For #NationalPoetryMonth, More Thoughts on Being a Filipino American in the Publishing Industry

I was having this really good e-conversation with a fellow Pinay author this morning, and we were talking about publishing. Her thinking was there were more small presses in the SF Bay Area who were interested in Filipino American writing/manuscripts, as compared to, I guess, on the East Coast, and perhaps more specifically, in NYC.

I don’t think that’s true. What small presses in the Bay Area are publishing a lot of Filipino American authors? Most indie literary publishers — in the Bay Area or otherwise — I know of, if they have any Filipino American authors in their catalogs, have maybe one. I am thinking that WordTech Communications, with its various imprints, have a lot of Fil Ams in their catalog — Nick Carbó, Luisa Igloria, Eric Gamalinda, Arlene Biala, Aimee Suzara, JoAnn Balingit are the ones I know of. And WordTech is not located anywhere near here.

So my response was that there are probably just more Filipino American authors in this part of the country. I should have actually said, there is a perception of there being more Filipino American authors in this part of the country (I don’t have any data to back this up though). So then, there are a lot of Filipino American authors in the Bay Area, but where are their publishers located? All over the country and all over the industry, including the Big Five and their imprints. But mostly we’re in the indie presses, the one-woman-run micro-press, the ad hoc ethnic-specific self-distributed press, the print on demand. We hustle our shit mostly without agents and publicists, and oftentimes, without distributors.

What I think I mean to say is that what we Bay Area Fil Am authors have going for us is our imaginations — about, within, and despite the industry. I want to say that it’s because out here on the Left Coast, we are less beholden to the NYC-centric publishing industry standards, and that emphasis on prestige. I used to refer to myself as “scrappy,” all the time. I would like to think part of me still is. Years ago, I wrote about our Left Coast being something like a frontier. We’re resourceful. We do the DIY out here — many of us got our start DIY-ing, shouting our poems through megaphones at political rallies, learning how to write in community based workshops, cutting our teeth in the spoken word scene in cafes and bars, selling our chapbooks we made on our day jobs’ Xerox machines at zine fests, long before we ever thought of getting MFA-ed. We are therefore a lot less afraid of the small and apparently un-prestigious. We can make our own scripts out here, forge our own career paths here. This has been, and I think it still is our social norm.

More to the point, we can still afford to keep our wildness out here.

And thank goodness for that.

For National Poetry Month then, a shout out to Filipino American authors and our wildness. In praise of our wildness!


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