How to win at everything

If you’re walking home by yourself in the dark, and get cat-called by a group of men, stop. Place one hand against your ear like you’re talking into a small microphone, and say: “We got him. Send in backup.” Watch them scatter.

Do you have a problem with people crowding the poles on the subway? Whisper “gonorrhea.” Press up against them. Sneeze or cough on them. Breathe, heavily, on their necks. They’ll love that.

Always give up your subway seat to expectant mothers and mothers with small children (notice I didn’t say tall). Smile, and say, “Your kids look delicious.”

There is nothing better than leaving a psychiatric hospital, breathing in the polluted air, meeting new people to scream at, and jumping in front of cars on purpose. #namaste

Nazis matter. They’re beautiful, too. #stopNazishaming

They should have let Hussein live.

Never trust anyone named Nancy.

Your whole life is a lie. You’re Asian. That’s the only thing you can be. When people ask what language you speak, say Asian. And when they suggest that you look this rather than that, say, “No, sir, I’m Asian.” Or Alien.

Say “Shank you,” rather than “Thank you.” It’s the right way to do it.

When people tell you about their bad day, interrupt them to tell them how badly yours had gone. Override them if they try to interrupt.

If someone says, “Not to be racist,” kick them in the balls or punch them in the boobs or both, and make a run for it.

Foreclosure is good. Foreplay is bad.

Guys love it when you whisper “Schweaty balls” in their ears, then walk away backwards, making sure to maintain eye contact.

Stay close to your loved ones. They’d love to see how much of an asshole you’ve become.

A foreign experience

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Since freshman year ❤

I told myself I’d write about my Italy trip immediately upon my return. (I also promised that I’d update this blog more frequently. Total fail). I wanted to capture the memories before they disappeared. Every time I travel to another place, I come back feeling as if I’d fallen out of a dream—a wondrous sort of existence filled with freedom and possibilities. It’s been more than two weeks, but I think I needed the time to let the experience sink in.

Let me tell you, I am so jealous of people who’ve had the chance to study abroad. I had an opportunity in junior year, but due to concerns about security in my country choice, I couldn’t go. And though I made the best of that year, I have regrets. The opportunity to learn another language? Be immersed in a different culture? Have the freedom to explore? EAT THE FOOD?!? Again: so freaking jealous.

In Italy, I was with one of my best friends, Ali, (oh and Eric, too, I guess) and she was an amazing tour guide. I was able to get a taste of what she sees every day. We stayed in Florence for most of the time, touring the Boboli Gardens, hanging out by the Ponte Vecchio, and climbing the Duomo. I bargained my way through the San Lorenzo leather market. We took a day trip around the Chianti region where we learned about terracotta and the politics of growing grapes. I saw countless rolling hills and majestic castles. I tried eight different types of wine and didn’t fall asleep (right away! #asianwin). I ate prosciutto, salami, cheese, and other things that I’m trying to burn off now. We stayed overnight in Rome and saw the Colosseum and the Vatican (no pope). We even got to see Ali’s office in Florence.

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Santa Croce

Okay, that was a bit of an eh moment, compared to the other activities, but I still felt excited.

I really loved the churches. Ali joked that I’d return to the States as a Catholic. I couldn’t get enough of them! It’s funny, since I’m shuffling between agnosticism and atheism. What I mean by that is that I don’t usually step into churches (not that I devalue these places in any way). Churches are hallowed grounds. While I admired the artwork and statues, people prayed in the pews. Have you ever watched people pray? Their earnestness allured me: the wrinkles between their brows, their lips moving silently, their hands tightly intertwined. Occasionally I felt as if I had to look away, like I was intruding.

One of my favorite church experiences happened in Ognissanti. A flute player and a pianist were just hanging in the front with the Franciscan friar (who was surfing the web on his phone!), and they started playing. I felt as if I was transported to a different time.

