Monthly Archives: May 2008

outside of the Great fireWall

Woo!  In London on a layover.  I can blog!  I can read blogs!  I can comment on blogs!  I can read all of wikipedia!  I have access to google cache!  I think I’ve lost 5 pounds!  I feel like my mind’s expanded two times over from this trip to China!

I think the 5 pounds are coming back though–we just went and bought a bigass bag of British candy (flake!  galaxy!  twirl!).

What time is it–I have no idea.


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it took a little while…

but then I realized: ack, is banned in China.

Seriously! After trying multiple times, to no avail, to get onto wordpress and then after trying to read other blogs, it dawned on me: the blogging sites are banned in China. Bleah.

It was like a total mystery for a little while there. It wasn’t as if the page announced “Banned” or anything–it just kept spooling forever and ever, without an error code. Hrm.

I’m only able to blog this via some clever wrangling. I’m feeling mighty naughty, blogging like this here.

But as a result, expect fewer updates, if at all.

I’m in Shanghai now. It’s humid and very very warm. I am glistening at all moments. I had a dumpling already here in town–it was the BEST DUMPLING EVER!!!! I also had a McDonald’s soft serve ice cream. It was the WORST ICE CREAM EVER!!!!

Maybe, sans blogging and sans television, I’ll get some writing done in between the sightseeing.


Filed under Travel


Off to China tomorrow–and I haven’t even packed! Instead, I’m pondering all the weight I’ve gained, as I try on all my pants. I am now wearing my fat pants. Time to do some work. Since when have I stopped taking care of myself?


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the collection….of rejection slips


I’ve been collecting my rejection slips. I’m not sure why I do this, really, but at this point, there’s a stack of rejection slips pinned to a bulletin board next to the kitchen.

Some days, they really satisfy me–it makes me feel like I’m putting myself out there, taking risks! That’s the way it should be, even if I fall flat on my face a lot. Other days, it’s a miserable reminder. My husband wonders why I collect the rejection slips and threatens to discard them. “This is f*cked up!” he says, pointing to the multicolored stack of hodgepodge rejections pinned to the bulletin board in the mudroom.

The other day, I wondered what they would look like, if they were to be spread out on the floor. Hrm. So I did just that. And took a picture (sans the rejections from litmags that take online submissions–they email rejections and my irl name/email is on every single one of them–so I’ve excluded them). They add up to a small handful.

I’m still waiting to hear from a few more litmags. Some have held my piece for more than 4 months–but of course, I’m afraid to ask for status. They’re probably rejected–worse yet, rejected and forgotten. I’ve already queried a few magazines who had my piece for longer than 6 months to that very outcome: We have no record of your submission but we didn’t accept it…or You must not have gotten our rejection slip.

This happens even with online submissions–I check the online submission status and it says “received” or “in process”–but in fact, the piece had really been rejected. You’d think they’d update the database.

It’s a gorgeous pile, isn’t it?



Filed under Publishing, Writing

bugger heat

man.  bored.  even though i have a ton of things to do: write my essay, write my novel, ready myself for vacation…

it’s hot.  there’s something about heat that encourages the onset of boredom.

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‘fess up Friday 3

It’s Friday again!

I swear, I will get more writing done–I didn’t touch my fiction, but I did take a look at my essay and worked on it a bit. This week wasn’t much better than last week wrt personal crises…my dad took a turn for the worse with a bacterial infection and a few days passed until he took a turn back for the better. Still in the hospital but on the mend now.

Writing an essay on my stroke is difficult. I think the gist of it is that I find my stroke, at times, meaningless, and at other times, a pivotal happening. I can’t figure it out. My life hasn’t changed much since then, even though in certain ways my mentality has become different. And so, how to sum it up?

Anyway. Lots of thinking. And also prepping for a long trip next week. I’m hoping to get writing done while on vacation!

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a way to reject?


Today is my one day a week off to write and do literary things (reading counts). What am I doing today? I have a stroke essay to write and I’ve got to make progress on the slushpile. Today, I am going to divide it into “yes most definitely publish,” “maybe,” and “not accept but tell them to submit again,” and “definitely not accept,” piles.

Which brings me to the subject of litmag rejections (again).

I have some thoughts already, and forgive me if they’re not presented in a crystal clear and entirely illuminating format just yet…but I wanted to share them here.

At the literary journal I’ve just joined, the practice I’ve been told, is to send rejection emails providing the 3-4 sentences/reasons on why we’ve turned down (or accepted) the piece. This is possible because the litmag is still small with NOT a kazillion submissions like Ploughshares and The Virginia Quarterly, who have provided their own (at times colorful) opinions on the matter of rejections.

(Update: Howard added his two cents to the subject of insulting the slushpile, enlivening the dialogue again. And the VQR has responded. Not once, but twice. Meow!)

Let me be brutally honest. I quailed at the thought of having to provide feedback to each rejected piece. Aside from my workshop burnout and my aversion to giving just half-assed feedback, I was afraid of opening a dialogue that might travel down twisted and precarious paths as well as the immense time investment in such a task.

Additionally, would I, as a writer, appreciate the reasons for rejection from an editor? I think my ego might be further bruised by the additional information–but then again, I would probably find the data useful. But quite honestly, a rejection is STILL a rejection, aptly put by one of my mentors. The feedback in this case is not workshop critique, but a rejection letter.

And furthermore, what is the relationship between an editor and the authors within the slushpile, before acceptance? It’s sort of this weird pre-introduction netherland.

I had a discussion with the editor in chief–and we’ve come up with some resolution paths. What is our bottomline? Ah, I found out–the bottomline is a kinder rejection letter. I agree with that–I’ve gotten my fair share of litmag rejections in the last few months, and I’m astounded that many of them (the majority) come on little teeny weeny 2″ x 2″ slips of paper xeroxed over and over. Some are larger (3″ x 5″) and some have handwritten notes on them, and some have encouraging notes on them. And there is the RARE litmag who actually has a rejection letter written on 8.5 x 11 paper, with thoughtful phrasing despite the form letter format.

The editor in chief has given me a lot of room to make these kinds of decisions. I’m astounded at her trust, and I’m wielding my authority with a lot of thought. I get to compose my own rejection letters, and I get final say when it comes to fiction submissions. Maybe this is how other litmags do it, I don’t know, but I am finding it incredible.

I’ve already come to some decisions…

I swear I will never write a 2 sentence rejection letter. I will never write a rejection letter on a 2 x 2 inch piece of paper. I may not provide feedback but I will write the kindest rejection letter I can muster.

And I’m following the AGNI and The Southern Review model of making sure to tell the “almosts” to please submit again. I think the “almosts” deserve to know that they were “almosts.”

More thoughts to come as I rifle through the slushpile.


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“noir underside of publishing”

I found this great feature article on the “noir underside of publishing” (as the writer puts it) over at Bustopher Jones. I thought I’d mentioned it here too.

Written by a midlist author on the perils, ups, downs, and challenges of being a published writer, it is a great read, especially if you’re a writer with dreams of publishing a book.

One of my mentors said a large advance can be a writer’s worst curse. Read more.


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Korean people LOVE to ask what you do for a living (next to “how old are you,” “are you married” and “do you have children” and “how much do you weigh” and various remarks on appearance RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE). It’s a sign of interest and caring, coupled with judgment. So bizarre. Most of the time I find it terribly endearing, it’s such a familiar act.

My dad likes to tell people I’m a writer. I got to see this firsthand when i went to visit him in the hospital. Normally, at least these days, when I go to visit my parents, there are no other people coming by. So, life proceeds in a vacuum, just our nuclear family unit and no one else. The same old behavior patterns, operating in the silo with the same old people/variables.

This time, while he was in the hospital (especially before he went into surgery), I sat in a room while people paraded by and listened as my dad introduced me over and over. “She’s a writer!” he would exclaim, thereby answering the “what do you do” question for me. He loves that I’m a writer and the few short stories I’ve published in litmags might as well be Pulitzer Prize winning novels, he flaunts them so much. (The first time I had a story published, he asked me for 20 copies of the issue so that he could pass them out to friends).

I have never felt awkward about describing myself as a writer. While my other MFA classmates tried on the title very awkwardly after graduation, I eagerly took on that eponymous mantle throughout the program.

