BOOK UPDATE: mayroong akong interview na lumabas sa manila bulletin kahapon (Monday September 11, 2006) – ang balita ko nga, may picture kami ni jet sa article. maraming salamat kay annalyn jusay sa pag devote ng space sa newspaper para ipakilala ang Kwentong Tambay book. ang husay talaga ni AJay. kung hindi kayo nakakuha ng kopya ng dyaryo, basahin nyo na lang online o kaya abangan na lang ninyo pag naging pambalot na ito ng tinapa.
Here’s the full interview…
Batjay the blogger becomes a book author
By Annalyn S. Jusay (now blogging at www.annalyn.net)
A blook is a “printed book whose content was originally posted on a blog,” according to Wikipedia. The Philippines recently welcomed its first blook with the launching of “Kwentong Tambay” at the recent Manila International Book Fair. Its author is the wacky and irreverent Nicanor David who thrills his countless online readers from around the globe with his adventures as an OFW in Singapore and now in sunny California. In one of those rare moments, Batjay replies to Blog-O-Rama in English and shares his feelings about being an author, how Pinoy readers are, and how the “blook” is his own Taj Majal to his wife Jet whom he loves so much.
Q. Can you give us a little history of how your blog book came to be?
A. Last July, I was chatting with my nephew Adam about the possibility of making a book out of my blog entries. Adam works in the publishing industry and he has been involved in the creation of a number of books in the past. We talked about my plans and he approached PSICOM, my current publisher, to work out a deal. The rest is history.
The book is a gift to my wife, Jet. I wanted to make her laugh.
Q. What made you decide to convert your blog entries into a book?
A. Vanity. Hopefully, a thousand years from now, people will still remember me through the book.
Seriously, I thought it would be a great idea to make a book out of my life as an OFW. I’ve been posting my experiences in my blog for five years already and most of the stories are about my life as an engineer working abroad.
Many Filipinos don’t have access to the internet and I just wanted to tell my stories to them – my mom for instance, doesn’t even know that I have a popular blog. She just finds about what I write second hand, through people who read my blog, who tell her stories about my exploits abroad.
I wanted to reach out to the OFW community, most especially their relatives stuck in the Philippines, who have no idea what their loved ones are dealing with overseas. Through my stories, I wanted to tell them that in spite of the loneliness of being abroad, OFWs still have a great time. That we cope through humor in the most absurd things, like foreigners picking their nose in public, because it’s the only way to keep us sane.
It’s also good that I write in Pilipino. At least I know I can reach out to more people. Let me rephrase that – maigi na rin na nagsusulat akos sa Pilipino, at least alam ko na mas maraming makakabasa ng sinusulat ko. Gusto ko kasing abutin yung mga Pinoy na tinatamad dahil nahihirapan silang magbasa sa ingles.
Q. How does it feel to be the first Pinoy blogger to be a book author? How do you feel about being an author in general?
A. I don’t think I am the first Pinoy blogger turned book author. Bob Ong once blogged but stopped when his work got published. So, I guess he is the first.
I won’t close down my blog site though. I’ve worked out a deal with my publisher so the book and the blog will be separate entities. I like the notion that you can get free stuff online – so the Blog will remain as is, available to everybody who wants to read, make comments and have fun. In short, I will be both blogger and book author.
The book will cost about 125 pesos. Ang cheap ko talaga.
Manolo Quezon sent me an email a few weeks ago telling me that this is the cost an average family spends for books per year in the Philippines. It is cheap – but I do hope, it’s cheap enough for most Filipinos to own.
I am not sure about the statistic: Do Filipinos spend less on books because they are poor, or do they spend less on books because they just don’t like to read? I hope the book will get people to read though. I know the topics of my book aren’t that “intellectually stimulating” but if it will get people to start reading then I’ll be happy.
I hope the cost of the book will be enticing enough for people to buy. I mean, 125 pesos is the cost of a Jollibee lunch, or 3 or 4 packs of cigarettes. Mura lang at sana sapat para maging interesado, kahit yung mga hirap sa buhay.
Q. On the other hand, can you enlighten us on the difficulties of being a book author? Can you share with us your publishing/authoring experience?
