Category: Publishing

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 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.

 

On Watching Fresh Off the Boat With My Man

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I’ve always always ALWAYS wanted to write about a TV show. Like, for forever.

And so deep gratitude to Fresh Off the Boat for inspiring me to do so, and to BuzzFeed for the opportunity.

Also, thank you to my boyfriend who watched the show with me, and who was completely okay about being part of this essay on watching Fresh Off the Boat with my (white) boyfriend. For the record, I love the show. It addresses serious matters through humor–and I hope I was able to make serious points through humorous writing, too.

BuzzFeed has amazing editors–this was my second time working with them, and I’m always impressed by the editorial staff and the editorial work they do there. I know that BuzzFeed is best known for their listicles, but they’ve got good writers and good writing over there. Big thanks to BuzzFeed Editor Sandra Allen (who worked with me on my life changing stroke essay for BuzzFeed) for being an always-supportive contact (and now friend), and major thanks to Doree Shafrir for being a good editor to me on the piece.

Update:
I DIE: EDDIE HUANG HIMSELF JUST TWEETED ME AND SAID HE LOVED THE ARTICLE. And that O should buy the book. (Well, we should all buy and read his book)
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Sustenance

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I made tamales last week.

I have never made tamales on my own. I once made tamales at a friend’s 60th birthday party, but the ingredients were all accounted for, the fillings made, and we assembled them under her direction. We made hundreds of tamales together. And each of us got to take home a Ziploc full of steamed tamales. I’ve never been to a more delicious birthday party.

I like the communal aspect to making things like dumplings, ravioli, and tamales. And I love tamales.

So I really wanted to make tamales on my own.

There are so many other things I’ve been doing on my own. I bought my car’s child seat a few weeks after I was on my own with her. I assembled her toys and I’ve used a screwdriver more times than any in my life to date in this past year. I’ll have to do my taxes for the first time on my own, too. I’ve never done my own taxes, before, believe it or not. This is what happens when you meet the man who becomes your husband when you are in college.

We bought fresh masa at the Mexican grocery store across the street from the urban farm store. We have chickens now. It’s been raining, so we bought straw to mitigate mud puddles, and more feed so they could eat. We expect they will lay eggs any week, now. They are hearty and happy chickens. One is friendly and comes straight up to you, a second is spunky and figures things out a little faster than the others, and a third is standoffish and cranky. I named them after Gatsby female characters: Jordan, Myrtle, and Daisy.

We also bought chile peppers, tomatillos, and lard.

I made the fillings. I have been a very bad Jew this year, and I continued in that vein and bought a pork shoulder to braise and slather with a homemade red chile sauce. And a chicken that I poached. I blistered the tomatillos and made a tomatillo sauce for the chicken.

Then I went to sleep. Tamales take a lot of labor, require many steps, and I decided to spread it out over a couple of days.

There have been many steps in my life this year. I look back at the long road behind me, and I have come a ways. Some of the things around me are decidedly new and exhilarating. Other things are new and frightening, or familiar and comforting. Most exasperating are the things that are familiar and toxic. I am still taking steps.

Some days I am petrified with fear. I am not sure what will happen, and all the roads before me are new, and I am tired and overwhelmed and very scared, even while I am oftentimes happy and exhilarated. You can be happy and scared at the same time, by the way.

Last week, I had an anxiety attack that was so bad, I sat in my bed rocking myself, while hugging myself. I was crying, too. I was aware that I was acting crazy, but rocking back and forth made me feel better. So I kept doing it. I had to. I thought about the time I read about little babies in orphanages rocking themselves in their cribs, because they weren’t held enough, and because human beings need that comfort. Comfort. Comfort. I rocked back and forth for about half an hour and texted a good friend that I was doing so. Then she called me. I answered the phone, sniffling through my nose like a little kid. And then I felt better.

