Monthly Archives: July 2008

nostalgic for college daze

Sometimes…while I sit in a room, having just selected a song on my iPod…I search for a good and happy place.  I tilt my head, catching the light off a window or a certain sheen on a fabric, hoping it will transport me, much like Lucy walking back into the Wardrobe to find Narnia.  It’s odd what can bring a memory back.

And oftentimes, I find myself in my first months of college, before any first kiss, walking on a crisp Autumn morning in Berkeley, relishing my days of independence as a young adult.

The light is golden, the sycamore tree leaves have not yet faded to a crisp, and I have no obligations but to myself.  I can feel it now–cool air, clear sky, walking to a cafe or down the street to the grocery store for snacks.  No permission required.

Good days.

There are many good days in my life–but that’s a snapshot of just a few of them.

And my music choices revolve a lot around bringing me back those good days.  Those feelings, dark and light.


Filed under Memories

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Filed under Memes, The Novel

musings while on the tail end of ‘flu/flu


Maybe it’s because my brain slows down, or maybe it’s because I physically slow down, but yes, like bloglily commented in a previous post, it’s nice to wonder…and I wonder a lot more when I’m sick. My fever’s broken, but I’ve kept myself homebound to fight the Mucus and The Exhaustion.

It’s a lazy Saturday (hallelujah, finally a lazy weekend after weeks and months of travel and work and workshop and socializing). Here’s what I’ve done on the tail end of this flu, post-fever but pre-100%-recuperation…

  • I’ve watched “Galaxy Quest.” Awesome movie. Not my favorite of all time, but a very reliable and entertaining movie for me, at least. I am not into art house flicks–if I want to think and be enlightened, I read a book. Movies are for entertainment. Hence, I also loved “The Dark Knight” even if Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was so true and brilliant and scary that it gave me nightmares.
  • I am now totally up to date on “Weeds.” I watched all three seasons of “Weeds” in a matter of a few days. Booyah!
  • I gave in and watered my early girl tomatoes, even though I had decided to dry farm them. I didn’t water them very deeply. It’s just that I have to water my lettuces, and they aren’t THAT far away from the tomatoes and thus my tomatoes get some residual water. And then I feel SORRY for them (even though they are inanimate) so I go, “Ohhh–you’re thirsty, aren’t you?” And splash. Splash. Before you know it, they’ve been watered. Must resist, going forward. Must think about about tasty dry farmed tomatoes.
  • I fed my dogs. Because well, this has to happen, twice a day, everyday.
  • I ate a sandwich.
  • I made these terrific New York Times chocolate chip cookies! Yes, using cake flour and bread flour and following it to a T. With dough that I prepped last night (yes, I started feeling better and had to do SOMETHING so I made chocolate chip cookie dough).
  • I wrote a rough draft of the editorial for the upcoming litmag issue. After I wrote it, of course I because very very insecure about it, and rifled through the stacks and stacks of other litmags on my bookshelf to do a comparison. Was I up to par? What WAS an editorial supposed to be like, anyhow? I am relieved to say, they all seem pretty slapdash to me. Whew. Bar is not too high.
  • Speaking of which–I am TOTALLY insecure about the upcoming issue. I like the pieces I picked, but I know I picked pieces that take risks–will everyone else like them too? I am such an insecure editor, I annoy myself.
  • Yesterday when I felt better, I wrote a little more of my stroke essay. This essay is harder to write than I imagined. And believe me, I’d already imagined it would be difficult to write, emotionally. The truth, the truth. And I have to write the terrifying.
  • I found what I think is the structure for my novel. I’ve been ruminating on that. And finding I like it more and more and more. This month off from the actual writing of the novel has been good for me.

Now time to go lie down again.


Filed under Uncategorized

isn’t it mid-summer

I don’t get it. I’m totally felled by, of all things in July, the flu.

Totally swollen, painful sore throat. Fever. And sweats (gross). Energy sapping flu.

I think I must have caught it from the guy at the 3:30am Batman IMAX showing this weekend–he was coughing up a storm, phlegm flying through the air. I wondered how _he_ could be sick in the middle of summer like that, and why on earth he was at a 3:30am Batman showing while sick.

Thank you, Batman fan, for giving me the flu.


Filed under Life

editing by gut


One thing I’m beginning to realize as a fiction editor of a litmag: so much is arbitrary. I have always known that “subjectivity” reigns the literary world…but boy oh boy, it’s another thing to be part of that subjective machine.

I’ve got my rubric for screening the slushpile. I don’t expect a Pushcart Prize worthy story–but there has to be something SPECIAL about the piece that catches my eye. It can be a craft element that that story just hits out of the ballpark, or an idea that has never been tackled before, or language that makes me feel like someone is running fingers through my hair. I’ve got my rubric. And it makes sense to me.

The pieces also have to have a lot of heart. I am truly beginning to see how much a manuscript can say about the human being behind the piece.

But in the end, it’s an entirely subjective process, one that I determine. That’s a wieldy amount of authority. I’m not all that comfortable with that position, but so be it. It’s been a learning experience.

Cover letters–wow. I’ve learned my lesson about those. I accepted a piece with a cover letter that was obnoxious times one hundred. It was filled with boasting. But my editor suggested I take a second look at the manuscript…and I was low on accepted pieces (rotten excuse)…and I thought there might be a little something special about the piece even though I find it hard and glinty in spots.

And what the hey–I accepted it. I took a risk.

Turns out the writer is like the cover letter. It’s been interesting corresponding with the person–boy oh boy. The writer’s correspondence makes me regret my decision to accept the manuscript.

Going to follow my gut next time. I guess it’s not so arbitrary in the end.


