Friday, August 29, 2008
In addition, I get to spend a few extra days with Surfrunner and to have dinner with her and Sidewalk Monkey on Tuesday.
My heart is so full and glad.
I love the entire world right now.
Peace out, New York. See you on the flipside . . . after I've consumed so much meat I'll probably be eating salads for a month.
I really, really like it.
Who knew?! I once was much more of a Sandra Brown/Nora Roberts kind of gal, you know, male, female, cute meet, hate each other, make out, hate each other, have sex, really really hate each other, then get married and have babies.
But it sure turns up the heat when you're Valkyrie-Siren-Human and he's a Demon and all the other creatures are out to either (a) kill you, (b) kill him, or (c) impregnate you with either Good or Evil spawn. There's not as much room for bullshit, because there are things out to kill you. And Cole is good, she spins around the reader this entire alteruniverse such that it's impossible to find your way out until the book is done. Kind of like Charmed, but with explicit sex scenes.
Dark Desires after Dusk was another that kept me up till 4am, after which I had some very interesting dreams, let me just put it that way.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
"America, we are better than the last eight years . . . We love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight . . . EIGHT IS ENOUGH!"
"McCain voted with Bush ninety percent of the time. I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change."
"We need an economy that honors the dignity of work."
"America, now is not the time for small plans."
[On education] "Michelle and I are only here today because we were given a chance. I can't stand for an America that doesn't give all children that chance."
"We cannot meet 21st century challenges with a 20th century bureaucracy."
"We are the party of Roosevelt . . . We are the party of Kennedy . . . don't tell me Democrats won't keep America safe."
"If John McCain wants to have a debate on who had the judgment and temperment to be Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have."
"This election has never. been. about. me. It's about YOU."
"Change doesn't come from Washington . . . change comes to Washington."
QUOTES FROM MAYUMI, TALKING TO HERSELF WHILE WATCHING SPEECH:
"Sooob. Soooooobbbbbb. Soooobbbbb."
"Please God, please let him be President."
"I'm sorry but how does Michelle Obama not burst into tears?!"
[While Obama spoke of individual and mutual responsibility and specifically how fathers need to be there for their kids] "Sooob. Soooooobbbbbb. Soooobbbbb!!!"
But my eyes are on the crowd: more than 70,000 people waving American flags, singing or swaying to music, eyes bright, looking ecstatic.
Just to hear a man give a speech.
Just to hear this man give this speech.
I feel hope. I feel mushy. I wish my walls were soundproof, because I predict that I'll be sobbing through the next hour or so.
"i saw you. you were drinking a very large bud light while riding in the back of a pick up truck. i like that about you. i yelled at you from the beach and you waved. come over and drink beer in my truck anytime."Amen, sister.
There is something inexplicable about how sexy the combination of pickup trucks, beer, and local men can be. I am so glad I went away for college. If I had stayed, I'd totally have gotten myself into some rotten trouble. :)
Now, before anyone gets huffy, I don't miss the luxury ecolodge or the fancy golf course. I miss the Moloka'i Ranch of circa 1997, when the graduating class of Iolani '98 took a trip off-island, rode horses, hiked Kalaupapa or planted kalo, pounded poi, and bonded. I miss being covered with red dirt and being a little sunburned, and you know what, for once not worrying about what my classmates--especially the million boys I had crushes on--were thinking of me. I miss the feeling of Moloka'i, island living at an even slower speed than O'ahu, and the spiritual essence that infused that island, something you can just feel, you know, in the air. Like the difference between being on Kaua'i versus O'ahu, some feeling that magic had so far managed to coexist with modernity--not that Moloka'i was very "modern"--but you know the mana of the place kept pace with the changes happening to it.
Also, call me crazy but the younger paniolo they had working at that time? Oh MAN, two of them were so cute they just about killed me. I was not a jump-up-and-volunteer kind of gal, back in high school, but let me tell you, I nearly grew wings and flew when those two paniolo asked for volunteers to pound poi. If it meant standing close to and talking story with those two, I would have helped a cow give birth, or branded a calf, or, like, dealt with, ahem, "fertilizer."
Now, I'm sure Moloka'i still has its magic, and that the boys of Moloka'i are still dropdead gorgeous. I'm sure I could fly in to Kaunakakai and have a grand time of it. But sometimes you miss the exact thing you knew, a particular memory. And right now, I'm missing that trip. I'm maybe even missing that class. This year is our ten-year reunion and no one seems to be planning it. What rumors I've heard have involved a dinner at the Headmaster's house (because his son was in our class). I'm pretty sure I'll have to miss it, airfare prices being what they are back to Honolulu. And, anyway, it's a bit hard to ramp up the desire to spend hundreds of dollars (probably over a thousand for both D. and I) to fly home to chill at someone's house . . . even if it is the Headmaster's house and therefore much nicer than most other someone's houses.
I kind of cannot believe the person I am, that in this one year, 2008, I've moved back across the country only to learn that I finally am homesick for Hawai'i and that I can finally stomach and put behind me all that high school bullshit and see my former classmates for the grown-ups that we all now are. I can't believe I want to go to this reunion, when I've been fighting the concept since 1998. I can't believe I want to go and most likely won't be able to. I even dreamed of it last night, a hoard of my classmates (I won't name names but I did see particular faces) and I on some big yellow excursion bus, headed . . . somewhere. But the feeling of comraderie, of being the who I am now, confident enough to not take B.S., getting to know the whos they are now . . . it was amazing.
