Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thank you

Autumn comes to Central Park

Thank you for everything good in my life. Thank you for the bad, too, for the hardships have given me amazing lessons.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Scarlet the Wiener Dog strikes again!

Scarlet the Wiener Dog discovers the tp dispenser!

I have wiener dogs who looove to eat facial tissues and toilet paper. I am not sure where/how they cultivated this singular passion, but it’s gotten to the point where in our house we cannot leave facial tissue boxes lying around within wiener dog lunging reach. (Scarlet the Wiener Dog has figured out how to pull tissues out of the box).

Fairly recently, Scarlet the Wiener Dog discovered the phenomenon of Infinite Toilet Paper!!! INFINITE! TOILET! PAPER!!! (aka: the toilet paper roll).

It only took her 18 years to figure that one out, but we are simultaneously dismayed and amused. Mostly amused.

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? My old dog has been learning a lot of new tricks lately: the toilet paper dispenser, and staring at herself in mirrors.

This morning, I discovered a toilet paper roll on the floor, behind the toilet bowl. Huh. Weird.

I picked it up, noticing the gnawed-upon roll. Very curious.

Scarlet the Wiener Dog cracks me up. I hope she makes you laugh, too.

Found gnawed-upon roll of tp on floor. Scarlet the Wiener Dog strikes again!

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Sleep No More: Novel Writing

Sleep No More

Sleep No More, as described by The New York Times, is “‘Macbeth’ in a hotel,” because it’s kind of a play kind of performance art kind of voyeurism kind of spectator sport but not really any of the above. Which is why the NY Times calls it “‘Macbeth’ in a hotel”–the vaguest of monikers.

And yes, it has a little to do with Macbeth. But not really. Kind of.

The hotel in question is called “The McKittrick Hotel” built out of the ruins of three abandoned Chelsea warehouses (it’s not really a hotel, and never was a hotel, so again, kind of but not really).

Sleep No More is fiction down to the studs in which the audience spectators roam without agenda or direction. In which spectators are as much the performance as the actors; at one point, I looked around the room and wondered if the actors saw us in the same way we saw them, as we stood in masks that hid facial expressions.That they were our mirrors as we were unto them.

For the first hour, I roamed confused and alone and dismayed and frustrated and frightened, fighting every impulse to tear off my mask and leave. I didn’t really “get it” and felt very lost, just as one might feel when invited to a large, sprawling, ghostly, hotel all alone. But not really alone. Because you’re surrounded by other ghostly masks.

But then–a character rushed by, followed by a handful of white-masked spectators. I followed. Her hands bloodied, she attempt to wash them; ah, Lady MacBeth.

It was then I had a character to which I could be devoted. To follow. To be my proxy for the landscape. My curiosity intensified, and my fear receded. I followed the character through all manner of darkness to the end. A character can be a very effective tour guide.

My Sleep No More experience was not very different from my creative process. I understand that everyone’s experience is unique and based on the solitary–the performance is designed to that end, the masks making it so that people have a hard time reuniting within the space, the darkness making it so people cannot see each other. Together, but alone. Kind of.

Sleep No More:
I’m led through a winding tunnel void of light–some people feel their way through–and in my case, I yelped and a member of SNM’s staff walked me through, my hand on his elbow. Thinking I was going to DIE. Thinking no one told me about this darkness. Thinking what had I gotten myself into. Thinking hell no. Thinking I had to do this.

Novel-writing:
Darkness, (not so) coincidentally is a state that I associate with my creative process, and the source of my inspiration. It is discombobulating. It’s frightening. Terrifying. Like falling. Like dying.

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I’m reading at Jimmy’s No. 43

A short post–barely a post, really. Just a little note:
I’m reading in the Sunday Salon Reading Series at Jimmy’s No. 43 in NYC on Sunday 11/20 for Men Undressed.

I’ll be reading my sexy (well PTSD-twisted-sexy) scene at the Salon.

In my earlier days in NYC, I attended a Sunday Salon reading series, and sat in the audience, drinking a cider, listening to the fantastic alum waiters of Bread Loaf read. It was tremendous. I thought, “It must be so cool to read here.”

And now I am. And I hope to see you there. :)

Jimmy’s No. 43 is located in the East Village in NYC at 43 East 7th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Reading stage is past the bar and to the left, in a cove in the bar. Attendance is free. Reading starts at 7pm.

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98 Wounds Giveaway: winner!

Scarlet the Wiener Dog reading 98 Wounds by Justin Chin

There is now a winner of the 98 Wounds giveaway..!

