So easy

26 06 2015

To do nothing. It’s almost July. I thought I’d be finished my book for sure, but nope. My ten-year high school reunion is coming up next year and it’s making me depressed. What do I have to show for? A demo, a bunch of short films, some writing published in lit mags. I suppose it’s something, and maybe it’s just the traditional Asian in me talking, but I expect more from myself.

You will finish writing another chapter this weekend. /pep-talk over.





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?

-A





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?

-A





Bummed.

15 05 2015

Got a rejection letter from the publishing house that I thought for sure would accept my book proposal, so I’m really bummed out. And if they didn’t want it, who will now? Is my mixed-genre memoir too strange and unconventional to be marketable and sellable?

Back to the drawing board…





Wish me luck

10 02 2015

Sent off my book proposal today to a literary agency. Also today, got yet another rejection from a literary mag. I really go wonder if so much rejection means my work is shitty and not good enough to be book. Fingers crossed though.





Tiger Mother Son of a Bitch

12 01 2015

Read about 30 pages of this “memoir.” Had to stop because it was hilariously awful in so many ways: the writing was piss poor, unorganized, and ranting like a teenager’s journal; the narrator had no self-awareness and didn’t show (but told) how terrible his mother was, leading me to believe he was the terrible one; there were typos and errors throughout (it was self-published).

I thought it might be a good book to compare to my memoir, but this book has so little literary merit that it should best be forgotten. Safe to say I think my memoir will be leagues better. Now I feel better about my writing.

I also didn’t take a picture of this because I hastily returned it, nor do I want to be seen with this waste of trees. 





Last month to finish my book

1 12 2014

I said in November that I’d spend the month semi-taking part in NaNoWriMo, except that I’d be finishing my memoir instead of writing a whole new book. Obviously that didn’t go quite as planned since I was in California for a week, and then I just got lazy after that. I did manage to finish another chapter last week that I had been planning to send to the Prairie Fire contest but after getting some feedback, there’s a lot of work to be done before sending it out anywhere. So now I’m planning to try and finish the book by the end of the month/year, then send out proposal to get a literary agent in January. If I don’t manage to finish, I can use the time that I’ll be waiting to hear back from literary agencies. We’ll see how that goes.

If I don’t manage to get anything published this month, I’ll have gotten an entire year of rejections. (although I did get a piece published in Existere but I submitted that on December 31st of last year) Man, it’s been a crappy year for getting published.





Paralyzed by sadness

19 11 2014

Writing this creative non-fiction piece that never seems to finish is slowly making me sad. I know I’ve written about it already, but tonight, after writing some more, I just got so weighed down that I didn’t feel like writing anymore. I tried to search for some music to help me with my mood, but nothing came to mind. I think I’ll just go to bed early, but even that makes me sad thinking about it. So much sad.





Bossypants

25 09 2014

Tina Fey is awesome!

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Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

17 09 2014

New underwear! Thought I’d show off some ass while I’m at it too.

Also, this is a good book although not as much as the first Persepolis. I think it’s because the struggles in this one were less traumatic, more relatable. Still a great read!

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