What I also loved about Florence was the energy. New York is always bustling. It’s a constant stream of noise and grit — naturally, as an introvert,  I usually get tired of being in crowds. Although Florence was certainly crowded, the rush felt different. People walked along the cobblestone roads freely and leisurely, only to move aside when they realized a taxi was trailing behind them. I didn’t mind the tourists so much as I was too busy looking everywhere. All of the buildings seem to have a history. The scenery, untouched by sewage smog so common in New York, made my heart skip.

During our last hours in Italy we sat in the Piazzale Michelangelo among couples sharing a bottle of cheap wine, families winding down, and friends catching up after a long day. A very talented singer belted her heart out just below us. We watched the sun set slowly. I said my goodbyes to this beautiful city.

IMG_5160I can see why people like to travel, why people make a big deal out of it. I met many Americans who moved to Italy because they fell in love with the country and felt a sense of belonging. My time in Italy only lasted a week, but I felt moved by it. I needed this vacation to sort out concerns and anxiety, which have been with me since graduating college. This trip has given me a lot to re-consider. It’s given me, again, a slither of life away from what’s familiar (something I consciously wanted when I first moved to Brooklyn and started my job). Florence has renewed me.

Thanks, Ali, for hosting us! We had a great time. I’ll always remember this experience.

“Yeah, um, I don’t like to read.”

ConversationsI’m not that good at starting them. Some people might think I’m odd, but one of the questions I might ask a stranger is what she or he is reading. I was at a writing group one time, and met a girl who was close to my age. She had just read an excerpt from her fiction short story. Asking for her reading preference didn’t seem unusual to me, especially because we were in a writing environment, but then she laughed shortly and answered:

“Yeah, um, I don’t like to read.”

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I tried hiding my shock, but I’m told that my emotions show.

In general I’m not bothered by people who don’t like to read. It’s perfectly fine for people to consume information through a different medium. But it doesn’t make sense to me when I hear that a writer dislikes reading. For my entire life, reading and writing have always gone hand in hand.

Let me explain how I started writing. I read the Harry Potter series over and over again, and in between each book release I created elaborate stories involving Rowling’s characters (aka, fanfiction). Eventually, I realized that my plots involved little to no magic, and my characters were unlike the characters within Rowling’s pages, so I knew that I’d outgrown the Harry Potter world, and needed to create my own. I started writing because I liked reading so much and I wanted different things to read.

I can say that one of my main sources of inspiration stems from the books I read (Harry Potter is only one example). When I can’t think of anything to write, I find refuge in books. True, there have been times when I purposely stopped reading. I foolishly convinced myself that I should focus on my own writing, that I should create sentences and stories, not absorb them. I also worried that by reading and writing at the same time I might accidentally compose a sentence that sounds good, only to realize I had read it in someone else’s work. However, I’ve learned that inspiration doesn’t mean plagiarism (well, to Shia LaBeouf it might). It’s taking one small, compressed detail in an existing work and expanding it into a completely different piece.

Take postmodern literature for example. Wide Sargasso Sea explores the life of a character who later becomes the madwoman in the attic in Jane Eyre. You can also consider more irreverent titles like Jane Slayre, which re-imagines the title character as a demon-slaying heroine. While still relying on the bare bones of Jane Eyre, Jean Rhys and Sherri Browning Erwin‘s novels created something different from the original story.

Additionally, writers who read have a better sense of their place in the spectrum of existing writers, and this awareness helps when you’re trying to establish your writing career. In publishing, there’s something called a Hollywood formula. When pitching a book in a letter, sometimes it’s easiest to write, “This book is such and such meets such and such.” Inception meets 10 Things I Hate About You. Um, well, that might be a weird description. I don’t even know how to make sense of that . . . I hope you get my point. Just one sentence can help an editor understand the content of your work, but it’s near impossible to make comparisons without possessing knowledge of those who are deemed great writers in your genre.

By reading, writers also gain literary aspirations. Be jealous of great writers! I’m constantly envious of today’s writers; I’ve read works from storytellers like Kate Milliken and Denis Johnson, and I think, “Damn. These people are unbelievably good.” I endeavor to be like them one daynot for the fame, but for the ability to evoke powerful, lasting emotions in strangers. People often say that you learn a lot from life, but I’ve learned so much from writers. (I guess what I’m saying is redundant because writers essentially mold life and its peculiarities into plausible words and sentences). I learned about the economy in writing from Raymond Carver, the unnecessary existence of form and punctuation from José Saramago, and the art of writing fascinating disturbed characters from Vladimir Nabokov, Ian McEwan, and Bret Easton Ellis.

