Tuesday, May 18, 2010

 

Girls Write Now: Chapter Reading Series

If you are in town on Friday, please come out to the Chapters reading series at the Center for Fiction for the wonderful organization Girls Write Now. This impressive organization recently received the Coming Up Taller Award from Michelle Obama. I'm pretty excited to be a part of the line up, in which young girl writers--and their professional writer/mentors--read their work out loud. Some of you who have known me for a long time are aware of my work in the mentoring field (yep, I edited that), so this is of course very much up my alley.

Maud Newton--that would be the talented, prize winning writer and blogger Maud who the Times named one of the 40 bloggers who really matter (and the only book/literary blogger at that)--has a generous write up of the impending event. And of course it's nice to be back at the Center for Fiction, where I read last fall. This time, I'll be about 30 pounds and one baby lighter. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

 

Saroyan International Prize

Pretty exciting news here in the Mockett (sorry Drummond/Mockett) household. In addition to the fact that Ewan has started to roll over (and generally creep around on the floor and in his crib), I learned a couple days ago that Picking Bones from Ash has been shortlisted for the Saroyan International Prize. I was shocked--completely shocked--and so, so happy. I mean, it always feels like a miracle for a writer when her work is read and appreciated. But to be shortlisted for a major honor like this, when one is judged by her peers and serious and critical readers, is very exciting. I'm honored and flattered.

The list is impressive, and includes Victor Lodato, whom I met and hung out with in Portland, and Skip Horack, who I met last summer at Breadloaf. You'll also see some newsworthy names in there. (And, yes, I know they got my name wrong. That spelling is floating around out there and many have opted to use it, and I'm not about to complain).

You know, it's a funny thing. At one point, every writer works and works and works in isolation, knowing almost no one. That writer might, say, go to a conference, not really knowing why she's there, but watching all these published authors on the other side of some "fence," talking about the publications, and wondering how she ever gets to part of that world. And she might feel that her career is going nowhere, while all that time, her work is actually "working" for her.

Suddenly--I know so many people who write. I know and admire their books. I know what it means to be included in a list like this where the writing is so strong, and the commitment to artistic vision full of nothing but integrity. There are no sell outs on this list. I

All this is incredibly cool. And it only happens if you have a committed publisher and editor--which I do. And it all just makes me want to work even harder. So thanks to the anonymous readers who included me. I'm just tickled.

 

Backwards Life at The Superstition Review

Way back when, I worked on short stories and thought it might be fun to try to write one that went backwards. I was thinking about the whole idea of Buddhist reincarnation, and how, after death, the soul is supposed to do a sort of "backwards life," until it is reborn in the physical world as a baby. So, I wrote a story called "Backwards Life." I also forgot that I had it. But this spring, The Superstition Review, the online journal for the Arizona State University Literature, Writing, and Film program, asked me for a piece, and I finally remembered that I had this story. I pulled it out, and polished it up, and am so pleased to see it out in the world.

The story opens thus:

"Somewhere in the house they would find a treasure. Beyond the hoarded boxes of roach killer and incense lining the periphery of the living room, there would be jewelry, the gold and scarlet kimonos Reiko remembered from childhood, a secret love letter. The house, like the body, would have one heart."


Read the whole thing
if you like!

 

Children's Day




Happy Children's Day, a holiday in Japan that always falls on May 5th. Once upon a time Children's Day was Boy's Day, but in an effort to recognize all kids, the holiday is now gender neutral. What follows is a personal post-skip if that kind of thing annoys you.



Traditional Children's Day decorations include enormous koi flags like the ones pictured above. If we were all in Japan right now, riding the train through the countryside, or perhaps venturing from city to city, we'd see these flags everywhere. Nobody celebrates the beauty of childhood like the Japanese. Not even, I'd venture to say, the Victorians. (Photos from here and here).

