My LitCrawl Experience at LitQuake

I've attended LitQuake and LitCrawl in San Francisco for years now, and it's always a fun-filled smorgasborg literary experience.  You really never know what will happen.

When my friend Na'amen asked me to read for LitCrawl this year in a multicultural reading, I happily agreed.  I had previously met my co-reader Heather Eccles, who is cool has awesome tattoos, and a third multicultural reader, Ayize Jama-Everett, who I would meet at LitCrawl.

Phase I:  6:00 PM

Hidden Passages, Twisted Families & Broken Landscapes

First, I missed the BART that would have taken me to the venue an easy 30 minutes before my reading.   The next BART would arrive 10 minutes before the reading, and it took me all 10 minutes to find the venue on Capp Street.  When I arrived, there was a large crowd of 20-30 people waiting outside in the cold.  The person who was in charge of the venue (who was not Na'amen) did not show up.

Na'amen decided to have the reading anyway outside on the sidewalk.   In the middle of busy San Francisco traffic.  With sirens blaring every few minutes, hip hop music blasting from residential apartments across the street, people cutting through the reading, people telling us to stop leaning on their cars so they can drive off in the middle of the reading.  The sidewalk was about 12 feet wide, plenty of space to sit, though some chose to lean against the cars parked on the street.  Each reader stood on the sidewalk stage, which we designated as right next to the very closed and very locked door of the venue.

Each of us were allotted 15 minutes, and there were only three readers.  As first reader, Heather read a funny and fun story.  The second reader Ayize dropped his pages on the sidewalk as he was reading.  At 6:25, while he was still reading, a random older man carrying a small package wrapped in aluminum foil walked through the audience.  And while Ayize was reading and dropping pages onto the sidewalk, this older man, stepped up to the door right next to the reader, took out a bundle of keys, opened the door, and walked into the venue.  All while the second reader was reading.

As soon as Ayize finished reading, the older man came out and asked when the event started.  Na'amen said "6 o'clock."  The older man then asked if we wanted to go inside.  Na'amen took a quick look at the audience before saying, "No, I think we'll finish out here."  On the sidewalk!  Yay!

At 6:30, I started reading, and I was conscious of the setting sun and the sudden brisk winds, so I made sure I read only my 15 minutes, no more.

I read three very short fiction pieces to fit the theme of the reading:

1)  Broken Landscape = Unicorn's Patience: After the Hunt - a drabble (exactly 100 words)

2)  Hidden Passageway = An excerpt from my newly sold story "The Binding of Ming-tian" about Chinese musicians and footbinding.  This story which will be published in Apex Magazine

3)  Twisted Families = A story that still hasn't found a home or a title, but it is a sad retelling (with a twist!) of a famous Chinese myth about a Chinese dragon and what it eats.

Such a memorable experience!  Thank you sooooooooo much to my friends (Cassie, Megan, Cathy & her bf, Elsa & her gf) and my new literary buddies who showed up and occupied the sidewalk in solidarity!

Phase II:  7:15 PM

Beauty Bar featuring the Saint Mary's College MFA faculty Marilyn Abildskov, Rosemary Graham, Brenda Hillman, Chris Sindt, and Lysley Tenorio!  It was great to see fellow alums Sara and Rebecca, and the bar was standing room only.

Phase III:  8:30 PM 

Literature to Shift your Perspective

Borderlands Reading featuring SFF writers Terry Bisson, Claire Light, Madeline Robins, and Na'amen!   Borderlands was absolutely PACKED.

There's just too much awesomeness happening at LitCrawl, and I could hear everything.  I regret not being able to attend the readings of other wonderful writers, including Seanan McGuire, Cassie Alexander, Charlie Jane Anders, Annalee Newz, Jennifer Derillo, Juan Alvarez, and Graham Foust.  

But I can't wait to be a part of Litquake next year!

Clarion Scholarship In Memory of Leonard Pung

I met Leonard in the summer of 2009 in San Diego, when he attending the Clarion Writers' Workshop. At that time, I was visiting Shweta Narayan, and we had spent all our waking hours for almost 2 days baking and cooking an overabundance of food, which we foisted onto Leonard and his Clarion classmates.  It was our way of letting them know that they had an alumni community beyond their own Clarion class.  The vibe of the Clarion class 2009 at the time was super positive and laid back and congenial, and Leonard's good-natured attitude and his bright Hawaiian shirt contributed greatly to it.

