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Sugar at the Chin Music Press shop and online

19 Nov

On Friday, I stopped by the Chin Music Press shop in Pike Place Market to sign copies of Sugar, my new chapbook, and Daughters of the Air. You can pop in to pick up copies while they last! (Also, get yourself a treat. I enjoyed a sesame red bean ball: crispy, glutinous, gooey, delightful.) Not in Seattle? You can order Sugar from Chin Music Press online right over here.

Set scene by poet & nonfiction author Michael Schmeltzer. Thank you, Michael!

Sugar, a chapbook from Chin Music Press

2 Nov

IMG_1169.JPGOh, my! It’s been a little while since I’ve updated this blog. Fun news: Chin Music Press is launching my short story Sugar as a lovely little chapbook tomorrow at the Short Run festival. The story first appeared in Gastronomica in 2013; it’s a modern, fabulist fairy tale set in Pike Place Market—and Chin Music’s sun-drenched showroom is located there too.  At least, it always seems sun-drenched when I am there. They make beautiful books! Check out Leanne Dunic’s dreamy prose poem novel To Love the Coming End and Zack Davisson’s Kaiybō: The Supernatural Cats of Japan and Kate Lebo’s A Commonplace Book of Pieall books I have thoroughly enjoyed.

If you’re in Seattle you can be among the first to get a copy at Short Run. Then, Chin Music will be at the Portland Book Festival next Saturday, November 10. You can also get a copy from me at one of my upcoming events or at the Chin Music showroom in the market.

Link for online purchases to come! In the meantime, here it is on Goodreads. And, while you’re on Goodreads, if you’re so inclined, would you vote for Daughters of the Air as your favorite debut of the past year? That is, if that is how you feel! Log into your account (or create one!), scroll down to the bottom of this page and type in the title. Write-in voting ends November 4. Thanks, always, for the love.

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26 Sep


Oh boy, oh boy! Things are getting real. My debut novel, Daughters of the Air (formerly known as Dirty), will be released on December 5, 2017. You can pre-order it starting today: from your local independent bookstore (like Elliott Bay Book Company) via IndieBound, directly from Lanternfish Press, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Why are pre-orders important? Well, they show booksellers there’s enthusiasm for the book, which means they order more books, and they all count towards the first week of sales–so the accumulation of pre-orders gives books a shot at the bestseller list in the first week it’s out.

This has been such a long time in the making; the seedlings were planted as far back as 2001, when I spent a month at the National Institutes of Health, recovering from surgery. In fact, I have a very personal essay about that time, and how I decided to seriously pursue writing, in Catapult today. You can read “Art Therapy Before Surgery” here. Then, come see all the incredibly kind things people are saying about the book here.

I love the cover art by Nichole DeMent, a piece called “Bird Moon” that was originally mixed media encaustic. I can’t stop staring at it. Nichole’s work is super dreamy, and I’ve coveted it for my novel since coming across it in 2013. Over on Lanternfish Press’s blog, I shared more thoughts on Nichole’s work and how my writing process draws from visual art. I’ve been hugging my advanced review copy since it arrived in August and have been so grateful for editorial director Christine Neulieb‘s championing of the book as well as all the good, hard work going on at Lanternfish Press.

If you’re in Seattle, please come to the launch party at the Hotel Sorrento, hosted by Hugo House, on the night of the release, December 5, at 7:30 pm!

Want to stay in the loop about other events and related hooplah? Subscribe to my short & sweet monthly newsletter here. Thank you for your support!


Writing Nonfiction to Think Through Fiction

27 Jul

One of my former professors from UW, Shawn Wong, advised us to write essays on topics related to our fiction projects whenever we felt stuck. After working through many drafts of my first novel, I’ve come to really appreciate this advice. Not only does it give you a new angle on your material, enabling a return to the fiction with fresh eyes, but it can also build your confidence about the research you’d done so far and raise new questions that enrich your understanding of your project. Writing essays can also make it easier to talk about your project with authority and maybe answer that dreaded question, “So, what is your novel about?” with less trepidation.

Earlier this month, my friend SK invited me to speak to the creative writing classes held at UW’s Robinson Center Summer College about travelling to Argentina to research my novel. Though my novel is written for an adult audience, the students in these classes are 5th and 6th graders. It was an enjoyable problem thinking about this different audience and really fun to just address the hands on, primary research I did: walking down Buenos Aires’s wide boulevards and narrow alleyways,trying to get a whiff of the city’s unique scent (note to self: “city scents” as future post), talking to locals who’d lived through the period I was writing about (1978), and uh, gorging myself on dulce de leche. The students had a lot of awesome, thoughtful questions, like what point of view did you write in, did you ever want to give up in the years that you worked on it, did you ever get stuck and what did you do to get unstuck?