If I could meet this non-reader writer againdespite the size of New York, it’s still a possibilityI’d encourage her to read more and read well, and perhaps leave her with this quote from Stephen King regarding the synergy between reading and writing:

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor. . . .” (Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)

I’m interested to see which books have influenced writers the most. I’m starting a page called A Writer’s Toolbox, and would love to hear your suggestions. Comment or answer the poll below!

Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions

Yeah, I’m unique because I posted this on Jan. 2 and not Jan. 1.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope everyone finds what they’re looking for, and I hope everyone experiences the joy of stumbling across something unexpected.

2014 was hectic. I graduated from college, got a job in Manhattan, and moved way out of my comfort zone to a place in Brooklyn. I’m ready for more surprises! Here are a few of my hopes for 2015:

Continue writing. That includes updating this blog more often. I feel as if I’ve been editing instead of writing, stripping away the emotional nuances in my stories and leaving behind coarse, but grammatically correct sentences. I also want to finish at least one story and have it proofread, before sending it off to a journal or a magazine (and accepted!).

Read more. I’ve read books, of course, but not as many as I want to read. First book for me to finish in 2015? “Why I Read?” by Wendy Lesser. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed my subway stop because of this book. It’s rare for a nonfiction book to have that effect on me. Reading it really strengthens my love for the written word.

Now I just have to resist Netflix, but they tease me:

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Make friends and cherish the ones I have. What I’ve realized is that you make friends without knowing it. One day, you think about someone and they think about you, and you gradually see each other more and more, and a nice friendship forms. The other day, I looked around the room, and found myself feeling grateful for each and every person surrounding me, who’ve affected me in more ways than one.

One of my worries after graduating college was losing touch with friends, but I feel even closer to them now that they are far away. Being able to keep in touch with them—via text, phone, or email—proves that our friendship goes beyond Stag Nation, and has love and respect as its foundation. #Gurls, you’re the best.

Be healthy. In my defense, I signed up for my gym membership way before New Year’s Day, so exercising is not my main resolution. I’ll try eating healthier, which means cutting down my consumption of desserts and fried food (though I started off the new year by eating fried chicken from Amy Ruth’s. Shhh!!!).

What’s your New Year’s resolution?

An editor’s perspective on writing

I went to a brown bag lunch the other day, and it was led by Colin Harrison, the Vice President and Editor-in-Chief at Scribner. Before joining Scribner, he was the deputy editor for Harper’s Magazine. He’s an accomplished novelist but edits mostly nonfiction because he enjoys the challenge, the journey that he takes with the sometimes nervous and overburdened writer.

These sessions allow young editors the opportunity to interact with someone who, before, had only been known by name.

Harrison is a middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair and a well-kept winter beard, and he talks with his hands. I expected the typical spiel about the business of books, but he actually provided an intimate account of writing and editing. I felt that some of his points might help me and you (whoever “you” might be) become better writers.

“What does it mean to be a writer?” he asked us. We all worked in different departments: editorial, marketing, finance, and legal. First thing that popped into my head is that writers need to be a bit bonkers. They need a small dose of insanity to conjure wild stories. Harrison definitely agreed, saying that a writer either wears this stereotype like a badge of honor or profusely denies it.

But, “writers are [also] criminals,” he remarked. While others aren’t noticing, while they are too busy obsessing over the superficiality of the world—the Kardashians, for example—writers take what they see as authentic and appropriate it to their own use. Without others knowing, these writers commit a slight theft, storing knowledge for later use.

Harrison also discussed the challenges that writers encounter: the form, the story, and the process.

The Form. This should be the easiest thing to figure out, right? Wrong. Sometimes you’ll need the reader to point out that one form would benefit the story more than another. There have been plenty of times when I critiqued a writer’s work at my writing group and saw that the story could have functioned as a poem, rather than a short story.

