Category Archives: Blog

A Script is Born


When I visited Manila in 2013 to launch The Mango Bride, Roselle Monteverde, head of Regal Entertainment, the oldest surviving film studio in the Philippines, reached out to me about adapting my novel to film. Talks continued sporadically over the years, but this past June they sealed the deal with a contract for the Filipino film version of my novel.  I give credit to the indefatigable producer/talent manager Girlie Rodis  for keeping the negotiations going and seeing them to fruition.

The Monday  after Thanksgiving, a lovely script written by the award-winning screenwriter Rody Vera  arrived via email, so fresh that a tiny typo was left on the title page.  I read it in under 24 hours loved it and am  now in conversation with Rody, Girlie  and Director Loy Arcenas and Girlie.  The next step will be a table reading of this first draft by professional actors, to see how the dialogue works. I’m hoping they’ll let me listen in on the reading via Skype.

Loy Arcenas and Girlie Rodis where the director/producer team behind the critically acclaimed musical film, Ang Larawan (The Portrait)  based on National Artist Nick Joaquin’s play Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. I have no doubt they will do a wonderful job adapting my novel to film.

The film is scheduled for location shooting in Manila and San Francisco in April  and May next year.  If all goes well, they hope to release it at  2019 Metro Manila Film Festival.   You can bet I’ll be flying up to Oakland to watch the filming in the Bay Area and I’m looking forward to attending the premiere next Christmas!

Check back here for news on who’ll be starring in The Mango Bride film!


See who’s Speaking at Centering the Margins: Conversations with Writers of Color


Happy to share the speakers roster for Centering the Margins: Conversations with Writers of Color. March 1-3 2019 in at the San Diego Central Library and UC San Diego! Read on to  see who’ll be there:


Plenary Speaker : Lee Ann Kim

Lee Ann founded the San Diego Asian American Film Festival in 2000.  The former  KGTV news anchor   served as Executive Director of the San Diego Asian Film Foundation and its nonprofit partner, the Pacific Arts  Movement (Pac-Arts) until she retired from the nonprofit in April 2016.


Moderator: Cristina Rivera Garza, Ph.D.

Cristina is an author, translator, critic and distinguished professor of Hispanic Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Houston.  Her publications include: The Iliac Crest, trans. by Sarah Booker (The Feminist Press, 2017); The Taiga Syndrome, trans. by Suzanne Jill Levine with Aviva Kana (Dorothy Project, 2018); Había mucha neblina o humo o no sé qué (Random House, 2016). She received the Roger Caillois Award for Latin American Literature (Paris, 2013); the Anna Seghers (Berlin, 2005); and is the only author to have  twice won the International Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, in 2001 for her novels Nadie me verá llorar  (No One Will See Me Cry ) and in 2009 for La muerte me da.


Ari Honarvar is the author of the oracle card set and book, Rumi’s Gift and the founder of Rumi With A View, dedicated to building music and poetry bridges across war-torn borders. Her writing has been featured on Teen Vogue, The Guardian, Vice, Huffington Post and Elephant Journal. She currently facilitates a refugee women’s drum circle in El Cajon, CA, home to the largest population of Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the U.S.

Donna Miscolta’s story collection Hola and Goodbye  (Carolina Wren Press, 2016) won the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman, an Independent Publishers award for Best Regional Fiction, and an International Latino Book Award for Best Latino Focused Fiction. Other work includes the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011) and stories and essays most recently in The Fourth RiverCascadia MagazineMoss, and Seattle Review of Books.

Hope Wabuke is the author of the chapbooks The Leaving and Movement No.1: Trains. A contributing editor for The Root, her work has also been published in The Guardian, Guernica, The North American Review, Ms. Magazine online and others. She is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a founding board member of the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction.

Karen Llagas is a recipient of a Hedgebrook residency, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and Filamore Tabios, Sr. Memorial Poetry Prize. Meritage Press published her first collection of poetry, Archipelago Dust, in 2010. She has an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers,  lectures at UC Berkeley and works as a freelance translator.


