Art as solace, Art as Inspiration: Feb. 26, 2019
I may have talked about this before, and so I apologize if I am repeating myself. I still believe that art saved my writing life. The first year after the 2010 police raid on my home was a tumultuous time and I spent the year corralling the family and weathering the media storm. About a month after my husband had been dismissed from his job, a good friend approached me and asked how my writing was going. I confided to her that I couldn’t write anymore. She talked with me for a while and gave me instructions. I had to watch Julie & Julia, based on the real life story of writer Julie Powell who cooked a recipe out of Julia Child’s famous cookbook every day for a year; and I was to check out the work of a famous local artist, Pamela Willis, who was doing a public “artaday” project – painting a canvas every day and posting it on social media, to hold herself publicly accountable.
And the Oscar Goes to…: Feb. 19, 2019
If The Atlas of Reds and Blues were a major motion picture….Let’s see. (BTW, I love this:)
Archie Punjabi as Mother with makeup to make her have a few wrinkles and graying hair, and, Brad Pitt as hero, in soft-focus to make him look a little younger.
Shabana Azmi as as Mother’s mother.
Glenn Close as Mother’s mother-in-law.
Priyanka Chopra as the Baby Sister, with makeup to make her look a bit older.
The girls: Anushka Sen, Amrita Mukherjeeand Ruhanika Dhawan.
Love-Hate Relationship: Feb. 12, 2019
What I like about my debut novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues: it’s short. Also, I think it’s full of suspense.
What I love about writing in general: I get to tell stories, I get to try out new writing techniques. I get to read books about craft. I get to write poems. I get to attend writing conferences and workshops, where I meet other writers and poets and we talk about books, and writing and craft. It’s all so amazing.
What I don’t love about writing: the isolation.
Book Birthday: Feb. 5, 2019
Aloha! Today my debut novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues, is released — and tonight there’s a big book birthday party planned at Books Inc. in Mountain View, CA to celebrate the journey thus far. What began as a short story I wrote for a workshop in 2004 will have a life of its own, separate from me. It is a surreal feeling to look back and realize one year ago today, I had just secured a literary agent and a book contract.
Building a Platform: Jan. 29, 2019
I want to go on record as saying that I have nothing to add to K.A. Doore’s perfect post yesterday.
Being part of a literary community is the best thing I writer could wish for. Writing itself is a solitary and lonely, and often isolating, endeavor. But if we’re really lucky writers, we learn some craft techniques and make friends along the way. Then you have people in your corner who love talking about stories and books and craft and poetry as much as you do. These are the people in your corner whose successes you celebrate, and who celebrate you. Writing colleagues. I’m a bit of a workshop junkie, have had the enormous privilege of meeting new people – and I’m grateful for my writer friends and acquaintances.
compare and contrast: Jan. 22, 2019
I don’t have any magic formulas for the books I selected and used as comparable titles — except if you consider reading, as I do, as a superpower. A few years ago I wanted to start sending out my own book. I attempted to take stock of what I loved to read and re-read, the books I kept returning to for inspiration and solace: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, Leaving Yuba City by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni; then add Bluets by Maggie Nelson and Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison, and of course Dictee, by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.
Dreaming of Hawaii (and other bucket list items): Jan. 15, 2019
Once upon a time, I lived in Honolulu. Although I had a touch of island fever (who am I kidding? I had a terrible case of island fever because I was living on land which was surrounded on all sides by the vast ocean….), I generally loved living there for those two years, six weeks, and perhaps four days. I worked as a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (which has now merged with its competition and is called the Honolulu Star-Advertiser), and on my days off, I wrote poems and short stories, and I hung out with my few good friends and family.
Devi’s 2019 reading list (well, as of the first week of Jan.): Jan. 8, 2019
I have my eyes on so many books this year!
Like my beloved colleagues at the Debutante Ball I came up with a list for #Debut19Chat last month, and today’s list is an expansion. I’m excited to delve into these rich and varied worlds! This list is still fluid, I’m certain I’ll be adding to it! In this field, an assortment of literary novels, memoir, YA, works in translation, essays and of course, my favorite: poetry.
