Your Link to Real Relationships

An interview with Filipina author Marlene Legaspi-Munar
Author Marlene Legasip-Munar’s newest release flew off bookstore shelves last December in the Philippines and sold out its first print run within a few months. Add Mo ‘Ko as Friend: Your Link to Real Relationships by OMF Literature is a book for teens about developing online and offline friendships. MAI interviewed Marlene about her own friendships and the power of social networking.
Q: Congratulations on the book’s success! Why do you think it’s resonating among readers?
Teens are particularly interested in friendship. I wrote as if I’m having a conversation with a good friend. I tell stories and share true-to-life experiences. One reader said, “It tells exactly about what I’m going through with my classmate and sister.”

I think the language endeared the book to readers. This is the first time I’ve published in Taglish, a mix of Tagalog and English. Taglish is very conversational, appeals to general readers and is the language of Filipino young people.
Q: How did you realize the power of social networking to affect friendships?
Today more than one in four Filipinos are on Facebook, and the Philippines ranks #8 in the world among Facebook users by country. My two teenagers and friends at church were involved in social networking before me. I realized that friendships were being developed online, so I needed to include it in the book.

While I was developing my book, MAI introduced me to Facebook and invited me to help create a group to generate interest in LittWorld 2009. Once I joined Facebook, I reconnected with friends from college. Since then, I’ve developed friendships around the world.

Q: How have you seen social networking help or hinder real friendships?

I saw several Facebook users in a war of words with their FB “friends.” Often they didn’t mention the name of the person they were angry with, but wrote something like, “You know who you are.”

On the other hand, I have a pastor friend who entertains questions on FB, and it’s become a form of online guidance counseling. Many people say they’ve been blessed by his comments. Our church has a FB account where we post the Ustream recording of our Sunday worship service. Through this, we can reach our members who work abroad.
Photo: author Marlene Legaspi-Munar, bottom left, at a booksigning

Q: Tell me how your friendships have been enriched through social networking.

I’ve had three reunions already with my Bible college friends since we saw each other on FB after 20 years of little or no communication. Our reunion meetings are now turning into mentoring sessions to help each other become more effective in ministry. I come out refreshed after our meetings. Now we are thinking of outlining possible future discussion topics. 
Q: How are you using social media to promote your book?
OMF’s marketing plan for my book included promoting the book to a general audience via social media. Besides Facebook, I have a Twitter account, a website, and two blogs—Perspective and Happy Traveler.
On my FB page for the book, I post updates like where people can buy it and where my next signing is (the Events application is helpful). I also post reader comments and upload their photos. Whenever I have a book signing, speaking engagement, or meeting, I ask customers to pose holding the book. Readers also tag me in their photos with the book. These comments and photos are great marketing tools, creating interest and hopefully, that bandwagon effect. 
Aside from the book’s FB page, I also post these updates and photos in my personal FB account.

I remember at Littworld 2009, author Jon Hirst shared about using the Internet to develop and promote a book. I kept that in mind and with God's blessing, it is working. 

>>Read a helpful review of the book.

>>Watch a video interview with author Marlene Legaspi-Munar in Taglish: