Category Archives: Books

Nostalgia and the future/ factories and possibility

Was surprised and flattered to stumble upon this podcast in which two London writers talked about my story “What Is Lost”! They first discuss Amal El-Mohtar’s Seasons of Glass and Iron before discussing my story and nostalgia around 12:42. Check it out: Storyological 2.01

Also, I have one of my favorite stories that I’d written in Shanghai earlier this year coming out from Day One tomorrow! You can pre-order (or regular order tomorrow…) or get yourself a subscription to the magazine for like $1.59/month. For a lit mag that comes out weekly, it’s a pretty great deal. My story is called “Dream Machine” and is set in a factory on the outskirts of Shanghai. I’m so excited for this one and love the cover and Kate Peterson’s poem which shares the pages of this issue with me.

I’ve just returned from AWP in DC this last weekend and had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new people, talking to literary magazines and going to panels. Helping out the Center for Fiction was surprisingly fun and I was able to say hello to Gavin at Small Beer Press and the folks at Tin House where I’m a reader. Listened to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (so poised, so elegant!) speak with Ta-Nehisi Coates, Emma Straub and Ann Patchett, saw Roxanne Gay just hanging out at the hotel bar— you know, just normal writing conference life. Also, ate way too many biscuits at A Baked Joint because they were SO GOOD (and spicy!) All in all, a fun and educational break.

A new year

I started off 2016 eating fried chicken in Seoul with a friend named Nathan and ended it eating shrimp ceviche and fish tacos in Brooklyn with a different Nathan. Maybe this will become a new tradition, a new Nathan for every year. (just kidding, friends! I am not on the lookout for more Nathans!)

My story, A Ceiling of Sky, can now be read here!

My website is also finally up and running:

And 2017 has some exciting things in store. Some traveling to see a good friend on the west coast, an off-site reading during AWP in DC, a family trip, and two stories coming out soon, ones I’m super excited about and in really great publications.

And now, here’s my yearly list of books I’d read. I could’ve done better in terms of quantity but man, are there some gems in here:

1. The Sympathizer- Viet Thanh Nguyen
2. The Circle- Dave Eggers
3. Onion Tears- Shubnum Khan
4. On A Moonless Night- Dai Sijie
5. Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings-Stephen O’Connor
6. The Next- Stephanie Gangi
7. Modern Romance- Aziz Ansari (NF)
8. Square Wave- Mark De Silva
9. Nimrod Flip Out- Etgar Keret
10. A Walk in the Woods- Bill Bryson (NF)
11. A Tale for the Time Being- Ruth Ozeki
12. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up- Marie Kondo (NF)
13. Kitchen Confidential- Anthony Bourdain (NF)
14. A Little Life- Hanya Yanagahira
15. The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn- Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
16. The Rum Diary- Hunter S. Thompson
17. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon
18. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours- Helen Oyeyemi
19. Gold Fame Citrus- Claire Vaye Watkins
20. Black Glass- Karen Joy Fowler
21. The Star Side of Bird Hill- Naomi Jackson
22. The Heart Goes Last- Margaret Atwood
23. The Story of My Teeth- Valeria Luiselli
24. Re Jane- Patricia Park
25. A Separation- Katie Kitamura
26. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine- Alexandra Kleeman
27. The Bad Girl- Mario Vargas Llosa
28. The Dream-Quest of Velitt Boe- Kij Johnson
29. The Face: Strangers on a Pier- Tash Aw (NF)
30. Intimations- Alexandra Kleeman
31. Map of the Invisible World- Tash Aw
32. The Throwback Special- Chris Bachelder
33. Marrow Island- Alexis Smith
34. The Regional Office is Under Attack!- Manuel Gonzalez
35. Two Serious Ladies- Jane Bowles
36. All Over Creation- Ruth Ozeki
37. Burial Rites- Hannah Kent
38. Girl in Glass- Deanna Fei (NF)
39. The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be- J.B. MacKinnon (NF)
40. Wonders of the Invisible World- Christopher Barzak

Happy 2017, everyone!

The Center for Fiction is creating a podcast!

As you may know, I was a 2014 fellow at The Center for Fiction in NYC, an awesome organization that supports readers and writers with great free events, a beautiful bookstore and library, and writing classes. The people working there are amazing and know everyone within the literary community.

