Monthly Archives: October 2007

corn maze


Writing this new novella of mine is like walking through a corn maze. (You know, one of the mazes built into corn fields–there’s only one way in and out, and in between are plenty of paths that lead to dead ends).

Half of the time, I’m walking towards a dead end. Today, I wrote a scene that I wasn’t so sure of–how did it relate to the plot? Was it entirely necessary? But I didn’t know what else to write, and I thought that if I wrote the scene out, I’d be that much closer to the right scene. I felt stupid writing the scene down, but I went with it.

Of course at the end, I deleted all of it, and started over. Nope. It didn’t belong in the story. But at least I’d eliminated it from my mind, cleared out that possibility, cleared out that potential path.

Going through the maze again, picking out the paths. Learning every inch of the maze that is my story’s life.

Yes, btw, I started a novella. It’s a short story I’ve discussed here before, a short story that’s taken a life of its own and flown the short story coop over into novella territory.  I’ve been working on it, slowly, in between drafts of my thesis.


Filed under The Novel, Writing

days are getting shorter

The days are getting shorter–I always notice this sometime in October, before daylight savings time kicks in. Darkness arrives at 6:30p, and it’s still dark at 7am.  In a couple weeks, when we turn back the clock, daylight will end sooner and sooner, edging back into late afternoon.

And of course, this also means I’m a lot sleepier a lot sooner. It’s bedtime right now, says my brain!

How will this affect my writing?  I like writing in Fall and Winter–is it the darkness that drives me?  I’ll get my feedback on my thesis Friday, and then I’ll probably be writing like gangbusters for another week. For now, I’m thinking about my non-thesis novella.


Filed under Miscellaneous

The garden cycle


Thought some of you might want a vegetable garden update:

The garden has survived an entirety of its first season! The gopher ate half of its bounty, dragging down the plants into the soil (he does NOT like sorrel, eggplant, or Korean perilla, so those are left prospering), and gave my dog no end of anxiety and amusement, but that was part of the deal. I wanted this garden as inspiration for me in a year where I needed some symbol of life itself. And the gopher? He would qualify as life. If my garden could feed him, so be it.

I ate my share of eggplant and sorrel, cut sprigs of herbs. Mostly, I liked looking out the window and seeing the vegetables grow day by day–first as little seedlings and then as they came to maturity. I liked walking out there and collecting dinner. If I needed chives, I wouldn’t have to go to the store to pick some up–I’d just walk out there and cut a few sprigs and chop some up as garnish. Or maybe I’d want a carrot. Ah. I’d just bend over and pluck one out of the soil.

When I planted the thing, planning it out (I planned a little wrong–next time, I’ll turn the rows perpendicular, since the sun casts shadows along the row) and finding the seeds, I had no idea of its outcome. I only had a deep desire to have a garden–it was an act of grief and hope, in the wake of my stroke, in the wake of a death in the family.

But it took off, like a novel–I created the outline, created the characters, and then–then it took off, it rebelled against my plans and created a life and narrative of its own. A gopher showed up, new plants emerged, and the weather took its own twists and turns. I was overjoyed by each turn of events. I gave up control and let the garden run its path.

Now it is Fall. The garden now lags, it looks downright ratty. I thought about letting it go dormant for a season. But–but, but! I couldn’t resist. I’ve decided to plant a winter crop.

Here’s the photo montage…first the garden, newly planted, my handprints still visible on the soil surface:
veggie garden

Seedlings sprout!

The garden, approaching maturity (and before the gopher shows up):
veggie garden in June

And the garden, as it is today, up at top.

My posts on the garden…

Leave a comment

Filed under Inspiring, Life

staying in


I’m staying in today. I canceled my workout at the gym, and cleared the entire day to…be at home by myself. I just want, need some comfort.

I’m making a big vat of soup. I left the house once–in my pajamas–to go to the neighborhood store and fetch myself a bottle of apple cider for the soup.

Otherwise, I’m in. The sunlight filtering through the windows is a glorious golden color, and my dogs bark intermittently at squirrels in the yard. I plan on spending the entire day in pajamas, sitting on the couch, maybe writing (my novella? my novel? It is, after all, the eve of NaNoWriMo), maybe reading, maybe doing some thinking, some imagining.



