Monday, February 04, 2008



I attended one panel to hear Lan Samantha Chang's thoughts on writing about war in fiction. I admire her ability to dissect novels and get at the heart of why they work, and figured she'd have something smart to say, which she did.

The biggest question of all was: should writers who have never been in a war write about war, or is that poseury behavior? Chang obviously wasn't in China to witness its revolution when she wrote The Inheritance. And basically, all the panelists--which included war vets and war correspondents--had the same opinion. You can write about anything if you just make it work.

This is why I don't tend to go to panels any more. The answer to creative questions is pretty much always the same. And once you know that this is the answer, and you've overcome (or perhaps were never been inhibited by) any permission you might need to tackle a creative endeavor, you're on your way. Of course, how or if you succeed in writing a scene, a story or a poem is another matter altogether. But that's what makes it a creative field, and not an easily dissectable one. I find that the answer to the hardest creative questions always requires a leap of faith. I can work very, very hard, but there is always that 10% which seems to come out of nowhere and humbles me.

So, most of the week, I made my own AWP. This meant that I spent most of the time eating, drinking, talking, listening and occasionally (gasp) singing! Good friends gathered together and reminded me that I was not alone, and that there is a reason we do what we do.

This was done first over Korean Barbecue. We even had our own grotto in which we could contemplate shadows.

Eventually we ate too much Japanese food. We were even treated to a free $100 bottle of sake. I'm not sure how that happened. But I did leave a nice tip--especially once I found out that my current hair-dresser is dating the ex-girlfriend of the maitre d'. I felt a little bad about unearthing that detail.

We all managed to go to what some would call an "industry party." A newish experience for my friends. Not so much to me. As usual, certain people flocked to certain more powerful people the minute their auras hit the room. I got a headache from too much bad champagne that had a strange aftertaste of apples. Around midnight I declared I was starving and had to eat or I would turn into Medusa.

I corrupted my nice friends by teaching them how to bang drums.

Does this look like a Speakeasy? Nothing to indicate a bar and karaoke booths inside, right? I managed to sing 2 Japanese pop-tunes before I became self-conscious and completely unable to sing another note. Fortunately, no one else had this problem.

One of us belted out Huey Lewis' "Power of Love." Karaoke does require reading, after all. Isn't that writerly?

I went to bed around 3AM that night.

I am still recovering.

For other, doubtless more intelligent perspectives, check out these thoughtful folks. Update: Kaytie weighs in.

Oh my god. You won't believe how much I've been longing to play Taiko Drum Master.
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