I still feel new to this but it seems like now is a good time for an eligibility post for any awards for work published this year! (I’m looking at you, Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards, since those are nominated by members and not publishers.) Anyway, I had two short stories published this year, only one of which is blatantly in the SFF category: The Pigeon Keeper|’s Daughter in Strange Horizons (a story that I love love love ❤ It’s about Taiwan and power and magic and pigeons!) Some Humanity Still in Quarterly West (menacing! short!)
Honestly, it’d be a dream to be a finalist for one of these awards that I’ve been following for decades. I would so love to be nominated, especially because I’m not sure other folks think of me as a speculative fiction writer? My earliest published work was in SFF magazines and there’s a special place in my heart for the genre. Also, I’m totally manifesting going to Worldcon in Chengdu next year!
Anyway, I’m back east from my dreamy residency at Storyknife where I wrote poems and journal entries and short stories and organized my novel a bit. I saw the northern lights and the first snow and the lawn has my steps etched into it from my restless walking when I couldn’t go on the roads due to ice the last couple of days. I ran on Homer Spit a few times and hiked to the beach from Diamond Creek and saw a sea otter. The sunsets were beautiful and the neighborhood dogs wanted to be my best friend. Maura’s food was spectacular, as was the company of everyone involved. What a shock to come back to 60-degree weather (but not a bad shock, I’ll say!) after about 24 hours of travel.
In more news, I’m shortlisted for the Granum Prize!!! The winner and finalists will be announced next week—regardless of the outcome, I’m thankful to be on this shortlist with these amazing writers and have this validation of my work. Congrats to everyone!
I’m currently on an amazing residency at Storyknife, a retreat in Homer, Alaska, specifically for women writers, and we’re doing a virtual reading next Tuesday, October 18, 6-7pm Alaska time, hosted by 49 Writers. Event info is here!
Before this month, I’d never seen a real wild moose before and now that I’ve been here two weeks, I’ve seen several of these giant creatures, and it’s magical (but sometimes scary!) every time. There’s fireweed gone to seed, pheasants running down the trail, bald eagles perched on trees, sea otters and seals along the shore, volcanoes in the distance (when they’re not covered by clouds), and my very own cabin. What a gift. I’ve been working on the novel/maybe a short story and also several poems when I’m not exploring the environs. It’s cold but not unbearable and the gloomy, cloudy days make me appreciate the sunny days even more.
I’m still in disbelief (in a good way!) that Cristina Rivera Garza had this to say about the story: “Uniquely voiced, menacing, contained. Do we get to choose who we become or are we destined to match our landscapes? In this haunting tale set in sparsely populated regions of Wyoming as the cold season approaches, a boyfriend puts on a wolf costume, leaving behind traces that are not fully wolf like but are no longer human either. Everything is against the interloper narrator, who refuses to use the possessive to refer to the “predator” or the “prankster:” the town folk, the neighbors, and the set of invisible yet fiercely enforced rules that tie her hands up. Or do they?”
Thank you so much to Quarterly West for seeing and understanding and believing in this story straight from the get-go! Also, huge thanks to the Jentel Foundation in Wyoming where I was given the space and time and inspiration for this story—my gosh, how amazing and beautiful and surprising the West is, truly.
Remember how I lived in Taipei in 2017–2018 and had a pigeon-keeper neighbor? Did I agonize over befriending said neighbor? Did I start researching pigeon-keeping and pigeon racing? Did I even write a presentation in Chinese about pigeons and pigeon racing? I think the answer to all these has to be…yes…
Well, I wrote a weird, magical story about living in wet, tropical, green Taipei and pigeon racing and China-Taiwan relations and power and letters and night herons and some magic and…I could go on and on, but I’d just love it if you read it! My story is now up at Strange Horizons and it’s called “The Pigeon Keeper|’s Daughter”! This was a story I fell in love with as I was writing it and I hope it brings readers as much joy as it brought me to write it. I was also reminded by facebook that I actually posted about being in Taiwan (for the first time) nine years ago today!
I’m excited to announce I’ve been chosen as one of the 2021 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellows in Fiction! I’m so honored and grateful to be one of 16 fellows in fiction this year; there’s always a ton of talent among the fellows since it’s a statewide grant. After this incredibly hard year, it’s nice to get some good news and really makes me feel more inspired to keep writing. The press release is here: https://www.nyfa.org/blog/introducing-2021-nysca-nyfa-artist-fellows-finalists-and-panelists
I’ll be doing another mini-residency this Wednesday as part of Holes in the Wall Collective’s 360 One Turn Residency! It’s a 360-minute (6-hour) residency where, once accepted, they pair you with a location to spend your 6 hours. I’ve been lucky enough to be paired with Freshkills Park in Staten Island, which I already know and love after having kayaked there and watched osprey and turkey vultures, since I’ll be working on my bird-centered, mythology-influenced short story. It’s a really nontraditional way of holding a residency but I think it’ll be a lot of fun! Expect some words/images about it this week :]
My second day in the Rockaways dawned clear, with bright blue skies scattered with clouds. Taking a bus to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, we found tree swallows in the dozens swooping around in the wind. The views were across marsh and water, and we learned the odd creaking song made by the red-winged blackbird. Below, my list of the birds I saw here:
There were a few tourists from out of the country, which I found interesting, but it was a gorgeous day to be out. At the visitors center, a woman imitated a bird call for help from a staff member on identifying it. As she sang, his eyes caught mine, a slight grin on his face. He, of course, could not identify the bird she was imitating. What poor voices we humans have. Later, lunch at The Restaurant, a local diner, and a gorgeous sunset across from JFK, where a few locals were fishing. The texture of the beaches there, with skeins of dried saltmarsh cordgrass lining the sand; they’ll sink just a little beneath your feet.