The Story. Ugh, the struggle. I often ask myself why I’m telling this person’s story? What is the narrative that will grab the readers’ heart, hold them hostage until they become willing visitors to another world?

The Process. Every writer has a particular way of functioning. Harrison mentioned someone he knows who writes in the morning. And every morning, his wife would pour water on his head to wake him up. Funnily enough, this practical joke has become a step that the writer takes to jump-start his writing process. I haven’t developed a process that benefits me fully, but I will.

Oftentimes, writers mistake one problem for another. Example: I can’t figure out how to write this story in first person. Someone else asks: Why? Writer: Because the coffee shop where I write gets noisy and I can’t concentrate when that happens. What they think is a form problem actually turns out to be a process problem.

Finally, Harrison also talked about the definition of a book. He dismissed the normal definition that we all use, and of course, tweaked it with a novelist’s flair. According to him, a book is a machine of language. The beginning brings readers to the middle, which leads to the end; every part of a novel benefits the next. So, in this sense, editors are the mechanics. A book comprises a narrative, an argument, or a list. If you have trouble placing your book into any of these categories, then you might not have a book.

Well, it’s obvious by now that I love talking about writing! Perhaps too much. But I hope Harrison’s tips resonate with you as much as they resonate with me. Comment below to let me know your thoughts!

Other posts on writing: 

What I learned after working at literary agency 

In search of a writing community

What I learned from reading and writing fanfiction

Letters to myself

A week before graduation (wow, six months ago?), a creative writing professor asked us to write letters to send to ourselves. I’d gotten mine in September, and it’s taped to the wall, right above my writing desk. Whenever I hit a writer’s block, I look up from my computer screen and stare at this letter.

This letter reminds me of promises that I had made. Most of the time, however, this letter funnily reminds me that inside this petite Asian body is a character I imagine to be similar to Clint Eastwood …

Dear Loan,

You’re probably still procrastinating and wondering if your novel is “worth it,” if your writing in general is “worth it.” You always doubt yourself, you always go back and forth with your ideas, and you always say, “I’ll write it soon.” I want to tell you to stop that bullshit.

Sit the fuck down and write.

And when you can’t, go outside, wherever you are, and observe the things going on around you. Create a story for the people who walk with their heads down, for the people who look angry or upset. Look for the houses that look abandoned, the cracks on the road … let yourself be inspired by the broken.

Then go back and

1. Work on your novel.

2. Say ‘hi’ to your family.

3. Work on your short stories.

Love,

Loan

Sit the fuck down and write. Maybe I should copyright that phrase. Does anyone want to buy a poster? No, no one?

Whatever. I think you might like this, too–here’s something I wrote in 2009, back when I was just getting serious with my writing (completely unedited, unfortunately). I read it the other night, and I was surprised by how fervent I sounded as a high school junior.

(By the way, does anyone use Facebook’s Notes section anymore? That’s where I had posted this letter. To save myself from embarrassment, I have since deleted all of my notes.)

My Purpose

I find myself contemplating about my purpose in life. I suppose this can relate to everyone has been lost before. It’s a narcissistic quality that is innate in all humans–the feeling that you were made to do something. Feeling, deep down, that some divine power had placed you on earth for a singular purpose. Believing that you were genetically designed to do one thing that could affect the process of our metaphysical world. Unfortunately, it just takes an insane amount of time to find a niche.

These thoughts of mine had resulted from a digression in self-esteem. It has been going for the past few days, I admit. Grades, friends, family…I took a hit one day, staggered, got hit with another, and finally, I fell. After this, the world ceased to make sense to me.

I don’t want to make a difference. That’s right. I don’t. Personally, I’m simply not capable of changing the way the world runs. Some people dream of creating inspiring and brilliant theories in science and math and stuff like that. Me? I’m not gong to invest my time to try and reach something that’s best to be left high in the sky. But I do want to be noticed. Do you have to bring a change if you want to be recognized? What reasons make people look at you with respect and awe?

