My Writing in 2010: A Review

2 01 2011

OK, I’m back. I always faintly regret telling my readers that I’m taking a break from blogging because, inevitably, saying so just makes me want to blog again! In any case, I though it would be a good time to do a quick review of my writerly accomplishments this year, just so that I don’t feel like a total failure. Seriously though, this taking stock at the end/beginning of a year has been very helpful for me in keeping my writing progress in perspective over the long haul, and 2010 was no exception.

This past year, to help keep myself motivated to do my writing, meet some deadlines and just stay on track, I bought myself a wall calendar upon which I wrote major due dates and such. Since 2010 is now officially over, I finally took down the calendar (which, quite honestly, I eventally started using to track pregnancy-related stuff!) the other day, and decided to take a look through it to remind myself of what I’d actually accomplished. So here are the highlights:

- Applied to and got into the Macondo Workshop, Sandra Cisneros’ program to nurture writers who also identify as social change advocates. I learned a lot, mostly about the writing ‘biz’ at this one-week workshop in San Antonio, Texas in July, and met some cool folks.

- Applied for and got rejected by Blue Mountain Center’s residency program (which ended up being a good thing because it would’ve ended up being when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy which probably wouldn’t have been too much fun!), as well as from the Hyphen Magazine and Asian American Writers Workshop short story contest. I was happy, though, for my former workshop-mate, Sunil Yapa, who won first place! And I got good feedback on the story I submitted from AAWW founder Bino Realuyo, although I didn’t show it to him until after I submitted it to the contest, which in hindsight wasn’t very smart. I should’ve gotten more feedback on the story before I sent it in. Lesson learned.

- I spent a lot more time writing this year than I have in a long time. Writing dates were a crucial part of this. I would show up to them even if I didn’t know whether my writing buddy would, which as Natalie Goldberg points out works well. I had fairly regular writing dates with a few folks—notably Claire Light, whom I met several times at Farley’s East in Oakland, and Melanie Hilario and her husband, Sam Sattin, whom I met fairly often in the latter part of 2010 to write, chat, eat scrumptious gourmet donuts and drink Blue Bottle coffee with at the fabulous Pizzaiolo in Oakland.

- I completed a self-imposed seven-day short-story challenge on this blog, in hopes of teaching myself more about the art and craft of writing short pieces, which I’ve always had a hard time doing in the past. This exercise really helped me get through the beginning, middle and end of stories and narrative arcs much more quickly, and also helped me write some pieces that I think I’ll actually send out for publication soon. I also got some good feedback on a couple of the pieces I wrote for the challenge when I submitted them as a part of my package for the Macondo workshop.

- I completed a week-long Advanced Fiction Workshop with the amazing, funny, prolific and generous Mat Johnson at VONA in June. I learned a lot about structure and story from Mat and from my workshop-mates, and had a great time as always at VONA, catching up with old friends and making new ones. Mat gave me some much-needed encouragement to work on what is now shaping up to be my first book—a collection of character-driven short stories set in a post-apocalyptic California, where technology has all but disappeared and human relationships and Mother Nature become the cornerstones of a new rural ‘civilization’. I made tons of progress on three of the twelve stories for this collection in 2010, and a lot of that progress can be credited to Mat and my VONA 2010 workshop experience.

- I had two public readings this year, neither of which I tried very hard to secure, but they were lots of fun and a good chance to share some of my work with an audience. The first one was at my neighborhood cafe, Woody’s, in Oakland, with some of my workshop-mates from my fiction workshop with Junot Diaz at VONA in 2009. The other was my second reading at San Francisco’s annual LitCrawl. This year I got to read with a group of writers of color for the Carl Brandon Society, which is all about promoting sci-fi/speculative fiction writers and fans of color. I got some great feedback on my story from new acquaintance Naamen Gobert Tilahun, who said my work reminded him of Ursula Le Guin’s! Super-cool.

- As far as publications, I did get several non-fiction pieces placed this year. One was a piece on living in a multi-cultural world in a cool new anthology from Beacon Press called Are We Born Racist?, edited by my old work buddy Jeremy Adam Smith along with Jason Marsh and Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton. Other writers who were included in the collection were Rebecca Walker and Bishop Desmond Tutu, so that was cool! Another piece I had published in 2010 was a nostalgic memoir-type short about my first ‘gay uncle’, which was printed in local literary mag Instant City. This story was as much an ode to the San Francisco of my childhood as it was a story about true family, deception, loss and memory. I am particularly proud of an essay called My New Sisters which was published in the online version of Yes! Magazine And of course I had a couple pieces published in the ever-useful Grassroots Fundraising Journal, the Editorial Board of which I joined in 2010 as well.

