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Mailing List

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I am starting a mailing list in anticipation of the release of my memoir TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER (and of course, after that–my novel, THE GOLEM OF SEOUL).

I welcome you to sign up for monthly-ish updates from me.

The updates will have some personal content as it pertains to writing. I’ll also be sharing my writing process, my publishing experience, favorites, travel, etc. A little like this blog, but also different.

And hopefully more exclusive–for instance, when my book trailer is released, my mailing list readers will be the first to see it!

Additionally, I plan on holding giveaways to members of the mailing list–for example, signed books…and possibly tote bags or other schwag I might dream up.

Please sign up below. And thank you for becoming a part of my inner circle of readers.

Subscribe to my mailing list

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The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

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(A picture of me in 2013)

In 2013, I lost everything I’d built my life upon. My marriage. My previous identity. Money. I was heartbroken and dealing with postpartum depression. I was struggling with motherhood, and the challenges of this new life.

But unbeknownst to me at the time, I found my identity and strength and friends and love and I began a relationship with my newborn daughter. Everything was gone but I had the opportunity to replenish my life with things and people most important to me as a newly untethered individual.

I remember telling O that I had one year to really make a change. That for a year I would be at home as a new mother and I would have no money and that that would be the year I would double down on dreams. Everything’s gone to shit, I told him. I have nothing else left to lose. I have to do only the things I love to do and see where they lead me.

I felt helpless and so I did the one thing that did not make me feel helpless. I doubled down on writing.

In 2013, I wrote the essay that was a turning point in my career, MINT and it was published in The Rumpus by Roxane Gay. It was not as widely read as some of my future work, but this was the publication that changed my life.

That essay led to an opportunity to write something for BuzzFeed in 2014. I wrote an essay about my stroke and recovery. The essay went viral and led to a 2-book deal with Ecco.

All I did in 2015 was write my memoir. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Two months ago, I turned in my memoir manuscript. Yesterday, I finished copy edits.

In 2017, on February 14, TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER will be published and out in the world.

I did not do this alone.

Thank you.

2013 was an enormous fall. Here is a picture of me in 2013, sliding down the Codornices park concrete slide. On that day, I decided that as miserable as I felt, I would seek a minute of pure joy, somehow. My thinking was that I could hold on to those few seconds and say, “Today I felt good, even if for ten seconds.”

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(Also, falling can feel good–as evidenced by the slide).

That is how I clawed my way back. I would hold on to the small parts of good. Even if the good was just one percent of my day. I would make that one percent, larger, somehow. I would hold on to any part of happiness, even if fleeting.

I would focus on happiness. I would be aware of misery and I would try to deal with the bills and legal paperwork one by one. My worries were many–at one point I wondered how it was that I would pay for diapers. I would not ignore these concerns. But I would look at a sliver of happiness while dealing with the unpleasant.

And eventually, the happiness would dominate.

And yes, it has.

Book Gestation

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It takes a number of steps and people and coordination to bring a memoir into the world. (It also takes work).

The essay that sparked this whole process. Editors and agents. A book proposal to write. A book deal. Then, write write write write wriiiite.

After twelve months of writing…GOOOOOOAAAALL:  a completed and accepted final draft of TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER. I’ve never written at such a quick pace.

My novel, on the other hand, took twelve YEARS to write and I’m still not done rewriting it. And it’s due soon, to my editors! 

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So we’re now in the copyedits stage. Many eyes have scanned the pages. An intrepid and sharp-eyed copyeditor combed through my manuscript for necessary changes over the past month, and now it is in my hands again. My penchant for unnecessary commas is clear to me as I accept changes proofread the proofreader. (Shazam! I caught a couple of things he/she missed!). A legal team has read the manuscript to ensure all things are square on the litigious front.

Blurbs have been courted. Bound manuscript copies have been sent out for said blurbs.

I have cover art–it’s beautiful. I can’t wait to show it to you.

The advance reader copies (ARCs) will be out within a couple of months and the publishing sales team readied.

My editors asked that I make a short video for the sales team–I could have shot something simple with my iPhone (what’s the selfie version of an iPhone video?), but I’d already been pondering a book trailer for a few weeks . A good book trailer can be amazing, a bad one, ineffective (and a major expense).

The fact that a book trailer could achieve two needs at once got me off the fence.

So this week, we shot my book trailer.

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I get to have Oprah Lighting! Well. Sort of; I get to be lit up! I had to powder my face and everything.

The entire living room got lighting. Including my bookshelves, the backdrop to some of the book trailer.

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It’s hard to talk about my book and not make it sound cheezy. I’m astounded that people even want to hear about my story about having been sick and then getting better. But along the way, I learned lessons about wellness and resilience, and it was gratifying to write them down.

And I can’t wait until my book is out in the world–the official publication date is February 14, 2017.

 

It begins

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It begins.

Someone writes something. The words hurt. My sadness envelops me.

Like a warm sweater. On a warm day. And yet, I do not sweat. I become heat. And yet the heat does not burn the sweater off of me. It weighs me down.

I can usually shake off the sweater.

