“Full house!” were the first words out of my mouth upon setting foot in Pegi Waffles. It was April Feels Day, an event that was part book fair / part #romanceclass meet-up. I had just come from the sweltering heat of the Manila summer commute and I was hoping to step inside the cooling comfort provided by the cute little cafe.
Boy, was I wrong. First, it was hot inside the cafe, an effect of the weather and the airconditioning not being able to keep up with the number of warm bodies in the shop. And two, it was hardly a little meet-up. It was an honest to goodness romance convention and wow, it was an absofarkingtasticalutely wonderful surprise.
In my mind, I was expecting a small event. We’d probably occupy a handful of tables in the store, the same old faces waving hi. So walking into a sweltering mass of happy humans who were all in it for the same reasons I was? Just plain awesome. I mean, it was hot. It was crowded. But we were all just happy to be there! Suck it, summer! Our feels win!
Books! Books! Books!
It was also really really cool to see our book selling table filled to overflowing. When #romanceclass started out, we only had a handful of books to sell. Now, we have so many titles from so many authors that we could hardly find space on the table. A good thing for Filipino romance, yes? And an even better thing for eager romance readers who were snapping up these hard-to-find, usually by order only indie books.
Aside from the books being sold, everyone also got a free book when they registered, thanks to the lovely people at Summit, Visprint, and Anvil. There were also a couple of indie titles going around, compliments of the writers themselves. All the books were wrapped, so we had no idea what we were getting! I got to take home a copy of Paper Planes Back Home, yay!
We did other stuff, too!
There were a lot of fun activities slated for the day. Author C. P. Santi did tarot card reading sessions. There were coloring sheets featuring quotes from romances available at the tables (also from C. P. Santi). We had informal book signings. We swapped swag like bookmarks, postcards, stickers, and even coffee from Tara Frejas‘s fictional barista Tim. #romanceclass mastermind (and primary enabler) Mina V. Esguerra did a quick Q&A on indie publishing. There was a reading from Pierra Calasanz-Labrador’s gorgeously illustrated poetry collection, The Heartbreak Diaries. But everything was just a warm up for the day’s main event.
Alvarosa + Floates + Gahoates
The day’s main event was the live performances of excerpts from a few of the #romanceclass books. These performances started as one of Mina’s pet projects. All she wanted, at the start, was to get her stories performed by professional actors. She got that wish last year, when she arranged a small #romanceclass reading. Then, a podcast series was born along with the first public reading during last year’s FilReaderCon. We usually refer to these things as live readings, but the fact is, the actors go above and beyond the call of the written page, performing the hell out of the stories.
The live performances for the afternoon were broken down into three sets. The first set featured Young Adult stories performed by Herv Alvarez and Salve Villarosa, aka #Alvarosa. The pair performed Tara Frejas’ Settle the Score, DR Lee’s Picture Me Naked, and Agay Llanera’s Choco Chip Hips. There was much catcalling when Herv read the line, “Picture me naked.” I wonder how many people in the audience took it as an imperative sentence. (A personal hee-hee moment during the YA set was that part in Choco Chip Hips where Dave’s younger sister, Miffy, was mentioned. Mostly because I have a Miffy of my own.)
The next set featured the New Adult titles That Kind of Guy (Mina V. Esguerra), Songs to Get Over You (Jay E. Tria), and surprise surprise, One Night at the Palace Hotel (Bianca Mori). These stories were read by Rachel Coates and Jef Flores (#Floates!). I’ve been fangirling over Rachel since her first readings, but Jef was a revelation. He totally owned Anton (That Kind of Guy), Mr. Playah / Social Butterfly / Persistent Suitor.
But what really floored me was Mina announcing that One Night at the Palace Hotel would be read. Because sizzle sizzle steamy twizzle right? (Sorry, I can’t think of a rhyme for sizzle right now.) Were they going to read that scene? Answer: No, it was a totally PG (for cussing) scene. In hindsight, it was a good call. We probably would’ve burst in flames with the warm room and all.
We took a short break after, to let Rachel rest, because the next scene had her and her old reading partner, Gio Gahol, aka Mr. #NatGioWeekend. They insist on being called #Gahoates, delivered in classic OG style. They read three more new adult reads, the first was Mina’s Welcome to Envy Park. This is one of my favorite among her books, so Rachel and Gio reading it was a treat. Because Moira x Ethan 5ever, right?
The next story was Kesh Tanglao’s The Real Score, a story Gio had to prepare for by immersing himself in all things One Direction. So his Marcus? Perfect down to the accent. Everyone was swooning over British Gio, even the Directioneers in the audience who could pinpoint exactly which 1D member served as his peg.
The final reading of the day was an excerpt from my debut novella, All’s Fair in Blog and War. I was absolutely psyched when Mina announced it. And even more so when I realized what part they were reading. But even Gio’s Marcus didn’t prepare us for what was next. No, it wasn’t that bit where Gio pulled out hipster frames for Jesse. Or even the teasing banter between him and Rachel over antiquated Pinoy naming conventions(although that was really cute, too, bless my fangirly author heart). It was when Gio went full surfer brah Dave on us! Truth: the Dave in my head is Chinese. When I read his part, I hear him speak in stilted Cantonese-accented English. BUT. I. DIDN’T. CARE. I loved every freaking moment of Gio!Dave, to the point that I’d rewrite the book if I could.
I thought nothing could top that part, but I was mistaken. Because that bit where Rachel was gearing up to jump off the bungee jump ledge? That bit where both she and Gio scream like their lives depended on it? THAT. WAS. THE. BEST. My fingers were quivering. My heart was racing. I was practically shivering in a sweltering room. I didn’t know that scene had that much potential until they read it. I die nao?
I ended up rushing to the selling table to pull out two copies of the book to give Rachel and Gio because my mind was absolutely blown. I wanted to give them context. I wanted to thank them. I wanted to—I don’t know. I just wanted to see a copy of the book in their hands. I mumbled a few incoherent words as I did, because SO MUCH FEELS. Really, I die nao! I. DIE. NAO! I went batshit crazy back when they read The Kitchen When It Sizzles during FilReaderCon. But this one takes the
cake egg tart.
Sigh. If this is what it’s like to be a writer, damnit, I shall keep at this until my last breath. (Which might be sooner than I think seeing how I DIE NAO!)
So really, thank you, Rachel and Gio, for that terrific reading. Thank you, Mina, for picking the book and that exact scene. Thank you, to all the volunteers, my co-authors, the people who were there, the cafe staff who handed me water when I started acting like a loon—thank you, everyone, who made #AprilFEELSDay awesomecaeks.
I was planning to end this post with something more about what we did after, but after reliving the experience as I wrote this, all my careful planning went up in smoke, so let me end this here and just say, #AprilFEELSDay2017, bring it on!