May 2020: the month of unexpected online SFF writing conventions

On May 16-17, there will be an online SFF writing con called Dreams of Foundry, free for all attendees. Two of my former classmates, Elsa Sjunneson and Suzanne Walker, will be on several panels. I signed up for as many panels as possible. I’ll be like a kid at a candy store. There’s even a session, Menagerie, that lets us show off our furry friends.

On May 28-30, I wound up with a full scholarship to attend this year’s Nebula conference. Normally it’s in Los Angeles, and having only been to my local writing con (Writefest), I’ve never attended a con exclusively for SFF writing, and at the scale of the Nebulas. Lacking time and money makes pretty much any con not in my area out of my reach, so the Nebulas were never in the cards for me ever since I first heard of them. But by an unexpected, though much appreciated gesture of generosity from Mary Robinette Kowal, on behalf of SFWA, my Clarion 2020-2021 cohort is able to attend the Nebulas on a full scholarship.

I look forward to seeing all my writing friends and acquaintances, and making many more!

Clarion West 2020 postponed to 2021

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A good call, given current circumstances surrounding COVID-19, and not unexpected, since Clarion UCSD had earlier called off their workshop. Still, as part of this year’s class, I wanted to share my mixed feelings about this announcement.

Of course, part of me is disappointed that the experience every prior class has had for the past 50 years won’t be mine this year. With 6 weeks at Seattle off the table this summer, I will have to find other ways to spend it.

On the plus side, I have a whole year to get better acquainted with my classmates, and a whole year to build up hype and excitement for the workshop in 2021. My class keeps in touch through Slack, and already we’re bonding over this unique experience we’re sharing together. Prior to this announcement, we convened in a meeting with administration to discuss contingency plans. While we didn’t have to decide right then and there, many of us implied that we preferred the in-person experience over online, even if we had to defer to next year. I’m thrilled that all of this year’s instructors have said that they would be able to make the workshop in 2021. I’m not so sure if everyone in my class would be able to do the same, but I’m certainly hoping.

“Caring For Dragons and Growing a Flower” now available to read at Podcastle

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Click here to read.

Once again, the timing of Podcastle is incredibly impeccable. This very personal story was accepted on the day my dad passed away (January 13th), and today, 100 days after his passing (a special day in Vietnamese tradition), the story goes live.

This is also one of the stories that got me into Clarion West and UCSD this year.

I felt like carving out a piece of my heart, and of my parents’ experiences as Vietnam War refugees, while writing this story. I hope you like it.

The First (and hopefully only) Time That Brooklyn Nine-Nine Disappointed Me

As much as I enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine for its hilarity and progressiveness, as an Asian female, I can’t help feeling very disappointed about the Captain Kim episode I watched today.

Sure, the B99 squad had its fair share of bad bosses and had a legit reason to be suspicious of Kim at first. But the ending really didn’t stick the landing for me.

A competent, accomplished, genuinely kind Asian female police officer ditches the 99 captain position because she felt unwelcome and wouldn’t mesh with the squad. What kind of message is that? Not a good one. Especially to Asian females like myself.

I was really excited about Asian representation that I feel is long overdue for this show. I ended up disappointed that the opportunity was tossed out the window, and Kim was reduced to a one-time throwaway character.

Even more disappointing was that Holt, my favorite in the show, who had the most reason to support a marginalized individual like Kim, and was even told by Kim how much she admired him, didn’t bat an eye at her feeling that she had to leave the 99.

Well, at least Kim wasn’t given some stereotype like being a terrible driver, for the sake of “see, character flaw, she’s not too perfect.”

Do I still like B99 overall? Yes. Am I still going to watch it? Yes. I’m just going to try to pretend that the Captain Kim episode doesn’t exist.

Redwall, Orthodox Christianity, and The Lord of the Rings: an appreciation + analysis post on the books that changed my life

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There’s always a special place in my heart for those stories, written by a sailor in Liverpool, of warrior mice and berserker badger lords. Reading the Redwall series as a middle school kid transported me to a world where the heroes and villains were talking animals, and the heroes regularly embarked on grand adventures and triumphed over evil. This was the first time that I was blown away by the power of words, the power to completely suck you in and make you care for characters and a world entirely thought up in someone else’s head. In a time when I, the weirdo and the nerd, had trouble fitting in with my peers, reading Redwall was my solace and escape. Later, I thought, “I want to write stories like this.” I credit the start of my journey into writing my own fiction entirely to Redwall, and many times I wish I had the chance to tell Brian Jacques how much his books meant to me as a reader and a writer.