I want to be a writer, plain and simple. But I can’t find the main driving force behind my desire. Perhaps I never will. Do I have to have one reason?

Do I want to write in order to be recognized? That’s one question.

Yes, I suppose I do.

Do I want to write because it makes me feel great?

Hell yes. Solved.

Writing is…indescribable. I love the smell of graphite that reaches my nose whenever my pencil caresses paper. I love hearing the words that I write echo in my head, in the way I intend them to be said, heard, and felt. I love the perplexity that I feel when I can’t find this one word…and I love trying to sift through the files of my mind to find it.

And when I do, the word fits snugly into the puzzle that is my sentence. Suddenly, it all makes sense. I love the fact that nothing is finished until a period is meticulously dotted. That a stretching sea of beautiful bountiful blue will forever go on until I write “and then it was drained of all water”. I love the pictures that are painted by my words and pencil (No paint, no mess). That when I used the world “pencil”, I only saw me and my red Coca Cola pencil against my piece of paper. I love the feeling of my pencil in my hand, because it’s like my hand has molded itself to let my pencil, my creative extension, fit. There’s a mark made by my pencil on the third finger, and it’ll remind me of my writing which will forever be etched in my soul.

No one has told me my purpose. At certain times, I feel like I have none. Like someone had just put me on earth for entertainment, to watch and laugh at whenever they feel sadistic.

Other times, like the moment that had occurred two minutes ago while I was writing this, I know what I need to do. And I will let no one tell me what I can and should do. It’s me who has to find a purpose. And my purpose is to write. Therefore, I am a writer.

 I guess I don’t want to let my 16-year-old-self down. Better keep writing.

Photographed by Alyssa Coffin in 2008?

Photographed by Alyssa Coffin in 2008?

Fleeting Thoughts: A Spark

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Photo by Terabass.

Many New Yorkers seem to have resting bitch faces. I see people wearing their masks while riding on the subway and walking down the street. It looks like they’re dead inside. And I’ve been closing myself off, too, when I go back to my Brooklyn apartment alone, when men on the street—with seemingly no other place to go—tell me to smile, beautiful. (I always refuse.)

New Yorkers distinguish themselves from tourists by their brusqueness—their elbows and shoulders steel as they part rapid streams of tourists, their legs quick as they cross the street even if the sign says Do Not Walk. It seems easier to continue this way to work, to school, etc.

These days, anyone who deviates from this pattern catches my attention. On the subway, a couple showing each other the smallest of affections—holding hands or sharing a secret smile—somehow seem fascinating, and makes me wonder about the life they share and will share. The sound of a baby laughing causes me to turn my head. It’s like something inside me flickers on.

I have many conflicting feelings towards New York life, and lately I’d been feeling an intense disdain for my new home. I don’t know what happened, but my sense of wonder had disappeared. But after walking back from the gym yesterday along Broadway, New York came to life: radiant lights, smoke from the food carts floating in the air, languages blending like harmony. I thought: I am here, now.  I just need to hold on to this wonder and hope that it’s good enough for me.

Add to your ‘list of things to do immediately’: Attend a Too Many Zooz performance

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Leo P. on the baritone sax. / Photo credit: Loan Le

Leo P. knows how to move. That was one thing I noticed at last Saturday’s Too Many Zooz concert at SOB’s on Varick Street. It’s not the most important detail, but it might be one that can explain Too Many Zooz’ rising popularity.

The Harlem-born brass house band—consisting of trumpeter Matt Doe, baritone saxophonist Leo P., and percussionist-extraordinaire David “King of Sludge” Parks—rose to fame in the beginning of the year when a video of their Union Square performance went viral.

Brass house is a genre mixing rock, EDM, jazz, and African drumming. Unlike the constant stream of pop and EDM music so popular these days, Too Many Zooz are able to satisfy listeners with addicting, pulsing sounds not from a digital mixer, but from smooth saxophone riffs, powerful trumpeting, and organic percussion that makes your bones vibrate.