Anyway, they’re holding a kickstarter to create a podcast series with a super diverse selection of talks by authors who have done events there in the past, such as Jennifer Egan, Jhumpa Lahiri, and E.L. Doctorow. With only 5 days to go, they still have to raise another $3500! Go support them here!

A Chemical Wedding

Friends! Small Beer Press, the amazing indie press run by Gavin Grant and Kelly Link have put up their first Kickstarter! They’d love to publish beautiful editions of A Chemical Wedding, a 400 year old story John Crowley called “the first science fiction novel.” Go support it here. They’re almost halfway there and only have 8 days left!

*Edited to add*
And they made it! Woohoo!

Back to New York

Back in New York now after a long 14 hour flight from Shanghai. I’m feeling a bit of a sense of culture shock now that I’m back—where are the crowds? And the e-bikes? There’s so much diversity here! The roads in Brooklyn are potholed something awful and the single or double family homes around Jamaica are so much different from the skyscrapers and traditional housing of Shanghai. And here, you get a “Hey, beautiful,” instead of “Why aren’t you wearing a jacket? Aren’t you cold?!” (I prefer the latter, though.) It’s pretty warm here, too, and the magnolia trees are blooming! Two springs in one year—not bad. I can’t wait to start biking around.

But leaving Shanghai was pretty surreal and happened far too quickly. About three days before I left, I went to Suzhou for the day. SK and I peered down into wells and into a shop where a mechanized press printed sheet after sheet of material (is this how it works in the U.S. too?) We stumbled upon the bird and flower market where adorable ceramic flower pots and cacti in the shape of tiny rabbits were being sold, as well as turtles, pigeons, and puppies. On Pingjiang Rd, there were ice cream cones of different colors. Then it was time for the literary festival! It was lovely meeting Don and Lieve—Lieve was such a good storyteller that I barely had to say anything but it was a pleasure to listen to her. Afterwards, I read “Westward, Ever Westward” then had dinner with SK and Lieve before rushing off to the train station. Due to the traffic, we would’ve missed the train if it hadn’t been delayed an extra 10 minutes.

As part of the residency, all of us artists have to leave a “trace” that is then put in Swatch’s virtual museum online and may be shown in one of their galleries. I really liked the end result of my trace, titled “Smoke Signals.” Here’s what I wrote about my trace and some photos!

Using joss paper as a medium, Smoke Signals reflects and complicates the Chinese tradition of burning joss paper as money for ancestors in the afterlife. The joss paper is one that my family always uses but instead of putting it to its traditional use, I inscribe the last two lines of a poem I wrote referring to the use and significance of it upon Chinese culture. Within the center is a Chinese translation of the poem, almost invisible except in certain lights. In this way, this work comments upon the hidden messages within this tradition—paper as smoke signals and currency, the invisibility of the Chinese text—as well as reflecting the poem’s message in a physical form, using traditional materials in a non-traditional format.

Anyway, I’m really glad I did this residency—it was definitely a productive experience. I participated in one art show and two readings, wrote at least 5 short stories and a few smaller works, and met some amazing artists of all types from around the world. I’ll really miss a lot of my fellow residents—it was pretty hard saying goodbye when those I knew for three months left and only got harder with artists I’d known for longer. I know I’ll come back to China in the future—after living in China for almost two years in the last five years, I feel as though it’s my second home—but the artists I know will be scattered around the world. I suppose that gives me more of an excuse to travel, though! See you all someday in the near future!

I love you. I know.

My new favorite jacket:

Now that Chinese New Year festivities are over (no more Monkey king crowns with their long shiny antenna and all those lanterns and crowds over the bridge at Yuyuan), all the shops are open again. The other day, while walking from the French Concession, Ai and I found a mostly empty store filled with piles of miscellaneous items: heaps of rope, boxes of fabric cut into odd shapes for 1rmb each, bamboo hampers with the label “Flower” on them, oval shaped mirrors, straw slippers. It was a store that was about to close but it was hard to tell what sort of store it was in the first place. IMG_20160302_165106