I didn’t do a video this time, but if I were to liveblog the drawing, it would have happened as follows:

  • 4:15pm: So excited. Who will be the winner?
  • 4:16pm: Enter names in the order of comment. Assign a number to each of you, in the order you left your comment. Thusly:

IMG_5141

  • 4:18pm: Bring up random.org. Instruct it to enter a number between 1 and 12.
  • 4:19pm: Time to pick a random number!
  • *drum roll please*
  • *ongoing drum roll*
  • *some more drum roll*
  • 4:20pm: And the winning number is 5!

IMG_5140

  • 4:20pm: Ohwait. Who is Number 5?
  • 4:20pm: Think to myself, that sounds like a movie.
  • 4:21pm: Google to see if that really is a movie.
  • 4:22pm: It isn’t. A movie, that is. But maybe it’d make a good name for a movie.
  • 4:20pm: Take a quick glance at the spreadsheet to see who Number 5 might be (as I’m sure you’re doing now).
  • The winner is…

Tammy Melody Gomez!
…whose comment was:
“I once dreamt of a book that featured, as its cover art, an image of the eyes of Buddha. Not long after that, Justin Chin was in town (Austin) promoting his latest book BITE HARD. When I spotted the art on the back cover, I exclaimed that it looked much like what I’d seen in my dream. I got a copy, which he signed, ‘Here it is. The book of your dreams!'”

*cymbal clash!*

Congratulations to Tammy–and thank you for supporting the 98 Wounds giveaway, and Justin Chin. I hope all of you who wanted a copy and didn’t win, still manage to find yourselves a copy. Thank you!

  • 4:27pm: Realize that the reason I think “Who is Number 5″ might be a movie title is because (aha!) it reminds me of “Number 5…is! Alive!” from Short Circuit. I’m old. *drops the mike onto the floor*

98 Wounds + Justin Chin paraphernalia

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What Inspires You?


(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby–I snarfed this theme image off of Nova’s blog)

My good friend Nova has a month-long series on “What Inspires You”over at her blog Distraction No. 99 It is, needless to say, an inspiring series of well-timed guest posts during the month of NaNoWriMo.

There are many more posts forthcoming in the series, but already there is such a range of talk: about failure, daughters, and music as sources of energy and creativity.

And today my post on what inspires me is up at Nova’s blog. It’s kind of dark and twisty. I really wanted to write about bunny rabbits and puppies, I really did.

But I didn’t. I wrote about Darkness instead. It’s one for the Dark and Twisty folks, my fambam, my people. Go read it.

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Book giveaway: 98 Wounds

Scarlet the Wiener Dog reading 98 Wounds by Justin Chin

I’m giving away a signed author copy of 98 Wounds, a story collection by Justin Chin, which is out from Manic D Press next month.

Along with the book, I’ll be giving away various accoutrements, all provided by the generous Justin Chin: postcards of his previously published books (Harmless Medicine and Attack of the Man-Eating Lotus Blossoms), and two signed pieces (“Fragments” and “Home”). The items are pictured below:

98 Wounds + Justin Chin paraphernalia

“A gay, punk-rock Chinese American in the age of AIDS,” the San Francisco Chronicle describes Chin, “[he] confronts all manner of hypocrisy.”

Justin Chin is the reason I slap myself when I veer away from the truth in my writing and dabble endlessly in vague, chickenshit language avoiding the heart of my story (i.e., the aforementioned “hypocrisy”). He’s also the reason I pick myself back up, as he has sent me several well-timed notes of encouragement over the years. All of which I have kept, and still read, from time to time.

Chin writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction–and I’ve taught more than a few of his essays out of Burden of Ashes, which my students enjoyed as much as I do. Telling the truth has a way of garnering attention and admiration.

98 Wounds + poems, signed

Opening lines of “Burn,” one of the stories in the book:

“He has fallen asleep, passed out, is snoring like the last hog on earth, sweating like a lost marathon runner. His white t-shirt is drenched, the sheets and the pillows are drenched with his sweat. I want to sleep but cannot. I paw him, run my hands over his wet body but he cannot wake as I cannot sleep. I wipe his sweat off on m chest, I pull his shirt up and rub my face into his sweaty belly. I adore everything that comes out of his pores, his bitter toxic sweat, his stinky overheated body.

Our love is bound by chemicals. How I hold my arm out to him and let him run the vein into my vein. How beautiful my blood looks as it surges into the syringe, like a rare flower blossoming, and how beautiful it feels as he pumps it, chemical rich, back into me….”

And opening lines of “Sugar”:

“The diarrhea had gotten so bad that fucking his ass was like poking at an overfilled water-balloon with the jagged-edged finger of a chronic nail-biter. He knew this would happen, it always does. He needed help and he needed help fast. No bulking agents for this boy. He wanted something bad, something that would score his ass. He ended up at his dealer’s. At any point of your life, you might have to have sex with your dealer, so it helps to have a dealer you wouldn’t mind having sex with.”

Now on to the heart of the matter: the giveaway!

