinton who seemed genuinely moved and shocked to hear of Cory's death.)

I must confess my mood lifted considerably when I saw who was going to be at the festival: Nora Aunor! For those of you who aren't familiar with her, she's a huge star in the Philippines. Read here.

Though I'd never witnessed any of her work, except maybe a CD here and there, I was familiar with her reputation as an icon in the Philippines. It's almost lore. She's almost someone you HAVE to have heard of if you want to lay claim to being Filipino.

Once she stepped out into the festival grounds, fans began to gather around her snapping photos.

She's a tiny woman, no taller than 5 feet. I joined in the photo taking. Fans were huddling around her and pushing me aside. I almost wanted to push back, then I realised the ones doing the pushing were other tiny Filipinas trying to get a glimpse of her.

She was not phased by all of the attention. She's a star afterall. I left feeling giddy, like I did one of the most Filipino things you could ever do: fawn over Nora.

Later that evening, I ran into some Filipino guys and told them that I saw Nora Aunor. They reminded me that poor Nora got in trouble with the law in Los Angeles a few years ago. She was alledgedly packing meth in her purse. Dirty details here. This only confirmed her superstar status. A star turns to drugs and tries to turn her life around? You only hear about that in the movies.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Mourning Continues

We've lost some incredible people in 2009. With five more months to go, I fear we're going to lose more.

I was stunned to hear of the passing of Corazon Aquino, the house wife who liberated the Philippines from the Marcos dictatorship. The torture and mayhem that came from the Marcos regime spurred the plot of my first book, Letters to Montgomery Clift. Ms. Aquino's heroic acts was a plot point in the novel.

I honor her for her bravery, but I am most taken with her path. Nothing in her upbringing would ever suggest that she would lead a revolution and preside over the country that she was born in. Girls of her generation in a country like the Philippines were not raised to become presidents. They certainly weren't raised to become revolutionaries.

This is what I found most interesting about this woman, who has become a symbol for many in the world. Those of us who ever dreamed of rising above our circumstances, becoming greater than what we could have ever imagined could look to this woman for inspiration.

Rest in all encompassing peace.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

R.I.P. E.L.H.

I am truly saddend by the death of author E. Lynn Harris. Read/listen to the NPR report here. I only read one book, but that's all that I needed to feel inspired. He was an openly gay black man who wrote novels about gay black characters that made the New York Times Bestsellers list. I was an aspiring novelist hoping to write about gay Asian characters. I thought, If Mr. Harris can do it, I can do it to.

We were different writers. I wanted to write deep, thoughtful work exploring the human condition, while Mr. Harris wrote fun, dashy, soap operetic novels that could be digested in one sitting. Regardless, we relied on the same medium to tell stories.

What made me respect him even more was his gumption. This was a man who couldn't get his first novel published. So, he self-published it and sold copies ouf of the back of his trunk. Amazing.

I regret not meeting him. However, I firmly believe that one leaves this earth when all the work one needed to do is done. Mr. Harris, thank you for your work. You did a great job!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Back it goes!

I'd been working on a short story. It began with the protagonist hearing about his father's death and returning to the Philippines to deal with it. Then I changed it. It began with the father calling his son home to meet before he dies. Now, I'm changing back to the original. So, it goes. This process has taken months.

Of course, I kick myself, thinking: why didn't I just keep the way it was. I wonder: I just wasted two months on something. Or I beat myself up: why didn't you think of a better solutions a long time ago.

Well, this is just the writing life and what I go through. Revisions, revisions.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Just thinkin'

Something I'd been thinking about is why I write? What keeps me writing? The only thing that keeps coming up is the concept that I have a Voice. Voice is interesting to talk about. It's that special something that distinguishes one artist from another. It's a point of view that only I have.

