Category Archives: Reading

CD Giveaway: ANIMAL HOURS

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When I do a giveaway, they are usually books. Books I love. Books written by friends, mostly, because I want to support their work.

But the reality is that we writers are not only influenced by books, but also by music.

Like, I know jónsi is going in my novel acknowledgements. His music has accompanied the majority of my novel writing. He transports me. And helps me connect with myself and words and story. But I am always looking for new music–because there are days I need to unlock another corner of my mind for a scene, a character, setting, or new mood.

The music to which I write has to meet the above requirements.

Someone special and important in my life released his album last week. Orion Letizi’s record, DO OVER by ANIMAL HOURS, is a muse. You can download DO OVER on iTunes or cdbaby–but I’ve also decided to do a giveaway of DO OVER here on my blog.

The music is “indie-pop”–people have compared it to music by Elliott Smith and Beach House. There are days on which I’ve written to the album–and it’s produced some of the following lines in my novel revision/draft:

Migration during wartime is more push than pull. Nothing pulls you forward, nothing guides you, there is no hand outstretched towards your own. You stumble and fall and pass by orphaned children and mothers whose breasts have gone dry and who hold starving children, who cry without tears, because their bodies have no water to waste on sadness and pain and frustration. These people remind you that you are lucky, despite the blood soaking through your socks and shoes and your own stomach turning on itself in hunger, as your body eats muscle off bone.

The above is a rare peek at my novel-in-progress (I don’t usually share my work when it’s in progress) and will likely be revised further. It’s not perfect, but it came out of music. Music is inspiration.

There are some early comments on the album here and there on FB and twitter. Buzz will likely grow. And I hope you’re part of that buzz.

To that end, I’m doing a giveaway of the CD. I hope you win. If you do not, I hope you still buy and download some tracks or the album in its entirety. It’s about starting your life over. I think we can all relate to some or all of that.

Here’s how to enter:
1) Leave a comment below. (I appreciate “likes”–but that doesn’t enter you in the giveaway) You can say anything you want–e.g., you can choose to tell me why you want a copy of the album, or share an anecdote about something you had to do over…or just say you want the album because you want the album. 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)!
2) 1 entry per person. If you tweet about this giveaway (please tag @xtinehlee in your tweet so that I can track it), you get an extra entry.
3) The giveaway is open worldwide.
4) If you win the contest, I will email you for your mailing address.
5) Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.
6) 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, so as to avoid confusion.

The deadline to enter a comment/tweet is Monday April 21, 2014 12:00pm EST. The winner (picked at random) will be announced Monday April 21, 2014 by 9:00pm EST.

GOOD LUCK!

UPDATE 4/21/2014:

Before we begin–just wanted to note that ANIMAL HOURS was blogged on The Bay Bridged with very flattering commentary. RAD.

Okay…now we begin.

Each entry was assigned a number (in the order comments were subbed or tweets, tweeted).

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Thanks for all who publicized the giveaway!!! (I hope you find your way to a copy of the album–available on iTunes).

I had the Random Number Generator pick a number…

And then I clicked the button…

*drum roll*

*drum roll*

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And the winner is Patrick!

Patrick: I’ll be contacting you for your snail mail address shortly. I hope everyone else finds their way to a copy of ANIMAL HOURS DO OVER, soon! Thank you all for participating.

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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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Watering Heaven Book Giveaway

Watering Heaven

I’m giving away a signed copy of Peter Tieryas Liu’s short story collection WATERING HEAVEN.

Watering Heaven is available for purchase now–and I’m proud to say one of the selections, “Searching for Normalcy” was one we published at Kartika Review for our Spring 2010 issue. One thing I love about Peter’s writing is that it is quirky without being precious and self-conscious. And thus, so enjoyable.

The copy I’m giving away is a brand new softcover book signed by Peter Tieryas Liu.

Watering Heaven

As always, I will sweeten your intrigue with the opening lines of the giveaway book’s first story “Chronology of an Egg,” because for me one of the biggest deciding factors in choosing to read a book are the opening lines. In the end, no one can tell you which book to like–that’s between you and the book.

Opening lines of the story collection:

“March 6: I first met Sarah Chao in Beijing over tequila shots after a game conference. I tell her I think she’s beautiful and she tells me she has an unusual genetic quirk that scares off most men.

‘Every time I have sex, I lay an egg.’

I assume she’s joking, get her email address. She’ll be coming out to the States in a few months and and we agree to hang out then.”

Interested?

Here’s how to enter:
1) Leave a comment below. You can say anything you want–e.g., you can choose to tell me why you want a copy of the book, or share a little anecdote from your travels in the world (there is a lot of traveling in this book). 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)!
2) 1 entry per person. If you tweet about this giveaway (please tag @czilka in your tweet so that I can track it), you get an extra entry.
3) The giveaway is open worldwide.
4) If you win the contest, I will email you for your mailing address.
5) Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.
6) 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, so as to avoid confusion.
7) If you are below the age of 13, please ask your parents to fill out the comment field with their information.