Anyway, R.I.P. Moloka'i Ranch. Maybe you should have stayed the way you were, rather than going all crazy ecotourist on us, but still I mourn you.
* Yes, I know I'm about six months behind on this reporting, but the news takes a while to cross an ocean and a continent. Or, actually, it just takes a while for it to occur to me to Google a place I haven't been in, oh, ten years.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
On the one hand, thank GOD for a break from "the interpersonal stuff," but on the other hand, what the hell is Barry talking about with an "increase in workload"?!
I wonder how many times in his life has Sen. Obama experienced racism in America? How many times has it made him feel, if even for a moment, less than?How many times has he felt that America, his home, was not, in fact, his home? But how many times has he blamed it on a life experience that he had little control over? How many times has he claimed that the struggles of being raised by a single mother, being a biracial child in a time where interracial [marriages] were still not common, or that the work it takes to be a successful black man in America, entitle him to be the leader of this country[? . . . ] Well, he hasn't.
Go read the whole thing. She's smart and pretty and spot-on.
But jes to make um more confusing, brah, I like move west again and make baby-baby and book-book*--eh and I guess book-book baby-baby** cuz David-David is half-Filipino--and I like get one house and dog and yard. Like I said, jes for make um more mental.And then I died laughing, alone, mind you, because sometimes it feels so good to use pidgin and that irreverent Hawaiian racial humor.***
* I forget how this joke started, but for some reason this friend and I double a lot of nouns when referring to me. It has something to do with the fact that I have other friends named Jenjen and Jojo and Lala.
** Book-book is pidgin for Filipino. It literally means "termite," according to one of the kings of local comedy, Frank De Lima.
*** Which may rely on cultural context to be funny.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sweet dreams, all!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
an examination of the use of Pidgin and how it communicates humor without relying on the “it sounds [so] funny it tickles” factor. I think that there is something a little more sophisticated than readers (and sometimes writers) care to admit about the use of dialects, accents, regional speech, etc. And since you are exploring that territory, I want you to take a close look at how Linmark or Yamanaka use it. Why is it funny? How do we Western proper-English readers keep these characters from becoming clowns or fools? How is their complexity established and maintained? I want you to be very conscious about this when you read and write using Pidgin. Otherwise, you will be relying on the funny-sounding things that come out of characters’ mouths. It should not only be funny because it sounds different. But how do these characters display depth? There is something very cultural and working class about speech, but it should be handled delicately, respectfully.My desk is covered with books, my thick file of articles and research about pidgin/Hawaiian Creole English, and another thick file of my undergrad senior year-long paper, "The Viscosity of Vernacular: The Politics of Employing Endemic Language in Literature." I reread that paper and I think damn I was a genius back then, and now every critical part of my brain had rotted away to make room for proofreaders' marks and the AAA Style Guide.
I do not have high hopes.
Why is this so fucking hard?! I used to write 30-50 page papers a few times a semester in undergraduate, and now I am being felled by a single three-page paper? WTF?!
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. 9. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
In closing Vonnegut adds, "The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that."
See tips from other masters.
PERMUTED PRESSDude. Wow. I mean, just wow. Who even knew there was a "zombie fiction market"?! Talk about a niche! Secretly, doesn't that totally make you want to write about zombies?
Permuted Press is a small publishing company with a strong presence in the apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and zombie fiction market(s). Seeking completed novels between 70,000 and 110,000 words (85,000-90,000 words is ideal). We are not considering novellas or short story collections at this time.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
There were a few pieces of advice that stuck with me, though:
* When you get overwhelmed by your project, simplify. Write what you could see through a one-inch picture frame. Take it frame by frame, bird by bird, and eventually you'll reach an end to it.
* Following up on this photography metaphor, write as if you inspired by a Poloroid picture you'd just taken. Write what you can see, then see how the picture (and your writing) changes as the picture continues to develop.
* When having plot trouble, go back to your characters. When having terminal plot trouble, try Alice Adams’s ABDCE: Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending. (I'm not terribly convinced this would work for me, but hey if I get desperate I may try.)
* Each day try rereading the material you wrote in your last writing session, then move forward from there.
* When you lack a body of information, contact people that do have it. Ask them to tell you everything they know. They'll love it.
* Shoot for, at least, 300 words a day.
And, lastly, one final quote:
“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be” (231).
--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.
"If you disguise this person carefully so that he cannot be recognized by the physical or professional facts of his life, you can use him in your work. And the best advice I can give you is to give him a teenie little penis so he will be less likely to come forth” (227).--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.
"Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly."
--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.
* What is the real difference between the Army and Marines?
* How exactly does R&R work? How long is it? Is your whole unit sent home for R&R at the same time?
* How are people grouped into units in the Army? Is it geographical? Would there be a bunch of Hawai'i residents together in a unit? Or are people put into units, regardless of geographical affiliation?
* How are travel plans handled for R&R? Does the Army pay for and book your tickets?
* Would you have to be debriefed if you were just on R&R? If so, what happens in debriefing?
* What are some names for the kinds of vehicles you would drive in Iraq? Can you say humvee? Can you say armored car?
* Is it realistic to have a member of the Army fly home on a commercial flight? How about a Marine?
* How would one fly home from Iraq? What is a typical flight path?
* Could you be on R&R and then get honorably discharged if your head was fucked up?
* What are the rules about coming home on R&R? Would you be wearing a uniform? Is that a choice that the soldier makes? Do you have certain conduct rules, or only if in uniform? If so, what are they--especially in regard to drinking alcoholic beverages?
Please comment or gmail me! I need this help ASAP!