I had the echocardiogram–I got to hold my breath a kazillion times as I watched the ultrasound of my heart–the valves flapping rhythmically and regularly. (“Hold your breath! Okay-now let it out slowly. Breathe regularly–okay, short breath, hollllld.  Okay!  Now hold your breath and bear DOWN!” It seems they were measuring the oxygenation of my blood?) There’s something about watching your insides on a screen–always fascinating, trying to sync up what’s happening on the outside with the interior organs. They pushed saline bubbles through my vein, to see if there’s still a leak in my heart…boy oh boy, I got severely lightheaded when they did that. SEVERELY. I asked if that was normal. I got a noncommittal answer–“Good thing you’re lying down–still dizzy?” I won’t hear back with an update for a week.

Workshop went okay. Half the class loved my story. Half the class found it overly ambitious but still seemed to like it. The Famous Writer workshop instructor HATED it. HATED it. Wrote such a scathing critique that she pulled me aside during the break and asked me if I was okay with it. She seemed apologetic, even.

But not to worry. I’ve had worse feedback experiences before, to great benefit. That’s what I told her–I’ve been workshopping a long time. I’m ok.

What she didn’t know was that I wasn’t so much hurt as totally amused and confused. What this particular Famous Writer HATES…another Famous Writer LOVES! This is the same story that my thesis director, an incredible writer who has a short story of wonderful acclaim LIKES a LOT (she said so, and I believe her because she wasn’t pulling any punches with the other stories). Sooo confusing. Especially with the contradicting feedback coming within a couple of weeks of each other.

Okay. Back to sitting on the couch, thinking, imagining, writing.


Filed under Life, MFA, Writing

to SoCal

To friends, family, and anyone living in SoCal affected by the fires…I send positive thoughts, and hopes that you stay safe and that your homes stay standing.

I was in Berkeley during the 1991 Berkeley/Oakland Hills fires…and it was a sight to behold.  The sky was dark gray, the sun was a red dot in the sun, and we prayed and prayed that the winds would stop, the temperatures would drop, the rain would fall, and that the fires would cease.

Friends ran into my college dormitory, their eyebrows singed–they had escaped the fire from their rental home after throwing all their computers and valuables into the empty bathtub.  They only had the clothes on their back.  They’d run to my dormitory, the first safe place in their mind.  I welcomed them in, they all slept on the floor and couches in the lounge.

I did not lose a home, but many people did.  The following Spring, the scorched earth showed signs of renewed life, green grass poking its way through the blackened soil.  For years afterwards, the hills were without buildings.  When I went to a real estate open house in Berkeley, I read an essay posted on a bulletin board in a child’s room.  It was a child’s essay on what had happened during the fire, and how his life would never be the same again, how he had lost so many things.

Life returned.  New buildings were erected.

May you all be safe.


Filed under Life, The World

Transitions and oxygen


My revisions have been turned in! I now have about a week break from deadlines (until I get the feedback and revise again). Yay! I’m sifting through my novella (as well as the novel), wondering which one I want to work on these next few days.

Today, too, I have my echocardiogram to check on the progress of my implant and PFO closure. Has it closed all the way yet? If so, I’ll be off the Plavix. If not–I’m not sure. But I have a feeling things are going well. I can run now, with greater stamina, without breathing so heavily. That hole must be closed, I’m getting WAY more oxygen! But then again, up in the mountains this past week, I was gasping for air in a way that I’d never gasped before. I didn’t quite understand that.

Tonight, my manuscript gets workshopped in class. I’ve not got high expectations from workshop tonight–one of my classmates who missed class last week, emailed me yesterday afternoon to say “Can I have your manuscript?” I had left a copy in her mailbox on campus, and emailed her to let her know, last week. No response. So I told her there was a copy there but that I could email her my manuscript after work. “Oh, no worries–if you can’t get it to me, I’ll just get to campus early and read it then.”

ARGH. “No way!” I emailed her (with a smiley). “I don’t want a rushed reading for class!!!” (with a frownie). “I spent a weekend reading YOURS!” I emailed her the manuscript yesterday evening. We’ll see.