After the Clarion class of 2009 finished their session, I had the privilege to hang out with them more individually and in a group.  I admired Leonard's open attitude, and I am especially grateful to him for helping me better hone my ideas of how to explain certain multicultural concepts that were still new to me at the time.  Leonard was always patient and respectful and kind.  The last time I saw Leonard was this summer when I was flitting through LA, and we talked mostly about his graduate school program and writing in general.  He had lost some weight, but he didn't look ill.  In fact, he was glowing with excitement because he was learning so much.  He was attending readings and meeting more professional writers.  He was writing stories and also branching out to work on a screenplay.  I was glad that his battle with cancer seemed to be favoring him rather than defeating him.  

Only a few weeks after our last conversation, Leonard lost his final fight with cancer.

Facebook informed me today that it was Leonard's birthday. He would have been 51 years old today.  He attended Clarion at the age of 47 and enrolled in graduate school only a couple years later.  His positive can-do attitude inspired me whenever I talked with him.  It's never too late to keep growing.  It's never too late to learn something new.  It's never too late to follow your dreams.

So in memory of Leonard, I'm contributing to the scholarship that his Clarion class has set up in his name.  If you believe it's never too late to start a new career in the arts, please consider donating to the Leonard Pung Scholarship Fund.


Update on My Notes about Science Fiction in China

At Worldcon this year, there were four panels about science fiction in China, and I was fortunate to be on all four. Because there were actual science fiction writers and scholars from China present and because they were brilliant and all spoke fluent English, I wanted them to talk as much as possible. Thus, I decided take a role as cultural interpreter and note taker.

At my panels, I had said I would post my notes online here on my web site. If you are reading this because of that, thank you! FYI, an online SF magazine offered an opportunity to have my notes more formally published online in a few more weeks. While this means a delay in knowledge-sharing, I'm delighted because this magazine is one that I and many others read regularly, so hopefully we'll educate more English-reading fans and writers about the current state of science fiction in China.

So while those notes are being edited, I am happy to collect questions anyone might have about science fiction in China here on my blog. Otherwise, thank you for your patience.

My Worldcon Schedule at Chicon 7

Worldcon (aka Chicon 7) starts in a few days, and I'm excited to be speaking on panels about science fiction & fantasy written for young adults as well as the speculative fiction of China and India. AND I'll be giving a reading!  To say I'm nervous is a vast understatement.  But, at the same time, it will be an experience!

My first-ever Worldcon Reading will be on Friday morning August 31 @ 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM in Dusable.  I will bring some sort of delicious treat to reward (not bribe!) the awesome people (or person) who show up.

Thursday, August 30 @ 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM

Panel:  Feminist SF in China

Description:  What is the state of feminist SF in China?

Panelists:  Jan Bogstad, Emily Jiang, Yan Wu

Friday, August 31 @ 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM

Panel:  Young Adult Trends

Description: A look at the various current trends in the Young Adult book market, from dystopias to paranormal romance.

Panelists:  Aurora Celest, Bryce Moore, Emily Jiang, Gwenda Bond, Leigh Bardugo

Saturday, September 1 @ 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM

Panel:  Science Fiction in China

Description:  What are the modern Chinese trends in Science Fiction?  What are the cultural influences?

Panelists:  Emily Jiang, Jan Bogstad, Ruhan Zhao

Sunday, September 2 @ 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM

Panel:  China's and India's Fast Rising SF Market

Description:  Is China the next fast-rising realm for SF?  How to write for the Chinese audience?  And is English-speaking INDIA a better bet?  Are there ways to encourage fandom in these vast markets?

Panelists:  David Brin, Emily Jiang, Jan Bogstad, Quifan Chen, Ruhan Zhao

Sunday, September 2 @ 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM

Panel:  China the Central Kingdom:  China's Role in 21st Century SF

Description:  What is China's current role in Science Fiction and how will they shape the future?

Panelists:  Emily Jiang, Jan Bogstad

Over all, the Chicon 7 programming this year looks like a ton of fun (Geek Prom!), and I've downloaded the nifty schedule app for my too-smart-for-me phone.  Also, I'm looking forward to hanging out with awesome folks.  And, of course, there are the Hugos!


Publication - "Merciful Deity" in Stone Telling 8!

I'm delighted to have a poem "Merciful Deity" published today in Stone Telling 8, entitled Together, Apart.  It is a poem about the power of naming entwined with identity, requiring two voices for the audio version. I am grateful that poet and writer Na'amen has lent his gorgeous voice to my poem.

Read and listen to my poem "Merciful Deity" in Stone Telling 8!