Evidently, the episode concept was that she (and some other women, who cares) have to stand on pedestals in Central Park in their bathing suits, and if that doesn't have von Hottie written all over it, I don't know what does. It probably has something to do with self-esteem and a healthy body image, and Tyra is so going to say, "Girl, you're fierce!" and then toss that mane of hair. I can see it now.
Although, to be precise, I'm wondering if Laura will be going as Laura or as von Hottie? Hmmm. Wife?
* Particulars of when the show is airing to follow . . .
Friday, August 22, 2008
hahahahahaha. you are so lucky this conversation took place via text, because if you had said you were still in manhattan to me on the phone i think i might have bitten your head off and enjoyed chewing on it and swallowing. Love you, my tasty. I mean pretty. I meant my pretty!I suspect that's a kind of fucked-up comment, except I think it's funny.
But what's also true? We totally had a successful writing date, wherein for at least an hour or maybe two we were able to ignore how much we always want to talk to each other and get some writing done. IT CAN BE DONE!
I love writing dates. They turn a solitary act into something almost social, make a painful process a little less painful because of the empathy sitting in the room with you, and apply the necessary peer pressure from the rapid sounds of someone else's keys aclacking to inspire Great Works of Art--or at least some crap that you can wade through later and find something to work with.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Mayumi: I think I'm having the exact same writing day as you are.
Mayumi: I feel like firing myself, too.
Mayumi: Except that now I have a shitload of graduate loans already taken out, so I think I might as well keep going, since the debt has been accrued.
(Hopefully our writing date tomorrow will go better than both of our todays.)
Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,
Suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,
and once again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.
* From Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, New York: Anchor Books, 1994.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Back to the--ahem--drawing board.
The crux of your response to my writing hinges on the choices I made while writing “race/culture” in my stories. As you put it: “All that to say that with writers everything is political, and personal when it comes to the specific communities. There are beyond your control, but you cannot ignore them either.” First, I want to thank you for being so forthcoming about your concerns. It took me a few reads of your letter to be able to digest fully what you were saying without having a gut-instinct defense of self kick in. But these ideas are percolating on high in my brain now, and even if I don’t agree with you uncomplicatedly, I thank you deeply for making me think about these things.
Regarding “A Manual for Landing”:
When I wrote Charlene, I was thinking of several things: my own upbringing in Hawai‘i, Caucasian friends of mine in Hawai‘i, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. While to a certain extent there are many similarities with communities of people of color the world over, I’m sure you’ll agree there is something to context. And in my experience of growing up in Hawai‘i, while it is true that people of color were—and especially in the case of Native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans still are—colonialized, oppressed, disadvantaged, et cetera, they’re still very much the majority. Yet for all our shared oppression, there is a lot of small-minded thinking about “in” versus “out” groups at home. For my mother, who moved from CA to HI when she was in her early thirties, this translates as the fact that there are some that don’t see her as “local,” despite the fact she’s lived there half her life, worked deep in the community on many levels, and looks like and talks like them. For me, it translates to the fact that I was excluded for not being “born and raised.” Other times, the exclusion is simply based on race: in undergraduate I was obsessed with Hawaiian mythology and used its paradigms in my fiction writing, but when I showed my work to [a Native Hawaiian friend . . .], she criticized me as not having “the right” to do this research. Or consider some of the “pure-blood” Japanese and Chinese parents (of my friends) who still—third generation from the motherland—won’t allow their children to date outside their race. These are just little examples. I’m very interested in the fact that we all feel this need to label each other as “in” in some instances and “out” in others, including and excluding ad nauseam, when the fact is we’re all stuck on the same small-ass little rock in the middle of the ocean. Not to be naïve, but Christ can’t we all get along? Perhaps it operates differently at the adult level (I have never lived as an adult at home) but, in childhood, sheer numbers = power, difference is marked, and we ape the things our parents say and believe.
Being Caucasian—haole—in Hawai‘i [may be] the most heightened difference of all. Knowing a few Caucasian girls who had weathered this difference, I was very interested in exploring these notions of inclusion and exclusion that we all go through . . . but through the eyes of a character who in most parts of the world would be in the most innest group of all but who is living in a place where finally her privilege is not at all a privilege to have. The description that later became the customs forms was directly inspired from the fairly rapturous prose Morrison writes from the POV of Pecola about being black and wanting to be white. And if Pecola can wax poetic about wanting to be white, can’t Charlene wax poetic about wanting not to be? I actually think it’s a more interesting choice to embrace the POV of a character who would be assumed to embrace her privileged whiteness but instead deeply resents it.
. . . Charlene is triply outed: by her skin color, by her privilege, and by the fact that she’s a teenage girl. And enough has been made of that latter item in mainstream literature and film to be universally understood—so, there, I disagree that Charlene is “a typical American girl without anything heavy-duty to worry about, and her biggest drama is fitting in.” Sometimes “fitting in” is drama enough. But, then again, whiteness is still a skin color, so Charlene also has to deal with “all the politics of race, colonialism, language, class”—but from the flipside of the situation. And consider, too, this: that we don’t even identify white people by their specific and rich cultures and races, we lump them together as a skin color. They are Caucasians, white people, haoles, whereas the rest of us get to be Japanese American, or Mexican American, or Hawaiian-Chinese-Filipino-American. I mean, how pissed have we all been when referred to as yellow people or brown people? ‘Course this point is complicated by the fact that a lot of Caucasians refer to themselves as white people—whether in apology for not being not white or in apathy because they don’t know [about their specific heritages], and we as Americans don’t as much value, the specific heritages that make up whiteness. I don’t fully understand what I think about this issue, but suffice to say I’ll keep thinking.
