Category Archives: Quick Blog Post

Quick blog post, April 2013

14 weeks old.

Lately, any writing I do is comprised of texting on twitter, in bursts of 140 characters, about all I can handle in terms of writing output. So if you want updates from me, follow @czilka on twitter.

It now  feels weird to write in paragraphs. I felt anxiety  after the first sentence (which incidentally was 140 characters long–has it become reflex now?) of this blog post–what to write next? This sure feels really long. Oh now it feels awkward. Huh.

This is all to say, “I haven’t blogged in awhile.”

Because I haven’t blogged in awhile–thought I’d do a “quick blog post” as an update.*

It’s interesting to note that in the past few months, my relationship with time has completely and utterly changed. As have my relationship with my body and the concept of achievement. My day is comprised of repetitive tasks like feeding, burping, and diapering my daughter. And pumping breast milk. And putting my kid to sleep. Only to look up and discover that two hours have gone by. And that in an hour, I’ll be feeding, burping, and diapering my daughter again. Time is no longer measured in larger units or through the lens of a longterm project like novel revision. My body is a food factory. And achievements are things like watching my kid discover consonant sounds and watching her grab her foot for the first time. Not a big deal in the literal sense, but I’ve learned that achievement is about perception. It’s a big deal to my kid, so it’s a big deal to me. And you should see my kid smile and laugh when you stand her up. It’s a Huge Deal.

Plus honestly, if I were to measure achievements in the literal sense, I’d be so depressed, because I’d have nothing to show for all this work.

So, my life has shrunk down to these moments, or these strings of moments. After I had my stroke, I lost my short-term memory, so my life shrunk down to only the present tense. There was immense insight gained from that period. And it ended up bolstering my writing. I’m hoping for the same, here.

It’s only in recent days that I’ve really truly fallen in love with my kid, and clung to her with an obsession resembling the biggest teenage crush ever (you know, the kind where you follow the object of your affection around school, try to arrange your class schedule around theirs, drive by their house at random times…). So glad the tides have turned, because doing all this work out of responsibility and duty and obligation is soul sucking–doing it out of love feels way better. It’s hard for me to let her go, now.

So I’m just coasting in the moment. I tried fighting all of this–I tried sacrificing my naps to write and I grieved my previous identity, and ended up miserable and very exhausted. So I’m going with it, learning things as I go. Especially since this is a journey I’ve wanted for some time.

*I started writing this blog post 12 days ago. I almost gave up on finishing this blog post. But decided to forge ahead, anyway. Because then I’d never get a blog post up, ever.

Read/Reading:
NOTHING! Okay, a chapter of Nova Ren Suma’s 17 & GONE. A bunch of baby books. (baby sign language, the Baby Book by Dr. Sears, wonder weeks, blah blah blah). There is a pile of neglected New Yorkers giving me the side eye. If I’m lucky, Vogue magazine while sitting on the can, but really, I don’t even have time to sit on the can when there is a baby that might start wailing any second for attention or because her binky has fallen out of her mouth and she can’t pick it up because her arms don’t go where she wants them to go just yet and oh my G*d someone put the binky in her mouth right the f*ck now! Yah.

Wrote/Writing:
NOTHING!
Okay. Tweets.

And I’ve given myself permission to not have to write anything fiction until Fall. Just to be gentle on myself. I’ve got essay ideas swimming in my head, but no energy to write them down.

In any case, I won’t be writing until I can read fiction again.

Viewed:
Thank goodness for the fact that there remains the gift of observation.

  • My baby laughing. Cooing.
  • Django Unchained. Watched in small increments of time, but still.
  • Mad Men
  • Cherry blossom petals blowing in the wind. About as beautiful as all the cherry blossoms throughout NYC and at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I’m lucky that I get to experience Spring all over again in NYC, a couple months after Spring commenced in Berkeley.
  • Lots of bottles of breast milk.

Memorable eats/Culinary outings:

  • McDonald’s.
  • Wendy’s.
  • Discovering food delivery services like Three Stone Hearth, Good Eggs, and Shira’s Kitchen in Berkeley.
  • Our first dinner out with baby at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant–speed-eating so we could get the baby home.
  • Leaving the baby with a favorite doula and going to EMP!

Cooked:

  • Okay. I boil pasta. It makes me sad. I am such a cook. It is one of my decompression activities. Once, during my 3rd week postpartum, while someone took care of my baby, I baked a coffee cake. Because I was desperate to cook. That is about it.
  • Thawing all the things I cooked, pre-baby, from the freezer.
  • Okay. I just remembered: I cooked Passover Seder dinner. I made chicken matzo ball soup, brisket, stuffed cabbage rolls, chicken liver salad. And then I slept for days afterward.