Moderator:  Marivi Soliven

Marivi’s debut novel The Mango Bride (Penguin, 2013) won the 2011 Carlos Palanca Memorial Award, the Philippine counterpart of the Pulitzer Prize.  The novel has been translated into Spanish and Filipino, and the movie adaptation is in process. Stories and essays from 16 earlier books have appeared in anthologies in Manila and the United States.  When not writing or  organizing literary events, she works as a telephonic Tagalog interpreter.


Huda Al-Marashi is the author of the memoir First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story, set for release in November, 2018. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the LA Times, Al Jazeera, VIDA Review, Refinery 29, the Rumpus, and The Offing.

Irene Suico Soriano is the author of Primates from an Archipelago (Rabbit Fool Press, 2017) and founded the reading series Wrestling Tigers: Asian Pacific American Writers Speak at the Japanese American National Museum which she curated from 1994-2000The Los Angeles Times  noted her  curatorial work in the NEA funded World Beyond Poetry Festival, which featured over 100+ poets from the diverse communities of Los Angeles. Her poetry has appeared in the Los Angeles Times,  Solidarity Journal, and Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry (Rattapallax Press), and others.

Kat Tanaka Okopnik is a writer and editor, currently hosting public discussions of social justice, geek culture, food, and parenting on her Facebook page. She can also be found at and on most social media platforms as @ktokopnik.

Her ongoing major project is the Dictionary of Social Justice.

Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar® Award-winning author of the Mas Arai series and Officer Ellie Rush mysteries. She was a reporter and editor of The Rafu Shimpo at the height of the redress and reparations movement for Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes during World War II. An active consultant on historic exhibitions and TV programs, she also writes nonfiction books, middle-grade fiction and noir short stories.


Moderator: Namratta Poddar, Ph.D.

Namrata writes fiction, nonfiction, and serves as Interviews Editor for Kweli where she curates a series titled “Race, Power, and Storytelling.” Her work has appeared in Longreads, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, Transition, VIDA Review & elsewhere.

Her debut collection of stories Ladies Special, Homebound was a finalist for Feminist Press’s 2018 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize and is forthcoming from Speaking Tiger.  She holds a Ph.D. in French Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, an MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars, and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Transnational Cultures from UCLA. Website:


Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende’s is a Zimbabwean writer whose work has appeared in  the anthology Where to Now (AmaBooks, 2011), on Storytime online literary journal, and in the annual short story Anthology, African Roar, and Guernica. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Muse for Women, 2013 and African Drum (Diaspora Publishers, 2013). She was a Hedgebrook Writer in Residence in 2014.

Jason Magabo Perez, Ph.D. is the author of Phenomenology of Superhero (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016) and This is for the mostless (WordTech Editions, 2017). Recipient of an NEA Challenge America Grant, Perez has performed at the National Asian American Theatre Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,La Jolla Playhouse and others. Jason holds an M.F.A. in Writing & Consciousness from New College of California and a dual Ph.D. in Communication & Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego. He is an Assistant Professor of English/Creative Writing at CSU San Bernardino.

Madhushree Ghosh is a Senior  Editor at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel.

Her work has appeared or a finalist in The New York Times, Panorama Journal (Pushcart-nominated), Hippocampus, Zoetrope, Unearth Women, Catapult, The Rumpus, Glimmer Train, The Chicago Quarterly Review, DAME, and others. An Oakley Hall scholar, Madhushree works in cancer diagnostics and speaks frequently on”Women in Science” panels  worldwide. She’s currently working on a nonfiction book, “Hatke”, on outlier women.

Noelle Q. de Jesus’s first short story collection, BLOOD Collected Stories, launched at the 2015 Singapore Writers Festival, won the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award for the Short Story category. Her work has appeared in anthologies and literary journals in Southeast Asia and in Puerto del Sol, Mud Season Review  with work forthcoming in Witness. She has an MFA in Fiction from Bowling Green State University


Moderator: Brandon Som, Ph.D.