That said, I absolutely agree with you that Charlene can be made more interesting. Sometimes when I write in the first person, I have a hard time making my characters active agents rather than passive observers. It has a lot to do with the “I” of the character getting stuck to the “I” of the writer—I was quite a passive person growing up, owing a lot to the kinds of inclusion and exclusion games that were played. But you’re right to note this. Charlene needs to either embrace her outsiderness or try harder to fit in. She has choices: she can keep her own identity as being from NY but befriend locals; she can try to lose her identity and fit in; or she can embrace her outsiderness and befriend other outsiders. How does she feel about Charlie’s ability to fit in, is this almost an insult to her? Also, why does Kalei befriend Charlene? Just because Kalei is dating Charlie? Is this suspect—a way to get in with the brother? More can be done with the tension of who Charlene was in NY versus who she is in HI: “I’m not the person they think I am. I was cool in New York,” etc. Obviously, lots more could be done, period.
Regarding “Drunk on a Holy Day”:
No argument here. I agree wholeheartedly that the significance of the professor’s race/culture/religion needs to be more fully dealt with, especially since I make such a point of highlighting it at the start of the story. I should have flagged this in my cover letter to you. My rough idea going forward is that Kamal is experiencing a loss of faith, both in the literal and figurative sense, both from his throwing away his cultural upbringing and from losing the child. In the story we’re at this place where this couple has experienced a traumatic loss together, but instead of facing it together, it has driven them apart. Kamal comes from a strict culture/religion of rules and constricted behavior, and he is represented by prose. Sylvie in Kamal’s life is a movement away from structure, and she is represented by poetry. But with the loss of the child, they are forced to contemplate what this means to them each, individually, and they separated by their difference. Alma comes in as a bridge between them. Alma is familiar to Kamal, whether he admires her mind/way of thinking, of because she reminds him of his wife; there is some kind of duality between being attracted to her but also seeing her as he would a product of he and his wife: a child. How does structure (or lack thereof) help/influence/define the relationship between Kamal and Sylvie? What revelations does Kamal come to as he assists/guides Alma’s scholastic research into prose poetry? How can the definition of prose poetry parallel the relationship between the three characters? I have a million questions regarding this story, still.
I agree that Sylvie doesn’t need to be white. I just want her to represent Kamal’s reason for leaving behind his religious upbringing, but it’s more about her personality than her race, so I definitely hear you on that point. And I also agree that Alma needs to be raced as well, because race/culture/religion seem to be important to this story. You’ve given me a lot to think about regarding Kamal’s identity as well—perhaps when I’m done with this story, the Muslim vein of the story will have been edited out, but right now I’m going to try running with it.
Regarding writing as a writer of color:
I am a writer of color, but being Japanese–American Indian–Scottish–English–German I think I’m also writing from “mutt culture” (a joke!), a space of being a person of all kinds of colors, including white. In the context of Hawai‘i, my “generation,” and my situation, I wonder if race in terms of colonial history has salience in the same ways it did for earlier generations. We all come from a culture that experienced a history, but are we to carry around issues that we didn’t actually experience ourselves? Is my mom to both apologize for the atrocities the Japanese army committed to her Filipino and Korean friends and suffer PTSD regarding her parents’ WWII internment? Am I to carry around all of that, in addition to being part Native American and three kinds of Caucasian? (I mean, if so, there’s a war of worlds within and certainly plenty to write about!) But perhaps “race” doesn’t operate in the same way for me. Perhaps I identify more with “hapa culture,” being of several races, or with “local culture,” being of a certain place—Hawai‘i—no matter what race(s).
That said, while I certainly don’t feel “limited” in writing from the POV of being Japanese–American Indian–Scottish–English–German, I am endlessly curious about a range of POVs. I’ll definitely pick up Nam Le’s The Boat ASAP and let you know what I think in my next packet cover letter. I understand and appreciate, though, your opinion that I need to do more with the racial and cultural elements in my stories. I thank you, really, for not pussy-footing around and being very straightforward with me. You are pushing me and asking the hard questions, which will only serve to improve my writing. And, I think it must be said, despite four years of workshops at Sarah Lawrence—including two semesters with professors who were Latin American and African American—no one has pushed me to think about the politics of what I choose to write, from what POV, in consideration of who I am. Important things, indeed.
The Dave concensus:
* better than Five Guys? Yes . . . (although you can personalize your burger more @ Five Guys and they have some MEANGOOD fries there.)
* better than In and Out? No way.
This one (from Wife) is pretty great, though:
Below, the postcard reads: "It's true. You are! I'm excited for SF sandwiches and your sexiness. I hope you wear an apron. Maybe I'll get one too and we can wear them while we write. Love, wifey."
I let her know that I own enough aprons for the both of us, so come Thursday we'll be found at my house wearing aprons, eating these sandwiches, gossiping, and godhelpus hopefully actually writing on our writing date.
The only thing inaccurate about the otherwise lovely postcard is that it doesn't note that I'm also the ONLY Wife Laura von Holt will ever have. The ONLY one. So, the rest of you ladies can just give up and go home, hear me Khaliah? (Be afraid!)
