I got the great news yesterday that my short story "Conspiracy of Lemons," which is part of my conceptual short story collection, City of Sand, was accepted in Witness, a journal I've been sending submissions to off and on since 2010. It's incredibly satisfying to finally get a piece in that literary journal. Stay tuned!
My first piece, "Japanese Boy Band Saves the World: Postcolonial Masculinities in Final Fantasy XV," is now up at Ploughshares. If you're as obsessed with FFXV as I am, or if you're just interested in a literary analysis of a popular RPG/Action hybrid video game, you can read my essay here.
My collaborative interdisciplinary project, "The Voice Inside Your Bones," with LA artist Rick Potts, was published yesterday and I have to say, I think it's pretty fucking dope. Rick's illustrations are intense and powerful and surreal in just the right way.
Today I got an email telling me that my personal essay, "When Words Make You Real," was accepted in the mixed-race anthology The Beiging of America, which is awesome. I'm happy, proud even, to be part of such a groundbreaking but also crucial anthology exploring what it means to be mixed race (in my case, hapa) in America.
I found out today that my novella, The Laws of Drowning and Rhetoric, is a finalist in Curbside Splendor's Second-Annual Wild Onion Novella Contest, which is fucking amazing and wonderful (though I won't let myself get too excited because the other three finalists are all talented and worthy). For those of you not familiar with Curbside Splendor, it's one of the best indie presses in the whole goddamn world (it's true). And what's even more awesome, Curbside Splendor is a Chicago joint, which makes me happy and proud to be part of this contest since Chicago is and will always be my hometown. The winner will be announced in the beginning of December, but I'm not gonna lie, it would be fucking incredible to win this contest. It would be a dream come true. It would help build my career. It would help me stay connected to my city forever. It would be incredibly encouraging too. And considering that I've been working on this novella for ten years since I started my MFA, it would be life-changing for all the work I put into this manuscript. But for now, we'll have just have to wait and see. Fingers crossed, man. Fingers crossed.
I've been dreaming about this day since I finished my first novel. Last Monday, I googled agents looking for literary fiction writers and one agent in particular caught my eye both because she specializes in literary fiction, has worked at Viking and Molly Friedrich's agency as an associate agent, and also because she runs her own boutique agency in Brooklyn--every one of these details mattering a great deal to me for different reasons. So on a whim, I sent Maggie Riggs a query that night just for the hell of it. Tuesday, she wrote back telling me she really enjoyed the five pages of The Ninjas of My Greater Self I'd included in my email (per submission guidelines) and asked for the full manuscript. Two days later, she sent me an email asking if I had any time on Friday to chat about my novel. My heart skipped a beat when I read that. I turned to LB and said:
I will not freak out about this. I will not read into this. I will not make a big deal about this. I will not make assumptions.
I vowed not to read too much into this email because I'd done that so many times before and gotten heartbroken later by agents and editors who'd asked me to call them simply to request another manuscript, or to give me a well-meaning rejection on the phone that was supposed to humanize the rejection somehow (it didn't, by the way, it just fucked me up). I vowed not to think too much about the email, and then slept like complete shit that night because of course, all I did was think about the email.
Friday morning, I woke up, anxious and slightly tense. I got dressed in something smart that made me feel stylish, urbane, cool, and legit. Aboard the train, I changed seats far away from a group of drunk "virgins" taking a cruise together from San Diego to a quieter seat. I skimmed my short story on Joyland on my iPhone that had come out that same morning (auspicious?) and then Maggie called. She told me how much she loved my novel. She told me she'd finished it in two days. She told how much she loved the voice, she told me she loved the energy (which she described as a bullet train), she told me how complex and fascinating and real my characters were. I almost broke down and cried. I'm serious. These are the words I've been waiting for from an agent for so long. I realized right there and then that I'd found the right agent for me (I just needed her to make an offer).
At the end of our hour-long conversation, she offered to represent me and told me I could have a couple weeks to think it over and contact the other agents reading NINJAS and see what their counteroffers were (which was the professional thing to say). But I already knew I wanted her to be my agent, and her Twitter feed I'd studied the night before told me she was committed to discovering talented writers of color and other minority writers, which is really important to me, so I told her point blank: Maggie, let's do this!
She sounded slightly astounded when I told her that, but sometimes you just know, man. Then she got really excited, which made me feel even better, and then I got really stoked too because the day had finally come and now, I'll be writing and publishing books with a very smart, articulate, savvy, and very talented agent. And it all happened in four days. Four motherfucking days. I thank the universe for this, but I thank Maggie most of all.
In this confusing time of professional androgyny and male disempowerment, men were wounded birds. Dual income households had emasculated them of their sacred institutions of power. Wings clipped, humbled and demoted to democratic gender roles, men had no choice now but to accept their new gun-to-the-head humanism and become motivation speakers and fitness gurus, construction muscle and Pentagon Yes-Men.Read More
Today, I got the great news that a chapter from my novella, The Laws of Rhetoric and Drowning, was accepted by Hobart, which publishes fantastic fiction and interviews, among other things. I'm really happy to see this piece put in the public eye! Stay tuned for more deetz.
There was a flower arrangement to our entrées, a harmony of light and darkness inside the dining room, a small ceremony for the chilled chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes, crisp Arugula salads, haunting ginger slices and incinerating Thai soups, that was uniquely Japanese in spirit and decorRead More
I just got the awesome news today that my lyrical essay "Obāsan in a Cup," which is part of my experimental memoir Dream Pop Origami, was accepted in the always-awesome Guernica Magazine. Even more shocking, it will be published tomorrow. Many thanks to the smart, perceptive, and insightful suggestions from Raluca Albu, the CNF editor at Guernica. Stay tuned!