Happenings:

I GAVE BIRTH.

Never happened:

Sleep.

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Quick blog post, June 15, 2011

Rapture Art

I am sitting down to write for the first time in weeks. Life has been hectic, albeit in celebration, these days. Lots of parties, outings, (non-writing) work, meetings, travel. I wonder at times if the world is cold-blooded; now that the temperatures have risen, the pace of activity has quickened.

And in the face of a frenetic social schedule and steamy summer, I find myself fantasizing about winter–a time of year when the ubiquitous jackhammers silence, the snow casts a monochromatic scheme over things, and getting dressed is mostly about getting that down parka over my jeans and tshirt. (Yes, I spend almost the entirety of winter in a tshirt and jeans under a parka). I love when nighttime outweighs daylight and a party is not outdoors but cast in lamplight and candles. You’d find me happy in wintertime Narnia.

Winter is the time of year when I get most of my writing done. I am not sure why this is, but after numerous writing seasons, this is confirmed as fact. Thankfully, I normally live in San Francisco, where summer is one long glorious winter.

But it’s summer in NYC, where it can get so sweltering that my legs become slick with sweat (sexy, I know). I’ve stocked up on summer dresses. I’ve cut my hair. I’m trying to figure out summer makeup. And I’m writing and seeing how it goes.

Because I haven’t blogged in awhile–thought I’d do a “quick blog post” as an update.

Read/Reading:

  • Nova Ren Suma’s debut YA novel, Imaginary Girls. Buy it.
  • Beginning to read manuscripts from VONA. Did I mention VONA before? I got a lot of rejections in the past few weeks (everytime I opened my mailbox, it seemed there was a lightweight envelope addressed in my own handwriting)…but I will be in Junot Díaz’s fiction workshop this summer. I haven’t had workshop with him since 2005, and I’m excited about working with Junot again.
  • Can you believe I’ve never read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse? So I’m picking it up.

Wrote/Writing:

  • My novel. I am trying very hard to work on nothing else.
  • But I did write up my parents’ visit to NYC, and in particular, their jaunt to Queens, over at AAWW’s Open City blog.

Viewed:

  • A lightning storm from inside a jet. I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye, and I looked out the plane window. I’d missed whatever it was. Then another flash in my peripheral vision–was my retina detaching? I kept my eyes on the infinite black horizon–and there, there I saw it: an illumination of the clouds beneath. Lightning storm down below. It was like the animation of synapses firing inside a brain, the clouds brain matter and lightning, genius.
  • Too many couples breaking up on the streets of Manhattan to count.
  • An “I love my dildo!” sticker on a residential vehicle in San Francisco’s Mission.
  • Sailors falling-down-drunk during Fleet Week.
  • Bridesmaids. The female response to The Hangover–booyah!
  • Lots of nekkid people looking out their windows in the hotel across the street.

Memorable eats/Culinary outings:

  • Fine dining Israeli food at Zahav in Philly. Israeli food is much more than pita and hummus, people!
  • Too many great meals in Manhattan (some upscale, many more cheap eats)–I’ll have to do a different post on my favorite eats here.
  • Everytime I return to the Bay Area–the first thing I want when I get off the plane is a Gordo burrito. If I land too late to get a Gordo burrito, I just get it the next day. NYC has Dos Toros (a direct derivation of Gordo) and it is good–but isn’t the same.

Cooked:

  • Oh holy crap, I’m turning into a New Yorker; I don’t think I’ve cooked anything substantial in weeks, not even when I was in San Francisco.

Happenings:

  • I have an excerpt from my novel out in Men Undressed: Women Writers on the Male Sexual Experience. I’ve been trying to keep my lips sealed on this until closer to publication date (in October), but I can’t keep it closed anymore! The book is available for pre-order from Amazon–and yes, it features a sex scene from my novel.
  • My short story “Ume” will be out in Kweli Journal’s June issue. The piece holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first piece I began and finished after my stroke, from which I took about 2 years to recover. “Ume” was inspired by a friend who told me a story in hopes that it would awaken a part of my damaged brain, and the story brought me hope that I could write again.
  • Tamiko interviewed me about writing and MFAs as part of her “(private)” MFA series at kikugirl. I had fun reflecting on my MFA experience, and I hope some of it will resonate with you.
  • I have a stigmata on my left foot. When I slammed my foot by accident into a spike, I at first thought, “OW, what did I hit?” and then thought, “This is a very particular kind of bruise–this hurts more than a bruise.” I looked down. I saw the hole.in.my.foot. And then I started crying hysterically as I ran for a bandaid.