Sunday, August 17, 2008
In my dream, this day, this sequence of events, was an epiphany for me. I decided to move home with David. I decided to move home, buy a house, buy a kayak, live near the sea, live more simply, feel sand between my toes every day, feel my muscles strain from living life fully every day, feel the salt of the ocean on my skin every day, be near those people that loved each other so well every day and leave the rest, the ones caught up with the games of inning and outing people. I decided to have babies and be with our parents and make memories and take pictures and have potlucks and notice sunrises and sunsets and be where the air itself is in bloom. With that resolve, I paddled inward until I woke up.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Today I come with good tidings. It is Friday, or actually 4:34AM Saturday, and I have met another deadline. That's right, another 10 pages written this week. That means I have twenty new pages of a brand new story toward my deadline of thirty new pages by August 30. Friends, I am actually on track here. And I think--I hope--I'm lacing in enough racially charged scenes/themes/"tropes" to show my advisor that I am trying to learn from his advice to do more with race in my stories.
Actually read a great story--Nam Le's story "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" (from The Boat)--about that today, about the somewhat artificial endeavor of sitting down at your computer to write an "ethnic story."
But, hey, I don't know, maybe Rigoberto is right: maybe a writer of color--any color!--can't write without being political. Maybe the act of writing is a political act, no matter what, so if you're going to be wearing your politics on your sleeve, you better damn well know what you think and believe.
I don't know.
I'm just a fledgling young writer here.
If you figure it out first, will you let me know?
I've only finished reading the first two stories of The Boat, but already it is love. Le is absolutely the kind of writer I want to be. Someone versatile, someone not pigeonholed. I mean, I don't want to see writing as a motherfull, fatherless, Japanese-Scottish-English-German-American Indian woman raised in Hawai'i as a limitation . . . certainly there are enough layers to that identity to write about it for a whole lifetime! But, at the same time, if I want to write about something else, about races I am not, and places I've never been, and experiences I've never had, I want to give myself the freedom to do so.
In "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," Le writes of a friend who explains why he likes Le's writing, saying, "You could totally exploit the Vietnamese thing. But instead, you choose to write about lesbian vampires and Colombian assassins, and Hiroshima orphans--and New York painters with hemorrhoids" (p. 10).
That's it exactly. If a story idea pops in my head to be written from the POV of a lesbian vampire, I am so going to just go for it, you know, rather than worrying that it doesn't fit into some person's idea of what my ouevre should be.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I miss California. I miss the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. I miss Autumn Flames and Emerald Beauts. I miss the SF lox sandwich, served by the bay, as you stroll, the salt air wisping by. I miss Bluebottle Coffee Company's Louisiana-style iced mud-like coffee; and while I know that doesn't sound delicious, it totally is, so much so that I would wait sometimes 20 minutes for a damn cup of coffee I'd finish drinking in another five minutes. I miss doing dim sum at Koi Palace with Jenjen, my always and ever guide through the intricacies of Chinese cuisine, who knows what things to order that I will (a) devour but (b) not be grossed out by. Sweet! I miss mah jongg and dinners homecooked by other people, LOL. I miss the perfect weather, wine country, Woodhouse Chocolates, weekend getaways, and having a car. I miss Costco, and their hot dogs (!!), and BevMo and Mollie Stone's and Burlingame Library. I miss Primrose Street and our apartment and the SF Bay Trail and actually riding our bikes, rather than letting them accumulate dust as sculptures/square footage hogs. I miss being able to afford a gym membership and having one in close enough proximity to use it often, and feeling while not, you know, the most skinny in my life, feeling strong and growing stronger (the other day, I carried two boxes with some paper in it to the Post Office, and I swear to you, this is how weak I am now, I've been aching all day.) Whine! Whine!
I know, I know . . . shutup already. I know there is a lot to love about New York city, and about Brooklyn, but sometimes? Whine, whine, pine, pine, sorry but that's how I feel. I want to move cross-country--again--and buy a house in wine country with real fruit-producing trees in the backyard. I want to write fiction, and cook elaborate meals, and make babies, and play music, and breathe country air.
Here are the only SF downers I could come up with:
1. Dave's career would suffer. As in he might not have one, SFO constantly downsizing being the reason we moved from SF to NY in the first place.
2. They have more earthquakes. And, in particular, Dave tells me that with the way the tectonic plates have been shifting over in that region, he's just waiting for a big earthquake to happen. He said they've already had pretty big earthquakes recently in Japan and Los Angeles and that a biggie is going to hit somewhere over there and soon.
3. I'd pay more to fly back to Vermont in December.
4. I'd--again--have to try to form a writing community around me.
GOD. I AM SO LAME. AND CONTRARY. AND HOMESICK, NO MATTER WHERE I MOVE. I SUCK! If the grass is always greener somewhere else, is it actually true that I see the grass as always brown? Hmm.
P.S. Wife? This is the sandwich I'm making for our writing date next week. :) Yum-yummm.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
(With thanks to Free Will Astrology)
But everyone deserves a little brain candy.
I'm not even going to front. I totally loved Turbulent Sea. It was trashy and steamy and it kept me up till 4am and I totally loved it. It struck the perfect balance of detailed oofing, intrigue, murder, violence, bondage, clothes ripping, rock stars, Russians, undercover ops, and paranormal activity.
Recently I read Overleaf Hong Kong, a book of short stories and essays by Xu Xi, one of my workshop leaders over the summer at VCFA. I enjoyed the book and liked the conceit of combining one's writing with one's essays about (among other things) the process of writing. In one of her essays, Xu Xi opines that "we write of things sexual because of what they tell of humanity. Yet language that is blatantly sexual quickly falls flat, descending into the predictable and unexciting" (p. 168). She tells of the (successful) eroticism of Nabokov, writing "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul," and she explains that "these opening lines are erotic because they do disclose, but with an underlying promise of something half concealed" (p. 168).
