Tag Archives: NYC

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!

Q-Boro Literary Crawl

I’ll be reading at the Q-Boro Literary Crawl in Forest Hills this Thursday, 4/28 at Red Pipe Café on 71-60 Austin Street! I’m on the Queens Book Festival stage and will be the first reader on the 2nd leg, starting around 8:15pm. Come and join us for a night of readings, performances, food and drink specials, and an after-party! Tickets are currently $10 and can be found here—prices go up day of. All the proceeds go towards the 2016 Queens Book Festival, happening this summer.

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.
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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.
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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!
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Good Ghosts

Things have been pretty crazy here in New York. There have been birthdays and trip planning and future planning and everyday planning like “How do I see my doctor if they decide to go on vacation for several weeks right as I get an ear infection?” July & August: the months when you need to get things done but can’t because everyone’s on vacation. IMG_20150813_192553

So, to catch up, here’s a list of everything.

1) David Wax Museum was a lot of fun to listen to and watch when they played last month at a free show in the enclosed parking lot of City Winery. Suz played the donkey jawbone a time or two (one of its teeth popped out!) and there were plenty of new songs I hadn’t heard before! Crazy to think that it’s been four years since I met them when they came to check out my apartment sublet in Amherst.

2) The Chinese consulate. Nervewracking but not as bad as I expected (judging from the terrible yelp reviews) but hey, those yelp reviews were super helpful in filling out the paperwork. You wait in line outside the building, turn off your cell phone, go through the metal detectors, get your number, and wait for the board to read out your number and tell you which window to go to. Quite civilized, actually. I was a bit nervous when the consulate clerk asked me to explain and write out the topic of my writing since I’d put my employment as Writer. It’s a good thing that folktales aren’t politically sensitive! I’d show you a photo but you know, that kind of thing isn’t allowed. Consulates are serious business.

3) Trip planning because…I’m going to Europe for several weeks next month! And then heading to Shanghai on my residency! I’ve been preparing by eating chocolate croissants and using Duolingo to brush up on all this French that I don’t remember learning back in high school. How did I get As if so much of the grammar seems completely new to me? Unfortunately, trip prep also means trying to get all sorts of medical things done when all the doctors want to go on vacation. But that also leads to…

4) NY bucket list activities! Sri Lankan buffet in Staten Island? Check. Kayaking through the canals of Oakdale, complete with white herons fishing beside us? Check. Bronx Zoo where a lion roared at us five times and we saw an adorable red panda? Check. Lunch at the almighty Googley? Check. (Thanks, T! Thanks, Googley! I quite liked those potato pancakes and the beef- was it pot roast?) Eat a Chickenshack sandwich from Shake Shack? Check and it was alright but nothing too special. Hiking with friends+dog upstate? Check (P.S. don’t let your friends carry two gallons and two liters of water because that is INSANE.) I’ve still got a bunch of things on this yet-to-be written down bucket list like go see Catherine Lan’s exhibit at the Queens Museum, go to the Queens Night Market, win the Hamilton lottery, and eat at every place I’ve ever dreamed of eating at. I’m looking at you, Tortilleria Nixtamal+Ice & Vice+the one and only Arepa Lady! IMG_20150815_124343 IMG_20150807_154536

Also, this doesn’t take place in NYC, but I am so so so excited to see Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests in Massachusetts next weekend! So cool. And it’s a good excuse to bring me back to that area and binge on Toscanini’s ice cream which is only the best ice cream in the world. B^3 for the win.

5) And then there was last week where it seemed as though everyone I’d ever known were suddenly either coming to NYC or facebooking me out of the blue. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but I was contacted by two friends I hadn’t talked to in at least 5 years, one of them probably closer to 10 years. And then I went to see the Furious Girl Tour which consisted of three poets I went to grad school with and it was quite furious indeed. Then my landlord+lady (ha) from 2012 was in town and we got lunch at Ayada Thai—it was really tremendously nice to see them and catch up. Many ghosts but they were good ghosts; in general, I’m mostly pretty happy to meet up with people I haven’t seen in a while. So if you’re a good ghost, you can contact me and I’ll probably get a muffin with you. Or force you to watch some free dance shows.

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Oh and 6) My story, “Westward, Ever Westward” is coming out in Okey-Panky next Monday! It’s short and sweet; I guarantee you’ll like it or your money back.

A day in the Rockaways

The Rockaways are filled with seagulls who will steal your hot sauce, leaving a trail of red down the beach and ten tacos in need of sauce. Black-headed gulls hover overhead as you play badminton against the wind. You hit it towards the ocean so that it can boomerang with the wind toward your opponent’s racket. It’s a complicated maneuver. Park security says “You can’t go in the wat-ah,” not even to dip your toes in unless guarded by the lifeguards in their billowing red outfits. The park security ladies scold everyone they see and chase rule-breakers on slow, lumbering feet.
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We decorate A with seashells and for some reason, find ourselves doing burpees on the beach after watched J9 & A comparing crossfit moves. The water is freezing this early in summer and your legs quickly go numb. Ijl dives in and eventually, A follows. They are water creatures—sea otters and porpoises.
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The taco tortillas have gone stale so I eat the filling from one and tell A that the filling has somehow gone missing while he is in the convenience store. I love that he believes me but he tells me he can never trust me again. Sorry, A, I just can’t help it.P1120876

Sculptures+literature= a great combination

I probably learned that wonderful piece of “mathematics” first at Omi International Arts Center but hey, I’m reprising it here in New York City! Come join me and three other Queens-based writers at a free public reading at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City on July 11th at 4pm. It’s a bit early to announce it (I seem to like to tell people things last minute, I suppose) but I know people plan their summers way ahead of time.