T visited and I took him on an adventure to another of the islands in Hangzhou Bay, Qushan Island. There’s so little written about it on the internet so it was a real adventure. During our first night, we checked out four hotels before we settled on the last—the prices were all around the same but some were definitely more shady than others! One of the first we saw had a boudoir type photo on the wall and peeling wallpaper, at another, the guy showing us the room wouldn’t let us test out the hot water—never a good sign. Unfortunately, it rained all during our first and only full day there but we decided to go hiking regardless. We trekked past the city and towards the mountains, past farms, and first found a reservoir then a road into the “scenic area.” It was actually quite an undeveloped scenic area—the paved roads devolved into dirt road and we got sidetracked a few times, including once by google maps which showed a road that had been completely washed away. The coastline was unexpectedly…industrial isn’t quite the word I’m looking for but there were quarries and salt fields, not a completely natural coastline. Eventually, we found our way to the temples that are apparently the highlight of the scenic area but even they were quite different from what we expected. The temple was covered in mist so that you could barely see a few feet ahead of you and yet, it was more of an idea of a temple. Gates that were unfinished, a bridge without railings over what would one day be a pond. A monk passed us but didn’t say a word and later, we heard chanting from one of the buildings. Otherwise, we were alone but even if we weren’t, it would’ve been hard to see any other people. Incredibly surreal. P1140547 P1140551

The next morning though, before our ferry back, a walk along the western side of the coast—all fishing boats and repair yards. One road ended at a gate for a company but a man told us to go in where we saw machines that moved blocks of ice on conveyer belts above our heads and smashed them before dumping them into the ship’s hold. A perpendicular path took us through a vast space filled with long green fishing nets; the road then continued over swamp and towards towns nestled by the mountains. P1140559

Several new artists have arrived in the last month within a very diverse range of fields: architecture, music, sculpture, literature, graphic design, ceramics. We held an art talk for ourselves and it was fascinating to hear about everyone’s projects! Only wish I had more time to think about collaborations but now I’ve been here the longest out of everyone. I’m currently reading Shubnum’s novel, Onion Tears—really engrossing and a fun read, the setting so different from what I’m used to reading since it’s about an Indian family in South Africa. And can I say that I’m just a little bit in love with Ai’s photo collages? Oh and since we’re on the subject of artistic work, my friend Nathan (a fellow Hangzhou Fulbrighter from 2012) is working on a documentary about competitive yoga! I hadn’t even known the sport existed but it sounds pretty fascinating—here’s the concept: Posture: The World of Competitive Yoga,” explores the many controversies, lawsuits, and failed petitions for yoga to be recognized as an Olympic sport. The story follows several competitive yogis as they train towards the 2016 USA Yoga Federation’s National Tournament. This shit is about to get zen!” It comes out this winter. Check out their website and facebook page.

It’s pretty bittersweet now that my time here is coming to a close soon. I’ve loved meeting so many talented people (and learned a little bit about visual art, I think) but it’s been a bit hard watching people come and go since some only stay three months. And they’re scattered all over the globe! From Brazil to Germany to Serbia to Indonesia. But I’ve got a lot to keep me busy this last month: working on my “trace” to leave behind for the residency, visits to my relatives and my family’s hometown, and arts events. Plus, I’ll be participating in a few events in Suzhou for the Bookworm Literary Festival! I haven’t gotten much information about what I’ll be doing quite yet but will post once it’s all confirmed.

Oh, and here’s a photo of one crazy foggy day (not pollution!): P1140540

Happy New Year!

It’s Chinese New Year’s eve and it feels strange not being with family. On the street, the locals are burning paper money within chalk outlines, a circle with an opening. The smell of incense fills the air around the Jade Buddha temple and there are gates being set up, like the ones you tap your card on to get through to the metro station. Three cats sleep in a park near a building that references butterflies but I haven’t seen one around.

I walked along Suzhou Creek, past where I once saw a man with a monkey on a leash, without a destination in mind. On a street with the same name as my family’s Chinese hometown, an old complex lies half demolished amidst other buildings which have yet to be demolished—posters still on the walls where there are walls, empty frames of buildings when the walls are gone. Piles of rubble and bricks and plastic bags. Stray cats live here as well. But today was one of those days where you’re a bit in love with the world just for being there. IMG_20160207_152944

My reading+talk last month went well thanks to Josh at the consulate and his thoughtful questions and all the people who came despite the rain and listened to me and asked questions (shout-out to the Swatch crew and the current Hangzhou Fulbrighters!) Was happily surprised by those who came up to me afterwards with recommendations!
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Happy year of the monkey! We’re making dumplings tonight : ]