It's mine. I see the world in a particular way. I think it my Voice that has gotten me published thus far. It's what has gotten me any kind of attention. I'm grateful for it and want to cultivate it more. Unfortunately, it doesn't yield a lot of money. I do have those debates of Voice versus Commerce. I used to date someone who said that if I want commercial success, I need to write something for the masses. We're no longer dating.

It's something I wonder about as I get older. Then, I remember why I started writing. I promised myself that I would not be a whore if I ever got published. You see, I was this actor that seemed to cave when it came to making money. Can you please audition for a demeaning stereotype to get work? Sure. I felt like such a cheap whore.

When I wrote, I swore to keep it pure. I'm still trying to hold onto that. At times, my grip seems to be slipping. Well, grip tighter, I guess.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Literary Grad

My much younger cousin, Norbert, recently graduated from High School. It sparked my personal memories of my graduation back in 1986. Time doesn't just fly, it does aerials. See my piece here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Literary Childhood

This writer does not have the words to describe how the death of some childhood icons has been affecting me. This writer said it best here. I am a man of a certain age, influenced by the culture I grew up in. I do feel like a part of Yesterday has vanished, reminding me that all things do eventually pass.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Literary Sentiment

I feel like I'd been writing angry, frustrating stuff. Like this piece on the HIV funding cuts. Read here. I also turned in a piece for an anthology, recalling a vulnerable time in my life when I was 18.

For my own sanity, I felt I needed to write something a little more...uplifting, grateful. I came up with this piece for the Huffington Post. On Father's Day eve, I'm happy I had a father to love and hate. Read here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Literary Blue

This was orginally on my list of "Must Read Summer Books." It was taken off my list because it was reviewed in a previous issue. So, here's what I wrote:

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal (Kensington)

Kiran Sharma is a twelve year old doll-playing-ballet-dancing American boy of Indian descent. From the very first page, Kiran will charm the pants off of you. He says, “I’m surprised that my mother still doesn’t know. Surely she must notice her cosmetics diminishing every day. Surely she has noticed that the ends of her lipsticks are rounded, their pointy tips dulled by frequent application to my tiny but full mouth.” And young Kiran wants to be a God, the Hindu deity Krishna. His divine path makes for a memorable journey.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Literary Summertime

My gay Summer reading list was published in Frontiers Magazine. It's in the Pride issue, which mean a ton of people will be picking it up when they come to gay pride this month. It was a tough list to put together. I mean, reading tastes are so vast and varied. I thought of those who enjoyed the light beach read to the more thought provoking tome. Anyway take a look here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Literary Move

The Promising Reading Series Moves to Skylight Books

(Los Angeles) The Promising Series is the only reading series in Los Angeles that exclusively features Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender writers. A goal for the series is to celebrate established authors and introduce the next generation of writers who will explore the GLBT experience.

“The Queer Voice is more important than ever,” said Series Curator Noël Alumit. “In America, gay rights has become a polarizing issue. In other parts of the world, you have gay men who are being executed in the Middle East and lesbians being raped in South Africa. Those of us who can speak, should.”

With the unfortunate closing of A Different Light Bookstore in West Hollywood, The Promising Reading series has moved to Skylight Books in Los Feliz. “A Different Light Bookstore gave a lot of queer writers a launching pad,” said Noël Alumit. “I was saddened with its closure. However, Skylight has always been supportive of queer writers and was kind enough to host the series and support its goals.”

The next reading will be held on Friday, June 5th 2009 at 7:30pm.

The reading will feature:

Cheryl Klein’s first book, The Commuters, won City Works Press’ Ben Reitman Award and was published in 2006. Her novel Lilac Mines was published by Manic D Press in 2009. For more of her writing and blogging, visit

Raquel Gutierrez is a community based performance writer and cultural activist. She is a co-founding member of the queer performance art ensemble, Butchlalis de Panochtitlan, and has written their first play currently in production called The Barber of East L.A., commissioned by a humanities initiative at USC that enabled the troupe to work with Luis Alfaro.