Brandon is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at UC San Diego and author of The Tribute Horse, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and the chapbook Babel’s Moon, winner of the Snowbound Prize. He was the Anne Newman Sutton Weeks Poet-in-Residence at Westminster College, and was awarded fellowships at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and Civitella Ranieri. He holds a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California, and an M.F.A. in Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh.


Jen Soriano is a Filipinx-American writer whose work blurs the boundaries between nonfiction, poetry and speculative fiction. Her lyric essay “A Brief History of her Pain” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and her essays have appeared in Waxwing, Pleiades, TAYO Literary Magazine and others. She is also the hopeful published-author-to-be of Making the Tongue Dry, an essay chapbook that was a finalist for the 2018 Newfound Prose Prize. Jen holds an MFA  in nonfiction and fiction from  the Rainier Writing Workship, and lives Seattle, WA with her two favorite boys in the world.

JS Lee authored the novels, Keurium (Pent-up Press, 2018), An Ode to the Humans Who’ve Loved and Left Me (2015); and literary non-fiction, It Wasn’t Love (2014).  She wrote and illustrated the children’s books, For All the Lives I’ve Loved and Lived (2015), and For All the Friends I’ve Found (2016). Navigating the nuance of race, adoption, identity, and trauma, her work aims to provoke understanding of the oft overlooked. She was adopted to New England from Korea, and currently lives in the Bay Area of California.

Katherine Agard is an interdisciplinary artist and writer from Trinidad and Tobago. She holds an  MFA in Writing from UC San Diego and has received fellowships from Callaloo, Kimbilio, VONA and Lambda Literary. Her writing has most recently appeared in Yes Femmes, Anmly and the Black Warrior Review.

Miranda Tsang is a writer multiethnic poet, writer, and educator from San Francisco living in Los Angeles. A graduate of the UC Riverside MFA program, Tsang has received scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and Kearny Street Workshop. Her writing is published in New Life QuarterlyLumen, and The Offing. She currently oversees programming at writing center 826LA in Echo Park.


Moderator: Zeinabu Davis, Ph.D.

Professor Davis is an award-winning director of such films as Compensation (Gordon Parks Directing Award) and Spirits of Rebellion (Best Documentary Feature Film, San Diego Film Awards, 2017)  Her vision is passionately focused on the depiction of African American women’s  hopes, dreams, past and future. Her interests include altering and diversifying the terrain of mass media, film history, world cinema and folklore. She frequently writes and lectures on African and African American cinema.


Jennifer Baker  is a publishing professional, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor to Electric Literature. In 2017, she was awarded a NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship & Queens Council on the Arts New Work Grant for Nonfiction Literature. Jennifer is editor of the short story anthology Everyday People: The Color of Life (Atria Books, 2018) Her writing has appeared in, LitHub, and Bustle among other online publications. Her website is

Thelma Virata de Castro is a Filipino American playwright. She is the founder of San Diego Playwrights and a Teaching Artist and Community Programs Coordinator for Playwrights Project. Her project, “The Fire in Me: An Exploration of Domestic Violence in San Diego’s Filipino American Community”, won a The San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Grant with Asian Story Theater and a California Humanities grant with Access Inc. For more information and performance dates, visit

Troy Espera is the executive producer for News at ABS-CBN International’s The Filipino Channel (TFC) in Daly City, CA. His work has won two Emmy Awards, the National Journalism Award for Broadcast from the Asian American Journalists Association, multiple Telly Awards, and a Vision Award nomination from the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC).  In 2018 Troy was selected to participate in the Maynard 200 National Fellowship Program at the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Sarika Mehta hosts and produces  Intersections Radio which also airs locally on KBOO Community Radio and XRAY.FM. She is also one of the producers for the Disability Visibility Project podcast hosted by Alice Wong. Previously, worked with APA Compass collective and I used to anchor the Evening News on KBOO 90.7 FM. In 2016, I was a New Voices Scholar with the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR). Her work focuses on issues concerning race, disability, and intersectionality.