Though Stone Telling has only been around for 2 years, each issue has been so rich and powerful, and under the wonderful staff of Rose Lemberg, Shweta Narayan, and Jennifer Smith, this most recent issue continues Stone Telling's tradition of delving gorgeously into dark and difficult topics.  In Issue 8, the poets explore .  There are powerful poems by returning Stone Telling poets Amal El-Mohtar, Sonya Taaffe, Sofia Samatar, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Shira Lipkin and Adrienne J. Odasso.  There are dark-lovely poems by first-time Stone Telling poets Ching-In Chen, Charlie Bondhus, Kathrin Kohler, Gra Linnaea, Ursual Pflug, and LaShawn M. Wanak.  Nonfiction includes an article about Jay Munly by Lisa Bradley, a review of Liz Henry's poetry by Brittany Warman, and Julia Rios' always-thought-provoking Roundtable Interview.

Apart, we long to

be together, more than a

sum of all our parts.

If you like what you read, consider donating to the Stone Telling tip jar (at the bottom of the Table of Contents)!


Goodbye, Neil Armstrong

American astronaut Neil Armstrong just died today at the age of 82 years old. He the first person to walk on the moon. The famous quote "That's one small step for man, one giant step for mankind" was spoken by Mr. Armstrong as he took his first famous step on the moon on July 20, 1969.

When I was in grad school few years ago, I wrote a short story inspired by Neil Armstrong for my reading in grad school. Entitled "One Small Step," this story was set in 1969 about a Chinese-American boy who wanted to be an astronaut. "One Small Step" won a prize in the Palo Alto Weekly Short Story contest and was published thirty years after Neil Armstrong's historic landing on the moon.

 You can read my story at the Palo Alto Weekly online.

First man on the moon

braves vast space, takes one small step

for humanity.

Thank you, Neil Armstrong, for your courage and your inspiration.

SCBWI LA International - My Fringe Experience

A few years ago, when I decided to become serious about writing for young adults and children, I boldly registered for the enormous SCBWI LA international conference.  This was a bold move for me because I knew no one, and I am by nature quite shy.  It was a scary experience navigating my way through a sea of a thousand people without a single familiar face.  But because I learned so much at the sessions, I returned to attend another conference and met a very few writers.  Then I returned again and met more writers.  Eventually I became friendly with enough awesome writers that each SCBWI event felt akin to a family reunion.

A couple of years ago I stopped regularly attending SCBWI events, but this year I was determined to return.  The last time I attended SCBWI LA international, one could easily buy a day pass at the door, but this year they did not offer this option because they sold out, apparently for the second time.  Unfortunately, I did not know this.  Thus, I sat with my laptop near the bar at the Hyatt while the rest of the conference took place underneath my feet.  While I worked, I witnessed the rising and falling tides of people walking in and out of the lobby.  Every so often someone would remember me, approach me and strike up a fun conversation.  Every so often I'd meet new writers and illustrators who were open to talking to a random stranger.  During these conversations, I was reminded how often writers, especially children's writers, light up when they speak, especially when talking about writing.

When we create art,

it must move us deep within--

Let's write with pure joy.

I had lost this in my journey in acquiring more tools of the craft, and ironically the more tools I acquired, the more I was convinced my wordcraft was hopelessly inept.  Even though I tried my best to maintain a confident face, I was convinced I was an imposter of a writer and not a "real" writer.

While hanging out near the bar of the Hyatt, I had the opportunity to shake the hands of many published authors, or "real" writers.  I was quite star struck a couple of times, when all I could manage to say was "I love your books."  Honestly, I am rarely star struck, except when I meet authors whose books I adored when I was young.  Authors whose characters whom I loved so much that I checked out their books from my local library and re-read their adventures over and over that they became a part of me.  Authors whose fictional worlds offered me sanctuary from bullying and other moments when I felt helpless and lost.  Authors whose stories made me feel strong enough to deal with whatever challenges life threw in my path.

Readers who need

a safe place to breathe discover

real stories save lives.

I had lost sight of this in my pursuit of wordcraft perfection to become a "real" writer.  I had forgotten I needed to tell a real story, something from my heart and soul, something that mattered to me so much that when I wrote it I either laughed or cried.

The leadership of the fearlessly dynamic duo of Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser and their well-chosen board and staff has steered SCBWI into over 40 years of community among children's writers and illustrators.  Linda Sue Park and Jolie Stekly organized a surprise for Lin and Steve during the dance party, which I and many others crashed.  We were given glow-in-the-dark bracelets and instructed to watch a video to achieve:

Four hundred artists

flash mob dancing to the Age

of Aquarius.

It was a wonderful moment, this coordinated movement that brought all of us in harmony.  I felt so honored to be part of this special experience.  ***Later this haiku was updated to "Four hundred artists" to accurately reflect the numbers as according to Linda Sue Park herself.***  In addition to the Board, the heart of SCBWI lies within the over 100 Regional Advisors who generously volunteer their time and energy in creating and maintaining this warm and welcoming community, where many are more than happy to tell you their stories.