My essay about my thoughts on creative writing pedagogy was published in Pleiades, which includes my arguments for reifying non-hegemonic cultural space within the workshop, the necessity for courage, strength, and accountability with the construction of the other, the foundational role that my own workshop trauma as a hapa writer has played in the revision of my own pedagogy, and the balancing act of decentering and mediating discussion as a workshop leader.
Matthew Salesses runs and directs an awesome column at Pleiades about workshop craft and workshop pedagogy and I'm happy to say that my essay "The Velocity of Flying Objects" about my own workshop methodology will be published soon on the magazine's website. Stay tuned.
I got the good news recently that my flash fiction piece "Living in the Future," which is part of my short story collection Atlas of Tiny American Desires, was accepted in the literary journal Arts & Letters and will be appearing in either the Fall 2016 or Spring 2017 issue. Nothing like a short story acceptance to keep my spirits up.
Compared to my friends on the tenure track, my deal isn't as sweet, but compared to my friends suffering through the adjunctification of academia, my life is pretty damn good. So, I finished reading and grading 60 final portfolios two days ago after reading 60 advocacy projects the week before, which means I'm now free until classes start in the fall. That's to say, I'm fucking free for a few months!
Last summer, I made the colossal mistake of playing it by ear, which got me dropped in a wormhole. One minute I was playing video games obsessively on my PS4 without a care in the world, spending my free time mindlessly like a rich baron, then my fam came up for a long weekend, then LB's fam came from Chicago, then LB and I went to Scandinavia, and then the next thing I knew, my summer vacay was fucking gone. Suddenly, I was psychologically preparing myself for another year of teaching, my first paid summer just a tiny dot in my rear-view mirror. This summer, I vow (strong word, I know, but I mean it) to not let this summer slip by. Yes, I'll sleep in and enjoy my time off like a profligate Beverly Hills lawyer watering his lawn obsessively but this time I want to find a good compromise between wasting the summer away and scheduling the shit out of it.
These are my goals for this summer:
1. Play the second and third Unchartered Remastered Nate Drake games and remember why I was once so obsessed with Indiana Jones as a kid (well, minus the Temple of Doom, that one totally sucked)
2. Play Final Fantasy X-II in time for the epic release of Final Fantasy XV that was supposed to come out like ten years ago
3. Finally play Raymond Legends (it's been in my wishlist for years now)
4. Begin working on my second LP, which will be mostly post-rock instrumental music (piano, strings, and some beats)
5. Since LB and I will be back in Vienna this summer for a few days, I'd like to study German this summer
6. Study 日本語
7. Run three times a week, lift weights twice a week, and possibly (but not realistically) take a spinning class
8. If a manuscript of mine gets accepted for publication soon inshallah, then revise that for much of the summer first and foremost (still waiting to hear back from a few presses). Either way, revise my manuscripts and work on my third novel
9. Submit short stories and lyrical essays to journals
10. Invest in my wardrobe some more because you know, I don't already have enough excuses to buy shit online (or enough button downs, for that matter)
11. Meditate regularly
12. Stop going to be bed at 4 in the morning
13. Get some new ink on my right arm
14. Blog more often
15. Read the complete graphic novel series about the Shōwa period by Shigeru Mizuki
16. Read 1-2 books by Susan Sontag
17. Read another novel by Zadie Smith
18. Read another novel by Salman Rushdie
19. (Re)-read one "big book" this summer: the choices are DFW's Infinite Jest, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Ulysses by James Joyce, or Underworld by Don Delillo.
20. Finally read Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist
21. I know this is a stereotypical LA thing to do, but maybe whiten my teeth because I drink so much fucking tea, it's ridiculous
22. Stop making so many damn lists . . ..
The period between March and June has always been, and will probably always be, a dramatic time in my life. Most of the best (and also worst) news I've received is during this time frame. For example:
1. Winning the Sparks Prize
2. Getting rejected from the JET program (for being too old)
4. Hearing back from all the tenure track jobs you applied to, where they gush about what an insanely large and especially talented pool of candidates there were, which made their job especially difficult
5. Seeing my short story on Tin House's website
6. Getting accepted in Notre Dame's MFA program
7. Visiting Rome, Hong Kong, Macau, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Tokyo, and London
8. Finding out whether I'm getting (re)hired at UC Irvine after an exhaustive application process
9. Getting married to LB, something I never thought I'd do and something I never wanted to do until we fell in love
This list could go on. If we were at a café, this list would go on. But the point is, shit always goes down this quarter. Sometimes, it's bad. Usually though, it's good. But it's always crazy enlightening (and crazy dramatic too). So, it's with immense curiosity (and slight trepidation) that I wait to hear the state of the world for me in 2016. Stay tuned, people. Shit could get crazy.
My short story "The 12-Step Program for Yuki Hiramoto," which is part of my second collection, Atlas of Tiny American Desires, was published this week in the Santa Monica Review. This literary journal has always been one of my faves in the whole country (and has been for many years now). I remember as a MFA student flipping through copies of the SMR in the creative writing office and thinking how someday I'd love to publish one of my short stories in it. Now, I can scratch that off my list of things to do. Baby steps, bro.