The deadline to enter a comment/tweet is Monday November 26, 2012 12:00pm PST. The winner (picked at random) will be announced here on this blog post on or before Tuesday November 27, 2012 9:00pm PST.

GOOD LUCK! And I hope you all find your way to a copy of Watering Heaven soon!

Watering Heaven

UPDATE:
There were 15 entries in the giveaway…

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Thanks for all of you who RT’d the giveaway! And helped publicize it.

I had the Random Number Generator pick a number from 1 to 15…

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And then, I pushed the button.

Which then produced the corresponding winning number (you each had a corresponding number in the order you either entered a comment or tweeted the giveaway)…

The winner is #7, Jamie Martin, whose extra tweeting entry nabbed her the book!

Who says 7 isn’t a lucky number?

Jamie: I’ll be contacting you for your snail mail address shortly. I hope everyone else finds their way to a copy of WATERING HEAVEN soon! Thank you all for participating.

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e-books and hard copy books: the difference between buying and reading

In case many ppl are simultaneously thirsty, a wall of drinking fountains.

I buy a greater number of books on my Kindle, but READ a larger percentage of purchased hardcopy books.

In terms of concrete numbers:
2012: 58 e-books purchased (11 read)
2011: 49 e-books purchased (10 read)

In contrast, I bought about 10 hardcopy books each year (not counting cookbooks), and read almost all of them.

My book buying habits bode well for the book industry if indeed they reflect a larger trend–buying an e-book can be done at any time of day, with nearly-instant gratification. When I was reading the Fifty Shades of Grey and Hunger Games trilogies, I found myself buying and downloading the successive books at three o’clock in the morning. And then barreling forward with my reading.

Or if I hear about a good book during conversation or while reading an author interview. Bam. Downloaded again.

So when is it that I buy a hardcopy? When the book isn’t available as an e-book (like Octavia Butler or many of Chuck Palahniuk’s books). Or as a collectible. When the writer is a friend. Or I want the book signed. I will also buy both an e-book and hardcover copy of a book if I want the book accessible to me while traveling and/or the hardcover gets signed and it becomes precious (e.g., when Toni Morrison signed my hardcover copy of Home).

Maybe the books I buy in hardcopy are the reason I read more hardcopy books, you think. That they’re my friends’ books. Or an author whose writing I’m already familiar and already love.

But inevitably for me, it’s the tactile sensation of reading. Turning an actual page. Hearing the page turn.

The Kindle has its various attractions for me–the aforementinoed instant gratification, and the fact that I can carry an entire library with me on a plane.

I have friends who say they read more on Kindle (and anecdotally, I’ve found these friends are mostly software engineers (including my husband) who might be more attuned to reading a screen)–but for the most part my social network says they too read more hard copy books.

Do you buy more books on Kindle/as e-books? Or as hardcopy books? Why? And which format do you find more readable?

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Dopefiend Book Giveaway

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I’m giving away a copy of my friend Tim Elhajj’s debut memoir Dopefiend. It is, as the title suggests, a drug recovery memoir, but with the added theme of of Elhajj’s relationship with his son. (And Scarlet the Wiener Dog as you can see above, is thoroughly engrossed. She just wishes she had opposable thumbs so she could hold the book herself).

I first got to know Tim Elhajj after reading his essay in the NYTimes’ Modern Love column. I googled him. Came across his blog…And then of course, we became blog friends.

Dopefiend is available now…and I’m giving away a free hard copy of the book, along with a bookmark and postcard inserts, gifted to you personally by Elhajj, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Guernica, and Brevity.

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As always, I will sweeten your intrigue with the opening lines of the giveaway book, because I think readers deserve the opening lines.

Opening lines of the novel:

“After getting booted from high school three times, I joined the military. Three years into my enlistment, the Navy cut me loose. I moved back to Pennsylvania and got married, but soon after our first child was born, my wife split, taking our baby boy with her.

I was a twenty-four-year-old cyclone of poor decisions.

In time, I landed in county jail. At least nobody gets thrown out of jail. Drug treatment followed, but even that didn’t work: I went to recovery meetings high. One night a woman named Wendy R pulled me aside and hissed: “You are going to die!”

I told her the obvious, ‘We’re all going to die, Wendy.'”

Interested?

Here’s how to enter:
1) Leave a comment below. You can say anything you want–e.g., you can choose to tell me why you want a copy of the book, or share an anecdote in which you overcame great odds, or a time you signed up for something about which you later changed your mind. 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)!
2) 1 entry per person. If you tweet about this giveaway (please include/tag @czilka in your tweet so that I can track it), you get an extra entry.
3) The giveaway is open worldwide.
4) If you win the contest, I will email you for your mailing address.
5) Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.
6) 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, so as to avoid confusion.
7) If you are below the age of 13, please ask your parents to fill out the comment field with their information.