At their midnight show, Too Many Zooz performed songs from their sophomore EP FANIMALS, which was released Sept. 6. “Wet” had a strong jazz influence, its swaggering rhythm very much evident. “Limbo” seemed to slow down the concertgoers, reducing their jigs to a head-bobbing movement. And yes, Too Many Zooz also delighted the crowd with “To the Top,” “Maritza,” and “F.W.S.”, the songs put them on people’s radars in the first place.

Parks backed his band mates with his underlying percussion, though I hoped for a solo from him. Doe, with steel lungs, commanded the trumpet, hitting high notes that were pleasantly on pitch. Leo P. showed off his quick-footed moves during his solos—which must have delighted the male and female attendees, if their screams were indicative of their enthusiasm.

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l to r: Leo P., David Parks, Matt Doe / Photo credit: Loan Le.

The front row danced absurdly, while other concertgoers remained somewhat conservative with their dancing, perhaps contained by the packed floor space. It was hard not to find Too Many Zooz’ beats contagious. At one point Doe gave a PSA announcement, urging everyone to step up their moves. All bands need a voice, and Doe seemed to be the perfect person for the role as he cracked jokes and directed the attention over to his band mates rather than to himself.

In the background, a screen played clips of wildlife as the band’s visuals—from elephants walking in their herds to lions dragging its predators across an arid desert. Such segments certainly reflected the inhuman sounds that Too Many Zooz was so capable of making. While their sound was entertaining, seeing their live performance was also a wonderful treat.

Recently, Moon Hooch, fellow buskers, appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk, a segment known for showing talented up-and-coming and veteran artists. Perhaps Too Many Zooz will join the celebrated guest list soon?

Stalk Too Many Zooz:

Soundcloud

Twitter

Facebook

In search of a writing community

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Oh wow! Writers in their natural habitats!

In a previous blog post, I wrote about loneliness and the transition from college life to semi-adult life. Short summary: It wasn’t going very well. My way of coping, of abating that loneliness, was to write. Interestingly enough, after I published that post, a stranger on Twitter suggested that writing could also be the cause of loneliness. I suppose this person is half-right; when you’re doing something you love, you’re in the moment, and you can forget where you are. But I don’t want writing to prevent me from meeting people; I decided that writing should help me meet people.

I immediately began my search for writing groups in NYC and Brooklyn, and let me tell you: The quest was exhausting. I left my first meeting feeling utterly disappointed. I was the youngest person in attendance, and felt as if the older members devalued my opinions. They were also creepy.

Then I attended a Gotham Writers’ Workshop course in downtown Brooklyn, which turned out to be a much better experience. I felt included—perhaps it was because the instructor sought to make all writers feel comfortable. Despite this, I’m not sure I’d want to pay $20 for another course. The instructor only allowed us to offer positive feedback. I’m all for positive energy, but I wonder how we’ll improve as writers if we receive only positive feedback. Perhaps I am used to seeing my writing be brutally torn apart, thanks to my journalism experience (starting with the time I got a 76 on my first journalism assignment in Dr. Simon’s freshman news writing class…but that doesn’t really matter…)

Anyways, guys, I’ve finally found a writers’ group. It’s been around for twelve years, with a solid core and a welcoming attitude toward newer members like moi. I’ve attended four meetings so far, recently returning from a session last night, and I feel like I can belong here eventually. I really enjoyed meeting and talking to the other writers. There’s a writer who is a financial analyst by day and a horror screenwriter by night, a former Silicon Valley techie working on a (surprise!) technology thriller, and a librarian writing the next big teen novel (sans vampires).

Here’s the drill: we chat for a few minutes and then take an hour to work on our writing. After the host says stop, we spend two and a half hours reading and critiquing each other’s works. Three types of readers usually show up to these meetings. There are the immediate volunteers. This person is confident enough to be the first to read. Or, this person is overly confident and likes the sound of his or her own voice (ew). There are the reluctant sharers. They look around and see no one volunteering. They decide, after a sigh, to read. There are the oh-god-don’t-look-at-me non-readers. They usually sit in the corner and frantically shake their heads when asked to read. They don’t share in fear that they might be horrible—but by doing this, they might be brilliant writers, but we’d never know it.