This will be the culmination of my QCA grant and so, disclaimer: This event is made possible by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. The readings will focus on place and I’ve finally finalized my list of readers! They are Joanne Chin, Jennifer Baker, and Concetta A. Ceriello. Yay to discovering new (to me) local writers!

Okay, here’s the official Facebook events page but in case you’re not on Facebook, here are the important details:

July 11, 2015, 4:00pm
Socrates Sculpture Park
32-01 Vernon Boulevard
Long Island City, NY

Here’s a map with directions, courtesy of the park.

Come out and support the Queens literary community and say hello! (Maybe I will make cookies…? No promises.)

Long weekend adventures

Last weekend, long as it was, was surprisingly packed with impromptu adventures. Starting Friday, N and I took a day-long jaunt out to an empty Coney Island. The weather was beautifully windy and warm, despite the threatening clouds looming, first in the distance, then almost directly overhead and forming what N called “Jesus clouds” with the sun’s rays shining through. The sand stung against my legs when we walked in the street but surprisingly enough, not so much on the boardwalk. We walked the entire length of Coney Island and Brighton Beach although we didn’t have clearance to go to the lighthouse in the Seagate community. Then a brief walk through a very posh neighborhood before going on Manhattan Beach, complete with suburban-type mansions and front lawns although, being in the city, the houses were still fairly close together. One boasted armed guards along with their security devices. There were eggplant dips eaten on the beach to go along with incredibly cheesy salty Georgian bread called khatchapuri that filled us up so much we didn’t have to eat anything else the rest of the day. IMG_20150522_185918 IMG_20150522_185854 IMG_20150522_170057

The next day, I went on a last-minute trip with ijl to Philadelphia with bus tickets purchased just the night before. Of course, we had donuts at Beiler’s Donuts in the Reading Terminal Market because who can resist that faint crunch of freshly fried donut? My favorite—Boston Creme. A gorgeous walk along the Schuylkill River Park as the sun was setting, complete with a hot air balloon hovering over the dam where geese floated. Then to University City for Senegalese food at a neighborhood restaurant for fried whole fish and the sound of people speaking French (we sighted an opossum along the way! He seemed quite as surprised to see us as we were to see him.)  P1120742 P1120747 P1120758The next day involved even more food, of course. Croissants at Metropolitan Bakery, a roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s (the line moved quite fast!), gelato at Capogiro’s. Then an absolutely amazing tasting menu dinner at Zahav. Best hummus ever. And really, quite a steal for how much food you get and how delicious it all was. Highly recommended. In between, there was the Philadelphia Museum of Art where we looked at Asian architecture & American glassware & European armor with plenty of Van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin thrown in. We took the 10pm bus back to NYC.

On Memorial Day, I texted A and was serendipitiously invited onto his boss’ motorboat along with his parents. It was surprisingly low-key and really amazing. We went up Newtown Creek (past bubblers circulating water in the creek and the backs of manufacturing warehouses, large boats that people used to squat in and party on and futuristic water filtration systems) then the East River all the way up to North Brother Island (“Most people I bring out on the boat have never heard of it!” A’s boss said when I asked, “I’ll take you.”) then onto the Harlem River, under a million bridges, some that swiveled and some that rose up to allow for larger boats’ passage, and down the Hudson. We passed the straight empty shot of 42nd street and the Statue of Liberty. What are the rules? I’d asked A’s boss. He said, It’s like the wild west out here. And how lucky for us that it was.
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Reading!

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.

New York Spring

I managed to miss my flight to Costa Rica this morning and don’t plan on ever doing such a thing again. So, instead of dwelling upon it, here’s a blog entry!

I. It’s starting to feel like spring again so I take runs along Astoria Park. The melting snow unveils litter but there are flocks of young folks out at the park, taking photos, jogging, or just hanging out. The ice cream truck has yet to make an appearance and I wonder if this summer, there will be lady cops braiding each others’ hair like last year. I like the smell of the briny East River and the avenue of pale-trunked trees that stretch down toward the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, the way they shine golden while the sun is setting. My left knee seizes a bit while I run—I don’t think it’s a big deal. I’ve yet to experience runner’s high though. Is 3.5 miles not a long enough run to experience it?