The deadline to enter a comment/tweet is Monday July 30, 2012 12:00pm PST. The winner (picked at random) will be announced Tuesday July 31, 2012 by 9:00pm PST.

GOOD LUCK! And I hope you all find your way to a copy of Dopefiend soon!

UPDATE: Winner of the giveaway!

There were 13 entries in the order received–two of you tweeted the giveaway, so two of you got an extra entry. Each of you had a corresponding number as follows…

If you entered into the drawing, remember your number/s!

I used a random number generator to determine the winning number.

And *drum roll*
*drum roll*
*drum roll*

The winner is number 12!

Aka Hope Rohde, whose entry reads:

“Tim and I went to the same small high school in the same small town. I’d love to have his book not because I’ve dealt with addiction but because I work for Children & Youth and come into contact with so many youth with addictions. What a testament this book would be for local children to see how a local man overcame and became someone’s hero. Bravo Tim and blessings to you.”

Thank you, Hope (if I don’t hear from you, I’ll be emailing you for a way to contact you). Thank you *everyone* for your interest and support. I hope all of you find your way to a copy of Dopefiend soon!

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R is for Rabbi

Eldridge Street Synagogue

It took three tries, as expected, for him to return my call.

“Hello, this is a message for Rabbi F. My name is Christine, and I want to convert to Judaism, and study with you. I would like to discuss next steps. Thank you.” I was nervous and overeager.

If I’d known better at the time, I might have, among other things, winced when saying my name, Christine, the most Christian (i.e., non-Jewish) name out there. I certainly winced for the next several years when introducing myself at shul. And sometimes the congregants would also wince and add, “Do you have a Jewish name, dear?” No, I did not. You don’t have one until you finish your conversion.

I called two more times.

After the third message, Rabbi F invited me to meet with him at the synagogue. I sat outside on the steps, intimidated by the doors of the synagogue. I couldn’t bring myself to knock on those huge wooden doors, or to open them. Eventually the rabbi came out looking for me. He wore black slacks and a white short sleeved shirt. He had a large white beard and wore eyeglasses and a kipa. “There you are,” he said, and introduced himself. His voice, the tempo of which was of someone who chose his words carefully, was higher than I’d expected. He did not put out his hand to shake. This was an Orthodox rabbi, and touch between men and women is forbidden. That much I knew. Thank goodness.

He led me inside. It was an old building, and his office was a small room off of the main room, steps from the wooden bimah. The three walls without a window in the office were covered floor to ceiling with books. The window faced north, so that the office was covered in the cold blue northern light I love.

I’d just graduated from college, and the bookshelves were familiar to me, even if the synagogue was not; I’d sat in offices like this before in Wheeler and Dwinelle Hall, during office hours with professors. Throughout my five years studying with Rabbi F, he would often stand up and pull a book off those shelves to seek answers.

He expected me to ask questions. This was a major paradigm shift for me. I was coming from a culture in which learning occurred by passive listening and memorizing what I was told. In which authority should not be questioned.

What do you mean? I asked. I was scared. Intimidated.

He replied by asking me a question. He asked how I expected to learn if I didn’t have any questions. He also said that by coming with my own questions each week, I would direct my own learning.

It made sense.

So each week, I came up with questions. I felt self-conscious coming up with questions, and even more so when I dared ask them. But I was rewarded; these questions would lead to lengthy and enriching discussions with the rabbi. And over the next few months and years, the questions begat more questions, and I began to feel more at ease with my curiosity. I became an actively curious person.

Years later, when I started teaching freshman comp, I remembered going through this paradigm shift. And I channeled the rabbi and shared the above anecdote, in hopes that my students would take the leap, dare to ask questions, and become more active learners.

And when I came across challenges, Rabbi F’s advice was always three dimensional, sometimes quite literally so. When it came time to consider meeting the Beit Din, he told me something that sticks to this day. “Identity is not just one thing: it is comprised of legal identity, community identity, and self identity. The Beit Din will approve your legal identity, the community, which includes your family, will define your social identity as a Jew, and last you have your self identity as a Jew. If you self identify as a Jew, that is the most important of all.”

Rabbi F changed my life in so many positive ways. He was my guide into Judaism (a world that did not always welcome me with open arms–and a world in which I often stumbled, like the time I saw a salmon fish cake and before I could think asked, “Is that a crab cake?” I had already hung my head by the time the cook uttered a disdainful “No.”), and I will be forever grateful to him for his wisdom and kindness. In so many ways (maybe all ways) my conversion process was a major paradigm shift–not the least of which was turning me into a more active student. I am a bolder, more curious, and more confident woman today having studied with Rabbi F. And perhaps I would not have become a writer if had not unearthed an adventurous and curious self.

*****

Joining Heather’s Abecedary, Fog City Writer, and other writers like Susan Ito in working through the alphabet with short, memoir-like pieces. Except I’m going to go in reverse, beginning with “Z.” It’s called Alphabet: A History.

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