Category Archives: Blog

If You Read It They Will Come

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How do you get the word out about your new novel that a) needs a literary agent and b) hasn’t yet been published? By acting like it already has both. I’m reading excerpts from The Rizal Dance Hall Murder and chatting about lovers, killers and taxi dancers in the 1930s, at Philippine Expressions Bookshop in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 3.

Phil Expressions flyer in JPEG

 

I <3 Twitter

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“I won’t be lynched for loving a white girl” – It’s 1934 & taxi dancers sell wiles for a dime, but love could get you killed IMM OWN #DVpit

 

140 characters to capture an 85,082 word novel. Just 140 to snag the notice of a literary agent. Caught the eye of 7 agents and 2 indie publishers on #DVpit Twitter pitch event last Wednesday. Am suddenly, belatedly, in awe of Twitter.

A Mango Bride Cinderella at the AAAS Ball

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A professor friend snapped this photo at the AAAS conference

I have no idea how The Mango Bride made it into the display of  books by  Asian American authors set out at the AAAS conference in Portland last April 15.

It’s unlikely my publisher Penguin lobbied for its inclusion, for my book was released four years ago and all the bells and whistles I threw into the ensuing 18-month DIY book tour have long since faded away.  Thus I can only assume some blessed bookseller  read the novel or at least liked its cover enough to bring it along.

When  a friend attending the conference sent my husband the photo above I gleefully posted it on Facebook. Another professor attending the event mentioned she’d seen the book and was thinking about purchasing it.  By the time she returned to the table, all copies had sold out.

I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy long before my last baby molar fell out. But I’ll always believe in the Book Fairy who brought my story to the AAAS ball.

The Mango Bride Turns Four

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April 11 was the 4th anniversary of my novel’s publication date.

on April 11, 2013 over a hundred friends and relatives gathered to celebrate the birth of my book.

That morning four years past, I rose at 6 and baked a 150 banana bread cupcakes; went to yoga class to stay centered, then came home and baked 150 more. It’s not a Filipino party unless there’s food, so while the cupcakes were cooling, I stewed 15 pounds of pork adobo, chopped 7 pounds of mangoes into salsa, then hauled everything to San Diego Writers’ Ink’s reading room  to set up for my very first book party, surrounded by family and 130 friends.

April 11 came round last Monday, but breaking news of a shooting at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino erased all thoughts of celebration.

San Bernardino Elementary School Gunman ‘Was Out for Blood,’ Says Instructional Aide Who Witnessed Shooting

Later, news reports revealed the tragic symmetry of these two entirely unrelated events: a special needs teacher had been gunned down by her estranged husband as she worked with her students in class. Sadly, my novel about domestic violence had found affirmation in a horrific domestic violence (DV) incident.

How does one celebrate a novel that cleaves so closely to grim reality? By marking those who suffered in person rather than on the page. Karen Smith, 53, Jonathan Martinez, 8, shot by Cedric Smith who then turned the gun on himself.

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*Photo credit http://ktla.com

In 2014 I established the Saving Beverly Campaign, literary events that raise funds for community organizations which offer support services for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. With the help of Susan MacBeth of Adventures by the Books, and Michael Gil Magnaye a development director in the Bay Area, I organized fundraisers in San Diego, San Francisco and Anchorage which have collectively raised nearly $15,000 for DV support services.

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The first Saving Beverly event  at the Joan Kroc Center for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego, October, 2014, with Adventures by the book founder Susan McBeth,  our keynote speaker  former American Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas and Mithi Aquino Thomas

Given this latest tragedy at North Park Elementary School, it seems the best way to commemorate my novel’s pub date anniversary  would be to organize another Saving Beverly event. I encourage anyone and everyone who wants to help set it up to contact me at marivisoliven17@gmail.com.

Show Time!

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Writing is typically a solitary activity — just me sitting on the love seat, typing,  while the cats look on from the other couch. Consequently, watching actors perform your words is a true delight.  Rhumba at the Rizal is  a short play– my first! — is inspired by  my unpublished novel, The Rizal Dance Hall Murder. 

With so many white actors playing yellow face, having Asian actresses play white face is supreme poetic justice

 

Halo-Halo Rhumba

Mamie Savage (in the blonde wig) is a larger than life character based on a real person in 1935 San Diego

 

After the Friday performance, playwrights (in front row) gathered on stage to talk about their respective plays.

Rumba at the Rizal!

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Some writers have video book trailers for their novel. I got to write a PLAY for my book trailer! Fourteen actors and a choreographer pack the scene with love, death and dance.

Rumba at the Rizal, a vignette inspired by the Rizal Dance Hall Murder will be one of several plays performed in Halo-Halo this March. If you’re in SoCal, come watch with me!

Killing Christmas with an Alt-Right Play

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Last night, trying to salvage our train-wreck of a holiday season, I took my family to watch a duet of David Sedaris plays at Ocean Beach Playhouse. This turned out to be nearly as bad as losing my car keys. Now that Christmas is ruined, I’m skipping straight to New Year’s resolutions, and my first one is to actively call out micro-agressions and racism instead of quietly growing an ulcer over it.

When asked to “rate the experience,” I posted this review on the Ocean Beach Playhouse website:

The actors, especially the elf in Santaland Diaries, did as much as they could with the material, though I question their decision to perform it. The plays were appalling. We attended the last show on Sunday – you must remember us – we were the only four people of color in the audience.

Let me start out by saying I am so tired of that white folk disclaimer “This is not entirely PC so if you take offense, feel free to leave,” because what you’re REALLY saying is, “we know this is racist but we’re performing it anyway because damnit, we think it’s funny.” It is exhausting to be the only people of color in the room, exhausting to smile politely at racist punchlines, exhausting to watch an otherwise fine actor pull up the corners of his eyes the one time he talks about the Chinese.

And that was in the “funnier” piece.

The first play, Seasons Greetings was “edgier” because its running joke was the slutty ESL Vietnamese stepdaughter. One cliché fake accent joke is predictable. Forty minutes of it is verbal water torture. Did the play’s producers consider that San Diego has a significant Vietnamese population? Did anyone think that slutty Vietnamese bastard stepdaughter framed for infanticide by her racist white trash Southern mom was maybe not the best play for spreading holiday cheer?

Clearly not.

But you went there anyway, and so will I. Yes, OB Playhouse. That was a totally racist duet of plays you put on. Congratulations on raising the curtain on Trump’s America. You are way ahead of the curve.

The Mango Bride joins the Cool Novels Club!

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Finally, something for which to be grateful: The Mango Bride made it into Literary Hub’s list of novels about the immigrant experience in America. Honored to be mentioned in a group that includes Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah!

10 Contemporary Novels About the Immigrant Experience in America