But now? I don’t know. I feel like I’ve strayed a bit from this focus. Maybe it’s because of the dreadful followup questions: Oh! What have you written? Are you published? Where? Do you have an agent? (okay, Korean people generally don’t ask that last question as so very few Korean people are actually writers and thus do not know much about the actual business of writing).

That’s when I plant a smile on my face and provide answers through gritted teeth.

I’m home, decompressing before I head into work. It was, I think, a very hard week last week. I don’t really know, because I wasn’t really there. I hid the fearful part of me very very far away in a very secure place and let the brave and optimistic part of me take over my life, over my body.

I was going to go into work at noon today, but now I am not so sure. I don’t really know how to make sense of it all, and the meetings on the phone sounds super silly to me. “It sounds so–meaningless,” I whispered at one point to my husband who is busy getting ready for work. He nodded. He knows what I mean–he has had more than his fair share of crisis in the last year.

What the hell am I doing? Why do I spend all my time on my paying job and none on my writing. I’ve got to figure this out.


Filed under Life, Writing

moth balls

I know that there are a lot of things about my life that are “stereotypically” Asian–as much as there are things about my life that are totally not “typical.” But why oh why do moth balls have to be in my life?

My mom LOVES mothballs. She’s horrified of the wrath of moths: the holes in sweaters and clothes. And so she sprinkles those little white crystallized napthalene mothballs EVERYWHERE. My parents’ home smells more like moth balls than kimchee, and I have NO idea how a moth can get within a foot of their home. Or really within a half mile. I mean, I wonder if I’ve got moth genetics because that smell makes me want to run very far away.

Still, it’s the smell of home.

And it’s on me. It’s on my clothes. It’s on my luggage. It’s on my PURSE. I smell a waft of it right now, from my purse sitting on my desk just a few feet away.

Moth balls. That’s what I smell like despite my furious spritzing of Robert Piguet’s Fracas perfume this morning.


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uncovered garden secrets


My vegetable garden has been a great metaphor for writing. It has reminded me to “kill my darlings,” and then to take action, to move the plot along.

The last month has brought quiet and peaceful times to the garden. The tomato plants are thriving, I’ve harvested baby potatoes and peas, and the leaves have unfurled so that at a distance, green has begun to dominate brown. Nice. Orderly. Peaceful.

But in the world of storytelling: borrrrring!

Oh, but the last few days have provided some twists, brought life to the garden’s story again. In the hospital I told my dad about the gopher. (he’s doing well now and on the mend spoke too soon he took a plunge today and is now stabilized). My dad is the one who brought me my love for vegetable gardens–he and I had one together throughout my childhood. He was very interested in the gopher. And then he remarked, “Oh, we had them all the time!”


He told me he didn’t have the heart to tell me that he was killing gophers all that time, knowing I had a soft spot in my heart for all animals. Remember, I’m the kid who held burials for rats caught in traps, petting the corpse heads. I still remember the soft fur. I know, ewwwww. But that was me.

You can’t keep secrets from your reader. What the writer and narrator knows–belongs on the page.

An additional lesson learned from the garden: when I got home, I found four fresh gopher holes. He’s back! The villain may die, but another villain will come to take his place. No good story is without conflict.

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without vanity

Went to Vegas….then flew home.


Spent 36 hours at home. Then left home to fly back to Vegas.


I think it’s the first time in years I haven’t checked baggage. I have never bothered with navigating the whole TSA ban on liquids, and then the TSA limits on liquids (less than 3 ounce of liquid per bottle, but everything needs to fit into a quart bag). It’s just been easier to check my baggage and not deal with that minutiae.

But when a family member is sick, I realized I don’t transport liquids (save for my bottle of contact lens solution). No makeup, no lotion, no special soaps, no perfume. I studied my makeup vanity for a minute earlier this week as I hurriedly packed–would I need anything in there? No.

Amazing–! All the liquids in my suitcase were items of vanity (including, technically, that bottle of contact lens solutino).

I traveled light. Just a few changes of clothes, and a few books. I could have fit it all in my laptop backpack.

Vanity takes up a lot of room and takes a lot of coordination.

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