I can be any of these three types of people, but I tend to be the reluctant reader. I’ve always been a self-conscious speaker, because I stumble over my words. Good thing I can practice at these meetings! It actually helps to listen to myself. For example, if I struggle with a sentence, I make sure to mark the spot and see if I can smooth it out later.

As much as I love writing and reading my work, my favorite part is the feedback session. Over the years I’ve received countless writing advice from trustworthy writers, and I like to absorb all that I can to become a better writer. Naturally, I want other writers to feel like they’re receiving constructive feedback—something they can use and not just think about. At the last group meeting, our critique got intensely detailed. For about twenty minutes, we pondered if it was right for a particular character to drink Bass Pale Ale. Yes, I know how silly that sounds, but we were all serious! Is this character really a Bass guy? Or would he drink Guinness? Decisions, decisions (As a non-drinker, I tried to play along).

I do worry, however, that some feedback will go unheard. Writers can’t help but feel a small stab whenever they receive critiques. There are some who can swallow their pride, and there are others who feel the need to defend their every word. I’m sure people have felt the frustration of explaining a critique only to find a writer completely intolerant to the idea that maybe – just maybe – they have committed a fault in their writing. Because of this, I sometimes prefer writing feedback, rather than giving it to the person upfront (yay reader’s reports!)

I’m so excited for more writing sessions!

In effort to become more social on the web (I hear writers need to do that these days), here’s a question to end this post: writers, what do you think of writers’ groups?

 

 

 

 

Tuesday dance classes

Before graduation, my creative writing professor said that people who go into publishing rarely succeed in becoming writers. Not that they don’t have talent, but because they’re so busy nurturing someone else’s writing that they forget about their own. My professor told me I should not waste my talent. After that, he said I should take a break from my writing and do other things to distract me. Solution? Dance.

I’ve been feeling restless lately. I have a desk job, so I’m always sitting in front of the computer, surrounded by relative silence. People are reading manuscripts, writing reports, or answering emails. Sometimes I miss the absolute chaos of a newsroom, the air tense with panic and fear. Every day I leave work itching to move. I decided that I needed to find a new hobby, one that doesn’t involve a keyboard. While my mind gets quite an exercise when I write, my body undoubtedly suffers. So I started tap dancing again. Because why not? After calling my mom to dig up my tap shoes, which she swore she threw out, I went to Mark Morris Dance Center and enrolled in a tap dance class for adults. I’m on my fourth class, and I still love it.

Believe it or not, I danced for ten years, from elementary school to ninth grade. I don’t tell many people that, because I never considered it real dancing. I wasn’t learning choreography in a proper studio. Our dance classes played out in the auditorium of a run-down elementary school in Waterbury, Conn., as part of a now-defunct Parks and Recreation program. Instead of learning multiple choreographies, we learned only two in a year, and we’d perform it at John Kennedy High School in May, all decked out in our glittery costumes. (I so wish I had a picture to put on this blog).

It’s an amazing feeling to see that other adults are also enthusiastic about learning how to tap. It shows that anyone can learn, that age is not an obstacle. Our tap dance class comprises people with different backgrounds; there’s a drummer, a second-grade teacher, a software engineer, and a really cool publishing editorial assistant (wink wink).

Dancing is my distraction at the moment, but it’s made me realize a few things, too:

  • Dancing is like writing.  Just as you write your novel sentence by sentence, you learn a choreography step by step in groups of eight counts. You practice the combination over and over, just as you rewrite a sentence until it flows. Eventually you’re able to piece together combinations, like how you stitch together sentences to form a cohesive paragraph. Both dance and writing are work-in-progress past-times that require hours of practice.
  • It’s hard to find a style. When dancing, I have no style whatsoever. My moves are soft when they’re supposed to be hard; my attitude is timid and not tough like the teacher had said we should be. Even as I executed the moves on the right count, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the dance look as good as the teacher.
  • (follow-up) Mistakes are wonderful. How else will you learn?

I have the utmost respect for dancers—for all artists who seek to share their joy. Next blog post: Finding a writer’s group! 🙂