Resolutions and Resolve: Jan. 1, 2019
I could get very specific and that may actually help in the long run. But I think I’m going to play it fast and loose in 2019 — well, more free than in years past. I’ve been working for several decades now, and I’ve been disappointed in myself a lot of those years. I always have good intentions. And I always set good intentions. But my expectations get in the way and everything usually gets derailed. Inevitably, my intentions fall by the side of the writers highway and I’m back to running with the bulls, so to speak, in high heels. Or climbing Everest in a pair of shorts. You get the idea.
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things….: Dec. 25, 2018
These are some of my favorite books of 2018 (in no particular order):
Heart Berries by Marie Terese Mailhot. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. There Thereby Tommy Orange. The Carrying by Ada Limon. Dear Current Occupant by Chelene Knight. Still Lives by Maria Hummel. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Christine O’Brien. Feeding a Thousand Souls by Vijaya Nagarajan. Old in Art School by Nell Painter, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia. Educatedby Tara Westover.
Down-Time and Other Myths of Relaxation: Dec. 18, 2018
I’m supposed to be writing about self-care and relaxation and the art of not writing. Um, I don’t think I’m in any position to give anyone advice about this. I agree everyone needs down-time. I wish I took more breaks. When I’m stuck in my work-in-progress I usually go outside with my camera and take a photograph, or take out the dog for a walk. The fresh air and the change of surroundings ( i.e., not being glued to the chair and desk) usually work. Sometimes, I listen to music. If I’m super tired and really can’t focus any longer at the task at hand, I try to convince someone in my family about a new movie that’s just come out. We are a family of avid moviegoers, and usually someone is willing to accompany me to see the action adventure/drama/thriller/comedy that’s playing at 6:35 or 8:50.
Go-To Books, Podcasts, Blogs: Dec. 11, 2018
It’s that time of year, when we resolve to do better when we change out the wall calendar in a few weeks time.
No matter which book you pick up and how many exercises you skim and skip, just remember one thing: you have to write. Preferably for a little bit every day.
Here are a few podcasts, blogs, books that may interest you:
Words to Live By & Words to Write By: Dec. 4, 2018
All of my writing mentors have at one point said the same thing:
Don’t give up.
When you’re stuck, change your surroundings.
and my once-upon-a-time teacher teacher Lucille Clifton said, read your work aloud — if you start to stumble, if your tongue starts to trip up, then cut what you’ve written.
Here’s some W.O.W. (words of wisdom): (thanks to AZ Quotes)
What I Wished I Knew When I Was Starting Out: Nov. 27, 2018
Missing my poetry-mom Lucille Clifton especially today. Here she is reading aloud a poem of hers that I love. Until I got to graduate school, until I got to the people who would become my writing family and my writing community, I wasn’t encouraged much by my peer set in creative writing classes. Especially while I lived and worked in the Deep South. I always felt out of place, out of step. I always felt I didn’t have the tools and I didn’t deserve to be heard, to tell my stories.
1. Know that you have the right to tell your stories.
2. Know that you have the right to tell your stories any way you want.
Gratitude: Nov. 20, 2018
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. — Albert Schweitzer
I’m so grateful to so many this past year, for lifting me up when I was feeling low. Writing is often a lonely venture, and this time last year, I was discouraged. The past ten months have flown by in a whirlwind as Counterpoint Press has made magic, turning my manuscript in to my debut novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues. In February, you’ll laugh at my lengthy acknowledgements, but I did want to take a minute this week to say mahalo to y’all for the support and love.
Channeling Jean Kwok (and you can too!): Nov. 13, 2018
“The query letter is…the single most important page an unpublished writer will ever write” — Nicholas Spark
This week’s subject of discussion is supposed to be about querying tips, as in what tips can you give an aspiring writer when querying potential publishers and agents? Unfortunately my querying stories and experiences are good only in the theoretical — as in it’s a good topic to discuss in the abstract.