Oh and here’s my annual list of books I read (only 46 this year but I blame it on being in China):

1. We Are Not Ourselves- Matthew Thomas
2. Bed- Tao Lin (didn’t finish)
3. Land of Love and Drowning- Tiphanie Yanique
4. Almost Famous Women- Megan Mayhew Bergman
5. J- Howard Jacobson
6. One Story Collected- 2014 Literary Debutantes
7. There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, And He Hanged Himself: Love Stories- Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
8. Get in Trouble- Kelly Link
9. Young Woman in a Garden- Delia Sherman
10. Flings- Justin Taylor
11. We Have Always Lived in the Castle- Shirley Jackson
12. The Wilds- Julia Elliott
13. American Innovations- Rivka Galchen
14. Dept. of Speculation- Jenny Offill
15. Binary Star- Sarah Gerard
16. The Wallcreeper- Nell Zink
17. Maud’s Line- Margaret Verble
18. Wilberforce- H.S. Cross
19. Hausfrau- Jill Alexander Essbaum
20. The Miracle Girl- Andrew Roe
21. Make Your Home Among Strangers- Jennine Capo Crucet
22. Oh! You Pretty Things- Shanna Mahin
23. Come Along with Me- Shirley Jackson
24. Hangsaman- Shirley Jackson
25. The Lake- Banana Yoshimoto
26. Bark- Lorrie Moore
27. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China- Evan Osnos (NF)
28. You Never Can Tell- George Bernard Shaw
29. Monstress- Lysley Tenorio
30. Gutshot- Amelia Gray
31. Ruby- Cynthia Bond
32. Everything I Never Told You- Celeste Ng
33. The Memory Palace- Mira Bartok (NF)
34. Taipei- Tao Lin
35. Man V. Nature- Diane Cook
36. The Edge Becomes The Center- DW Gibson (NF)
37. Howl’s Moving Castle- Diana Wynne Jones (re-read)
38. Wind, Sand, & Stars- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (NF)
39. Station Eleven- Emily St. John Mandel
40. A Canticle for Leibowitz- Jr. Walter M. Miller
41. The Three Body Problem- Ciuxin Liu
42. Crazy Rich Asians- Kevin Kwan
43. How the Light Gets in- M.J. Hyland
44. One Day- David Nicholls
45. Fates & Furies- Lauren Groff
46. Brothers- Yu Hua

Underworld out in the world

Hey, my story Thirteen Steps in the Underworld was mentioned on Bookriot’s The Brave New World of Spec Fic Magazines: A Primer! I’m planning on checking out the other stories on the list; I’m always on the lookout for good speculative fiction. And Tor Books just tweeted the story the other day, too!

Always good to see that people are still reading stories published online over a year ago.

In other news, just submitted an incomplete draft of my collection to my editor today. 15 stories, 96 pages. Does this mean I have to write another 15 stories to have a full collection? I need to start writing longer stories…


Quick note to say I’ll be reading (along with 8 other amazing writers) at the Center for Fiction next Thursday! Gorgeous venue, a diverse group of writers, and wine afterwards. RSVP here. I really can’t believe almost the entire year of my fellowship has gone by already…

I just went to a great reading/talk tonight by DW Gibson on his book, The Edge Becomes The Center: An Oral History of Gentrification in the Twenty-First Century. It focuses on gentrification in New York City which I feel is a pretty hot topic these days. Here’s an excerpt that was published in New York Magazine. He’s also the director of Writers Omi at Ledig House, the residency I attended last year upstate. You know, the one with the pigs and horses and sculptures? Yeah, that one.

A year of reading

(and writing and applying…)

Hey, 2014 has been a pretty good year. Here are a few numbers* (it’s that time of year, right?)