It’s a day of transitions.


Filed under Life, The Stroke, Writing

In the Autumn mountains


I’ve spent the past few days here in the mountains, where the air is chilly and sweet with pine. I’m here to write–I had my deadline extended, and I’ve one more story to revise. So under blue skies, brisk wind, and surrounded by pine trees and bright golden aspens, I’ve glued my eye to the laptop and set my mind in another time and place.

You’d think I couldn’t do it, surrounded by so much beauty–but there is something simple and focusing here in the mountains. Maybe it’s the absolutely thin air that has me gasping when I go up the stairs, or the lack of noise. The snow has not yet fallen, but you can feel the tension in the weather, the air, the people–things are battening down for winter, which will be here soon. The bears, I’m sure, are preparing for hibernation. Maybe it’s that quiet move towards inward that I find contagious.

Who knows. I’m here. Hopefully going to pound out the last third of this short story and be done. Orhan Pamuk is in Berkeley today, but it looks like I’m going to miss seeing his talk.

I’ll leave you with another picture of the landscape, from the highway:



Filed under Life, Writing

Dumbledore outed!

I just read the news that JK Rowling has outed Dumbledore. When a fan asked her whether or not Dumbledore finds true love, she replied:

“Dumbledore is gay,” the author responded to gasps and applause.

She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, whom he defeated long ago in a battle between good and bad wizards. “Falling in love can blind us to an extent,” Rowling said of Dumbledore’s feelings, adding that Dumbledore was “horribly, terribly let down.”

Dumbledore’s love, she observed, was his “great tragedy.”

This is, I am hoping, a contributing act towards tolerance and ultimately, acceptance. I am hoping that the generation of children who have all read the books and come to love the wise and brave Dumbledore, will help the world set aside its homophobia.

And I am also curious as to how this will affect upcoming box office performance–will the Christian Right be picketing at every movie theater?  Or will their children drag them into the movie theaters with them.  Go Dumbledore’s Army!


Filed under Reading

draft after draft: novel in the closet

I was writing a novel. I’ve been writing the same novel for almost three years now.

After a ten month hiatus from the novel, I decided to take a look at it again, see if I could approach it. Of course, I found a dozen drafts, and various chapters, strewn through my hard drive–and a few drafts and chapters absolutely missing! They were found in my various yahoo and gmail accounts (thank goodness for my practice of emailing myself valuable story and novel drafts).

Ugh. What had I done? While I liked most of what I read, and found some clarity with the plot and potential in places I’d previously been stuck, I don’t quite “get” my old organization methodology. What made sense to me last year, makes very little sense to me now–where is THAT chapter, where is the other draft?  Is that draft missing a chapter?  Oh, here’s the chapter–bleah.  This indicates an interesting foray back to the novel.

What does everyone else do with organizing chapters and drafts for a novel in progress?


Filed under The Novel, Writing

“Ten” Snoggable Literary Characters

I’ve been tagged by Eve to list 10 snoggable literary characters.

This takes me down memory lane!

In no particular order:

  1. George Emerson in E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View: my high school literary crush! Yes.
  2. Howard Roark in The Fountainhead: You know, he’s one of those men in real life who would like, say two words to me, and then throw me on the bed. I wouldn’t take him to parties with me, but maybe we could do intellectual debates in the secrecy of our home and then throw each other around, eventually landing on the bed.
  3. Aragorn in Lord of the Rings: A nice guy to take through dangerous territory. Needs to take a shower though.
  4. Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby: His devotion to Daisy is incredibly romantic. Though it would really drive me nuts because she’d be all he’d talk about while “snogging.”
  5. T.S. Garp in The World According to Garp: T.S. stands for “Terribly Sexy.” (if you read the book, you know the line).
  6. Jean Valjean in Les Miserables: He’s the bad, good boy.
  7. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights: Tortured! Romantic! Devoted! Tormented!
  8. Westley in The Princess Bride : He’ll save you from the Fire Swamp and then romance you with undying love. Plus he’s played by Cary Elwes in the movie–not too shabby.
  9. Update. Okay, I came up with #9. Rick Deckard in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka: Bladerunner): Because he is not a/an replicant/android.