Around the same time that I was preparing this talk, I was also working on a short essay for a website called Airplane Reading, which collects “storytelling that can animate, reflect on, and rejuvenate the experience of flight.” This essay, “Mapping Imagination,” gets at some the anxieties I struggled with in writing and researching the novel and is featured there this week. Having worked on both a short talk and short essay, I’m feeling ready again to continue with all the work that goes into getting the novel out into the world.

SK delivered a stack of thank you cards from her students a week after my talk. Some of the details they remembered from the talk and included in their cards were kind of incredible. One student wrote, “P.S. I love food too,” which made me plotz, one student made the card in the form of a paper fortune teller (I learned from it that I will write 1000 more short stories in my lifetime), and two students made an elaborate card in which the Argentine flag opened to a diptych with their messages. It really made my week.

Arctic Night

16 Dec

Olympic Sculpture Park; photo by George Szilagyi

One of my favorite things, which I don’t do nearly enough, is to get lost in a city and stumble upon something wonderful. Yesterday, I took my father around Seattle, from Capitol Hill (where we chatted electric insulators at Arabica) to South Lake Union to Queen Anne to the Olympic Sculpture Park and finally to Pioneer Square, after which we plotzed on the 43 bus back up the hill. It was a lovely eye-feast of high end furniture, antiques (like this Japanese gourd, though there was a doubly-bulbous one as well as an enormous Turkish yogurt vat very much to my liking), and contemporary sculpture (plus some smoked salmon and cheese samples at the market!). My favorite stumbling place was the Sisko Gallery,where we were warmly greeted by Daisy, the gallery’s terrier, and John Sisko, the sculptor-founder. The current show, “Aether”,  features Phil McCracken’s dark fruit wood sculptures made luminous by epoxy resin; one of my favorite pieces is “Arctic Night”, pulsating midnight blue from a smoldering red center, around which orbit white and red splotches. Tony Curtis’s poem “The Mole and Cosmos” opens “Aether”, setting a warm tone for the whole show and also fitting in quite nicely with the welcoming atmosphere of gallery. More about McCracken’s “cosmic turn” is here. The gallery features new work every four to six weeks. I’m looking forward to a return!

Next up, the Arboretum’s Winter Garden…

AWP bits & bobs

5 Feb

I am thoroughly soaked with things AWP. Most treasured among my bookfair finds is a beautiful, beautiful book of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, from Archipelago, one of my favorite small presses.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw Mary Gaitskill and Sapphire read. Gaitskill read from a novel-in-progress, generating about her an unearthly hum; in one bit of the excerpt a woman noted how everyone must accept darkness, how much easier life becomes when one does so; and at one moment this question is posed: what is fertilized by a decomposing personality? I’ll be on the look out for that next book. Sapphire read from Push (I don’t think I was the only one on the verge of sob; in high school I think I bawled through most of the book). She interspersed this with poems by Lucille Clifton, Carolyn Rodgers, and Ai, poets that had influenced her work and died in the past year. Her second novel, The Kid, is coming out this spring. I can’t wait.

Finally, of the many panels I attended, I think I’ll most remember a very instructive anecdote Steve Yarbrough told during Politics in the Novel:

Back when he was in graduate school, his professor brought in a photo of a starving child in Africa – with a distended belly and all the things one might immediately think. He held up the photo to the class and said: “This is what’s wrong with sentimentality in fiction.”  A calculated move, directed at a student in the class who’d been in the Peace Corps. The student reacted angrily, as expected – how can you say that, etc.

The professor replied that the photo was reductive: you can only have one emotion in response to it. Then he held up another photograph. The second photo showed two children, also starving, from the same place, except it was not so focused on the starving body. The angle widened; you got a sense of the landscape. One boy was hitting another boy on the head with a tree branch. The photo elicited questions; what was happening between them, why the fight? One boy had been singing; the other told him,  “you have the ugliest voice I’ve ever heard.” This photo was complex and human; multiple emotions, multiple questions arose. Such a useful, helpful anecdote.

Those are the highlights. I have loads of other notes on the business of finding an agent, on epiphanic and episodic stories, on Robert Coover’s defamiliarizing the known so that we may see again (that was Brian Evenson speaking, at my professor Maya Sonenberg’s panel). Perhaps I’ll write more as other bits reverberate.

Misc Updates

4 Jul

I’ve finally put up two papers from my days at Teachers College, both from a course I took in Interactional Sociolinguistics this past fall.

I’m also in the process of reconsidering the design of my website. I’m actually considering adding some color (gasp!), though something stubborn inside me wants me to stay true to the simple black and white. Any comments and suggestions on that one much appreciated.

Finally, I’ve got quite a backlog of arty tidbits to report on, hopefully by the end of the week.


24 Apr

Just in case there are people reading this that aren’t also reading my brother Victor’s blog, here is a link to his great, fun, inventive take on traditional video games. He had an exhibit at the Salone del Mobile, in Milano, which has just closed shop. Which shows how up to date I am…

(Just as expected, the more work I should be doing, the more posts end up here. This does not bode well for productivity.)

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