Category Archives: Publishing

View from the Slushpile

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I’m the Fiction Editor at Kartika Review, and I take great pride in sifting through KR’s slushpile (I personally read the whole slushpile) and connecting with the work of other writers. In fact, great friendships have come out of the slushpile; I keep in touch with them to this day, and hang out with them at AWP and online on twitter.

But the slushpile is not without its gripes. And I decided to tweet about some of the things I experience each time. I tweeted in real time, and I hope the advice is well received. My friend Elizabeth Stark aggregated them on a blog post at Book Writing World a few days ago.

Here is part of the list…

1) Reading thru @KartikaReview slush pile. Do NOT start ur story with 3 pages of ITALICS. No. Just, no. nonononononooo.

2) Reading thru @KartikaReview slush pile. Do NOT start ur Asian-themed story w mentions of rice paddies/kohl/silk/lotuses/etc. NO. nonononono.

3) Reading thru @KartikaReview slush pile. If ur NOT Asian, I do NOT want 2 hear abt ur travels thru Asia fucking prostitutes & smoking opium. (Don’t wanna hear if you ARE Asian, either–but so far, it’s not a trend for writers of Asian descent to write the above, thus the specificity).

I am considering tweeting about manuscript protocol, too…

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MINT

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My essay entitled “MINT” is up at The Rumpus. This essay was hard-earned, one I started writing a couple years ago. I got stuck in the middle and set it aside, but in the darkest month of my adult life (November 2013, to be exact), I figured out its ending and I sat down and finished writing it in one afternoon.

This is an essay that took everything out of me to write, and I am proud to have written it, and prouder still that I’m able to share it with my readers

There is also a recording of my reading the essay on the site. Some trivia: there is the sound of dog lapping water at the very end–that sound got caught on the recording, and I decided not to re-record. That’s Ziggy the Wiener Dog, about two weeks before he died.

And the above picture is the actual black and white dog in the actual mint patch referenced in MINT.

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After a Hiatus

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After a lengthy and complicated hiatus, I’m back to revising my novel, writing stories, and writing essays. Writing makes me feel like I’m okay again. Really okay. Even thriving. I’ve a number of pieces due out in publications over the next few months, and I’m very excited that they will be out in the world. All of them were accepted for publication in the past year, but some of the pieces were written years ago, while others were written a few weeks ago. I’m always baffled and delighted at the unique journey my work takes to find literary homes.

I’m particularly nervous about a Creative Nonfiction piece to be published within the next 8 weeks. (I will not name the publication for now, as I’m afraid of jinxing things). The essay is about my complicated relationship with the herb mint–as it pertains to trauma in my life, including intimate partner rape, of which I’m a survivor. So there’s that–the nature of the essay itself is very personal and makes me feel vulnerable. But that’s par for the course as a writer.

But then there’s the matter of permission when it comes to memoir.

There is a lot of negotiation in the realm of CNF/memoir. Your art. Their lives. Their wellbeing. Your wellbeing.

There are those of the camp that say if people inflicted crap upon you, that them’s the breaks. And there are those of the camp that say not to hurt anyone further. There are people in my life who refuse to let me write about them. And then there are people in my life who know that experiences with them will find their way into my art.

The boyfriend in the essay and I have kept in touch over the years–it’s been important to him that I remain his friend, and he recently reached out to me to share a fact that enlightened me on the matter of what happened the night he raped me.

This is a boyfriend who supported my writing more than any other. He urged me to write. We were not a compatible couple, and as a result, there were many sparks and disconnects. He is possibly the boyfriend with whom I felt the most alienated. But he loved that I wrote, before I even became a writer. He gave me a subscription to ZYZZYVA, which ended up being the only litmag about which I knew, which was therefore the only litmag to which I sent my first short story, which was where my first story was published.

But this is a boyfriend who had his demons. I had my own personal demons, too. And the two of us didn’t mesh well.

I wrote an essay about what he did. I’ve written about him before. I don’t use his name, but in many ways, I sold him out, particularly in this upcoming essay. And it weighed on me heavily. I didn’t let it weigh on me while I wrote it–in fact, I censored myself zero, but when my essay was done, I wondered about the ramifications of such a piece. I knew I loved the essay–because when i finished writing it, I was practically panting with exertion.