Moderator: Claire Light

Claire is a Bay Area writer, cofounder of Hyphen Magazine and cultural worker  with over two decades of experience in nonprofit administration, focusing on  arts in the Asian American community. Her fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, Hyphen, Farthing, and The Encyclopedia Project, among others. A short collection of her stories, Slightly Behind and to the Left, was published by Aqueduct Press in 2009. She just completed an urban fantasy novel based on the myth of the Monkey King.

Hiram Sims is a poet, publisher, and professor of Creative Writing, teaching at the Los Angeles Film School. He is also the founder of the Urban Poets Society and the  Community Literature Initiative, a publishing program for Los Angeles writers who want to publish books here at USC. He has published three collections of poetry, and one amazing textbook. 

Neelanjana Banerjee teaches writing at the Asian American Studies Department of UCLA and is Managing Editor of Kaya Press. Her writing has appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, The Rumpus, World Literature Today, The Literary Review, Teen Vogue, Fiction Writers review and many others. She has had residencies at Hedgebrook and the Blue Mountain Center, and received scholarships to attend the David Henry Hwang Writers Institute and the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop.

Stefanie Sanchez von Borstel is co-founder of Full Circle Literary, with more than 20 years of experience in trade book publishing. Prior to becoming a literary agent, she worked in editorial, publicity and trade marketing with Penguin and Harcourt Children’s Books.  Stefanie represents children’s books from toddler to teen, and select adult nonfiction.


Charmaine is a Filipina jazz singer based in Los Angeles, best known for blending traditional Filipino folk songs and instruments with American jazz and blues in a newly developed musical genre called “Jazzipino.”  Charmaine will perform several songs as the opening act to Open Mic Night on Friday, March 1, 2019.

For more conference updates, please like the FB page below:



Bad Hombres and Malas Mujeres Speak Up


L-R Ugandan Poet Hope Wabuke, Mexican Poet Marco Antonio Huerta, Iranian Novelist Zoe Ghahremani, Laotian Poet/Dancer/Physicist Krysada Binley Phounsiri, and me!

Each of the four immigrant authors who spoke on this panel I moderated last night offered moving accounts of their immigrant journeys. Hope’s family escaped Idi Amin’s genocide and landed in Minnesota; Marco straddles the Mexican American border as he pursues a doctoral degree; Zoe moved from Iran through England to America to marry her Iranian husband; Krysada’s family fled Laos after his grandfather was released from prison camps following the Vietnam war.  I interrupted a burgeoning writing career as a children’s lit author to remake myself as a writer of immigrant narratives, when I married my husband in Berkeley.

We spoke about the specific struggles we faced as writers of color in a publishing industry that latest industry surveys have found to be  89% white. Here is the opening statement I gave:

I began organizing literary events that highlight people of color last October with the story telling event San Diego Beyond the Pale because after nearly 15 years of living in San Diego, I was fed up with being the only brown person at every literary gathering. And when I got tired of going to those parties, I thought, Why don’t I just throw my own party?! I throw great parties!

So thank you for coming to this party. Look around. It’s probably unlike any literary event you’ve ever been too in San Diego because for one thing, everyone onstage is a person of color. For another, the audience better resembles the population of this city, of this state. Because whether or not this fact is represented in San Diego’s writing scene or in American books, we are moving toward an increasingly diverse population.

According to a 2015 U.S. Census report, more than half of U.S. children under 18 will be part of a minority ethnic or race group by the year 2020. 2015 was three years ago, and as I look around the neighborhood, the children in my daughter’s school, I can only think that for people of color, our time is not coming. It has arrived.

So would it be too much to ask that publishers produce  more books by and about people of color?