Scott Turner Schofield’s first book Two Truths and a Lie (Homofactus Press) was a finalist for two 2008 Lambda Literary Awards, and made the 2009 American Library Association's Rainbow List. His latest performance, “Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps,” plays at Highways in Santa Monica June 12-13.

Orlando Ashley is an actor and comedian embarking on a literary career in Los Angeles.

The Promising Series will take place on Friday, June 5 at 7:30pm. Skylight Bookstore, 1818 North Vermont, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 660-1175

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Literary Huffington

I'd been a fan of the Huffington Post for quite some time. I am honored to have a piece in it. Click here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Literary Latest

I'd been anticipating the announcement for the ruling on Prop. 8. Needless to say, but I am terribly disappointed. More on that later.

I wanted to write this post to acknowledge the death of an important Asian American academic, Ronald Takaki. Read more here. I read his book "Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans." It was mind blowing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Literary List

Frontiers In Los Angeles magazine asked me to put together a reading list this Summer that the LGBT community might want to read. I put out a call to agents, editors, publicists, and authors that I knew. I wanted books that would be published between March and September. The reponse has been overwhelming and compiling a list of just ten books has been daunting.

There were some books that I really enjoyed, but I wondered if they were "Summer" reading. I don't want to insult readers, assuming they just want fluffy beach books. I'm hoping to have a spectrum of books available. But just ten?

I e-mailed the editors and hoped they would consider more book features because something I've witnessed: there are a lot of great queer books coming out!

If anything, I hope to feature them on this blog. Oy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Literary Cat

This is why I believe in reincarnation. You can't tell me that this feline, named Fidel, didn't have a past life as an avid reader. Read more here.

Thanks, Allen, for the heads-up.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Literary Black Berry

I got a black berry, something I'd been torn over. I worried that it would distract me from my writing. We'll see...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Literary Weho

If anyone is in the West Hollywood area on Wednesday night, May 6th, round 7pm, check out this reading at Book Soup. It sounds like an interesting read.

For more information, click here.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Literary Manong

I got word that poet and activist Al Robles passed away over the weekend. He was mostly known in northern California, but his work sent ripples to Fil-Am communities across the country.

I saw him read at a conference at UCLA years ago. He was known as Manong, loosely translated as Uncle. Read more about him here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Literary Vid

Literary Check

You are a professional if you get paid. I got my first writers check of 2009. Woo-hoo! I am a professional writer for yet another year. It was for a hundred and fifty dollars. Papa's going to by some groceries!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Literary Northridge

I spoke an Asian American fiction class at Cal-State Northridge. I showed up and was surprised at the very warm welcome. They had a potluck with some incredible food. What I loved about going to this Asian Am. Fiction class was that it was very diverse--there were non-asians taking the class!

There was something personally uplifting about this for me. I read the spectrum: from John Irving to Toni Morrison. Seeing young people making an effort to read about other cultures other than their own was really inspiring. And isn't that the way it should be?

All of the students, probably born in the late 1980's, had never heard of Montgomery Clift or the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. In that way, I'm glad my novel had educated them.

Here's a pic of the dignified author (in tan jacket) with a melee of students. Maria, the woman in front of me, teaches the class. They were really great.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Literary Smarts

Come one, come all. I am honored to serve as host for another Dead Poetry Slam produced by Smartgals. It's this Sunday night, April 26th. It really is one of those events you must experience. It's a hoot seeing professionals artists interpreting the work of poets no longer with us. Read more here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Literary Torture

It's torture to read and watch news accounts of America torturing people. The physical and mental abuse inflicted upon another person disgusts me. I hear pundits who think that torture is necessary to keep America safe. I've researched torture. When I wrote both my novels I read about how humans inflict harm on others. The reasons vary: to protect our country, to protect what's mine, to defend a belief system. In the end, the people who torture are ALWAYS the bad guys, lacking moral fortitude.