I see her point. Sometimes the sexual act on the page can seem formulaic, staid, boring, and definitely predictable. I mean, pretty much once the clothes ripping ensues you know that eventually both people are going to cross the finish line. Eventually. (Unless it's not a smut novel, and it's actually Literary Fiction and then any amount of disfunction between start and finish line can be imagined.) Sometimes you're not in the mood (ha), or you're in the hands of a writer who cannot write good sex, or maybe you're on the subway and just realized how embarassing it is that you're reading a book called Turbulent Sea with a busty blonde on the cover and that the words "STROKED," "BREAST," and "HIS MANHOOD" seem to be jumping off the pages of their own accord and panhandling your fellow subway riders. In those times, you might skip past the sex and assume you can figure out what happened.
But as a writer who does write some detailed sex scenes in stories, I have to speak in defense of sex, smut, and the American way. To me skipping over sex is like skipping over an important fact of life--yes, sometimes smutty, sometimes messy, sometimes unpleasant, and definitely complicated, always. But to gloss over it with euphemism ("they made love. she felt like time stopped. there was no other man in all of eternity but he.") or with some carefully placed white space indicating a lapse in time--going, for example, from two people laying down and turning out the light to the next morning when they're fixing post-coital waffles--well, to me, that's just dishonest. You learn a lot about a character--or for that matter, the people in your life--about the way they have sex in their lives: the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys, and hows. You learn even more by understanding what sex means to them, how much they will or will not talk about it, how they talk about it, and more still by how they deal with the intricate complications that enter their lives because of it. As Xu Xi herself points out, we write about sex because it is writing about being human.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
1. The three-alarm charm works every time: set an alarm for an hour before you HAVE TO be awake; another 1/2 hour before; and the third 15 minutes before you do. Thus, when the first alarm goes off, wake in a panic, look at the time, and snuggle back happily into bed for a half-hour. When the second alarm goes off, panic, look at the time, and realize you still have 15 minutes to lay there but you probably shouldn't fall back asleep. Then do fall back asleep. When the third alarm goes off, pout and groan and continue to lie there, forcing your eyes open until the time you HAVE TO be awake and then roll out of bed.
2. Eat three meals a day. Because otherwise you'll starve, with those long stretches of being conscious ahead of you.
3. It's okay if one of the meals is a smoothie, as long as it's chockfull of goodness. It is not okay to use vegetables or herbs to do so. You are not V8, you clearly don't do fusion. The rule of cocktails is not the rule of smoothies: mint may make a mojito but has no place in a smoothie.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Dave: Can he take us with him?
May: I know! That's what I said!
. . . time passes . . .
Dave: Everybody moves from New York to San Francisco. You never see it go the other way. That's because it'd be stupid to do it the other way.
May: . . . [points at self, points at him]
Dave: Oh, right.
It was from a set Dave and I took while on a walk the other day, along the promenade, down by Pier 1 and the waterfront, into Brooklyn Bridge park(s), and then back home through DUMBO. I took this one because I like the juxtaposition of the wee boat and the looming city, ye olde and the most modern, and above it all what a sky. I had a few I liked even better, many of which incorporated the poem railing on the dock in front of the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. It's a nice poem. My love of visual puns had me framing the part of the railing that reads "scallop'd edged waves" with some waves and the part that reads "the tall masts of the Manahatta!" with an exuberant shot crammed with the words, the Brooklyn Bridge, and as much of Manhattan as can fit in a tiny lens. Unfortunately, those shots were too vertical to feature as a banner.
Anyway, that's it. Putting away the hammer and nails for now.
BLOG LIST OF IDEAS:
* Paul Madonna’s All Over Coffee
* Redefining the canon (of literature that we force students to read)
* 100 things about me
* Old journal entries (?) from like, waaaay back in the day?
* SF TIGER ATTACK + “zoo issue of the sun and webkinz article in scratchpad.
* Poem about death and article in the sun about death of a loved one
* BARBIE! Paper project repost it!!
* Write the letter I would like to have received from my father
* SAKE proselytizer
* RAMEN wars
* Stomp the Yard the movie
* Krissa's lady party
* New Orleans-themed Stan's Place eggs benedict (Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn)
* Yellow the movie
* Murakami exhibit
* Brooklyn flea market
* Desperate Housewives and Cashmere Mafia
* Luke writing date with Laura
* my birthday in the Hamptons
* April in review
* May in review
* SUMMER in review
The funniest thing about this list is that even I don't know what I meant by some of those notes.
Thanks for humoring me. Consider my neuroses soothed.
Don’t walk before me cause I may not follow,
Don’t walk behind me cause I may not lead,
Just walk beside me and be my friend,
We may not pass this way again.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Ok. Qualify. I rocked at writing, I sucked at editing. Which explains why I am still up at 2am. I know, I know, it might go faster if I didn't stop to check Gmail or Facebook every 20 minutes. LOGGING OFF EVERYTHING NOW, promise.
That's what I think about that.
And no I will not be blogging about the food further, because, like, I didn't eat an Eggs Benedict. Dave did, though. Maybe I should have my hubby guest-blog in the eggs benedict chronicles?
Some musings about the brunchage:
* As aforementioned, food good but tiny.
* I love me some Wife, Luke, Roman, and duh Husband.
