Reading at The Last Bookstore + Final Call For Submissions

Reading my short story at The Last Bookstore.

Reading my short story at The Last Bookstore.

Last week, I had the opportunity to read one of my short stories at The Last Bookstore at downtown Los Angeles with four friends and winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize Caley O’Dwyer (whose poems, by the way, are quirky, witty and playful). Even though I was a bundle of nerves before the event, hardly able to swallow down my dinner, the reading turned out great and I had a fabulous time!

Thanks to everyone who came!

Thanks for coming!

As you can see from the pictures, The Last Bookstore, with its wacky decor and eclectic furniture, is quite a work of art. They have a great selection of books, including second hand ones that are out of print. My husband found a book that he’d been looking for for a buck, while a friend bought the first edition of an old book for five dollars. You should definitely check this place out if you are around the area!

Anyway, I can’t believe it’s almost the end of November! Time just zipped by, especially the last couple of months. It’s been hectic but fruitful, and the good news is, I’ve finally finished the first draft of my novel. Hooray! I’m still fine-tuning it before sending it to a couple of people to read for feedback, but the feeling of typing the words “The End” at the end of the manuscript is amazing. I’m going to take a break during winter (more like catch up on my reading and edit my short stories), then get back on the second draft next year.

As the semester draws to a close, just wanna give a final shout out to those who would like to submit their work to The Southern California Review. Guidelines can be found here. The deadline’s on 1st December 2013, so you still have a couple more days to send in your stories/essays/comics/screenplay. We’d love to read them!

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First Thoughts on the New Semester

I’ve been wanting to post this since, well, the start of the semester, but seeing that I am already four weeks in, it can only mean either of these two things: there is nothing good to say so far, or that I have been so short of time with all the writing that I haven’t been able to blog a decent post.

Thankfully, it’s the latter.

This semester, I am studying under Richard Rayner (author of The Blue Suit: A Memoir of Crime, and others) and Janet Fitch (author of White Oleander and Paint It Black). Richard has one of the sharpest editing eye I know and it’s been incredible learning his nifty techniques. Janet has been engaging our senses by making us do seemingly strange but highly effective assignments like smelling dirt and eating fuzzy peaches. I love White Oleander and have been wanting to take her class since a year ago (there is a wait list!) and I finally got in, yay! Both classes have been really great so far and I’m looking forward to see how the rest of the semester will pan out.

I must say, it’s been such a joy reading the stories sent to The Southern California Review! There are so many compelling and thought provoking fiction, essays, poems, screenplay and comics out there so if you have a story to tell, do send it to us! We want to read it! Submission guidelines can be found here.

Also, I’ll be reading one of my short stories at The Last Bookstore at downtown LA in November so that’s always nerve-racking  exciting. More details as the date draws near.

So yep! I guess this is a sort of quick hi after my little hiatus. Though I’ll be writing like crazy, I will still update this blog so stay tuned!

What Kind of Writer Are You?

Unfortunately, I am the kind of writer who is easily distracted. For a long time, I had difficulty churning out pages for my novel. This is especially so in the summer when there are no lecturers or deadlines pushing me to write. I wished I could do more but often found myself surfing the internet instead (oh the slippery slope of logging onto facebook), lazing on the couch in front of the TV and doing anything but.

I’ve read how some writers are so passionate about writing that all they want to do is to write all day or else they will DIE (okay, so I paraphrased that, but you get what I mean). Granted that there were nights when I’d been kept awake because there were so many ideas running through my mind, and there had been several times when I got so excited that I jumped out from my bed and wrote. But those instances do not happen all the time, and certainly not every night, and I’d question myself if not having the urge to write all day long was a sign of a lack of passion.

But I realized that that is not true. Writing actually requires a lot of discipline and perseverance, not just unbridled passion. Khaled Hosseini once said at an interview, “You have to write whether or not you feel like it.” Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” That’s quite a comical way of putting it but I agree.

So recently, I established a routine that proved really helpful. I have tried several different suggestions from other writers before, such as spending your first two hours in the morning writing, but they didn’t work too well on me (since I am not really a morning person). So I was glad to discover these three simple approaches.

Firstly, I make sure I read.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King.

Sounds simple? You’d be surprise how many people don’t read. Even for me, I have to make a conscious effort to reach for the book instead of the TV remote on a daily basis. The more I read, the more I was able to learn from other authors and translate that into writing.

Secondly, I try to write a thousand words a day. I first got this idea from listening to Lisa See at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. When I tried this last semester, I couldn’t sustain it for long because I tend to write beyond a thousand words when working on short stories, especially with a deadline looming for class. But in the summer, this helped me a lot. I managed to complete 3 to 4 pages a day most of the time. It doesn’t feel too much or too little and most of all, it trains my “stamina” to write on a daily basis. Some days I write more than a thousand, some days less. I try to do it as early in the day as possible because I find my concentration and attention span to be the best at that time.

Thirdly, I laid off submissions to literary journals and magazines temporarily. I realized that spending too much time mulling over submissions and tracking down journals zapped my time and energy away from not just writing my novel but improving my craft. No doubt I will continue to send stories to journals, but for now, I feel like I need to take some time off to just learn and hone my writing.

So yup, these are my three approaches toward writing this summer and I found them to be highly effective. What kind of writer are you and how do you maintain your stamina for writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I Am Writing A Novel.

So yes, I am writing a novel.

The very declaration still rocks my nerves a little and for a while, I thought that if I didn’t tell anyone about it, it might save me some embarrassment if the pages never see the light of day. Also, I didn’t want people to have the impression that since I am working on a story now, it means that I will have the published book in my hands by the time I graduate — this is the kind of unrealistic expectation that paralyzes more than motivates.

But I realized that there is no shame in attempting something new and working on it, regardless of its success. As Edmund Burke once said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” I love that quote. Writing a novel was way more difficult than I had expected, and while the journey had its low points and I had to scrape draft after draft and correct mistake after mistake, it also has countless high points where the deep sense of satisfaction that accompany a page of good writing makes the tough times worth it. Writing can be a pretty isolated activity, and I am really thankful for the support and feedback I’ve been getting from my fellow writers and lecturers in school. The literary world is as tough as it is so it’s awesome when writers band together to cheer each other on.

My novel, based on a family living in contemporary Singapore, is still in its early stages and is bound to change so I shall not delve into it. But I will continue to post updates on this blog so stay tuned!