Never happened:

  • The Rapture

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Quick blog post, June

Ziggy

Read/Reading:

  • Manuscripts from VONA. It has been a looong time since I was in a workshop, and at first I regarded the stack of manuscripts like papers from my students (I think I literally said outloud, “Arrgh! Aren’t I on summer break from teaching?!”). But then I started reading them and fireworks exploded in my head; they were rich and creative and I enjoyed reading them as a peer. I learned as much from reading and critiquing their works as I did having my novel excerpt workshopped, no small thanks to Mat Johnson’s extreme generosity and heart as our mentor and workshop leader.
  • Vida by my amazing friend Patricia Engel. Vida is out this Fall; when the galley arrived in the mail I think I nearly squealed with pride. Buy it.
  • Blindness by José Saramago. Started reading it before VONA. Still reading. Can I say WOW?
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is one I’m picking up now. It was mentioned several times in workshop, 3 of those mentions occurring during my workshop. Must read.
  • The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee. This is a book that is so dark, I can’t immerse myself in it right now. But I also know this is a book I’ll probably savor like I finally did Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, another book that sat next to my bed for 2 years before I picked it up and read it nonstop. The Road, as you know, is a book that I consider perfectly written.
  • And I read a rejection letter that had a substantial handwritten note about my story they liked reading (but still rejected). I’ll take it.

Wrote/Writing:

  • Really? The truth? Nothing. Except this blog. My journal. Dabbling with a few half done essays, including one about my stroke and its impact on my writing and the 2 year recovery process. Thinking and obsessing about my novel and what I want to revise, which I kind of count as writing. I am in a trough void of confidence these days (picture a neverending chorus inside one’s head chanting, “You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck…”). But VONA has recharged me. Couldn’t have come at a better time, really.
  • But I did send out a bunch of stories. Spent enough on postage to miss the money.

Viewed:

  • Nigella’s cooking show on the new (and so much better than Food Network) Cooking Channel. I want her to take care of me.
  • Jamie Oliver’s cooking show. I don’t think he meant to be funny, but…
  • Per Mat Johnson’s recommendation, Children of Men. A grim movie but one that tells a story in a non-stupid way.
  • See happenings below, for the sights on our road trip.

Memorable eats:

  • A special meal at Poppy in Seattle and savoring its thali-centric menu.
  • Albion strawberries from the farmer’s market.
  • The McGangBang (McChicken sandwich inside of a Double Cheeseburger):
    the McGangBang

Culinary outings:

Pizzaiolo. Caffe Intermezzo salad. Lots of fast food on the road. All a blur.

Cooked:

We ate a sh*t-ton of road food this month–such that the first thing I did when I got home was make chicken matzo ball soup.
chicken soup

Happenings:

  • One of my friends is sick and without health insurance. She is starting radiation and chemo this week. Pray for her. Send lots of positive thoughts. She is worth praying for, you won’t regret it. Let’s put it this way: she is the kind of person, who despite her diagnosis sent ME a get well gift when she heard about my brief ER/Trauma visit:

    plushy comfort toy gift from Jennifer

  • Road trip to Seattle!
  • Road trip to Seattle…where I got hit by a car. The first thing I saw in Seattle was Harborview’s ER Trauma 1 center.

    car accident vs my pedestrian's ass, day 5

  • I pretty much HATED Seattle after getting hit by a car, which happened my very very first morning in the city. (I’d literally left the hotel and walked 20 paces when I got hit by a car while walking in the crosswalk on a green light). I tried eating a sandwich from Salumi, but it was an incredibly average two bites (I stopped eating it in my malaise). But guess what? My friend Tara saved Seattle’s honor by inviting me to join her for dinner at Poppy, to which I limped via cab (pain) and thoroughly enjoyed (thank you so so so much, Tara, especially for the wonderful conversation and hospitality even if I was distracted by pain and unable to laugh for fear of rib pain):

    poppy bar menu

  • Then, road trip back from Seattle. I love the surprising things you see on the road.Like, the people from Little People, Big World driving alongside you:

    Little People, Big World

    And Mount Shasta, which isn’t so much surprising as it is stunning. I swear, as I grow older, I become more and more like my parents, who are Korean, and thus obsessed with mountains as I have become:

    Mount Shasta

    Happiness and hope in a car:

    car

    GROMMIT-obsessed:

    Gromit!

    Not enough room in an 18 wheeler for your stuff, so…

    not enough room in the truck...?