* I love my wife, but seriously if she is late to brunch one more time, it is off with her head. Hear me, hear me, Internet, I am going to start lying to her openly and without guilt about meetup times. But I couldn't even scold her because within five seconds of saying hi, she turned to me and said she brought me a gift. Bitch! Way to steal my steam. haha, J/K, but seriously how can you stay mad at someone who brings you a whole bag of trashy romance novels?
* I feel like I may never successfully eat brunch at Five Points, as we got turned away for a second time today.
* Sometimes it feels like no time has passed and nothing has changed if we can be eating eggs, drinking cocktails, nursing coffees, wearing our Sunday best, and bitching about shitty jobs, tiny apartments, the quest for artistic fulfillment, and boys and girls.
* Only sometimes everything has changed, like I can't drink coffee after noon because it keeps me up at night (old lady), we lost a Delia and gained a Roman, we all like boys now (except Dave, who only likes me), and Wife seems to be having the most "escapades." (Ooooh. I like that euphemism, it makes her sound like a caped crusader off to save the night!)
* Dave was pretty quiet at brunch. But then he often is. It makes me worried, though, that I am both his main social interaction and main support system. As much as it worries me, though, I understand it, a little. Not that there is anything wrong with my friends--AND THERE ISN'T, THEY ARE PERFECT--but they are still my friends, not his. I wish we lived somewhere where he had friends that were his alone, so that he could like and enjoy my friends but not have to like and enjoy my friends. I wish we had more friends that were ours together, that we met and befriended together. Ok, goals, clearly.
* Um. That's it, I think.
* This is Gemma.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
In my vision of your ideal future, you would spend the next two weeks both way out on the frontier and yet close to home. Paradoxical? Yes, but that's the magic and mystery of the unusual opportunity you have before you. Don't just take my word for it, Taurus: Meditate on how you could wander free on the outskirts of everything you know even as you feel as stable and secure as a monarch in your castle. Be on a far-flung adventure even as you draw deeply from the mother lode. Enjoy the pleasures of unexplored territory as you draw on the power of the familiar.
(Thanks, Free Will Astrology.)
The sheer viciousness and the unevenness of the situation took me offguard. Without even considering the time difference, I picked up the phone and called K. and we had a lovely time bitching about anonymity on the Internet.
This is what I don't get. K. absolutely will tell you what she thinks about you--and about anything else, really--but that is what I've always appreciated about her. She does not pussyfoot around. You know exactly where you stand with her. She is honest, perhaps sometimes to a fault, but she is really--for lack of a better word--real.
Let's be frank, here. Writers as a general sort can be pretty pretentious, self-involved, and even, you know, somewhat flighty. And I can say this confidently, because (1) I have known many writers and (2) I AM one and have been known to display all of those characteristics at various point, though hopefully never all at the same time.
So, what if K. did call it how she saw it? At least she was doing it openly, with her face and name attached, standing behind her opinion, and allowing for room to be challenged back.
This, then, is my problem with anonymous commentors.
In seven sentences, K.'s commentor called her a drunk, announced she was full of shit, and laid the sarcasm on pretty thick. So, okay, clearly there is an opinion, but there is no one standing behind it.
I had a similar brush with anonymity back in May. I had written a post about an acquaintance of mine who had had a big debut in New York, wherein I was very conflicted about the situation: I begrudged this person none of their success but, rather, wondered why he didn't thank certain people who had assisted his training. A certain anonymous commentor decided to "school" me on certain "facts" of the man in question. When I responded, clarifying my meaning and indicating that I certainly begrudged the man none of his success, I invited the commentor to respond further to me, personally, but to please "have the courage to identify" him- or herself. The commentor took this as me calling him or her a coward, and further accused me of having a double standard for asking him/her to reveal his/her identity but letting another Anonymous stay anonymous. (I hadn't asked the other Anonymous to reveal him/herself because [a] s/he weren't getting into a skirmish with me and [b] I already knew who s/he was.)
At the time I absolutely was not viewing or calling Anonymous a coward, but in retrospect now I would.
I'm sorry, but it is cowardly. If you feel so strongly moved by a certain subject matter (whether happily, angrily, or something in between) that you have to comment, how can you not stand by your strong emotions and words? How can you not want to own what you are feeling? I mean, unless your life or your bodily integrity will somehow be endangered or compromised, I cannot understand the impulse to contribute to a conversation without being willing to stand behind your opinion.
If you aren't willing to sign your name to what you're saying, maybe you shouldn't be saying it.
My own situation was resolved as follows. I responded quickly to the commentor, backing down in a fashion by writing: "Touche, "Anonymous."I have no interest in an Internet war. Those get awfully sticky awfully fast. If you wanted to continue the conversation, I merely wanted to know who I was talking to. I was not calling you a coward. However, in the interests of all honesty, I didn't "call out" the first Anonymous because I knew who it was. I, in fact, had to ask that the person repost their comment because the first draft of it was too harsh on [redacted], and I have no desire to become hate central. M."
And surprise, surprise . . . Anonymous had nothing else to say to me and stayed anonymous.
Because of the fallout, I to this day somewhat regret having posted about it at all, except that I, like K., find it important to be honest about my feelings. Sometimes this involves being honest about those feelings to a fault or being brassily loud about being honest, without having all the information about a situation. I considered erasing the post because I didn't want to deal with more fallout and because this one tiny post was hardly the main content of my blog. But honestly what was so wrong with that first post? I spent over an hour drafting it, trying to make sure it was a careful expression of my feelings on a subject rather than an ad hominem attack on my acquaintance. I tried to make the post pose a question that begged an answer, rather than one that proclaimed my opinion. And I invited comments, because heck I don't have all the information, by any means, and I welcome others who are more knowledgeable to share their stories and information with me.