But at some particular moment, I am caught unaware. And then I take to bed, clouded by sweater wool and and over that, down and cotton.

I burrow deep in the hole.

It becomes unbearable.

I walk into the ocean. To put out the fire.

It is dark and scorched and wet and cold and hot and all the things. All the sensations.

And then I re-emerge. I’ve gone through the heat.

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Also–(unrelated to this post, but where else do I put this)?: My memoir, TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER, has an official publication date! February 14, 2007.

I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, so I’m EXCITED February 14 is now reclaimed for me, forever and ever.

Getting In Shape To Write

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I turned my memoir manuscript in, and it’s time to move forward to my next book, before the PR demands for my memoir ramp up. So between now and January 2017, it’s novel-time. It’s due in a few months.  It’s done but not done done done.

Whereas my memoir took 12 months to write, my novel has taken 12 *years* of effort. It was born in the midst of my MFA’s novel writing workshop, ushered on by Victor LaValle. I’ve rewritten it three times. Thrown away more words than I’ve eventually kept. It waited for me to recover from my stroke. Witnessed the birth of my child, the end of my marriage, and its book contract. It waited for me to live a life, to grow up and meet it. To be able to write the damn thing.

Unlike my memoir, my novel requires so much more discipline and rigor from me. It wants a tidier home. My kitchen is tidier than it has been in a couple of years. And it requires me to get in physical shape. Literally–I can’t write my novel unless I’m running or doing yoga on a regular basis. It goes back to the discipline and rigor this novel demands from me.

I went on a run today.

Confession: I haven’t gone on a run in….years. Over two years. The last time I went for a run, I could run 30 minutes easily. This time–nope. I cut short my run by 15 minutes.

Further confession: I wasn’t running for 15 minutes straight. I was doing “intervals.”

This bout of exercise felt like running (see what I did there?) your hand in the wrong direction on velvet fabric. Not what I expected. Uncomfortable. Dissonant.

But getting back into my novel reeks of this discomfort–like wearing jeans after having worn sweatpants for two years.

Confession: I’ve been living in soft pants for 2 years.

I’ll keep running and getting back into shape. And I’ll keep working on my novel, and getting it into shape. And my novel will shape me.

In other news–there is a family of foxes in our neighborhood. They’re beautiful and delightful to spot in our urban setting. My daughter spotted a baby fox/kit, and she couldn’t stop talking about it.

Then again, we have no more chickens.

 

On Characters

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I spent the last few months as an adjunct professor in Fresno State’s MFA program–teaching a graduate fiction workshop and meeting the next generation of emerging writers. It’s been an edifying experience on many dimensions. But first, I had to go in with my own pedagogy as it pertains to successful workshop.

For the most part, my approach centered around being craft-focused.

Successful content is based on craft execution. What you want to write is up to you–whether you pick something difficult/ challenging/ seriously fucked up/ controversial (e.g., writing outside your own race) or something familiar, you better make that content sing. So we focused on craft in workshop. For instance, characters.

Let’s begin.

The character you never want in your real life is the best kind of character to have in your stories. Not everyone can be a good guy. Not everyone can be intelligent or make kind choices. Your bad neighbor is essential to your story.

Character is something strong and original and deep in a person’s nature. Generosity is revered in workshop. As is kindness. As is honesty. How do you tell someone they have a booger in their nose? Do you even tell someone? Which is the more generous, kind, and honest approach? There is a difference between pointing and laughing at a booger versus telling them hey, you have a booger versus saying man people with boogers have hygiene problems–by the way you have a booger versus not saying anything at all, thus allowing that person to continue to navigate the world with a booger hanging out of their nose.

The best of course, is to also hand the person a facial tissue. Help out.

Yes. Character is important in workshop. Characters are important in writing. Character and characters can and should be developed.

Character can be a letter or symbol. You can name them whatever you want. They can symbolize so much. We all do.

There is a cast of characters in my novel. Each has a story. Each achieves something in the narrative. Have purpose. Come to workshop with purpose.

Cast also means to throw with force. The cast of characters are cast into a traumatic world. I put them there. And then they keep themselves there, and then they each, one by one, climb out. And as writers, we must not keep them in their cast–the characters at some point come to life, and we must listen to their needs and desires. We cannot be tyrants. What is it they want? What prevents them from that desire?

When my daughter was a toddler, she did not remember the name of the movie she watched, but did remember its characters. Frozen became “Elsa,” and How To Train Your Dragon became “Hiccup and Toothless” and Finding Nemo is simply “Nemo.” And Madagascar is “Move it Move it”–that’s a craft lesson of a different kind, focused on themes. Themes are also important, but that is not what I’m addressing here.

If you want someone to read 200 pages of your writing, your characters must be memorable, must be endearing. Why else would we read all seven of the Harry Potter books? We want to know what happens to Neville and Hermione and Ron and Harry and Sirius and Luna and even Snape. Especially Snape. Remember–the character you never want in your real life, is what you want in your stories. That person is Snape.

Furthermore, your character must be strong. The voice of your story is also what keeps your reader enthralled. Listen to your characters. And so will your readers.

