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

Updates: Two deadlines and My Work in Print Soon

5 04 2010

I’m in the home stretch of a run towards meeting two deadlines this week, one for the Hyphen/AAWW short story contest, the other for this summer’s VONA workshops. My first choices for VONA this year are the Advanced Fiction workshop with Mat Johnson in the first week, and the Fiction workshop with Tananarive Due (whose excellent Black vampire book My Soul to Keep I’m reading right now) the second week. Backups are the residency the first week with David Mura, and Advanced Fiction with Chris Abani the second week.

I’m feeling pretty good about meeting both these deadlines. I just need to proofread my short story for the contest, and do a little more editing on the pieces I’m submitting for VONA. The seven-day short story challenge I gave myself a few weeks ago has resulted in some pieces that I’m revising and sending in as my VONA submission. Another good thing about these self-imposed writing challenges—the creation of more work that can become polished, publishable stories.

I’m also waiting to hear back from Macondo (a long shot) and Blue Mountain. Send in and wait, send in and wait—the writer’s life.

I also met a new writing friend today, poet Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, who works for one of my fundraising consultant clients. It’s always nice to meet writers while doing my ‘day-job’ work. He’s heading to Denver for the Association of Writing Programs conference this week. Some of my VONA homies will be there. Part of me wanted to go, but couldn’t afford it this year—maybe next year.

Lastly, I found out that the new issue of Instant City with my essay in it should be out any day now. There may be a reading or two in the works to launch this new issue, will post details as I find out about them. It will be nice to hold it in my hands and to read my words in print and not just online.


31 03 2010

Almost There

The struggle I have with my fiction writing is not finishing things. I think I’ve said this before. I have been working on two stories in particular for many years now. Yes, you read correctly: YEARS. They’ve morphed and changed and become nearly unrecognizable from their original state. And while that’s all okay, I’ve realized that I actually need to FINISH things in order to send them out for publication (not that my husband, bless him, or even my writer friends aren’t a perfectly good audience, but I’d really like more than ten people to read my work!). It was a peculiarly frustrating experience, not being able to finish my stories—I’m a very Type-A person who takes great pleasure in checking off things on my to-do list. But fiction writing, alas, isn’t as easy or linear as drafting an Excel spreadsheet of donor prospects or making five phone calls to clients.

So I was supremely grateful and pleased the other day when I finally felt a sense of completion on one of my stories. I won’t say which one it is since I am going to be sending it in as my entry for the Hyphen/AAWW short story contest, the deadline for which was extended to April 12.

I feel like I’ve really made progress, and I now have hope that not only is this particular story going to be read by the fabulous contest judges and other cool folks at Hyphen, but that I can and will finish other stories too. And it’s these small but significant accomplishments that make me feel like I’m moving forward, improving my work and becoming a better writer.

Digging Deep

25 03 2010

Not much to say today except that I am going to attempt to go deeper in these next two days—only six days left ’til the Hyphen/Asian American Writers Workshop short fiction contest deadline, and I’m getting nervous. I’ve cleared a bunch of time today and tomorrow to work on this, and also some time next week—not easy to do, as work has been picking up a lot and it’s hard to proritize my non-paid writing work when it does—but that’s still not a lot of time to make some magic happen.

I have one piece that’s done that I could submit, but while I like it it’s not super-interesting (about a young Pinay living in San Francisco in the ’80’ who meets a young Euro tourist and crushes out on him). It’s more of a cute, nostalgic story—nothing I would personally give an award to, so why should I expect anyone else to?

And then there’s an edgier piece that I’m leaning towards—an excerpt of which I read at a reading a few months ago at Modern Times Bookstore. This second piece is about two straight male best friends (one of whom is Filipino, the other Chicano) who end up having a sexual encounter, and the emotional fallout from that. The only thing about this one is that it’s not quite done yet, and I’d prefer to send something super-polished and vetted in for this contest.

But in the end, I’ll end up sending something in, even if I don’t think it’s absolutely ‘perfect’. I’m a bit of a fanatic about details and such and while that’s generally a good quality, it often keeps me from sending perfectly decent work out into the world—and thus keeps me from getting published. So I gotta dig deep in these last few days and pull out all the stops to make this piece as great as it can be. There isn’t really any alternative at this point.

And besides, I already paid my $20. The scrooge in me can’t let that go to waste!

My First Fiction Contest

19 03 2010

I half-decided a while back to submit something for the Hyphen Magazine and Asian American Writers Workshop 2010 short story contest. But today, just a few minutes ago, I actually paid the entrance fee of $20, which means I’ve lit the proverbial fire under my ass. This year’s contest judges are authors Alexander Chee and Jaed Coffin.

The deadline is coming up very soon: March 31, so I don’t have tons of time. I’m going to really need to spend a lot of hours writing, revising, polishing. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to submit—it’s a toss-up between two stories I’ve been working on, neither one of which is very ‘Asian-American’ in an obvious way, but there are no theme restrictions, so hopefully that won’t be a problem. Both of the stories do feature Asian-American characters (Filipino in both cases).

I’m a little nervous about submitting something ‘good enough’ in time for the deadline, but I need to remind myself that even if I don’t win, just entering something into the contest will help me get my name out there, and get my writing into the hands of published writers and other people in the business. If I win something or get any recognition out of this is sort of incidental, a nice icing on the cake (and of course something I’ll be hoping for, I am an overachiever Capricorn after all!), but I can’t stay focused on that as I prepare my manuscript. I just have to focus on getting a story done and polished as best I can, and on time.

Another note: my former co-worker and fiction writing comrade