Monthly Archives: February 2008

Punctuation Mark —

Found via Perpetual Folly


You Are a Dash


Your life is fast paced and varied. You are realistic, down to earth, and very honest.
You’re often busy doing something interesting, and what you do changes quickly.

You have many facets to your personality, and you connect them together well.
You have a ton of interests. While some of them are a bit offbeat, they all tie together well.

You friends rely on you to bring novelty and excitement to their lives.
(And while you’re the most interesting person they know, they can’t help feeling like they don’t know you well.)

You excel in: Anything to do with money

You get along best with: the Exclamation Point

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Filed under Quizzes

more on rejections

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I have sent out three stories to thirty-three literary journals. So far I’ve received fourteen rejections, three of which have urged me to submit again (citing that I was not sent their “usual” rejection slip).

Last night, I received two of those fourteen rejection slips, after a long and exhausting day at work. I came home past dinnertime, already gritting my teeth when I recognized my handwriting on the two self-addressed stamped envelopes I’d included with my submissions. Ugh. I just ripped them open, knowing what was inside. Yup. A rejection. Okay. Yup. Another rejection.

I pinned them on my bulletin board, where I am, for my own reasons, keeping my rejection slips. It makes me feel like I’ve at least sent my work out.

I’ve made sure to pin up copies of past acceptances to writing residencies and litmags next to those rejections to stop me from dipping into the dark ocean, of course.

Then last night, my subconscious reached out to me.

In my dream last night, someone knocked on our door, of course arousing our dogs in a chorus of barks. I was still tired from work, my lips pressed into a thin line. Who could it be–we, and our dogs, wondered. It was a delivery person (my dream did not specify whether it was FedEx, UPS, or DHL).

My husband came in and handed me an envelope, “Good news!”

It was a package envelope–not one I’d sent. With a mailing sticker on it, from a good litmag that I hadn’t even submitted my work to, in real life. I guess in my dream, I had submitted my short story to them.

I opened the envelope and inside was a short story of mine–jsut two random pages of it, but there was critique all over it, in a large and confident scrawl of handwriting. Expand on this, change that, etc., etc.

And there was a handwritten note saying to please make the edits and re-submit. It was a note of encouragement. My subconscious, I guess, is telling me that I’m getting closer. Keep it up.

12 Comments

Filed under Dreams, Inspiring, Publishing, Writing

Homesick

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I often wonder where my eternal homesickness stems from. I am constantly restless–regardless of how happy I am in my current environment, I never feel entirely at home. As a result, I constantly dream of other settings, in a display of what I shamefully think is disloyalty to my place of residence, or a display of romantic yearning.

I love the San Francisco/Berkeley area, and New York, and London…and then I watched the New York Philharmonic’s performance of “Arirang” in North Korea and it dawned on me that perhaps my homesickness stems from an inability to return home. Arirang is a forlorn song about goodbyes and reunion…if you are Korean you have probably heard this song at least once. When I was young, I imbibed the pathos of the song, and now as an adult, I am moved to tears everytime I hear it.

Watching the New York Philharmonic play it in North Korea? It suckerpunched me. North Korea is where my mother’s side of the family was born, lived, escaped from. And even the Korea my father (who hails from the South) knew is not the Korea that exists today–the Korea that is my mother and father’s home is one without a DMZ. And that, that makes me quite homesick to know that that does not exist.

Yet reading about Michelle Kim and her North Korean family roots makes me feel a bit less lonely.

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Filed under Life, The World

was it too much fat or the flu

I had dinner at what is generally recognized as a good restaurant in San Francisco–I enthusiastically ordered the marrow as an appetizer. Mrmmm. Marrow.

When asked to explain what marrow tastes like, or if it’s highly fatty (“What does it taste like,” my friend asked, adding quickly, “I don’t want to EAT it–I just want you to TELL me!”) I was at a loss. I’ve grown up with the stuff, so it’s like trying to explain what MILK tastes like. “Uh,” I started off. “Um. Rich? Kind of gelatinous? Uh?”

I like to make a marrow soup. And the fat gets skimmed off, so I was surprised at how much FAT there was in the marrow as I scooped it out of the bones and spread it over the provided toast.

I also quaffed a couple glasses of pinot noir and then I had duck with foie gras pasta. That’s liquor AND fat, people!

It was good stuff going down.

But then I got home and felt super sick. “I think we just can’t eat fatty restaurant food, Hunny!” I hollered, my face hovering over the toilet bowl.

“I don’t think so! We eat pretty bad!” my husband replied from a safe distance away in the bedroom. “It’s not like we eat healthy at home!”

Ugh. Then I barfed.

And then I barfed again.

And again.

There is a stomach flu going around, but I’m not sure whether I’m sick from the food or the flu. I still can’t eat. My stomach is whining in huge protest–it whines when I even THINK about food (“No no no nonoooo!” it screams) and then it whines when I think about how hungry I am (“Yes yes yes yes yessss!”).

I do know I’m getting SLIGHTLY better though, because I can read a food blog post again. For awhile there, I couldn’t read a food blog post without retching. Oh, but I just reread this post and got nauseous again.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to lose the few pounds.

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Filed under Life

winter there, spring here

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The snow fell heavily–at times I looked out the window to a landscape that looked like it was draped in fog, but I knew it was just millions of snowflakes. If I looked closely, I would see the snowflakes falling from the sky, sometimes sideways in a gust of wind, but mostly in a hasty, fluttering vertical descent.

In a few hours, a foot of snow had fallen, by morning, several feet of snow softened the edges of anything sharp such that the world had a rounded feeling: the sharp pine needles now adorned with clumps of snow, the jagged Sierra granite rounded like river pebbles, the roads appearing lined with cotton.