Downtime

Update 5/8/2017: Welp. I opened my etsy shop. Downtime Studio.

In my downtime, I write in my journal. I read. I cook. And I quilt.

I don’t like sewing machines, so I quilt entirely by hand. It’s slow going, but I like it that way. It’s kind of like writing a book-length work. There are no short cuts.

This is what I’ve quilted over the last year.

A quilt for my daughter:

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Continue reading

A (snail) mailing list idea

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This Summer, I wrote a letter for The Rumpus’s Letters in the Mail series. Last week (it is now Autumn), the letter went out to everyone with a subscription to LITM.

In the age of electronic media, and electronic mailing lists, writing the letter felt strange and intimate. Like being touched after a long period of no human contact. I once spent some time at a writing residency, and one of the things I missed most during that time was human touch. I had no idea how crucial touch was to me, until then. I slept alone and not with my partner and not with my dogs. I went three weeks without a hug. Without shaking hands. I swear, I think even a punch would have been welcome by that point (this may explain why some people get into fist fights).

On the second to last day, I signed up for a massage–and it was only then, when I was on the masseuse table, I literally FELT what I had been missing.

Writing a letter by hand felt just like that. My long-neglected handwriting scrawl was horrible–I had to rewrite the whole thing, because the first run-through was illegible. Still, it was needed. And it felt good.

And then? I got letters back. It felt amazing. A gift, in return.

So here’s the thing: I want to do this more often. And instead of having an electronic mailing list for my readers and leading up to the day when my memoir and novel are published…I’d like to offer up my own rendition of a “mailing list”:

Send your mailing address to me over at xtinehlee AT gmail DOT com, and every month or so, I will send you a letter in the mail. For free (for as long as I can afford this, at least).

It’s likely I won’t even write about writing. Maybe it will be about a recent recipe I sampled. Or a trip. It may or may not have doodles on the margins. But you’ll get a letter from me, in the mail. 🙂

–Christine

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This Frightens Me

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So I made it my cover photo on Facebook. And I texted it to a friend who also found it jarring.

Eyes. Staring at you. Unblinking. In All Colors.

It takes what it takes

BookDealI’ve been heads down, writing my manuscript. I’m determined to make my deadline to my editor, and even more motivated to finish before the deadline. After years of writing without a deadline, doing so is…awesome.

I live a hobbit life. I don’t much leave my house, except to take my daughter to and from preschool or buy groceries. It’s like an extended residency. It takes a lot of focus to write, and I want very much not to be distracted.

But in between, at AWP and other public space, I’m met with congratulations for having sold two books. It feels good to hear such support, even though it also feels awkward to hear and receive and intake–is that really me? That’s not me, is it?  Huh. And then I’m relieved when the conversation moves on to other topics.

I hesitated before announcing my book deal. The official announcement in Publishers Marketplace went out in early March when only four people in my life, knew. My dear agent forwarded me a copy of what went out, and well–reading it gave me immense delight.

And I still didn’t publicize my deal, because I needed time to understand what this milestone meant to me, before I absorbed the reactions of other people. So that I could hold the personal experience near and dear, even within the public realm. I wanted clarity so that my personal feelings about this writing milestone would not be affected by public reaction. And that I could in the end, be moved and unmoved, in the healthiest of ways.

What did it mean to me?

It took awhile for me to understand what my book deals meant to me. The negotiation itself was exhilarating, but made me a nervous wreck; I had vertigo and nausea and high blood pressure and insomnia. I knew what I had to do, but my body just fell apart. Wow. Who knew that that would be the way I would react to the culmination of a dream?

But when the hubbub died down, and handshakes were made and before the deal went public, I had a chance to breathe and ponder. It didn’t mean that I was “finally a writer”; I have always been a writer. This wasn’t my end goal. Instead, this was the beginning of something, not the end.

This was the beginning of my new life. I’d turned the boat around. In my darkest hour, I stood up and reached for good things and through hard work, made them real. I made healthy choices and channeled all my pain into my work, and turned shit into fertilizer into blooms. I’d shown my daughter how to stand up and make positive change. I’d doubled down when I had nothing to lose.

It is the beginning of a new life, one defined on my own terms.

And that feels amazing. And that is what I hold most dear.

 

My publishing arc was an atypical and fortunate trajectory, one I couldn’t have anticipated when I started writing fiction in earnest twelve years ago.

Twelve. Years. Ago.

When I was talking to editors, after my BuzzFeed stroke essay went viral, more than a few asked me where I had been all these years. I said, “Well, I’ve been writing my novel.”

It takes what it takes. The novel draft is done, and it won’t take twelve years to revise and finish. The memoir is chugging along. The plan is to publish the memoir in late 2016. That’s not too far away.

I write everyday. There is work ahead. I put myself on a schedule a few months ago and thank goodness, I’m on schedule.

Thank you for reading. Thank you to the readers who read my JadePark blog and then found me again. Thank you to my friends who have answered every single text and email I’ve sent. Thank you for my mentors who have cheered me on.

 

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