Sunday, October 09, 2011

Report from FilBook Fest 2011

Let us begin at the beginning: last Thursday evening at Eastwind Books of Berkeley for a FilBook Fest pre-event, "The Places We Call Home." Because birthday girl Rashaan has such a nice recap at her blog, I'll just add some of my personal highlights:

A few weeks back, Dean Alfar was kind enough to send me several copies of Philippine Speculative Fiction 5 (I'm sending a care package of books in return!), which includes my story, "The Left-Behind Girl." I never thought I'd have the opportunity to read that piece to an audience, so I'm truly grateful to Dean for the books, and to Bea & Harvey for giving us the time and space to share our work at Eastwind.

I was super excited to read with everyone, but especially with Oscar Bermeo and Sunny Vergara because it's the first time I've ever read with them. Here we all are, post-reading, quite happy to be together.

Afterwards, some of us headed over to Burger Meister to eat greasy things and solve all the problems of the world. Of course, much of the conversation revolved around the upcoming weekend's FilBook Fest, which we were all participating in in one way or another.

For my part, I had worked with Cecilia Brainard to put together readings for both days of the festival (I emceed one day, and read on the other; same for Cecilia). They were dubbed, "Hot Off the Press," and a total of 20 writers were featured, each reading and/or presenting for no more than 8 minutes. If you think wrangling 20 authors is easy, well then, Sir, you would be mistaken. Nevertheless, the effort went off nearly hitch-less, and we had a good-size audience both days. Here I am with two readers from the first day, Pacific Rims author Rafe Bartholomew (have you not read Pacific Rims yet? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? I'm serious: FIX WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU) whose pleasant expression here belies the discomfort he no doubt felt by my insisting every ten minutes that HE IS MY NEW BEST FRIEND. Also pictured is my pal Sunny Vergara, aka The Wily Filipino, who read from his sure-to-knock-everyone-on-their-ass novel-in-progress:

By the way, here is Sunny's excellent review of Pacific Rims.

I spent much of my time in Cecilia's Philippine American Literary House booth, where bookselling was brisk. The crowd wasn't as enormous as it should have been, but those in attendance were eager to chat and buy, so you'll hear no complaints here. Want to see what it looked like from my seat? I bet you do:

The first day of the festival ended with Barbara Jane Reyes and R. Zamora Linmark's reading and, as per their standard operating procedure, they killed it. How can it be that the "Tourist Tips" from Leche get funnier every time I hear them? And I thrill to the first lines of Barbara Jane's "Aswang" (from her book Diwata) no matter how many times I hear them: I am the dark-hued bitch; see how wide my maw, my bloodmoon eyes / And by daylight, see the tangles and knots of my riverine hair. Here they are after their reading. Here, too, are everyone's shoes (you know I love shoe photos):

Afterwards, we set off for Tasty Bear to drink sangria (or, you know, Diet Coke) and eat tapas. There is no proper way to capture in words the hilarity that ensued; it requires a sort of loopy silent film-type treatment, complete with slipping on banana peels, close-ups of women mouthing, "Oh, MY!" and a seance scene where auras and past lives take center stage. Here is a picture of some of my fellow diners—Barbara Jane Reyes, Zack Linmark, Oscar Bermeo, Sunny Vergara, and Kiko Benitez:

For me, day 2 of the festival began with the Hot Off the Press reading, where I was happy to present Angelica's Daughters. I was in the good company of several other women, including (l to r) Cecilia Brainard (Vigan & Other Stories), Sam Sotto (Before Ever After) Tilay Angbetic (Love & Other Firsts), Dr. Lilia Rahman (For the Sake of Louise), and Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto (Traje de Boda). Angela Narciso Torres (Associate Editor, RHINO: The Poetry Forum) is in the back row with me, your Nesting Ground Mistress. Not pictured is the lovely Karen Llagas, who read so beautifully from her book of poetry, Archipelago Dust:

And now I'm suddenly remembering the woman who said to me, "You're married to an American, correct?"

"Yes," I said.

"So what's that like?"

"Um...what part?"


And I'm also remembering the delightful young volunteer, an MFA student somewhere in Southern California, who helped me procure my swag bag. "What's your name?" she said.

"Veronica Montes."

"Angelica's Daughters!" she said. "I'm reading it right now!" Later, she said I reminded her of Evelina, and I don't know if she meant celebrated writer Evelina Galang or not, but I'm going to pretend she did.

Finally, here is one of my favorite photos, snapped by Cecilia Brainard. I love talking to everyone, really, but maybe especially to the younger ones. Here I am with some college students who are holding, kindly note, a copy of Growing Up Filipino II:

Wow. That was long.