II. At work, when I’m not busy making appointments or calling companies to get quotes on things or finagling with Lightroom, I occasionally walk the puppy. She’s a golden retriever, about 4 months old, and she loves EVERYBODY and everything. Cute things: running after leaves blowing along the street, how she likes to hold her own leash and try to instigate a game of tug-of-war by growling, how much she enjoys running with me. Not-so-cute things: she wants to play with every dog (but not every dog wants to play with her!), all the other folks who “HAVE to pet her!” (It gets annoying when it’s about the 3rd or 4th or 5th person…), how she wants to eat all the sticks but we’re not supposed to let her. Walking is a rather slow process.

III. I went to two art fairs recently, during the weekend of the Armory show. I’ll admit I didn’t understand much of the art that was shown at Pulse but was quite intrigued by one Chinese artist who used stickers! Hundreds of stickers! It’s pretty interesting. IMG_20150307_144016

I did like the Art on Paper fair much better but maybe because I’m not hip enough to understand the super abstract stuff whereas this fair had more stuff that was just pretty or interesting or maybe just overall, more accessible. I especially like art that is very detailed and show a lot of craft. I thought this piece was pretty cool, like cuts in wood within a wall.IMG_20150307_160958

IV. While doing my laundry the other day, I realized that my apartment has 3 dollies. A tiny red one, a medium-sized black one, and a large blue one. I picked the large blue one. Its wheels weren’t the best as it only liked to go straight and quite disliked turns but it’s funny how many dollies an apartment of three girls need. One for each of us? None of my apartments had ever had one before so I started wondering if it was a New York thing. After all, I usually associate these little wheeled carts with little old ladies, not 20-something year olds but hey, I’m now the one pushing it and my roommates don’t find it strange at all. Soon enough, I’ll start grocery shopping with it…

V. Writing news! Sorry, but actually, there is no writing news. Well, I’ve been writing stories at a decent clip, as well as submitting stuff for grants, lit mags, etc but it requires quite a bit of patience (especially grant apps!) so…nothing too exciting has been happening. Still figuring out plot points for my monk story and need to edit a bunch of my newer work. I also volunteered to read for a contest so there’s been plenty of reading happening. But actually, I’ve probably spent most of my time planning for this upcoming vacation (and still haven’t learned much Spanish.) Oh, and I also funded this cool Kickstarter started by Jed Berry for his new press, Ninepin Press. I’ve heard him read from this story and it’s awesome! Plus lots of bonuses since they’ve surpassed their goal!

I’m sure I’ve done more in the month or so since I last posted but I’m not terribly good at remembering (or maybe all I did was run and read and write and trip plan?) Well, there was eating and Chinese New Year, which is basically the same thing as eating but with more family, and making these delicious cream biscuits, and best friends visiting to go to the Studio Museum in Harlem (really cool!) and eating Sichuan food at Lan Sheng and talks about Manchuria at the NYPL, as well as more eating but who wants to read about all that? Maybe next time, I’ll just write about eating 😛

A busy January

I suppose I’ve been rather lax about updating this blog lately but I’ve been busy, I swear! I went to a meet and greet last week for a grant I received through the Queens Council on the Arts for this collection and a reading that I’ll be holding at Socrates Sculpture Park this summer (so excited!) and met many of the other grantees who were working on projects from faux-fur paintings to novels set in Jackson Heights to jazz festivals in Flushing. It was really fun hearing about all these great, diverse projects that are being funded and I’m looking forward to going to my fellow grantees’ events this year.

I’ve also been busily writing since my editor and I agreed on a schedule in which I’d send him a new short story every 2.5 weeks. It’s pretty intense but I’m glad I have someone to hold me accountable and push me. I did manage to write a story in about a week—I’d been toying with the idea for months and been trying out different ways of telling the story but finally figured out what would work. It’s still a bit unfocused so it’ll be great when I get his feedback.

I managed to catch a few shows recently. Parsons Dance at the Joyce Theater which was amazing. Admittedly, I don’t know much about dance but you have to admire what these dancers can do. And the crazy strobe light effects for “Caught”! It makes me feel lazier than ever and wonder how much contemporary dance classes would cost…

I also saw Classic Stage Company’s A Month in the Country. I hadn’t read or seen the play before, a classic of Turgenev’s, but was rather surprised at the modern tone of the play. The translation CSC had commissioned had quite a bit of modern phrasing and didn’t feel Russian at all to me; I think I would’ve liked it to have been a bit less contemporary and more Russian, but that’s a personal preference. I thought the acting was quite good though, especially from the main actress, Taylor Schilling.

The “historic” blizzard wasn’t quite so historic in New York city although the other day, the tree branches were encased with ice so that they sparkled. From where I work, there’s a beautiful view of Central Park although the corners of streets are slushy with deep puddles of dirty water. The doormen have to wear thick waterproof dark jackets that go down to their knees and sometimes, hats that make them almost unrecognizable. Sometimes, the radiators will burn you if you touch them. And it can be very cozy to be snowed in, to drink hot chocolate and read a book with the snow falling outside. But there’s something about winter in New York that makes you ready for summer, a combination of city fatigue and winter fatigue. Maybe some real greenery would help. Maybe a trip to South America…