Our own flying carp are much more modest here in Astoria. But thanks to my friend Atsuko, in Japan, Ewan has this to look at as he lies on the floor, while the fan whirls overhead and I curse at the rising temperatures.




Actually, maybe Ewan isn't just lying on his back. In honor of Children's Day, he seems to have decided to roll over. I saw him grabbing his foot this morning and just as I was going to take a picture of that, he suddenly flipped.



We actually celebrated Children's Day over the weekend at Japan Society, which does wonderful events for children. The afternoon began with a play--a reenactment of Momotarosan, or the Peach Boy. He's a folk hero who, true to hero status, slew a pack of wild onis or demons, along with the help of a monkey, dog and bird.



Here's Ewan, after the play, posing with the actor who played the dog.



In addition to snacks and treats, the kids made crafts. Here you see some girls coloring and assembling their own koi streamers (Ewan has a complete one thanks to Daddy).



It was also traditional on Boy's Day to display a set of armor. You know--to show off budding male strength. We don't have a helmet for Ewan, but fortunately the Japan Society activities included origami helmets out of newspaper.



Here, Ewan models his own.



Saturday was also my mother's birthday. So we capped out the evening at Aburiya Kinnosuke for some tasty Japanese food. They had a special namasake available and I am still craving it four days later.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

 

Hello Kitty Must Die


Last year, I received a manuscript in the mail from a young writer, hoping to find an agent and publisher. I read about a page and thought: "This is going to sell." And it did. The book was subversive, and savagely funny. It skewered the perceptions that we have of Asian women--and the way they view themselves. It attacked everything from the Asian graduation-to-marriage-peer-pressure-conveyor-belt-, the ubiquitous family Chinese restaurant immigrant experience, the pressure to get a great paying job . . . in short, it overturned most every stereotype of being an Asian girl in this country that I could think of. It was rude, but it was smart and I loved it. And I blurbed it. The book is "Hello Kitty Must Die" (see, no punches held) and the author, Angela Choi. Here is my blurb:

"Darkly humorous, but compulsively readable, Hello Kitty Must Die skewers the stereotypes of Asian girls as Hello Kitties through its protagonist, the enigmatic Fiona Yu. With a knowing wink to Fight Club and The Joy luck Club, Choi sends her characters careening through corrupt law firms and exclusive clubs, finally landing straight in the heart of San Francisco Chinatown, and leaving a trail of blood along the way. Like Pahlaniuk before her, Choi acutely spots what is absurd about life on the margin, and captures the disaffection of being young and smart in a country drowning in excess and saturated in media. A bold, and visceral debut."


I meant what I wrote then and I mean it now. And I'm so pleased that the critics have noticed too. Here, for example, is the Publishers Weekly review, which is starred. This is a big deal. Writers live to have a starred review. It means, "Hey. Look at this book! It's worth reading!"

"A demonic stir-fry of influences, including Amy Tan, Chuck Palahniuk, Clive Barker, and Candace Bushnell, infuses Choi’s prose with passionate ferocity."


I keep thinking to myself--who else can I talk to about this book? I met with Terry Hong, from Book Dragon last week, and thought: I need to take a book to Terry. Too late. She'd already read it and loved it. So, now I am putting up a general post, appealing to all of you, whoever you might be, to give Hello Kitty Must Die a chance. It will not be everyone's cup of tea. Choi is angry. There is a body count. But I do promise that the book is hysterically funny and perverse, and sometimes in life, you can learn something from things a bit outre. It is the perfect book for the irritated and not-repressed-but-perceived-to-be Asian in your life. Or, non Asian, if you wish. Doesn't everyone need to kill Hello Kitty every now and then?

And I should also say, before closing, that I knew Angela Choi once upon a time when I was an SAT tutor for Kaplan test prep. Angela was a young high school student--and just about as motivated a person as I have ever met. She worked her ass off and raised her score by 300 points. She went to Yale. She took charge of her life. She's generally a person to be reckoned with--and so is her book.

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