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!

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!

In Between Places

In transit at Chicago airport.

In transit at Chicago airport.

Every time I make a trip back to Singapore, I will inevitably feel a sense of displacement. Many things can change in a year. Buildings get torn down, new infrastructures raised. Places I used to frequent no longer look the same or, worse, are no longer there. My church has moved and its old space has been demolished. My parents are not living in the same neighborhood. Old favorite restaurants or hawkers have closed down. Even when I meet up with friends, there is always a little dissonance — as if everyone has moved on in the one year when I was absent.

When I told this to a friend, she quickly replied, “But you have also moved on!”

While that is true, I guess the difference is that I wasn’t around to witness the happenings (new engagements, weddings, pregnancies, job promotions) and even though I was updated while living overseas, it can still feel a little overwhelming and sudden whenever I meet relatives or friends face-to-face. It makes me feel like we are all really growing up, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Not that growing up is a bad thing, but with that also comes a longing for the past. Which brings me back to my first point. I find it harder and harder to hold on to the ever changing Singapore, where I am not around to make new memories, and old ones are constantly being torn down.

This time around, my trip back to Singapore was very short, because it was a stopover en route to Ireland where my husband was going for a conference. Nevertheless, I was glad to be able to spend time with my family and meet up with some friends. I was the one who had bugged my husband for weeks to make a trip back to Singapore, and I was so excited to return that I couldn’t sleep the night before my flight. But less than a week after landing, I began to miss LA.

And that is my problem.

When I am in LA, I would long for Singapore. But when I am in Singapore, I would long for LA (#firstworldproblems). And while that may sound like a privilege (and on most days, it is) what also happens in actuality is that I end up feeling like I am always between two places, never belonging to one. Life in LA is much more relaxed, and I must admit that there is a certain appeal, and a certain kind of freedom and liberation, that comes with going to a place where no one knows you. Suddenly, I find myself having all the time in the world without any obligation to anyone. Yet, the flip side is that it can get lonely, especially in the beginning (you will be surprised at how disconcerting it can be to not know simple things like where to get a haircut or buy groceries) and at the end of the day, I am still a foreigner in the States. And believe me, that truth becomes particularly stark when say, you are stopped by a traffic police officer or are in sudden need of urgent care at a clinic. Those were the times when my husband and I wished we were back in Singapore where we were familiar with such procedures.

Many people have asked us (very often, in fact, and understandably so) when my husband and I will be coming back, and if we are coming back at all. Our response is always that Singapore holds our family and friends and that makes it home for us. But at the same time, we cannot deny that living overseas has its perks (lower cost of living, for one!) and ultimately, it depends on what opportunities we will have when the time comes. As for now, I guess the challenge of being in between places is learning to make a third place out of it: to make it as homely and personal as possible, wherever I may be.