The next day, it began to rain again but I still made my way down to the beach where a number of surfers were battling the swells. In even larger numbers were sanderlings–I love the motion of them, the push and pull of their movements with the waves. Their marks like the sketch of labryinths in the sand. There, there were also a few piping plovers whose tan feathers blended in with the beach, and a few American oystercatchers with their high-pitched calls and thin, bright orange beaks.
I’m calling the photo above “The American Dream.” 😉
It was an amazing, relaxing retreat at beach64 that I sorely needed. I’m rethinking the story I’m working on, the focus of the narrator and the nature of what she’s battling; the role of the birds will probably play an even larger role, as well as the mythic underpinnings of the story. Reading I’ve been inspired by lately are Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle and Jon Young’s What the Robin Knows, as well as Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread. I only wish I could’ve stayed longer!
A lot of changes these past few months—writing up presentations on pigeon racing and finishing up classes in Taipei, snorkeling and rock climbing (Taipei rock gyms are HARD but the people are crazy nice), traveling and researching in China on a series of islands, visiting relatives, and catching up with L—but now I’m back in New York and finally settling back in. It has been less than a month but my life in Asia already feels somewhat dreamlike, especially since I never have to speak Mandarin here. But I miss my sweet potato guy and my pigeon-keeping neighbors and the mountains and plants and birds there.
I’ve just started writing again, though, and it brings the places I’ve been back to life for me. I’m really excited about what I’m currently working on even though I’m not quite sure where it will go. It’ll have crabs and windmills and the green sea in it for sure though.
Right before the new year began, right after taking my midterms, I took a quick jaunt down to Taroko Gorge on the eastern side of Taiwan with ijl. I’d actually been before, about 5 years ago. Beautiful, of course, with its marble gorges and that clear blue water, but I’d forgotten how short the hikes were and how they peter out. This time the Baiyang trail was closed but the Shakadang trail was fully open–we dipped our hands in the water and watched tadpoles swim in a shallow pool on top of one of the giant boulders. We used our easycards to board the 302 bus which was much less crowded than the Taroko Gorge shuttle and cheaper too. We stayed near the national park itself, in Xincheng, which doesn’t have too much going for it, but we did end up stopping by the beach just to see the Pacific Ocean from this side.
We watched the fireworks from Taipei 101 from my roof. It didn’t last long so it was nice not to have to brave the crowds for a view. In the alley below, one of the small shop owners shot up some fireworks, their whistles screeching into the air, the colors blooming directly overhead.
I didn’t read enough in 2017 but there were some gems. I just recommended Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing to my Chinese teacher actually! Here’s my list:
1. A Thread of Sky- Deanna Fei
2. Sweetbitter- Stephanie Danzer
3. The Girls- Emma Cline
4. When Watched- Leopoldine Core
5. A Chemical Wedding- Christian Rosencreutz (Small Beer Press & John Crowley’s version)
6. The Vegetarian- Han Kang
7. Do Not Say We Have Nothing- Madeleine Thien
8. Soft Split- Szilvia Molnar
9. Four Books- Yan Lianke
10. Lincoln in the Bardo- George Saunders
11. Notes from a Small Island- Bill Bryson (NF)
12. In A Sunburned Country- Bill Bryson (NF)
13. The Wangs Vs. The World- Jade Chang
14. The Blue Sword- Robin McKinley (re-read)
15. The Paper Menagerie- Ken Liu
16. Monkey Business, issue 4
17. Upright Beasts- Lincoln Michel
18. The Refugees- Viet Thanh Nguyen
19. Isadora- Amelia Gray
20. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia- Mohsin Hamid
21. The Great Passage- Shion Miura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
22. Goodbye, Vitamin- Rachel Khong
23. In the Country- Mia Alvar
24. POC Take Over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination- edited by Nisi Shawl
25. Journey to the Centre of the Earth- Jules Verne
26. Butterflies in November- Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
27. The Leavers- Lisa Ko
28. Dreaming in Chinese- Debra Fallow (NF)
29. Alternative Remedies for Loss- Joanna Cantor
30. Fast Food Fiction Delivery- edited by Noelle Q. de Jesus & Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta
31. Chemistry- Weike Wang
32. Pachinko- Min Jin Lee
33. Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century- Richard McGregor (NF)
34. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate- Peter Wohlleben (NF)