Shoulda woulda coulda

21 02 2016

Only realized today that I could’ve submitted some of the pieces I had published last year to the National Magazine Awards (the deadline was in January). Things like awards just don’t cross my mind, especially when most awards for writers are for published books, not pieces in literary magazines. I think I probably wouldn’t feel as bad about not submitting anything if I hadn’t gotten “Underworld” published, which I think is probably the best, most literary thing I’ve written and could likely have gotten me something.

Oh well.

I’ll try to tell myself I’ll write even better things.

How Art Talks to Art, Part II

13 06 2015

You might be wondering, “Part two? I thought you just explained everything in your previous post. How much more do you have to say? Also, why am I on this silly site instead of porn?” And yes, I wanted to nail down everything I meant in one post, but I’ve had a difficult time trying to articulate why it is I’m writing a mixed-genre memoir, even when it comes to writing it down (because me telling you in person would be a lot more rambling).

Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot more, and I don’t think my previous post quite got it. But I think I’ve narrowed it down to something simple.

There’s the pleasure and experience of reading a piece of fiction or poetry or listening to music watching a play or film or looking at a piece of art on its own without any explanation or information about the artist or writer. That’s the simplest way of enjoying it.

Watch this video and just listen to the music. Take a note of how you feel about the piece and what you think about it. Note: if you know anything about Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, this might not work.

But what about the story behind the story? In terms of literature, one of the most common questions writers get asked is “What inspired you to write that?” To me, what is interesting is when it’s something personal that happened to them. I wish I had more examples to give, other than my own work, but one good one is Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude. When I learned to play this years ago, I didn’t know the history behind it. I just played it because I needed to for my upcoming exam. All I knew was that it was fast, loud, super hard, and the sixteenth notes rumbling in the left hand throughout the entire piece killed my arm after. My piano teacher eventually explained that at the time, Poland, Chopin’s country of birth, was being attacked by Russian forces. As he still had family and friends in Poland, he was upset and emotional. So he wrote this as a response.

When I heard this story, the piece made a lot more sense. I saw the etude in a different light. I understood why it was so loud, the specific accents on chords, how the left hand almost feels like it cries out when it goes up into the treble clef. The history — the story behind the story — enhanced my perspective. I saw the piece as it was intentionally meant by its creator.

I realized that my non-creative non-fiction work — fiction, poetry, plays, scripts — are almost always based on some sort of personal experience. I write things for a reason, sometimes as a response to something I’ve gone through. Of course, you could enjoy them on their own, but being aware of the context, I think, elevates the piece.

That’s what my creative non-fiction work is mostly about. My memoir, by extension, is not so much about why I wrote my fictional works as it is a way to get you in the right mindset when I wrote it. That way, you can then try and glean what autobiographical details may be embedded in the fiction. Fiction can, of course, be autobiographical in nature, and together with memoir, can provide a more complete and deeper understanding of a person’s life. At least I think so. And at least for me.

I hope that makes sense. I do tend to complicate things, so maybe my explanation was a bit convoluted. If so, now that you understand what Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude was about watch it again.

Do you see a difference?


How Art Talks to Art

21 05 2015

Originally blogged from my official site:

The choice to make my memoir a mixed-genre book was a surprisingly easy one to make. Back when I was sure it was going to be a straightforward memoir, a writer friend and colleague of mine suggested, half-kidding (I think? She jokes a lot so it’s hard to tell sometimes), “Is it gonna be mixed genre? Throw in some poems? Yeah? Yeah! You know it!” Sure, I had thrown around the idea of making my memoir a mixed-genre book but never seriously thought about it. When I went home that day, I looked at my poems — and also some of the few fiction pieces I had written  — and saw that some of them naturally fit with the pieces in my memoir, like how continents fit together.

I thought it was a pretty neat idea, writing a mixed-genre memoir. I certainly wasn’t the first to do it either. Amber Dawn’s memoir, How Poetry Saved My Life, includes both memoir and poetry. More recently, Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, features essays, haikus, and other odd little pieces of writing. Bossypants by Tina Fey includes the Sarah Palin/Hilary Clinton SNL script that became famous.

My memoir contains, poetry, a short script, a short play, song lyrics, and, of course, memoir. I know it might seem strange to include fiction, and I’ve tried to explain it concisely as I’ve could in the queries and book proposals I’ve been sending out, in an effort to make publishers and editors see that I’m not just a weirdo novice writer who is scrapbooking my greatest hits. But it’s difficult because I feel like it requires a bit more explanation. So if you’re a publisher trying to figure out why you have a multi-genre memoir thing on your desk, here’s your answer.

I made a short film called Stay, which is about two Chinese-Canadian gay men and what happens when one of them refuses to stay the night. You don’t need to know anything about me to watch this film (in fact, it’s on YouTube). After watching it (or before, really), if I told you that my first boyfriend was Chinese-Canadian and in the closet, and that we never had a night together, how does that change your reading/interpretation of the Stay? (Does the film come across as a fantasy/hope if the real same had stayed the night?) How does Stay reveal autobiography as a work of fiction? What can you suggest about why I decided to write and make the film?

