Category Archives: Reading

#AWP17 Roundup

 

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Fellow C&R Press author Xu Xi and I at the private press reading party

My first AWP has come and gone. It was a pretty wild ride and absolutely wonderful to see old friends and meet new ones. The advanced copies of Meditations on the Mother Tongue sold out on Saturday afternoon. And the Friday night reading was a blast! I was truly blown away by the talent and skill of the other authors and am honored to be among their company.

I also now understand what everyone means when they say the interactions at AWP can be very awkward. It’s a little weird when you know someone either through their work or some other means first (they published you, or you have social media interactions) and you’re all suddenly in a place together. I think you expect to be really comfortable with them already, but you aren’t because you technically just met, and the dichotomy is a little unsettling at first. Plus there’s the frequency of just being star-struck by these legends whom you have admired for many years. But it was all very fun and it made me really feel like this book can make some waves.

Here’s hoping! Back to the lab.

Southern Humanities Review 49.1

It’s been a long time–as always–since my last update here, but I’m happy to share that I’m in the latest issue of the Southern Humanities Review. The cover is beautiful and the issue is elegantly laid out and typeset. I have to say a huge word of thanks to former managing editor Chantel Acevedo for accepting the piece, and to current fiction editor Aaron Alford for all of his support with this story. There’s even an excerpt of it on the website, which you can read here.

In other news: I’ve been working really hard on this novel-in-progress, having written over 150 new pages this past summer alone. The draft is nearing completion (I think) and I can’t wait to get into the editing process. But it may be a long time coming, and I’m impatient. We shall see.

I also have some other short work forthcoming, so keep an eye out!

storySouth Million Writers Award Finals

The short-list for storySouth’s Million Writers Award has been released and is now open to public voting.

I’m happy to report that my story, ‘The Grinning Man’, published by Eclectica Magazine, has made the cut. Please go check it out and, if you are so inclined, place a vote through this GoogleDocs Form. I’d greatly appreciate it!

Thanks to the judges! And Eclectica’s editors Tom Dooley and Anne Leigh Parrish!

Also, in other news, the Sententia Books website has been redesigned, and my short story–one of the favourites I’ve produced–“Conversations with the Rest of the World” has been put up online. Thanks to Paula Bomer and Adam Robinson for allowing me to share this story with the world, and in so many different mediums!

SmokeLong Quarterly & Other Updates

I probably should’ve posted up last week, since I’m guest editor for SmokeLong Quarterly from August 11th through August 17th. Yes, those dates are over with now and I’ve a queue of pieces to read through and select from. I didn’t post up because I happened to fall under the weather with a pretty nasty cold and fever, and still had to take care of my day-job responsibilities. I did announce it on Facebook and Twitter though, so if you submitted during this period, thanks! I’ve already read some promising pieces and expect to find some real gems in the queue.

I’ve definitely been in a bit of a creative rut lately, second-guessing myself and feeling all-around uninspired. I suppose this happens to the best of us and I’m just going to try to exercise a lot of patience. We all fear that fire inside of us going out, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Something will occur in life that I won’t be able to ignore, and words will aggregate again. Patience.

In the mean time, I’ve been hard at work trying to finish up this MFA business, particularly with this craft paper. I’ve been reading Kirstin Chen’s Soy Sauce for Beginners and find the novel absolutely riveting. Check it out, if you’re itching to add another book to your To-Read stack.

Forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine!

I’m ecstatic to announce that I’ve just had a story accepted to Gargoyle Magazine. Like my piece in Big Lucks, this will run in 2014, so it’s a ways out, but all the same I am honoured to have my work appear in such a fabulous publication with such a deep local history. The story, titled “The Message of My Skin,” is one of the more honest pieces I’ve written. It takes place in the neighbourhood that I grew up in–coincidentally the neighbourhood Gargoyle is based out of and which I more or less still live in–and discusses Vietnamese crime in the Washington, DC area. I am humbled.

So the year 2013 is somewhat lacking, though I have done much revision in the past seven months. I think this thing will go in waves of creativity and then re-working, so I’m going to not let myself become too anxious about my dried up well of creative energy right now. I’m happy to know that I’ve secured some publications in 2014 and that they are two very different stories. Compared to my earlier published work, I think that my range is growing and my voice is becoming clearer. Very happy for that.

Until next time.

A Quick Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve written an entry in this blog. I’d love to say that I’ve been a busy bee, toiling away at the arduous labour that is the writer’s life, but that’s not exactly accurate. In the past few months, I’ve only managed to produce two additional short stories and most of a third.

What I have been doing:

  • Founding and curating a new reading series in Arlington, VA … it’s coming great and we’ve got quite the season booked for this summer. More details to come.
  • Going to other readings … I’ve had the pleasure of seeing one of my new favourite writers — Marie-Helene Bertino — read from her novel-in-progress along with Elliott Holt, Scott McClanahan, Sara Rose Etter, Matthew Salesses, Laura van den Berg and so so soooo many other great writers. This is the kind of thing I live for.
  • I have a review / recommendation for Ms. Bertino’s debut collection, Safe as Houses, forthcoming at TheLitPub (it’s REAAAALLY good)
  • A short story is forthcoming in Big Lucks — huge thanks to Michael Beeman, Mark Cugini and Chris Molnar for featuring my work!
  • Reading and other schoolwork

So it has been actually fairly busy. There’ve also been this huge debates internally about whether or not to move. For now, I’m staying put.

I have a more personal anecdote to share, but I’ll reserve those thoughts for another time when I can devote more to it.