Here’s how to enter/how I will pick the winner…

  1. Leave a comment below. You can say anything you want–e.g., you can describe a “wound” in your life, or you can tell me why you want a copy of the book.
  2. Do fill out your email address when you fill out the fields in the comment box (it won’t be published to the world, but I will need it in order to contact you in case you win)!
  3. 1 entry per person
  4. The giveaway is open worldwide.
  5. If you win the contest, I will email you for your mailing address.
  6. Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.
  7. I will be announcing the contest winner on the blog. None of your personal information will be posted, aside from your first name and last initial (or the nickname you choose to list in your comment). If you see that someone else has entered the same name as you, please try to pick a different nickname to call yourself, just for clarity.
  8. If you are below the age of 18, please ask your parents to fill out the comment field with their information.

GOOD LUCK!!! (and even if you don’t win, I hope you buy the book at an independent bookstore (or Amazon)).

The deadline to enter a comment is Monday November 14, 2011 12noon EDT. The winner (picked at random) will be announced November 14, 2011 by 9:00pm EDT.

Monday, 11/14/2011: A winner is announced!

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Feeding the Muse

feeding myself

I snarfed this idea, in which she lists her recent meals, from my friend Jamey over at Modern Conjure. Here are some of the things I’ve eaten in the last two weeks. Gotta feed the Muse.

top row, left to right:

  • a butter poached egg (poached egg, dipped in raw egg + breadcrumbs, and then fried in butter until the outside is crispy, but the yolk is still delicious and runny–recipe from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book). oh, i am going to have to make this again.
  • homemade waffles (with our new waffle maker!) topped with homemade blueberry syrup (take maple syrup, pop a handful of blueberries in, simmer and voila: blueberry syrup)
  • grilled mackerel (oh, i had been craving fish. i love mackerel).
  • 12th wedding anniversary dessert at Jean Georges (the most decadent meal. which we couldn’t finish as hung our heads in shame)

middle row, left to right:

bottom row, left to right:

  • stuffed cabbage–a family staple
  • modern galbi jjim topped with crispy rice balls from JungSik. inventive modern Korean–which gave me both the comfort of my most beloved flavor profile along with the adventure of something new.
  • lots of plain steamed rice (and saltine crackers). like, for a week while i was/am sick with some mysterious stomach ailment.
  • rainbow jello to break the monotony of paper-colored foods while sick.

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Novel: First draft, Second draft revision…

scenes on post-its

(above are post-it notes detailing my novel plot–yes, the colors are coded!)

It’s November 1 November 2, the second day of NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month, in which writers synchronously set out to write a novel within a month).

I participated in NaNoWriMo exactly once, and what it did was pretty much highlight that writing a novel draft inside of a month is NOT my process. My one and only participation produced in me the most ginormous months-long writer’s bloc I’ve ever experienced.

But I still give NaNoWriMo lots of kudos, because it *is* the process for so many writers. And regardless of whether or not I engage, NaNoWriMo is inspiring to me.

One of the things that helps me most as a writer is knowing that I’m not the only one embarking on this crazy journey and that is why I love to blog and tweet and bond with all my fellow writers; we’re all on our solo treks of course, but to know that in November, we’re all doing it alone, yet together, is such a boost to me as a writer. That I don’t finish a novel on November 30 is no big deal. That we’re all writing is a huge deal to me.

That said–I’m making a concerted effort to get a big chunk of my novel revision done this month (again no concrete goals for November 30). I’ve cleared my schedule. I’ve foregone travel with my husband and made the choice to be on a “mini-residency” at home alone.

My “mini-residency” is off to a weird start; I’ve come down with some vicious stomach ailment. Maybe it’s food poisoning. Or I’ve got an alien growing inside me. I can’t seem to keep anything inside my body. Except for rice and saltine crackers. Which is getting a bit boring. So I’ve ordered some jello, so I can make this rainbow jello concoction. Because I’m sick of eating things that are the color of copier paper, whether it be 92 bright white paper (rice), or vellum (applesauce, saltines) or parchment (toast, ginger ale). All paper. Papery.

Anyway, as I embark on this month of diligent revision, I’ve been thinking about what I did to get to this point in the novel, a hard-earned completed first draft.

I started out years ago by writing the novel in first person, for no better reason than the fact that everything I wrote then was in first person. And yet, my protagonist (and narrator) was someone who wasn’t a very active, self-revealing character. Think of Don Draper (a man who doesn’t like to expose himself for various reasons). Think of him as a first person narrator of his own life. Yahhhhh. Not.

It goes without saying that I struggled with writing the novel in first person. There were scenes that worked. But overall, it was like extruding brick-hard room temperature chocolate through a pasta maker. (Again, think of Don Draper narrating his innermost thoughts). Not happening.

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