It was a busy year, and although I didn’t reach all of my writing goals in 2010, I did make a lot of headway and am proud of my writerly accomplishments. Of course, my writing has now taken a back seat to my pregnancy and impending mommyhood, but I have been doing a fair amount of journalling and will continue to push forward with my creative work in 2011. My next post will be on 2011 new year’s resolutions, but in the meantime, here are my writing buddy





Where I’ve Been

16 11 2010

Apologies for being so absent these last few months, but life has taken a big turn for me—for the good—and I needed to take a break from blogging for awhile, as well as revisit how public I wanted to be with my big news: I’m pregnant! I’m very excited to become a Mama as I’ve been wanting a child of my own for many years, and the Creator has blessed me with the new life growing inside me. During these past few months of my pregnancy, I have felt the need to go inwards, to take more time just to be quiet and listen to my baby, and of course to nest! There are lots of preparations to make before the little one is born and my partner and I have both been busy with regular work as well. My creative writing is moving along smoothly, and I feel that I need to priortize that writing for now, with my time and energy for writing in general becoming more limited.

And so while I enjoyed blogging and will hopefully come back to it after the baby is born (I already hear all the parents out there laughing at me), I am going to continue to take a break from public blogging, aside from my occasional posts on the GIFT Exchange blog of the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training, where I write about fundraising, movement-building and nonprofits.

I’m sure that when I am a Mama-for-real instead of just a Mama-to-be, I will have many interesting and new insights into environmental issues, writing and other things that I’ve written about previously. Thanks for reading and check back in late Spring 2011 for more from me.





Wordstrike!

29 07 2010

The Asian American Writers Workshop has just announced what their calling Wordstrike, or a boycott of Arizona by writers (and mostly writers of color), in protest of the racist / xenophobic SB 1070. Some of my favorite writers and/ or writing teachers, including Jessica Hagedorn, Junot Diaz and Chris Abani, have signed on. I’m also heartened by these images of the protests happening in Arizona right now. I also stumbled across the video below on Twitter last night, which was ironic given that I’m in San Antonio right now at Macondo workshop in San Antonio, home of the Alamo. It’s a great video that draws the connections between pro-slavery, white supremacist forces and the anti-immigrant forces at play in Arizona and elsewhere. I love how it illustrates how African-American and Latino folks have more in common around this issue and its history than not. Now I wish someone would make a good short video relating this racist Arizona law and others like it to the plight of Asian and other immigrants in the US.





Where I’m At and Where I’ll Be: Macondo, PAWA blog, Litquake

28 07 2010

I’ve been pretty absent from the blogosphere of late—busy with my consulting work and getting ready for the Macondo Workshop, which is where I am at this moment, typing away in my dorm room—but I am doing stuff, as I mentioned in my last post, just not talking about it here. Still have to figure out how to make time for my blogs so that they can reflect what is going on in my life. Any suggestions folks have on how to do this would be most welcome! It’s all about balance.

As evidence that I’ve been a busy girl, I helped interview a couple of fellow Pinay VONAites from this past summer for a post on the PAWA blog. Thanks to Barbara Jane Reyes for hooking us up.

And my writing buddy and fellow speculative fiction writer Claire Light asked me to read this coming October at the annual Litquake festival in San Francisco. This will be a reading sponsored by the Carl Brandon Society, which supports the development of science fiction/speculative fiction writing by people of color. I’m honored to be part of this particular event, and to participate in Litquake for the second time.

But for now, here at Macondo, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and/or connecting on a deeper level with some amazing folks, like:

Gabriela Lemmons, a poet who’s one of the founding members of the Latino Writers Collective in Kansas City, MO. The group sounds amazing and breaks all the stereotypes many of us have about whitebread Midwestern life.

Veronica Reyes, an accomplished educator and poet who hails from East Los Angeles, and has been cracking me up and keepin’ it real the way only El Lay folks can.

Poet and political activist Vanessa Huang, whom I met at VONA a couple years ago. She’s currently working on a book of poems and self-organized what sounds like was an amazing feedback session from her community of comrades and poets back in Oakland. I hope she writes about it as it sounds like a fascinating complement to the traditional writing workshop that’s much more rooted in community.

The fierce poet and editor Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhran, whom I bonded with the second night I was here after I had a mini-breakdown (long story). We then realized we had a LOT of acquaintances and friends in common back in the Bay and that we even used to hang out at the same queer dance club back in the ’90s! He just finished editing an upcoming issue of Yellow Medicine Review that will be the first of its kind, as it will feature writing by indigenous queer folks from all over the world.

Ching-In Chen, a poet who published a book, The Heart’s Traffic, last year and recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at UC Riverside. Ching-In is smart, funny and super-talented. I’m glad I could catch up with her here to get my signed copy of her book.

And poet and fellow Bay Area nonprofit worker Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, whom I know because I did some fundraising consulting with the organization he works for, Justice Matters Institute, a few months ago. It’s been good to briefly connect with Lorenzo as a writer here at Macondo.

More updates to come soon. Got to rush off to workshop in a few—my day to get critiqued!