Waterboarding is not torture, says a person for truth, justice, and the American way. I don't know. Simulating drowning sounds like torture to me. Reading about the American doctors and psychologists who helped torture people sound like the same medical personnel in Nazi Germany who experimented on Jews. Those people stained the profession and shouldn't be called doctors.

I thought this from Fox News Shepard Smith said it all:

We don't fxxking torture!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Literary Voice

Last night, I spoke to the new group of Emerging Voices fellows at PEN Center USA West. My collegue Jenoyne Addams and I have done Author Nights with them for the past several years. I do this because eleven years ago, I was an Emerging Voice.

The writer's life is hard. It's filled with insecurity and fear. However, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Somewhere in this life is the satisfaction of creativity and the belief that I'm doing something to help the world somehow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Literary Revisit

After nearly eight months of not looking at my novel, I pulled it out this week. You know, my first reaction WASN'T to vomit. There might be something there.

I'd been toying with making a drastic change to the protagonist's profile. It would layer the character, but it scares me. It would open a whole a new, uncharted door.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Literary Glitch

I got an e-mail this morning. She explained that she posts lists on Amazon. She's most interested in gay reading lists. Apparently, I was an author on her list that Amazon deranked because my work was considered "adult" material. Rather, they think it's porn.

Yeah, I spend years researching stories about love, war, injustice but what I'm really writing is smut! Read more here.

Amazon is calling the deranking of gay books a glitch. Does anyone hear the sound of back pedaling?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Literary Rents

I live in Silverlake. Something that I'd noticed alot lately are the For Rent signs that have sprung up in the area. I hadn't seen this many For Rent sings in Silverlake since the last economic downturn of the early 1990's. This was waaaaaay before Silverlake became a trendy neighborhood.

I grew up in the area (John Marshall High School, class of 1986--woohoo!). After college, I moved back because it was an AFFORDABLE place to live. It had a true artist's community. It was diverse in every way and as a gay Filipino man I'd never felt more comfortable.

Then the neighborhood changed. The rents got higher and when I looked for another apartment in my neighborhood, I got depressed. I was priced out of a neighborhood that I, as an artist, helped define. How can I forget those snooty documentary filmmakers who moved in along the way. The ones the LA Times did an article on for remodeling a Silverlake home, the home that had the same person living in it for a million years. "Remodeling" was another word for gentrifying.

I was looking in Glendale for a place to live. I had to drive through Silverlake to get there. By chance, I drove by a reasonably priced apartment that just opened up. I snatched it. Trust me when I say, seeing a For Rent sign was odd.

What was even more astounding was seeing a nearby Hollywood apartment being advertised at The Coffee Table, a local cafe. The apartment was less than a thousand dollars. I nearly choked! Is this downturn actually driving the rents down? It might actually be affordable again.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Literary Chorus

Evelyn Marquez, a new friend, invited me to see the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles. Believe it or not, I'd never seen them before. I don't know why. Lord knows I'd been to every other gay event in town. (Hell, I've even produced some of them!). I guess I just didn't think it would be my cup of tea. I want something subversive, something more edgy.

Well, I was blown away my the Chorus, laughing and singing along. They'd been around for 30 years. Wasn't the act of getting a bunch of out gay men singing a subversive act back in the day? Anyone who has seen a musical can argue that gay men singing en masse is common--but they weren't necessarily OUT!
Read this from their website:
In 1978, as cars burned in the plaza outside San Francisco’s City Hall in protest at the sentencing of Harvey Milk’s killer, a small group of men joined the demonstrations—and began to sing. That’s how the modern gay choral movement was born.

There was a moment in the show when the chorus sang Unforgetable. A screen came down and it listed all of the men who'd passed away. And there were a lot! It wasn't said, but one couldn't help but wonder how many deaths were AIDS releated.
I'd written about AIDS before, but I can't imagine what it was like to have been a member of the chorus when AIDS was at its height.
A Member of the Chorus...hmmmm. Sounds like a book title, doesn't it?