1 move (to NYC)
2 stories published (White Snake, Green Snake in Fairy Tale Review and What Is Lost in Interfictions)
12 stories/projects in various stages (around 6 finished but probably in need of editing)
1 residency at Omi International Arts Center
1 fellowship at The Center for Fiction
3 readings (2 upstate, 1 in NYC)
5 states visited (RI, MA, CA, PA, DE)
18 job interviews
2 jobs
2 interviews (here & here)
15 blog posts (including this one!)
1 bicycle
1 Chinese conversation meetup attended
2 upstate hikes (Harriman State Park, Cold Spring) + more SF hikes
1 cat fashion show attended
2 bowling nights
6 plays seen (Stage Kiss, The Killer, Indian Ink, The Cottage, Wicked Frozen, Pocatello)
3 movies seen in theaters/does Central Park count? (American Hustle, Interstellar, The Royal Tenenbaums)
7 museums visited (The Met, MoMA, The Brooklyn Museum, Noguchi, Sculpture Center, Rubin, Museum of Chinese in America…I have a feeling I’m forgetting some…)
many new-to-me parks and gardens (Riverside, Astoria Park, Socrates Sculpture Park, Gantry State Park, Prospect Park, McCarren Park, SF Botanic Gardens, Oakland’s Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens)
65 books read! Here’s this year’s list:

1. Five Star Billionaire-Tash Aw
2. Tenth of December- George Saunders
3. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt- Aimee Bender (re-read)
4. A Natural History of Dragons- Marie Brennan
5. Soul Mountain- Gao Xingjian (didn’t finish)
6. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.- Adelle Waldman
7. The Color Master- Aimee Bender
8. The Magician’s Assistant- Ann Patchett
9. The Isle of Youth- Laura Van Den Berg
10. Tyrannia- Alan DeNiro
11. Ha’Penny- Jo Walton
12. The Defining Decade- Meg Jay (NF)
13. Love in the Time of Algorithms- Dan Slater (NF)
14. Super Sad True Love Story- Gary Shteyngart
15. Maddaddam- Margaret Atwood
16. Love Minus Eighty- Will Mcintosh
17. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- Ransom Riggs
18. On Such a Full Sea- Chang-rae Lee
19. The Interestings- Meg Wolitzer
20. Buying a Fishing Rod for my Grandfather- Gao Xingjian (didn’t finish)
21. The Love Story of a Young Monk- Wang Zengqi
22. Fairy Tale Review- 10th anniversary Emerald Issue
23. The Corpse Exhibition and other stories of Iraq- Hassan Blasim
24. A Thousand Morons- Quim Monzo
25. Gone to the Forest- Katie Kitamura
26. The Inheritance of Loss- Kiran Desai
27. The Tiger’s Wife- Tea Obreht
28. Boy, Snow, Bird- Helen Oyeyemi
29. East, West- Salman Rushdie
30. 2013 Center for Fiction Emerging Writers Fellows Anthology
31. The Cat’s Table- Michael Ondaatje
32. Soy Sauce for Beginners- Kirstin Chen
33. Running in the Family- Michael Ondaatje (NF)
34. Free Food for Millionaires- Min Jin Lee
35. Arcadia- Tom Stoppard (re-read)
36. Hark! A Vagrant- Kate Beaton
37. The Longshot- Katie Kitamura
38. The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold- Kate Bernheimer
39. Horse, Flower, Bird- Kate Bernheimer
40. The Enchantress of Florence- Salman Rushdie
41. Bellweather Rhapsody- Kate Racculia
42. The Snow Child- Eowyn Ivey
43. Fourth of July Creek- Smith Henderson
44. Prayers for the Stolen- Jennifer Clement
45. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle- Haruki Murakami
46. Cementville- Paulette Livers
47. The Enchanted- Rene Denfeld
48. The Beautiful Indifference- Sarah Hall
49. I Capture the Castle- Dodie Smith (re-read)
50. The Great Glass Sea- Josh Weil
51. Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal- Ava Chin (NF)
52. 2014 Center for Fiction Emerging Writers Fellows Anthology
53. Whistling Vivaldi- Claude M. Steele (NF)
54. In Persuasion Nation- George Saunders
55. State of Wonder- Ann Patchett
56. Dataclysm- Christian Rudder (NF)
57. Disgrace- J.M. Coetzee
58. Bossypants- Tina Fey (NF)
59. Chocolat- Joanne Harris
60. The Reprisal- Laudomia Bonanni, translated by Susan Stewart & Sara Teardo
61. This Is Where I Leave You- Jonathan Tropper
62. Stone Mattresses- Margaret Atwood
63. The Emerald Light in the Air- Donald Antrim
64. The Land of Steady Habits- Ted Thompson
65. The Invention of Exile- Vanessa Manko

*numbers may not be completely accurate due to author’s imperfect memory. Random additions or subtractions may be added.

Happy new year!