A. It’s been a great experience. I’ve had a great time working with my nephew whom I haven’t seen in more than ten years. It’s difficult though because I am based in California and sometimes it takes a while for get things done because all the work is being done in Manila. I had to work late at night because of my regular job kaya para akong puyat na unggoy for a month or so.
I also had to work in secret because the book is a surprise gift to my wife, Jet. She didn’t even know the book existed until we got emails from people in Manila who were congratulating me for the book. I know it paid off because her smile was priceless when she found out.
We did create a system that works. An initial manuscript was developed by Adam based on my blog entries and I just edited it after it was completed. We then submitted it to PSICOM, the company who published the book. They assigned an editor, Sarah Grutas, to work on the manuscript. We tweaked it even more over the next month or so, until it got to the point where the material was good enough for publishing.
After the initial manuscript was completed, we decided to work on the book cover. Ideas were passed back and forth until we were all comfortable with one of the most important parts of a book: good cover design sells books. We went for simplicity – a yellow cover showing the book title, a quote from the Manuel Quezon III’s introduction, the author’s name and a sketch of a balikbayan box.
We asked Manuel Quezon III and Connie Veneracion to write an introduction. It’s good that they both agreed. Their contribution adds a certain sophistication and intelligence that I don’t have, or deserve. I hope it’ll be enough so that the major bookstores will treat the book seriously.
The final manuscript was created and proofread and PSICOM printed an initial run of 1000 copies, just in time for the Manila International Book Fair. All in all, the whole process took almost two months from conceptualization to the final product.
Q. What’s in your book that will make us want to buy it?
A. A picture of me in the nude doing somersaults.
Seriously, the book is mostly about my four years as an OFW in Singapore. It’s about dealing with stupid foreigners who don’t have any idea about the Philippines who think that all Filipinos are domestic helpers or seamen or singers, or worse Abu Sayyaf. It’s about dealing with foreigners who are amazed because brown skinned kutis betlog boy speaks good English.
I did create “exclusive entries” in the book that you won’t find in my blog. Besides the fact that it’s a major reason for people who read my blog to buy the book, the additional entries unify all the stories together into, hopefully, a complete book.
A lot of the entries in the book are very personal. I don’t know how my readers will respond to this. Will they be able to identify when I bitch about how I miss my dad who passed away many years ago? How will they react when I tell them about how I worry about my mom in Manila? Will they understand how it feels to be a Filipino engineer talking to a ngongo Australian?
Q. Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper for us to read about your life in your blog instead?
A. Yes, it’s cheaper to read the entries of my blog if you have access to the internet. But there are a lot of people who don’t have online access and these are the people who should get the book.
People can also get a copy so they can read the book when they are traveling to school or work. I believe that it’s better to read the book rather than pick your nose while sitting in the middle of traffic.
It’s also a great Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary gift. At 120 pesos, kahit kuripot ang boypren mo, you can ask him to buy you a copy, and I’m sure he won’t hesitate to get you one (or two).
Q. Do you hope to get rich being a book author?
A. The book might make me popular but I will never get rich. The money is just not there. I don’t know how other authors get paid but I just don’t think it’s enough to put food in the table. Perhaps if you have many books out and all are best sellers, baka pa.
But who knows. Perhaps the book will sell a million copies and my publisher will give me a bonus big enough so I can come home and just write for a living.
Q. Who do you consider your idols in writing?
A. Pinoy author? Si Nick Joaquin, isa sa mga idol ko. Si Jessica Zafra, nakakatawa at matalino kasi ang mga sinusulat niya. Dati paborito ko rin si Carlo Caparas kasi mahilig akong magbasa ng comics nung bata ako.
Paborito ko rin si Dengcoy Miel. He’s a Pinoy editorial cartoonist who is very popular in Singapore. He has a number of published books and one of the most intelligent people I know. I am proud to be his friend.
Hindi Pinoy author? Si John Irving. I worship the toilet bowl he shits on.
Marami rin akong mga paborito na binabasa parati – si Lynda Barry who is part Pinoy. Si Neil Gaiman at si Arthur Clarke.
Q. Do you think there will be a sequel to this book of yours? What other surprises can we expect from you?
A. If this first Kwentong Tambay book sells then I might seriously consider appearing nude in the next book.
I do have plans to create even more. In fact, I think we have enough material to create 2 or 3 more books. So, if this first book sells then there will be a sequel. If not then I’ll just apply to be a macho dancer.