There is a lot of labor. A lot of work. Some of it is dreary. But I’m happy to say that a chunk of the labor is writing a memoir about my stroke, a glimpse of which readers saw in my BuzzFeed essay, “I Had a Stroke at 33.” I am writing a book proposal and getting started on writing the chapters.

I try to rest when I can. It is hard to rest when there is a toddler zooming around the house. But I am thankful to everyone who helps me watch after her. Very thankful. Like, a forever indebted thankful. Like, I wish I could pay everyone who watches my daughter a million dollars.

I woke up the next day and heated up some water and put all the dried corn husks into the pot so that they could soften.

Then I did some work. Some writing. After the husks were soft enough for folding, I scooped out lard and a little bit of butter and turned on the mixer. Then I added the fresh masa. And then some chicken broth from the poached chicken. Just so you know, at this point, masa mixture went flying everywhere. There are still little lard and masa flecks on the side of my fridge.

But when I plopped a teaspoon of mixed masa into water, it floated. Which meant the masa was ready to use.

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Yes, I am aware that it looks like a tiny penis. I did not do it on purpose. Though it still pleases me that this happened.

I set up the masa assembly. My tamale-partner-in-crime had work to do, so I assembled the tamales myself. It seemed fitting to my theme. I did not mind. It was peaceful to take a break from my writing and smear masa on the insides of corn husks, put a tablespoon of filling, and then some sauce on top of that, fold the husks, and then wrap them. I decided to put one tie on the pork tamales, and to put two ties on the chicken.

My tamales did not look very consistent. Some were misshapen or undersized and a few looked like actual tamales.

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I laid them in the steamer insert to steam.

Then you steam them for about an hour. I do this with my writing, too–sometimes you have to put something aside to do some baking. When I look at something I’ve written days later, some things become more clear to me. Ideas sprout.

Sometimes you have to wait for things to become delicious.

Our chickens are now four months old. In a couple of months they will begin laying eggs. The first eggs will be smaller, and possibly misshapen. Yes, I hear the first eggs can be quite odd. But then over time, their eggs will become larger and more consistent in size. We are waiting. We are caring for the hens, making sure they are fed and have water and a clean home.

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When the tamales come out of the steamer, they don’t look much different on the outside. The house smells good, though. I am salivating.

They keep for a few days in the fridge, and they do freeze well. I froze many of them, but we ate many more than we froze.

The cooked masa was fluffy, the filling savory and perfect. Our hands were greasy from the lard and butter in the tamales. This is why I think they are served rarely, even in homes with people who know how to make tamales. But what a treat.

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The labor is rewarding. Doing new things on your own is rewarding.

A couple months ago, I signed with an agent who believes in me and in whom I believe. BuzzFeed named my essay one of their 13 favorite personal essays they published in 2014. And I hope I write a memoir of which I can be proud. I have so many hopes.

Happy holidays.

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Wow. Wow. Wow.

I have been sitting in my house for the past day (I seriously never left the house yesterday), stunned at the reception to my BuzzFeed Longform essay about my stroke and recovery, “I Had a Stroke at 33.” I have received thousands of encouraging and kind tweets, dozens of amazing emails, and so so so much support for that piece.

I am seriously floored, and in a giddy, dazed shock. I did not expect this many people to read my piece, nor did I expect it to illicit OMG there is that weird homophone aphasia thing again elicit so many connections. But I’m glad it has–I’m glad it has provided insight into traumatic brain injuries and stroke, that it has provided comfort to some and enlightenment to others.

When I was going through stroke recovery, I felt incredibly alone. Each stroke is unique, so that just furthers the isolation. And while recovering, I basically sat shiva for the person I lost, unready to face the person I’d become. So if this piece eases that solitary for others, I’m so happy.

In 36 hours, my essay was viewed 300,000 times. Three Hundred Thousand.

And this morning, it’s the “most dugg” post on Digg.

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(#4 is the horrific story about a man who has 100 hellish orgasms a day).