I don't know if it was the nature of the post (questioning someone successful rather than taking the easy route of praising them) or whether its just the nature of the Internet. Whether anonymous or not, I find that people on the Internet are willing to be not just honest with each other but at times downright vicious. Part of it is the fact that tone is difficult to convey and read via Internet/text/e-mails, a technological advance and communicational breakdown. Part of it is the nature of the quick click-and-send, which makes us hasty with our judgments and actions. And part of it is the missing sense of consequence following a conflict that is due to the anonimity of ALL of the Internet, what with the necessary protection of identity and our clever "screen names" and so forth. We can make rash judgments and then turn off our computers, as if "done" with the situation, not holding ourselves responsible for the repercussions of our actions.
* Commentor is not recognized by Merriam-Webster's 11th edition. But commentator connotes something a little different, so commentor it is. Deal, bitches. I'm in the field of fiction. This is what we do. We make stuff up.
Friday, August 8, 2008
So. What else can I say that you haven't read here before? :)
My VCFA college advisor confronts me to think about race in my writing. What am I doing with it? Every decision is a political decision. He challenges my views and my decision-making, and while part of me wants to crawl in a hole and hide, the other half wants to meet him head on, because I know I'll emerge a better writer from it.
Likely due to continued writing dates with Krissa--the sound of someone else typing rapidly is a curiously effective form of peer pressure--I actually made my writing goal this week. Went over my projected pages, in fact. Started a brand new story in which I write from the POV of a young Filipino mother, a young Chinese-Hawaiian woman living in San Francisco, and a white man in the Army. Hopefully it will be a step in the right direction with the "race stuff" with Rigoberto.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Clearly there are never enough hours in the day, especially if you spend several of them "jogging around Blogland" as I prefer to call the activity, making it sound like some form of strenuous and worthwhile exercize.
Clearly a better use of some of my time would be actual, real jogging.
Clearly it would be good for my mental and physical health if I actually knew if it was day or night and left the house at least once a day.
Clearly if I am at times stressed out by that feeling of drowning in the swirling depths of To Do Lists in my life, I need to rethink and reframe my situation, and that means letting some fluff stuff go in favor of substance.
Clearly if my husband constantly mocks me for my ability to unplug, I must have a problem, because he's, like, usually a pretty nice guy.
Clearly I am having a hard time saying goodbye, and thus keep having to make further justifications for breaking up with the following blogs.
We had some good times. There were some days that *you* were what got me out of the bed before noon. But we've both known where this was headed for some time. It was just a fling, it wasn't something serious. I hope you know I'm sincere when I say it isn't you, it's me. I am Officially erasing you from my Favorites List, sorry. Please don't write and lose my number.
May in the Bay
Books for Breakfast
We Feel Fine
Xiaxue (Everyone's reading it!)
* Oh, I will miss you, ladies. I will. But my heart will go on.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
And I can't even hate her because I happen to (1) know her and (2) adore her. Goddammit.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
* Overleaf Hong Kong (Xu Xi)
* Writing Alone and With Others (Pat Schneider)
* The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (Amy Hempel)
* RE-reading The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)
* The New Yorker magazine, The Sun magazine, Hana Hou! magazine, and Real Simple magazine
But I also read and either loved or hated these books and these films.
On the shelf next:
* The Boat (Nam Le)
* all the other books I'm supposed to read for my study with Rigoberto Gonzalez
On my literal bedside shelf of books I long to read:
* Hunger Mountain, Fall 2007 issue
* Atonement (Ian McEwan)
* The End of Mr. Y (Scarlett Thomas)
* In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing (Christopher Noel)
* The Love Poems of Rumi (ed. by Deepak Chopra)
* Ghostwritten (David Mitchell)
* A Million Little Pieces (James Frey)--I know, late to the game on this one
* How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead (Ariel Gore)
* The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner (ed. Page Stegner)
*The Art of Fiction (John Gardner)
The Collected Works of Amy Hempel (Amy Hempel)
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Haruki Murakami)
I Sailed with Magellan (Stuart Dybek)
Birds of America (Lorrie Moore)
The Evolution of a Sigh (R. Zamora Linmark)
Loose Woman, Woman Hollering Creek (Sandra Cisneros)
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (Yiyun Li)
The Boat (Nam Le)
Additional books that may become part of study …
*Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott)
*Naming the World and Other Exercizes for the Creative Writer (Bret Anthony Johnston)
The Eye of the Fish (Luis Francia)
Makau (Kathleen Tyau)
The Umbrella Country (Bino Realuyo)
Bone (Faye Myenne Ng)
The Interpreter (Suki Kim)
Miguel Street (V.S. Naipaul)
Troublemaker (Christina Chu)
The Electrical Field (Kerri Sakamoto)
POSSIBLE REVIEW OF Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s early oeuvre: Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater, Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers, Blu’s Hanging, Head’s By Harry (maybe stop there because Father of the Four Passages was really weird).
The House of Breathing (Gayle Jones)
Lust Caution: The Story, the Screenplay, and the Making of the Film (Eileen Chang et al.)
In the Bedroom: Seven Stories by Andre Dubus (Andre Dubus)
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories (Alice Munro)
The Broom of the System (David Foster Wallace)
Feast of Love (Charles Baxter)
Bartelby the Scrivener (Herman Melville)
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Oh, sure . . . I'll just "stop typing."
WAAAAAAH. What am I going to do?! It hurts to even type this much.
Any home remedies or suggestions?!