Happy writing, all.

Carolina Quarterly!

cq62-3cover2I wanted to avoid posting this until I had the issue in my hands, and now I am happy to share that I’ve been published in The Carolina Quarterly’s winter issue! This is the first non-fiction piece I’ve ever written and recounts a tale from my childhood years. The essay is titled “Redshift.” Check it out at the NewPages webstore!

I am deeply grateful to the Carolina Quarterly and Non-Fiction Editor Nick Anderman for accepting my piece. Not only that, but–as you can see–I’m excerpted on the cover. I’m also the excerpt for CQ’s TellItSlant submission page! Humbly honoured.

The Anticipation for 2013 Reads

Since 2013 is fast approaching, I thought I’d compile a list of my hotly anticipated books slated to be released in 2013.

https://i2.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41gVd-sCGmL._SL500_AA300_.jpg1) Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I love her. Words cannot express how much I love her. Meeting Karen Russell tangled up my guts into knots. And she was absolutely the nicest and sweetest woman ever. It was just an event – a reading and a signing – and I hope to one day meet her as a peer … but, still, monumental experience for me. Both St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Swamplandia! remain as some of the best literature I’ve ever read. I will probably do a jig when my copy of Vampires arrives in the mail.

2) The Isle of Youth and Find Me by Laura van den Berg. I think that Laura van den Berg will be one of the greatest writers of our age. I think she’s helping to herald a definition of “American 21st Century Literature” that isn’t a “post-“, that doesn’t define itself by looking backward on what has come before. When I met with Karen Russell, we talked about Laura briefly. Karen’s face lit up – “Oh! She’s wonderful.” – and we spoke about how hauntingly beautiful her titles are. Laura van den Berg gets extra points for writing stories about cryptozoology (mokele mbembe! No one knows what that is!), which I will admit is a weird passion of mine. What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us is one of the finest collections of stories the world has ever seen and I adore Laura’s ability to take a fabulist element and then ground it into a realist story and making it relevant to the characters in wholly unique ways. There’s a meta-metaphor way to analysis that I won’t get into, because it’d be an essay. But suffice to say, she’s one of my heroes. I was star-struck meeting her, fumbling for words, creating awkwardness all-around. That does not happen easily for me.

https://i2.wp.com/media-cache-lt0.pinterest.com/upload/190840102930864219_YCKoWqKW_c.jpg3) Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon. I only recently discovered this was coming out. At the reading I saw Laura van den Berg at, there was this Asian guy next to her that she seemed pretty friendly with. I thought, “Huh. That looks like Paul Yoon.” Turns out, it was Paul Yoon. Here is a man of beautiful, sensitive prose. His writing does something that I’ve never been brave enough to really attempt: it discusses the Asian-American experience. It reaches back to his heritage, allows him to connect to this indivisible part of his identity. I have spent nearly my entire life to remove that aspect of my identity, to be defined by it as little as possible. The connotations of being “Asian” were always negative in my head – criminal; drug addict; gang member; gambler; murderer; crime lord; cheater; liar – and while this is very far from what I think most non-Asian (and, in my experience, most non-Vietnamese) populations would think of when they conceptualize an Asian, it is what I learned about being Asian growing up. Literature is about a cultural dialogue – a transmission of thought and feeling – between author and audience. A writer has something to say that no one else can say. Paul Yoon says what he has to say like no one else can, and Once the Shore is magnificently done. I admire his ability to speak, without shame or hesitation, on the Asian experience. While I have something to say on that too, I have often disguised it more generally, still afraid to be defined by it and only it. What Paul Yoon understands is that he can be an Asian-American writer and an American writer and just a writer all at once. I’m tremendously eager to hear what he has to say next.

https://i2.wp.com/media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mbrmj9nBOt1r4zpe9.jpg4) In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell. Holy crap, I cannot believe how long we have to wait for this. There is so so so much that can be said about Matt Bell. I had the pleasure of hearing him read a couple of weeks ago from this wonderful work and there can be no doubt that Matt Bell is an absolute master of his craft. Every sentence was constructed with precision, delivered masterfully. And, to add to everything, he introduced the novel hilariously. Plus, he can use the word “fingerling” in a way that makes it creepy and terrifying rather than make us think of the phrase “finger-lickin’ good” and laughing hysterically at it. That’s talent. This man is raw talent. Check out Cataclysm Baby and How They Were Found for a peek at his genius.

5) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. People who meet me learn one thing really quickly: I am a huge nerd. This often surprises people, considering my physique and the fact that I’m rather athletic. I’ve done parkour for nearly nine years now and I’ve been powerlifting for three. Here’s the big secret: people who do parkour are all huge nerds. Most powerlifters too. In both communities, we’re all trying our best to become the fantastic superheroes we grew up idolizing. So many of us are gamers, comic book readers, table-top gamers, etc. And among the geek community, few gods are so universally revered as Neil Gaiman. He brought us Sandman and the Endless; he brought us Stardust, Coraline, The Graveyard Book; he brought us Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Gaiman is also one of the very few science fiction writers who seems to be widely accepted in the literary community. And me? I’ll pretty much read anything Gaiman puts out. I know there are a lot of Gaiman fans out there who prefer him as a novelist, but it was as a comic book writer that I first learned of Gaiman. It was Sandman that won my heart (actually, it was Death and not Dream who did that), and he will always always be a comic writer to me. So while I’m ecstatic for him to have another novel coming out, I’m also ECSTATIC to hear that 2013 will finally see the release of new Sandman titles – in particular, a prequel mini-series. To geekdom!