My dogs hurried out into the snow, and then surprised by its sharp chill, rushed back in. And then they ran back out again, as if in disbelief that the thing that looked so soft and comfortable could be the same thing that gave them such a shock. This happened several times until they accepted the snow for all its paradoxes.

I love snow. When I visited my friend in Ann Arbor, I was happy that it wasn’t actually snowing–I knew if there were snowflakes falling from the sky, I’d totally be ignoring my friend, so mesmerized I would be by that event of nature. As it was, I revelled in the snow-lined streets and snow-topped roofs.

Alas, we had to drive back down from the mountains–we had a dinner in San Francisco with friends–leaving town was slow going. I was worried we would not make our dinner, but at the same time, I didn’t mind staying in the landscape amidst the snow for a few hours longer. At one point, the highway parked. People came out of their cars and took pictures of each other in the snow. I thought it strange that no cars were coming by on the opposing side of the highway.

“There must be an awful car accident up ahead,” we mused aloud. I took out a book, some oranges, and cookies from the boot–we would be there awhile, it seemed. When the highway began to move, we passed by a horrific car accident. A car hit a snow plow. The treachery of snow unveiled its head.

Someone was dying, or dead. We were silent–overwhelmed by this grim reality. I have discovered that a friend of mine is sick, that my neighbor fought breast cancer and lived, never mind my immediate experiences with being sick and with a family death. As my neighbor told me about her hell year of cancer discovery and recovery, I sensed a change in her–first of all, she was always super aloof, and now here she was talking to me and reaching out and sharing. What changes have I made?

It has dawned on me, through a meme here, and periodic thoughts that I haven’t changed my life much since last year. I ought to have come up with some sort of great lesson and life adjustments–but I have not. It’s as if all I wanted was a return to normalcy, even if at the cost of my psychic life.

In the last few months, I haven’t had much time to think or recollect–I haven’t carved out any good peaceful space. It’s also in the last few months that I’ve completely regained most of my cognitive abilities. I realize now that it wasn’t until October that I could really function at near 100% brain capacity. And since October, I haven’t raised my head much to ponder anything, or take inventory, or make plans. I’ve just…reacted. I’ve just…fought for a “normal” life.

But it’s not a normal life that I want.

I got back to the Bay Area, where it is now spring, where blossoms and not snow, fill out and round the arrow-like tree branches. It’s winter there, and spring here. Things are changing. Am I?

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Filed under Life, SuddenDeath, The Stroke, Travel

novel progress report

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This year, I vowed, I would finish my novel. A complete first draft. No goals of perfection but a goal of an entire story trajectory, a goal of getting about 100,000 words down on the page. Words that hopefully string together to tell a good story and produce characters that sing to the reader.

So–how’s it going? How’s that novel coming along? The novel I’ve been writing for years, on and off? (A writer’s favorite question, I know).

It was awful, flipping through the pages again. Not so good, I first thought, wincing at much of the narrative and prose. So much of my novel was written in first person, before I realized that I just couldn’t continue forward in the first person. So I’d started over in third. The third person narrative is better, but still very stilted in places–so stilted that it makes me grind my teeth. All in all, that makes for a gorgeous mess of over a hundred pages of narrative, in both first and third person.

I started beating myself down before building myself up.

But the reality is–the clarity is refreshing. Over a year break from the novel has helped me get some distance from the narrative, given me an objective eye. In the last year, I had a stroke, faced a death in the family, and experienced the ongoing fall-out from those two closely spaced, life-changing events. How would all that inform my writing, I wondered. And now, I feel a depth that I did not have before. At a cost, of course, but still!

In the wake of my decision to devote myself to the novel, I downloaded Scrivener–why not? Time to tackle the novel again with a new piece of software, one that supports novel writing. Tonight, I worked on a new outline with Scrivener, titling the different chapters.

I also, despite my allergies to the workshop format, signed up for an online novel writing workshop–if only to just get me going with deadlines, beholden to someone else’s schedule.  It’s helpful!

I’ve decided to shuck the rules a bit–instead of writing the novel in order (something I’ve done to date), I’ve decided to write the ending. After all, John Irving in his AWP keynote speech, revealed that he does just that: he writes the ending of every single one of his novels before he writes the beginning. In fact, he said that his endings inform the very beginning of his works. So again, why not? It was liberating getting the ending of my novel down on the page.

Still, it’s up and down. I feel lost at certain points (Irving says he always knows where he’s going in the novel–doesn’t he EVER feel a teensy weensy bit lost while writing his narrative? He says he does feel uncertain about characters, but never the plot). I’m not good at being lost. But that’s the landscape of writing the novel.

I have to keep telling myself that I can do this, that this story needs to be told, that I just have to keep going with it. Milestones, milestones, milestones.

9 Comments

Filed under The Novel, Writing

10 Signs A Book Might Be Written By Me

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Charlotte tagged me to do the self-explanatory meme called “10 Signs A Book Might Be Written By Me”…

Okay. Summon the thoughts…

  1. There are Korean or Korean American characters in it.
  2. There’s a talking animal (or two or three) in there somewhere.
  3. The book is plot-driven.
  4. There might be a Jewish theme in it, too.
  5. My characters tend to like journeys–there’ll be a trip involved.
  6. People fall in love.
  7. Someone gets lost and then found.
  8. The ending might not be as satisfying as the opening. (*sigh*)
  9. People are at odds with their ancestry/cultural traditions/past histories.
  10. No one is alone for long–there is always a cure for loneliness.

I tag anyone who’s inspired by this meme!

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Filed under Memes, Writing