Um. I fail. I can only list 8 9. I even thought about all the men in my beloved Murakami novels, and I couldn’t bring myself to list any of them here. Can it be so true that there are no sexy men in literary novels? Where have they gone? Or do I just not like reading about sexy men? And why do male writers write sexy men so well? Because I realize that of all the books up there, only Wuthering Heights is written by a woman, one of the wonderful Bronte sisters.

Maybe you’ll do better and come up with ten.

I tag anyone!


Filed under Memes, Reading

After the Quake after the game


Many of you know that I am an enthusiastic fan of Haruki Murakami’s work. I’ve read every one of his novels and short story collections published in the United States (and even gone so far as London to grab hardcover editions of his books there–why is the cover art in the UK soooo much better than in the US?). If you’re a friend of mine, then you DEFINITELY know about my obsession.

And it was one of my friends who bought me tickets to go see After the Quake at the Berkeley Rep, a theater adaptation of two short stories from the titular short story collection. OMG! OMG. O.M.G. OMG!

Ahem. (just one more: OMG!)

So–the play is based on “Honey Pie” and “Superfrog Saves Tokyo,” which just happen to be my two of my favorite Murakami short stories…and definitely the two favorites out of After the Quake. But how could ONE play be formed out of these two very disparate stories? “Honey Pie” is an incredibly sweet story, one from Murakami’s Norwegian Wood vein, a love story of sorts. And “Superfrog Saves Tokyo” comes from the other end of Murakami’s work range–fantastic and abstract and surreal. I mean–one of the characters is a Big Huge Frog who aims to save Tokyo from an impending earthquake by fighting an underground Worm (there’s more to the story, but you should read it).

You see what I mean. How do you combine the two stories? That was the burning question in my head as we drove through the throngs of (dejected–because we lost the game) Cal football fans flooding the streets towards the Berkeley Rep theater. Needless to say, we were late–but had arrived just in time to be allowed a late seating in the back corner of the theater seating.

I was mesmerized! Keong Sim, who has been playing Super Frog since the play’s creation with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, was incredibly charming and mesmerizing as Frog. (And I’m proud to say–I once did a reading of Superfrog Saves Tokyo–and he used the same voice manner as I did! I guess I nailed the Frog’s voice in my enactment).

The other winner is Paul Juhn who plays both Katagiri and Takatsuki–we both didn’t even realize he was playing both characters until more than halfway through the play when he transformed into Katagiri before our very eyes, needing only to don a trenchcoat and glasses to become an entirely new character–something about his body language, his voice…he really was two different characters.

It was so fascinating to see these characters come to life! Halfway through the play, I started fantasizing about a movie made from Murakami’s novels.

Because of those two characters, the Superfrog part of the play was the stronger of the two parts–but that’s not to say that “Honey Pie” didn’t compete–the “Honey Pie” part of the play kept the narrative together and brought a sweetness to the play, just as it brought a sweetness to Murakami’s collection. And they did, oddly enough, integrate well.

The stories themselves were largely preserved in the play–so Murakami fans should rest assured. The humor is very intact, too! And the music adds another dimension to the performance, to the point where every time I read these stories, I may hear that haunting cellist.

My friend, who went with me to the play, said she enjoyed it, even though she has never read Haruki Murakami. Her one critique was that it was a bit weird that the characters, at point, talked in the third person. Being familiar with Murakami, I explained to her that his characters have a GREAT amount of interiority, and those third person soliloquies were a way for that crucial interior monologue to be expressed.

Anyway–if you’re a Murakami fan, you should check out Frank Galati’s play, “After the Quake”–it’s playing at the Berkeley Rep through November 25 (2007).

Oh and to note: there’s one line in the play that I got a kick out of. The character JunPei (who happens to be a writer) says, “The short story has gone the way of the stylus!” (Say it ain’t so!)


Filed under Life, Reading


I…HATE…how writing this particular short story makes me feel!  I just can’t find traction on it.  I wrote a first draft, and now I’m rewriting the whole thing.

It’s a beautiful day outside, and I’m spending it revising a short story that just won’t come together.


Filed under Writing