Yes, I am Thinking and Saying Things, Just Not Here

9 07 2010

Oscar Grant mural in downtown Oakland on 17th and Telegraph

As a person of color, a writer, an activist, as a long-time resident of Oakland and someone who is Bay Area born-and-bred, I have some strong opinions and feelings about yesterday’s verdict in the Johannes Mehserle trial re: the murder of Oscar Grant. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to blog about it now because I have other writing to do, but if you’re interested in finding out more about what I think, please visit my Twitter feed, which is the main way I’ve been communicating with folks about what’s happening here.

And special shout out to Max Elbaum, fellow activist, writer and Oakland resident, whom I ran into at the rally last night downtown. He told me he's been following my blog (not sure which one) so just want to give him special thanks!





VONA Reportback and the Real Work

28 06 2010

I was offline much of last week because I was at VONA, short for the Voices of our Nations writing workshop, at the University of San Francisco. I had the privilege and pleasure of being in an advanced fiction workshop with author and all-around-cool dude Mat Johnson, who wrote Hunting in Harlem and the graphic novel Incognegro, among several other books.

Despite the tough-looking photo on the home page of his web site, Mat was a generous and encouraging teacher. He gave lots of critical feedback too, don’t get me wrong, but what’s a writing workshop if someone doesn’t slice and dice your work? His case-study lectures on structure were especially helpful to me, and I made a note to myself that when I get stuck on a story, when it’s basically at the stage where I feel like I can’t do anything with it anymore, I should do what Mat did with our stories / novels-in-progress in class and figure out two things: 1) What’s this story about? and 2) What’s actually happening? We made scene ‘maps’ to identify what’s actually on the page (versus what we are ‘trying’ to write), which was extremely useful to all of us. It was also good to work with a writer (and especially a father) who has children and realize that it is possible to have a career and a family at the same time.

And Mat left me with a healthy dose of much-needed inspiration when he said to me a few times, “I can’t wait to see your short story collection. That’s a book I want to read.” (I recently found out that I didn’t make the cut for the Hyphen short story contest, although a friend and fellow VONA alum won the grand prize, Sunil Yapa. So while I’m happy for Sunil, I was a bit bummed.) But there’s no better anecdote for rejection blues than having an accomplished writer I admire telling me they expect more from me. Makes me want to get my butt in the chair and start writing! The same thing happened when I met Bino Realuyo for breakfast a few years ago in New York City and he told me, somewhat gravely, at the end of our conversation, “The next time I see you, I want to see your book.”

The Student and the Teacher: Me and Mat Johnson at VONA



And of course, the other magic at VONA is being around 60+ other writers of color from all over the country who are all dedicated to crafting their work and making it as good as it can be. I made new friends, as always, and got to reconnect with old writing buddies, and got terrific feedback on the short story I’m working on.



Me and Emily Yamauchi, a super-talented writer and new buddy



The view from the campus is pretty gorgeous, too.

View from Lone Mountain Campus, where VONA workshops take place

Been feeling a bit of post-VONA withdrawal these last couple days, which since this is my fourth time doing the workshop, I know is normal. And now the real work begins. I’ve set aside most of this week to write, and to hopefully put into practice all the brilliant advice Mat and my fellow writers gave me this week. Butt in chair. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Avoid Facebook and Twitter as much as possible. That’s my goal for this week. Wish me luck.





The Karate Kid Remake: More than Just a Kid Flick

20 06 2010



So I saw the new Karate Kid movie tonight, per my partner’s request, although I would’ve gone to see it eventually anyway—albeit probably at a matinee, to pay some respect to the boycott of the film called by Aly Morita, the daughter of the late, great Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita (who played the iconic and inimitable Mr. Miyagi in the original version of the film). But I didn’t really agree with the boycott anyway, which I’ll get to in a minute, and I’m glad I went to see it on a Saturday night, since there were tons of little kids of color (mostly African-American but some Asian-American too) in the theater who were super-excited to see the movie.

That in and of itself says something about the importance of this film, and made me glad that I didn’t buy into Aly Morita’s call for people to boycott the film in theaters (she says it’s OK to watch it later on Netflix, I guess to decrease its box office impact). Tonight at the theater, I was especially moved by two young Black girls—probably between the ages of eight and ten—who waited with big grins on their faces in line, practicing ‘karate’ kicks high into the air, emulating the image of Jaden Smith doing his split-kick in the movie’s promotional materials.

As a woman of color and a sometime martial artist, this made me happy. Even though I was well into womanhood when I saw the amazing women-only fight scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they affirmed my desire to practice martial arts, and more than that, to define myself however I wanted to as a woman. And that women could be damned good martial artists, too.

Of course, there had been many other movies (mostly Chinese) that showed women kicking ass before, but this was the first that had such huge commercial success in this country, and that makes a cultural difference, if only because of the sheer number of people that then see these images. In many ways, that’s the real power of this ‘Karate Kid’ remake, which has been the top-grossing movie in the US since its release last week.

Read the rest of this entry »








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