Here are examples of stories that some writers will tell you:  The challenges in the projects they're creating, revising, selling, publicizing.  If they've sold a book or two or three.  If they've found an agent, lost an agent, or looking for an agent.  If they've sold movie rights or foreign rights, or received unusual and awesome fan mail.  If they've had a successful auction, if they had a failed auction, if they decided self-publishing was the way to go.  And for some writers, it is.  

Some writers will literally show pages of gorgeous photos that detail the major milestones and/or challenging events in their past year:  photos of their children's weddings, photos of their adorable young grandchildren, photos of their precious great-grandchildren still in the womb.  Some writers will show you videos of their book trailers or their vacation or their son beautifully singing and winning a contest.  Some writers will tell you stories of the disasters they have endured, stories of the triumphs of they have achieved, stories of what they hope will still occur.

And, if you have been gone a while, there is perhaps this most unexpected gift:  some writers will tell other people stories about how they met you--right in front of you--stories that are so glowing that you feel like melting away like Amelie with embarrassed pleasure.

I had lost these stories. 

Or, more accurately, I had never known them because these stories were not mine to tell.  So I listened.  And in the listening, I found pieces of myself I thought I had forever lost.  I found something undeniably real.

Keep your heart open

when you listen to someone

else's heart's stories.

And sitting by the bar at the fringes of this fabulous conference, I, who had felt so hopelessly inept with words, began telling stories again.  This is one of them.  There will be many more.  Because it's easy to lose.  It's easy to forget.  It's easy to ignore and neglect the small joys, the original sparks, the rare triumphs overshadowed by the relentless repetition of rejection that a struggling writer faces every day. 

This is why we need stories.  To remember.  To rejoice.  To heal.

Thank you, my wonderful writing friends, for the loving community and the precious gift of your stories.

Next year I will definitely join you all at the actual conference.

Why must we always

tell stories?  To remind us:

I am not alone.


Laugh Cry Moment - Best Marriage Proposal EVER

I'm finishing my Wiscon Blog, but this is seriously the Best Marriage Proposal EVER.  It begins "On Wed. May 23rd I told my girlfriend, Amy, to meet me at my parent's house. When she arrived I had stationed my brother to sit her on the back of a Honda CRV with some headphones on..."

High Quality Video Version

Lower Quality Video Version

It starts slow but quickly blossoms into lip syching awesome-sauce.  I don't know any of these people, but I want to know them.

It's a beautiful night

we're looking for something dumb

to do...all en masse.

Proof that SFF Can be Diverse: The Moment of Change Anthology

So I wasn't planning on this, but the deluge of publication news continues on my blog, which I guess is a good thing. Rose Lemberg has posted the Table of Contents for The Moment of Change, an anthology collecting previously-published speculative poetry. All I can say is WOW. I'm honored to see my poem "Self-Portrait" listed among excellent poems penned by writers whose work I adore, and I would list those names, except then I would be including over half of the TOC, so it's just easier to peruse the Table of Contents.

What makes me excited about this anthology is that Rose has searched for underrepresented voices concerned about speculative themes. She is actively debunking the stereotype of the typical science fiction writer--white-bearded straight white male who normally would never care about beauty of language. Listed in this anthology are writers who are female and/or multicultural and/or of color and/or LGBTQ and/or living with disabilities, and many other underrepresented populations. And they are true poets enamored with the beauty of words. Rose's success gives me hope in the diverse future of science fiction and fantasy.

Spectrum of voices
includes you--How to define
your moment of change?

Sale & Signal Boost - Strange Horizons Fund Drive

Strange Horizons is the oldest pro-paying online magazine completely devoted to the speculative. New fiction, poetry, and reviews are published every week and ranges from science fiction to fantasy to horror. What I admire about Strange Horizons is that they often publish the works of writers at the beginning of their careers, though the bar is high. I am fortunate to be one of those writers last year when they published my poem "Life Lessons," which ended up fourth in the 2010 Strange Horizons Readers Poll . I'm delighted to share that my poem has been reprinted in their anthology that Strange Horizons will be giving to all their donors in its annual fund drive this year. They have also collected over 50 fabulous prizes (many wonderful books including autographed novel by Ursula K. LeGuin) in a drawing for all their fund drive donors.

Want to read some amazing speculative fiction, poetry, and nonfiction? Go to Strange Horizons! My personal pick for their the home page right now is "In the Third Cycle" a fabulous poem by Rose Lemberg. If you like what you read, please consider donating now, since this is the last week of the drive.

Stretch your mind beyond
what you already know--find
your Strange Horizons.