In her article “The Uncomfortable Truth about Children’s Books” (Mother Jones, 2015) Dashka Slater writes: “Within five years, more than half of America’s children and teenagers will have at least one nonwhite parent. But when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked at 3,200 children’s books published in the United States last year, it found that only 14 percent had black, Latino, Asian, or Native American main characters. Meanwhile, industry data collected by publisher Lee & Low and others suggest that roughly 80 percent of the children’s book world—authors and illustrators, editors, execs, marketers, and reviewers—is white, like me.”

I’m willing to bet that there are more animal than people of color  as protagonists in children’s books. I love the Cat in the Hat as much as the next person, but is that the best we can offer  our young readers? One of the reasons I write is that I want to my daughter to see herself and people like her in stories, rather than having to imagine herself in the shoes of yet another white girl coming of age. As novelist Mira Jacob writes, “We are DYING to see ourselves anywhere.

I grew up in Manila, where my culture, ethnicity, religion, social class, and politics identified as the majority. Now that I live in America, I suppose I am part of a minority. But I refuse to behave or be treated like one. And this is why I write stories where people of color are not just accessories to the main event but major players in each act.


What follows below is text from a handout we distributed to attendees.

Food for Thought (To Go with those Snacks)

If you are reading this, I can safely assume you are at the Immigrant Authors’ panel this afternoon at the San Diego Public Library. Welcome! I hope you are enjoying the cookies, generously provided by UCSD SPACES.

The conversation we’re about to have could easily go on for days, years, decades. Two hours on a Saturday afternoon is barely enough to cover the most basic points. Here then are a few links to online articles you can read at your own leisure. They deal specifically with the issue of diversity in publishing, but read enough of them and you will notice how the points they make could easily be applied to dealing with and seeking out diversity in life.

I’ve selected some juicy quotes but hope that you eventually read all the articles.
Now as they say at the movie theater, turn your cell phone off, tuck this sheet in your purse or pocket and enjoy the show.

Recommended Readings

> “To be Other in America is to be coveted and hated at the same time” -Jenny Zhang, in They Pretend to Be Us, While Pretending We Don’t Exist –

>”When one group’s voices—white people’s—ride roughshod as the predominantly “best” work to publish, read, teach, and sell as a complete history, that is a violence that editors must meet directly, head on and actively—even aggressively—in order to counter the force of history that denies voices and positions their words as less than, even untrue, in the face of other stories privileged as the “best.” What shameful bullshit. ” –

Amy King, in Equity in Publishing: What Should Editors be Doing? – roundtable discussion by Antonio Aiello. Read pm at the link below:

>”The problem is and has always been the exclusion of writers of color and other marginalized writers who have to push aside their own work and fight for inclusion, over and over and over again.” –

Roxane Gay, in The Worst Kind of Groundhog Day: Let’s Talk (Again) about Diversity in Publishing.

>”American audiences are capable of so much more than some in your industry imagine…White Americans can care about more than just themselves. They really can. And the rest of us? We are DYING to see ourselves anywhere.” –

Novelist Mira Jacob, in I Gave a Speech About Race in the Publishing Industry and Nobody Heard Me.

….And if you don’t care for the opinions of the writers above, then please consider the facts that support their thoughts:

“A Younger Workforce, Still Predominantly White” -Publishers’ Weekly:

If you prefer pie charts, you’ll find the same stats in bigger, prettier charts here:

We are most grateful to Marc Chery who opened up the library’s lovely auditorium for us this afternoon. This is what inclusiveness looks like.
Thank you very much for supporting this POC-centric event. We hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as you liked the food.

Stay tuned for the next one.

Queen Latifah and Social Justice


Second stop on my Speculative Fiction Book Tour (in which I tour my unpublished, un-represented novel until folks begin to speculate when the heck my fiction will finally be published) is San Diego Beyond the Pale, an all Writers of Color story event I organized in collaboration with Marc Chery at the San Diego Public Library, and Joseph Ruanto Ramirez of SPACES at UC San Diego. Five writers of color telling stories about immigration, racism, resilience and life as minorities in this fraught times.

And in between our stories, my 14-year-old sang songs of social justice. Gotta start them young with good habits.