There was no way I was going to let this essay sit and gather dust.

It took me awhile after finishing the essay and having it accepted for publication to write him. I wasn’t even sure I would tell him about the piece, but I ultimately decided to give him a heads up. I didn’t need or want his permission, but I did want to give him the courtesy of letting him know I’d written something very dark about his behavior. I wrote:

“So. I wrote an essay. And it’s going to be published. I am not sure you will be happy about it, but I did not name names and no one will know it’s about you I wrote. I am pretty sure it will make you angry, though.

But it came out the way it came out. And I can give you a sneak preview as a courtesy. Should be published within the next 8 weeks. Under my new pen name.”

I waited for a response.

And I’m a lucky writer–because he said he fully supports me and including my life experiences in my art. I was spared grappling with his resentment.

There’s the thing he did to me.
And then there’s the thing he did for me.

Now on to other facets of my life that have lived long under the covers and must come out for air. I doubt I’ll have everyone’s blessing, but this is a start. And yes, I’m thinking my next project (after this novel) is a memoir.

UPDATE: The aforementioned essay, is up on The Rumpus. “MINT” is about my complicated relationship with mint and its relevance to traumas.

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Interview with HTML Giant

October 6, 2013

I’ve been on an interview kick, it seems. Peter Tieryas Liu queried me and Jennifer Derilo for an interview about our work as Kartika Review editors. So in between tasks involving caring for the baby (nap, feed, comfort, play, etc), I sat down and answered a few questions about what happens behind the scenes at Kartika with Jennifer for HTMLGiant. We discussed the slush pile, Asian American literature, and why we published what we publish.

Hope you enjoy.

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Sometimes silence isn’t a rejection

Penny legs up on the bed. Happy baby.

I wrote a story a few years ago. In fact, it was a story I began writing before my stroke. It was a story I resumed writing and editing after recovering from my stroke. It was a story that led me to Kartika Review and my current position there as Fiction Editor (thank you, Sunny). It was a story that had been good to me.

It was a story I sent out about sixty times. And it got rejected about sixty times. Maybe like, fifty-seven times. I didn’t hear back from a few places (like I said, about three places)–but after awhile (a year?) I just assumed the rejection got lost in the mail or that the more passive litmags didn’t even want to bother with sending a rejection. In one case, the litmag went under.

I stopped sending the story out. In the back of my mind, I thought I would revise it further. But really, I gave up on short stories and decided to focus on my novel. So it sat on my hard drive. The characters lingered in my memory.

It’s one of a number of short stories that I wrote and never had published. Some of the unpublished stories have placed as runner up in contests, an official way of saying they had “potential,” but like one of my mentors said, “Almost still means no in publishing.”

Short stories are heartbreaking to write, for me. So much effort, such a tidy format, so much legwork to submit, and such little chance for publishing. I mean, short story collections make literary agents break out in hives. Editors will more often than not buy story collections if the writer commits to writing a novel for their second book.

So it was with both my heart and head that I decided to focus on my novel.

It was a total surprise to me when last week, an editor emailed me about the story that had been rejected about fifty-seven times. The last time I’d sent out the story for consideration was almost three years ago. It had been almost three years since they received the story. “We’d like to consider it for our next issue,” he said.

I wasn’t sure if that meant yes–but I was still shocked that it wasn’t a no, after all this time. And it did turn out to be a yes; they’d accepted my story. At last.

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Kartika Review Spring Issue 15 is live

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The new Spring 2013 issue of Kartika Review is live! As the Fiction Editor, I’m particularly proud of the pieces by Wah-Ming Chang, Kaitlin Solimine, Anu Kandikuppa, and Sharon Hashimoto–though I’d like to also give a wink to my friend Jackson Bliss whose work is featured in the Creative Nonfiction section. And don’t miss our interview with the amazing Monique Truong.

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A few new things out there

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(Spring is making an appearance in Berkeley).

I’ve a few pieces out in the world in recent days.

Hope you like and enjoy them.

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