Month: September 2008 Page 2 of 4

A literary evening with Lisa See

Per Michael Griffith’s suggestion last month, I looked up Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library, and it turns out they were about to host a “Literary Evening with Lisa See.” The same Lisa See whose heritage and identity I had pondered a month ago. How could I resist?!

Answer: I could not. So I quickly read Peony in Love (free online courtesy of the Cincinnati Public Library system) in preparation.

Thursday night I made my way downtown for the event. In the parking lot I spotted a group of older women holding copies of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (See’s best novel, from what I’ve heard) and I asked if I could follow them. They were rather cute, as older people are wont to be, teasing each other and laughing like girls and chattering excitedly about meeting Lisa See. I was excited too, but I was also beginning to suspect that I might not, um, fit in.

This feeling was confirmed once we reached the reception area. I was one of two people under the age of 35, and the other was a daughter who had been roped into volunteering, I’m pretty sure. Soooo yeah. Awkward.

But actually, everyone was so friendly it didn’t matter. And Lisa See herself was mingling before her talk, munching on hors d’ouerves and catching up with her former Pilates instructor who had moved out here from LA. She noticed me hovering, waiting for my chance to talk to her, and welcomed me into their conversation. I told her why I was interested in her — Hi, I’m Miss Identity Crisis! Do you have one too? — and she told me to ask her about it during the Q&A session because she loves talking about it. She also recommended her (first?) book, On Gold Mountain, in which she discusses her family lineage and how she fits in (or doesn’t).

The Pilates instructor was a sweet, enthusiastic woman who invited me to sit next to her in the second row. From there we listened to Lisa explain how Peony in Love came to be, and I sort of wished I hadn’t read it until after I’d heard her talk, because I think knowing her ambitions and inspirations for the book would have added a very special layer to my reading and made the story more enjoyable.

Regardless, I was awed by her charm, her wit, her sincerity. She was very smooth and genuine. (And tiny!!) And she talked a lot with her hands.

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When she was done speaking, we had the Q&A, and she said several things that stuck with me.

  1. 1,000 words a day, no matter what. Or 2 hours of editing. That’s her work method/ethic, and I think it’s more than reasonable, even for a beginner like me.
  1. She personally responds to her email. No assistants, no canned replies.
  1. She often joins book clubs for their discussions via speakerphone.
  1. And, in answer to my question, “I think for children, what we see in the world around us is our mirror. So when I looked out at my family, at my mirror, I saw Chinese faces.” By appearances, she doesn’t fit in with them, or in LA’s Chinatown (where her family is quite prominent), or in China, but that’s the community in which she was raised and where she feels most at home. On the other hand, here in Ohio, she looked just like everyone else, but that doesn’t mean she felt like she belonged. I found myself nodding (vigorously) the whole time she was answering.

(Note: Even though it’s in quotes, that’s actually a paraphrase of what she said. I can’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday; do you really think I could remember someone’s exact words?)

I hung around afterward, hoping to get a moment with her again — I’d even made a little booklet out of Ama, in case she asked what kinds of things I wrote — but the line for autographs was long and the library’s director mentioned he was planning to see if Lisa wanted to grab a bite to eat since they’d scheduled her to speak over dinner. So I took advantage of what I’d learned (see #2 above) and decided to let her be. I can always try her online.

Foto Friday: Apple

Apples! irony

I brought this red delicious into work the other day as a snack, and because I have limited room at my new desk, I had to set it on top of the Mac mini. Then I smiled at the irony and took a picture.


But seriously, in the words of Usher, I’ve “got it bad.” I’m craving a new laptop, even though I don’t need one, and my heart is set on a Mac. We’ll see what the Macbooks and Macbook Airs look like in 1-2 years (when I can probably justify a new computer, hopefully because I will have just been awarded a publishing deal for my debut novel) but until then, I’ll just be trolling the Apple Web site and obsessively fantasizing…

Disney Recap: Day 3 – Epcot and Downtown Disney

Before Ike, there was Hannah. And before Hannah, there was Gustav. And in between Gustav and Hannah, there was Stan and Andy. In Florida. At Disney World.

Yes, we went during hurricane season because it’s cheaper. Andy’s a money saver (for a living!) and I’m a poor writer, so it made sense. And you know what? The weather rocked. It was sunny and upwards of 90 degrees for four of the five days of our trip. Only on Friday was there even a hint of gray in the skies. So we grabbed our umbrellas and headed for Epcot, also known as the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. There we…

Got a preview of our future at the Spaceship Earth.

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(Apparently in the future I will wear my hair in a bun. How Asian of me!)

Experienced the ONLY rain of our whole trip, and lasted about fifteen minutes.

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Visited China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Africa, Canada, Morocco, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and colonial America, via the World Showcase. (Not in that order, and only China is pictured below.)

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Found Nemo.

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Got dressed up for a lovely and DELICIOUS dinner at Artist’s Point in the Wilderness Lodge. Mmm buffalo. Mmm scallops.

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Ah what a good day…

Amy Tan on why she writes

After recently reading The Hundred Secret Senses and The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan, I’ve come to the realization that she is without question one of my favorite authors. And given that I’ve only read one or maybe two books by the other people I’d put in that category, she’s probably got the most legit claim. Her and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Anyway, I really liked and identified with what she had to say (in an interview in the Sonoma Independent) about why she writes.

“I think that the other reason that I’ve become a storyteller is that I was raised with so many different conflicting ideas that it posed many questions for me in life, and those questions became a filter for looking at all my experiences and seeing them from different angles. That’s what I think that a storyteller does, and underneath the surface of the story is a question or a perspective or a nagging little emotion, and then it grows.”

My whole life I’ve been able to sympathize with both the black and white of life. If I were a politician, I’d probably be accused of “flip-flopping,” but I prefer to think of it as exercising my prerogative as a woman to change my mind, or attributing it to my halved nature (Chinese and American, Scorpio and Sagittarius). Only in the past five years or so have I come to the conclusion that the truth usually lies in the gray. But wherever something sits on the spectrum, I think that my compulsion to empathize is part of what fuels my interest in so many different characters and stories, and that my inability to let something go until I’ve resolved it is what keeps me working and writing.

More from Tan:

“Conflicts. Tragedies in life,” she concludes, beginning to list her own biography. “Difficulties. A mother who was depressed. A father and a brother who died. Being the only Chinese girl in a school. Moving every year. Graduating from a private school in Switzerland among rich people and not being rich.

“You know, those are the things that make you either psychotic or a fiction writer.”

Exactly! Well, not exactly. But in other words, just be glad I’m not crazy.

Also yay to…

…dinner rolls and canned pineapple chunks. Because that’s what we had for dinner.

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