Filed under Publishing, Writing

checking in with fruits and lizards oh my


My life these days is this nice juicy pleasant jumble. No major dramas, and lots of projects before me. My job is good. I’m still inspired by a recent workshop. I’m working on an essay about my stroke (going slow but it’s going). I’m not losing weight but I’m finally not gaining weight, either. The markets are full of good treats–just this week, I’ve had momotaro tomatoes, odoriko tomatoes, mangosteens, mango-nectarines, and a flat of strawberries. Mrmmm. My mouth is full of sweet flavors, the way I like it.

I used to hate summertime but in recent years I have come to really like this time of year. I am still not in love with Summer like I am in love with Fall and Winter, but I still think Summer is one hawt dude bearing many gifts. Not my type of dude, but he brings me the stuff I like. I mean, I like hawt dudes, but let’s say Summer Dude is blonde and buff and maybe I like dark hair? Plus my vegetable garden likes summertime and I like seeing all the produce. Like right now I’ve got over 50 tomatoes on just one tomato plant (not counting the other 3). Wowee. They’re all green, though. But they’ll soon turn red. And then I’ll eat ’em!

But in the summer, the lizards do come out. And so do the crickets (I like their music but I really do not like to look at them). Did I tell you? I am SCARED TO DEATH of reptiles (except for tortoises–I really like tortoises) and crickets and grasshoppers. They FREAK me out. Something about how dry and gray and brown and…icky. If I were Eve in the Garden of Eden, I’d run screaming from the snake–I wouldn’t listen to it hiss. And we’d all be in Eden, still. But of course I’m sure G*d would like bring up some kind of talking mango or lychee or apple pie or some sort of tasty talking pastry and I’d be like, “Yes, whatever you say master-pastry, I will make Adam our bitch!”

Like just earlier this afternoon, the hubby and I were hanging out on the patio, where I spotted a birds’ nest. I took pictures of the birds’ nest. And then he came up to me and said, “Come to me.” Uh. He said it in a way that also meant, “And do not EVEN think about stepping back away from me danger danger danger DANGER!”

UGH. There was a lizard there. Freak out.


And so in the land of paradise is reptiles. And FEAR.

And I have promised myself as a writer to write about the terrifying. I swear, I will write the things that terrify me.

It goes against my pattern of behavior–where I always sidestep the awful, the fearful and move towards the light. I spent too many years in the horrifying dark to let myself wallow there. But as a writer, I’ve got to face it, feel it, document it, make it into art.

And so hence, the slow-writing of the essay, of the facts and events that terrified me.

And hopefully, some good writing to come on the novel–if I write the terrifying.


Filed under Inspiring, Life, Writing

addictions addictions

i got over my blogging addiction. and now? now i’m addicted to tv series on DVDs. i have spent the entire week watching “Weeds” while the hubby was out of town (INSTEAD of furiously writing the novel–but then again, i am on a self-enforced one month long break from the novel).

i did make some headway on an essay. first draft was super rough. but we’ll see. time to revise and revise and revise.


Filed under Writing

sometimes i don’t know myself

There are writers who reply with a strength when asked about their weaknesses. Like a writer with great dialogue saying, “My dialogue sucks.” And meanwhile their story development is not as great.

I have always thought my voice sucked. I employ a different voice in my fiction than I do here, than I do in my oral storytelling. I was recently told that my voice was just fine.

Oh. Oh? Oh!

I’ve gotta go find something else to pick on about myself.

Oh yeah–character development.

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Filed under Uncategorized



I am in L.A. for the weekend. In Santa Monica, to be exact. And I am experiencing clarity. Not that I usually equate L.A. with my settings for clarity, but it’s just where I happen to be, after a week-long novel workshop in San Francisco. I feel like I was zapped over here–I slept the latter half of the drive, and woke up only when (voila!) we were on the PCH. Voila. Voila. Voila.

Immediately after the workshop, immediately after receiving the most honest, thoughtful, razor sharp, painful, amazing feedback on my writing and my novel, the hubby and I headed to L.A. Not for vacation but for some family duties and responsibilities. I thought I would mention that–because it gives the weekend a different timbre.

And so I find myself, in a hotel room overlooking the pool, full of the kind of people you always imagine residing in L.A. (ie., hot bodies, skimpy swimsuits even though L.A. is full of normal people too), two blocks from the beach, where there are more people concerned about the exterior…totally contemplating my interior. I am inside. Way inside.

The workshop was incredible. It was life-changing for me as a writer. I was given thoughtful and precise insight into my work. I feel like I’m finally pointing towards the right vector. I feel like I’ve just skipped 3 years in time. I am now facing change, facing painful but cleansing and purposeful work ahead of me.

The workshop leader, a Famous Writer who I now totally adore, who leaves me entirely indebted, told me to take a month off, let it all settle in. It is really fucking hard NOT to write my novel (for once!), but here I am, sorting things out in my head. The feedback he gave me was tough. He pulls very few punches and I love him for that. But he said I have an incredible story. And he meant all of it.

I feel like the writer inside me was fed. After traveling through the wilderness finding my own way around, traveling in circles…after getting sick and being waylaid and picking myself up and getting walking again…a path cleared.


OMG. 🙂

And thank you to my friend “P” who pushed me to apply to and then take this workshop, reassuring me that it was worth taking, despite and because of my workshop burn out!


Filed under Inspiring, Life, The Novel, Writing


My dear friend, Randa Jarrar, has a book coming out this Fall. It is called A Map Of Home, and I am excited (but probably not as excited as Randa) about its debut.

Good news is coming down the pipe about the book. The Publishers Weekly starred the book in its listing (woohoo!). And Maud Newton has put the book on her “to read” list.

The book’s imminent publication also means Randa is hitting the road to publicize the book. Her schedule of readings and events is here.


Filed under Uncategorized