Maybe it’s just the English major in me, the one that constantly analyzes things for meanings, but these are the kind of questions I like to ask — and I’d like people to ask — when reading my work. Not everyone will want to think this deeply, for sure, but I think they’re good questions to ask.

Here’s another way to put it. I recently watched a documentary called National Gallery, made by Frederick Wiseman. At one point in the film, a worker at the National Gallery in London explains how paintings and works “talk to each other.” When looking at a painting on its own, he says, you may have one interpretation. When put next to another painting, it causes you to reinterpret both paintings; you notice things you didn’t notice before. They both mean different things.

That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with my mixed-genre book. I’m trying to show readers a different way — my perspective — of looking at not just my straightforward memoir pieces, but all the other kinds of writing and art that I do and make. I believe that this reveals a lot more about a person that a simple memoir, and as someone who feels constantly misunderstood (or not understood at all), I relish the opportunity to give people this special insight. And it’s not just me trying to boast to everyone that I can write a script and a play (although that is an added bonus).

Hope that makes sense. I feel like it will make more sense once my book is available and people can read it for themselves (hint hint, publishers). What are your thoughts? Do you think a mixed-genre memoir is a good idea?


Traumatic bathhouse story!

5 04 2015

Want to read a traumatic true story about my visit to a gay bathhouse? More like who wouldn’t! My memoir piece, “Underworld”, has been published in Plenitude (yay!) and is available to read online.

Here it is!  If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

It’s finally here!

26 03 2015

I should have a picture of it, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet, so you’ll all just have to believe me. The latest copy of Ricepaper is out now, featuring a personal essay I wrote titled “Cold War”! Yay! Now the world will finally know how awful sexual racism is. Grr argh.

But in the meantime, yay!

This week

8 02 2015

I will send out my book proposal. I’m nearly finished it now, and I realized I’ve been tacking on information that isn’t necessary to a former book proposal I wrote last year (I’ve been looking at guidelines for non-fiction proposals and I think they’re more for geared for real non-fiction, not creative non-fiction). I wrote it for a class on what to do after graduation, and my instructor, who teaches creative non-fiction, told me it was fine. Now I’m realizing that it basically was. Better late than never, I suppose.

But this week! For sure. I’ve been sitting on this for too long. And been playing too much Pokemon. Damn you, Pokemon!

Revenge on lit. mags

29 01 2015

I’ve been meaning to send something to Brick magazine for a while. They’re exclusively a creative non-fiction journal, which is great because guess what? I write creative non-fiction too! But for some reason, I’ve sent my stuff elsewhere, only to get rejected. The other week, I received this letter from Brick. This was odd because I had never given them my mailing address (although Prairie Fire had previously also sent me stuff and I never corresponded with them). I figured they and a bunch of other Canadian literary magazines had access to my info (or perhaps I unwittingly agreed to give them and other literary publications my information when I entered some writing contests, I don’t know), and now here they were, asking me to donate to them.

I thought that was a little annoying, so in retaliation, I did what I should have done weeks ago: I sent the people at Brick a piece I wrote about my time in a gay bathhouse. It’s not bad by any means (in fact, I think it’s one of the best pieces I’ve written), but I imagine it may make for an uncomfortable read. But if they’re going to spam me, then I’m going to send them writing about sleazy, disgusting sex and call it even.

Making myself depressed

22 06 2014

Why does this happen when I write? It usually happens when I write personal essays, so maybe it’s the topics that I choose that inevitably lead me to write about such depressing topics. I’m writing an essay at the moment about how I’ve always found myself to be the lone gay person in the room and challenging the notion of the one in ten. When I read up on statistics of demographics of the gay population, that was pretty sad.

I seem to like to do that. I wonder if I like making myself sad, if I’m self-masochistic like that. When my memoir comes out, it’s going to be such a depressing read. Warning you all now.

Existere 33.2 has arrived!

18 06 2014

From my blog over at

I called it, didn’t I? It’s always nice to receive things in the mail — and even better when they’re big packages just for you! (pun intended) And as predicted, I did indeed squeal and frolic with my two copies of Existere when I got them yesterday.  I have no idea about other writers and authors, but always makes me pretty excited to see my name in print. It’s a sense of accomplishment.

So here are some (vain) pictures. I probably should’ve posed with them or something, to make them even more vain, but I’m not that vain. Yet. Had to crop out the start of my piece, but I kept the opening line as a tease. :)

Existere is out in stores now! Pick up a copy and read about dead gay people! (among other things)



Finishing a personal essay

23 02 2014

Well, first of all, writing a personal essay is difficult. More difficult than writing an academic essay, by far. Yes, I love writing creative non-fiction, and yes, I do enjoy writing personal essays, but man, it’s tiring and mentally exhausting and can be veeeeerrryy loooooooong. Sometimes that works to my advantage because I often tend to write a lot, but that makes editing difficult too. This essay turned out to be just over 4,000 words, which I think is the longest personal essay I’ve written so far. Definitely the longest in the class so far.

But when you finish writing it — oh, such relief. Well, it’s more like resignation, but after an hour or two, you really realize that you accomplished a pretty big feat, and yeah, I deserve props and acknowledgement for that. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to watch the new season of The Amazing Race with my mommy and tell her what I accomplished today.