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What Competitive Swimming Taught Me As A Writer

Half my life being in a competitive year-round swim team taught me valuable life lessons that I now apply to writing. Coach mode on.

First and foremost, your mindset and attitude is king (or queen). It rules you. And in a way, YOU rule it. You can tune them to be positive and determined. Or be negative and defeatist. Your choice.

You’re imposing unnecessary hurdles on yourself by doing the latter. Your thoughts and attitude affect your performance, for better or for worse.

To the writers who tell themselves they’re not talented enough, their voices don’t matter, they’re never gonna sell, get an agent, or whatever: cut it out. Stop that kind of talk right now. That’s helping no one and it’s certainly not helping you.

In swim meets, (and in lots of other sports events, really), athletes psych up. When I used to be on the team, before my turn to compete, I’d pump myself up on protein bars, motivational music, and good thoughts. The good thoughts count the most.

A swimmer who’ll perform poorly would be curled up on the bench telling themselves they’re doomed to fail, everyone else is too fast, they can’t beat their own time, etc. Don’t be that swimmer.

So psych yourself up. Pump yourself up on those creative endorphins. Be your own loudest cheerleader.

No, you can’t control if an editor picks your story, or if an agent wants to rep you. But you CAN control how you navigate yourself through adversity and the creative process. (Yes, you have psychic powers)

I think that writing well doesn’t start with your imagination or an idea. It starts with your attitude. 

Validate yourself BEFORE you start working to earn it from other people and places. Not AFTER. How can editors and agents believe in you and your work if you can’t do that yourself first?

Coach mode off. Thanks for coming to my TED talk. Now get out there and tell yourself that your voice DOES matter and your stories WILL kick butt.

Goals vs Milestones, Wants vs Needs

I’ll never forget meeting Ken Liu. He came to Writefest as a GoH in 2017. Before his panel, he sat down with me to have a one-on-one conversation for at least an hour. His generous time and attention with me, a newbie, made him that much more relatable. He gave great advice:

Goals vs milestones. Goals involve numbers and tasks you set for yourself. Milestones are achievements. Goals are within your control. Milestones aren’t. Work on what you have control over, and of course, celebrate the milestones if they happen.

Writing at least 500 words a day is a goal. NaNoWriMo is a goal. Publication is a milestone. Getting an agent is a milestone. Award nomination is a milestone. It helps to know the difference. Don’t get the two mixed up. Don’t mix up milestones for goals, or you’re bound for disappointment, frustration, and despair because you’ll always feel like the odds are too low and your “goals” are beyond you. I don’t want anyone falling into that mindset.

I’ll add to this with wants vs needs. For example: Did I WANT Clarion? Heck yeah. Do I NEED it? Nope. It’s ok to want something like that. Or not. To feel like you NEED it isn’t a healthy feeling. Goal: choose stories suitable for sample to Clarion. Milestone: got into Clarion.

Keeping these distinctions in mind really helps me have a tangible, organized scheme in my mind on what I can reasonably achieve and strive for. This is the mindset that I think helps me, as a writer, stay healthy emotionally and mentally.

My Goals For Clarion West

This is part of my preparation for those intense 6 weeks of workshopping, besides throwing stuff into my suitcase. I thought it would be a good idea to assess what I want to get out of the workshop before I go, so I can track my progress and look back to see if I had accomplished what I set out to do. I heard that Clarion is a great place to experiment and try new things, so I definitely kept that in mind while coming up with goals to achieve.

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Clarion West Class of 2020!

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The secret is finally out. I got into Clarion West! I’m more than over the moon. I’m so far out that I can see the Milky Way. The announcement is here.

I’m not sure how I feel about getting in during the year of the coronapocalypse, though.

More details about my application cycle to come in a later post titled “Getting Into Both Clarions: The Deets.” (Yes, you read right. I got into UCSD, too, somehow. But like I said, more to come in a separate post.)