  • One of my short stories, sent to a litmag, was returned to me in its original envelope. The stamps were not cancelled. The envelope had been opened and taped back up. The contents were still inside. The post office said the address was wrong. Who opened up the envelope? And did they read my story?weird.
  • VONA. Workshop with Mat Johnson, which was an amazing experience, the highlight of June. He is smart and funny and compassionate.
  • I also met Tayari Jones irl!
  • My dogs went to the vet. Not exciting. Except they both took simultaneous dumps in the exam room before the vet walked in. And when I limped-walked to get a paper towel, I stepped in one of the dumps (didn’t realize that was happening behind me on the floor). Total shitstorm. These are my 2 wiener dogs planning the whole thing, en route to the vet:trouble!
  • My 17 year old Wiener Dog lost a front tooth. This is after the vet appt. We don’t know where the tooth is. Is this how it happens? They just start falling apart?

In sum, I looked out the window today and saw sunlight, and leaves rustled by a slight breeze. My dogs are sleeping on the couch, and Jónsi is playing on the stereo. My aches and pains and recurring sadnesses are not much in the Universe. I’m in love with my husband and he, with me. I’m able to hug my friends and family. Hell, I have friends to hug. I feel thankful.

p.s. this feeling of peace/contentment/satisfaction will dissipate at any moment.

comfy wiener dogs

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Quick blog post, March

oeufs a la neige
Quick blog post…

Read/Reading:

Finished Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Amazing book.

Now reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  The voice of the narrator is irritating me. (Update: Got to page 81 in the book, the moment of The Big Reveal. Yes, now I realize why the narrator was irritating me: she was KEEPING A SECRET FROM THE READER. I wanted to hit her).

I am reading with an unparalleled desperate neediness; my novel revision is off to a slow start and thus I’m trying to find inspiration in reading. The last book to inspire me as a writer was 2666 by Bolaño. The things that man did with his craft! What’s the best novel you’ve read that also brought you insights on the craft of writing?

Wrote/Writing:
Finished the novel.  Not inspired to write a short story.  Thus, beginning revisions on my novel–but…tough going.  Fixing something that I found difficult the first time around is…difficult. Wow, I sound like a real bummer–but that’s what my writing is these days.  And yet, I still do it because get this: I LOVE IT. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.

Viewed:
My dogs licking themselves over and over and over.

The Olympics’ figure skating events. I haven’t watched figure skating in several years, and so all the names (Lysacek! Plushenko! Johnny Weir!  Yuna Kim!) are totally fresh and new to me. The fact that they’re all still drama queens has not changed.

That said, I’m SO glad the Olympics is OVER.

Also watching L O S T.  Anticipating how the series and character storylines will wrap up.  Please writers, don’t let us down!  I’m learning a ton about flashbacks (and writing flashbacks effectively) from the show.

Memorable eats:
Oranges. Lots of oranges. Mrm.

Ate Out:
Pizzaiolo. Tacubaya. Gordo burritos. Yum yum.

Cooked:
Oeufs a la neige (surprisingly good!). Curry chicken (the Japanese kind). Homemade ground beef tacos (well, the hubby cooked these).  Radish and tofu soup (better than it sounds).

Happenings:

  • Running. I ran ON the ROAD for the first time ever!  Around Lake Merritt–it was a good enough experience that I want to do it again. (My overall goal for this flurry of fitness is that I want to look/feel better at 40 than I did at 30. I’ve got 3 years to make good on this goal).
  • Two inches closer to my waistline goal. I fit into my “dream jeans!” Now I have to get to a point where I can wear my “dream jeans” without a muffin top.
  • Prepping my vegetable garden. Nothing as therapeutic, really, especially when my writing hits a nadir.
  • Dreaming about my novel. Really, I do.
  • Dreaming about travel to NYC and specifically, Queens, where my novel is set, to do some novel research. I want to explore Little Bay park and Throgs Neck bridge and Flushing…
  • Released ladybugs into my garden. Eat aphids, little ones!
  • Spring is almost here. Ahchoo.  I’ll miss winter.
  • Teaching has its unique challenges this semester. I hope I live up to them.
  • Dreaming of summer–and I detest summer. But I’m a teacher now, and summer means vacation!  Yay! I plan on revising the hell out of my novel throughout the summer. I’ll be pale and non-sun-kissed, but I don’t care.
  • Snow snow snow snow snow up in the Sierras. Guess what, this snow lover is actually SICK of snow. I don’t even know what the East Coasters must feel like right now, with all the snow they’ve received this winter.
  • I like going to open houses.  Walking around in other people’s homes inspires me as a writer. I went to an open house this afternoon–a gorgeous mansion in disrepair.  I imagined Miss Havisham traveling the grounds.

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