(Before you read this post, here's a basic Tagalog lesson. Pare means 'bro' and kanina means 'a while ago.' In true Taglish fashion, they're used in the post.)
My book, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, is out and popping on all sorts of outlets and I’ve done two interviews on it. Things are looking very positively for how the book develops. There’s some excitement from the publisher that it would make for a good movie and that it should be made into a movie. Nothing’s happened concretely (yet) – no big money contracts, movie deals or big time television, magazine or radio interviews are being put into place – but there is some sign that Back Kicks And BrokenPromises might be able to do something.
What it is doing right now, though, is that it's bringing people back together.
Now, you might be thinking that’s nothing unusual. Books, after all, get people to feel certain things and that can generate a need to connect with someone the reader hasn’t talked to in a long time. The people being brought together through my book haven’t even read it, however. And, again, it’s happened through the magic of social media.
You see, a month or so ago, someone sent me a direct message (a DM in the correct lingo) on Twitter. The sender is a sports journalist who writes for The Ring Magazine and freelances for the New York-based The Filipino Reporter. The DM asked if I were, indeed, me. I knew the sender’s name and I smiled as I typed my response. (I’m going to go ahead and use the names of the people I talk about in this post because they are all writers and/or journalists and their names are already out in public.) The sender was Ryan Songalia (www.ryansongalia.com) and he was a student of mine in the late 1990s. As a result of this connection, we’ve been talking regularly on Twitter and via e-mail, largely because of my book and our common interests in writing and boxing. Regardless, we’ve been reconnected and it’s special, at least for me, because he’s Filipino-American just like me and, when he was my student, we were the only Filipinos in the school building.
In one of our chats about The Filipino Reporter and the possibility that it might want to do something with my book, I learnt that its sports editor, L.P. Pelayo, is very good friends with Ryan. I’ve been reading The Filipino Reporter for years, just like many Filipino-Americans and Filipinos living in the US, so to have this new and personal connection gave it more significance.
My father, who is the managing editor of The Manila Times, naturally, is helping to get my book into The Philippines and with any possible movie contacts he knows in Manila. As we were e-mailing and texting about the promotion of Back Kicks And Broken Promises (my dad used to be an ad-man with J. Walter Thompson), I mentioned that I’m in the works to see if The Filipino Reporter would be interested in doing some kind of review or write-up about it. In a follow-up e-mail, my dad mentioned that he is an old friend, from way way back, with Bert Pelayo, The Filipino Reporter’s owner.
(Is the Disney song “It’s A Small World” playing in your head right now? It is in mine – loudly – as I write this post.)
Granted, Ryan, my dad and the Pelayos are all journalists so it’s not inconceivable that they would know each other. However, when you factor in the generational gaps and the distance between them, it really becomes a ‘six degrees of separation’ situation. (Ha! How do you like that for alliteration?) But there’s more. Just one more degree.
In 2006, as I was midway through the first draft of my novel, I learnt of Carissa Villacorta. She’d just published her first book, Surreality. It’s a collection of essays on her first impressions of New York (she used to work in the communication department of the Philippine consulate in New York City) and what it was like living as a young and single Filipina in New York City. It’s a well-written, often poignant and very entertaining read. It’s not long so you can get through it quickly and enjoy it in a sitting or two. I was interested in it for a couple of reasons: it has some elements of the ‘fish out of water’ story, which I was researching for my own novel, and Carissa is also from The Philippines so, naturally, I wanted to support a writer from the motherland.
I ordered Carissa’s book through Amazon but it took forever to get to me. First, my credit card was charged then I was credited then I was charged again and I never got a book. I e-mailed Amazon and they redirected my e-mail to her. She e-mailed me and, after a few exchanges the problem was rectified and I got two copies – one signed and one not – sent directly by her. In one of our exchanges we talked about writing and I said that I would send her a copy when my book when it gets published; you know, one Filipino writer promoting another and all that.
Well, now that Back Kicks And Broken Promises is out and as someone who tries to live up to his word – even if no one else remembers what I said (maybe that’s a black belt, thing) – I looked Carissa up on the internet. I tried to find out if she was still at the consulate. She’s not. I looked her up on Twitter and Facebook and, here it comes, I saw on her Facebook profile, in the right corner, that she is friends with Ryan Songalia. Six degrees, pare, or what?
Like I said kanina none of the people mentioned in this post have even read my book but, through all sorts of efforts for promoting it and otherwise, it has created and rejuvenated connections that, for me, have enlivened my world as a Filipino-American writer. So, I guess if you’re going to get anything out of this, other than an entertaining story, it’s that social media does work and you never really know who knows who. For all of my fellow indie authors, here’s another tip: everyone can help you. Don’t burn any bridges or abuse any friendships but remember that everyone knows someone and they can all help.
Oh, one last thing. Based on this experience, I’m starting to believe that strangers, are indeed, friends I've still yet to meet.