I’m trying to reply to each email and FB message. I’m sorry I can’t reply to all the tweets, but I see them, and am so psyched that people feel so passionate about the piece they are compelled to share it with others.

It took a long time to condense my stroke into an essay. Writing nonfiction for me is like cutting my wrists and letting them bleed into words. (Fiction isn’t any easier; that’s like INVENTING a pair of wrists and then cutting them until they bleed, too). I seriously thought my stroke was The Most Boring Story I could tell; who wants to hear about a sick person? And I wanted to write a narrative that provided layers of meaning to my experience. But this summer, I was ready. And apparently, you were ready for my story, too.

Thank you thank you thank you. Deep gratitude.

Thank you to my editor at BuzzFeed, Sandra Allen who lifted every stone and sharpened my story. Thank you to Lisa Perrin, whose illustrations captured the spirit of my essay. Writers don’t get to choose the artwork (and rarely the titles), and I so lucked out this time. Check out Lisa Perrin’s store on etsy.

Stroke Essay

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On December 31, 2006 I had a stroke. I’ve written about it in passing on Nova Ren Suma’s blog as a Turning Point, on my old blog about yoga as it pertained to my recovery, and on my (formerly) anonymous blog in real time as it happened, and as I healed.

But I found it very difficult to write about the stroke as the focal point in essay format. Sometimes, it takes time for me to understand a life happening before I can retell it to others.

Today, my essay is out on BuzzFeed Longform. I’m proud of the thing. I’m grateful to my editor at BuzzFeed for guiding me towards the razor’s edge in my narrative. And I’m in LOVE with Lisa Perrin’s artwork. I’ve always admired her work, but I’m thrilled with how much she nailed my story in pictures. The above image is one of several she created for my stroke essay.

Also, I’m grateful to all my friends who held my hand in recovery. I don’t recall every moment–friends have told me they visited me, and it’s in the black hole of memory. But I felt my friends’ presence and caring. Who held my hand last year, which was honestly one of the hardest years of my life. Who still hold my hands. And in particular, to the friends and my sweetheart who read early drafts of the essay.

We writers don’t receive kudos very often. So when the love does come around, it matters very much. It holds me through the darkness. And it keeps me going. So–thank you.

Note: I did chronicle my stroke over at Jade Park. And I blogged in real time as the stroke hit me, and as I realized something was terribly wrong. Whoever says blogging is a waste of time can see how that blog saved my life and writing.

Thank you.

Date of Time and Loss / Sundog Lit: Process

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I have a new nonfiction piece called Date and Time of Loss up at Sundog Lit

A few months ago, Sundog Lit put out a call for submissions for its special (Letters from) the Road theme issue.

I wondered about what I’d write for a “Road” issue; I’ve certainly gone on my fair share of road trips across the U.S., and even Europe, driving through France, Italy, and through the British countryside. I’ve seen castles and compared road food, napped in the front seat, driven through bad storms, sighed relief at good weather, and admired geography from the inside of a car.

A few years ago, I was hit by a car while visiting Seattle on a road trip.

Those two events intersected.

Ha. I’d write about BEING ON THE ROAD. Like, literally.

I pulled up the police report to jog my memory.

Ha. I’d use the police report to structure the piece. The call for submissions wanted short work that transcended genre.

I’d title it after the first question in the report: Date and Time of Loss.

I began to write the piece–all the things I wanted to write about being hit by a car, and the shock I felt in its aftermath. Not being able to cross the street without flinching, feeling bruised and tender, feeling vulnerable, and feeling so so wounded. That the person I called first on that day, while in the crosswalk, is no longer available to me.

Another event in my life intersected with this trauma; the end of my marriage. That the two feel the same. I wove that pain into the piece.

I didn’t begin writing Date and Time of Loss with the intention of intertwining the two events. But that is what the work wanted me to do. And I hope I made the work, proud.