None of my query letters directly lead to my getting a publisher or an agent. But the act of learning what to do and how to do it well has allowed me to help others.
But more on that later.
Distracts, Distracting, Distractions: Nov. 6, 2018
“Morning comes whether you set the alarm or not.” – Ursula K. LeGuin
Well, I’m in the thick of the stew now, aren’t I? I’m trying to expel 50,000 words from my brain onto the page by the end of the month for NaNoWriMo and trying hard not to be sucked in to the countdown until the Midterm Elections.
By the time you read this, if you read this, We The People will be waiting in line to vote, watching people on TV waiting in line to vote, hearing disturbing stories about voter purges and gerrymandering, calling family and friends and basically waiting another twelve to fifteen hours to view the results of state and local elections all across the United States. And then discussing the elections results for weeks if not months to come. The current administration is trying to pump up its nationalistic base and distract the nation from its own problems with Russian collusion in the 2016 elections by jailing migrant children, for example, and sending up to fifteen-thousand troops to the US-Mexico border to potentially shoot Honduran (and other Central/South American) refugees seeking asylum.
Candids: Oct. 30, 2018
Don’t think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art. — Andy Warhol
I suppose I could write an entire tome about my fears these days, how unsafe America is for people of color, how America is changing, how the rhetoric and public discourse has become so toxic and polarized – how I’m wary to speak my mind in public, how I’m afraid for my children’s generation. Like a lot of Americans, the news triggers me: gun violence, migrant children in cages, sexual violence, racism and the rise of white nationalism, the dismantling of the EPA and denial of science in the wake of so many natural disasters. Every day a sad and disturbing story. I’m afraid of the midterm elections next week. I’m afraid people aren’t going to go out and vote. I’m afraid of what will happen next in America.
Burying the Time: Oct. 23, 2018
When I was a reporter, the best and worst part of my workday resided next to each other. The best moment was when I beat the deadline and turned in my news story to the impatient copy editors. The worst moment came next, when the copy editors and I would engage in a competitive dance off, figuratively speaking, questioning each other’s word choices and grammar (I have a thing for commas). This went on for as many years as I worked as a journalist.
Poetry was so much easier. I love enjambment and I love line breaks and there was no punctuation police hovering over my shoulder.
Under the Influence: Oct. 16, 2018
This week the Debs are to discuss the books & authors that most influenced us. And this is especially difficult, since I love to read, and I am fond of both fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose, forms both hybrid and pure journalism.
So many authors, so many books. So little time. But I will try to thank them and tell you why. With regard to my forthcoming debut novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues, I reside at the intersection of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. It is personal as political, and political as personal. There are flecks of Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever, and Maggie Nelson’s Bluets in the mix. I love these books, for their language, for their stories, for the surprise and the suspense in the plot lines.
Ode to the First Draft: Oct. 9, 2018
I really want to write a rant to all the devastations of the day: the Kavanaugh vote in the Senate, the FBI’s incomplete investigation, the senator from Maine’s weak speech justifying her vote against women, the Senate’s dismissal and nullification of Dr. Ford’s courage.
But I have to write for the Debs, it’s that time of the week where the Debs must cull their thoughts for the topic at hand. This week: writing first drafts. As a former journalist, I think of the Alan Barth quote: “News is the first rough draft of history.” I wonder twenty years from now if the America we live in today will even exist. I believe, as a result of the 2016 elections, that our nation has been diminished and our institutions and core beliefs have been shaken. So, I am very distracted by the news on TV, by the newspaper articles. But I believe in seeing beauty and I believe in making art. I believe in looking ahead. The only way I can think of to do that is to do the task at hand.
Chronicles of an X-American (part 1): Oct. 2, 2018
The best training is to read and write, no matter what — Grace Paley
I’ve always been a poet, and it’s always some tributary of poetry that I return to when I have my teeth, metaphorically, kicked in. I started writing poems, mostly nature poems, when I turned nine. I was fast with my first drafts and slow to revise. Only my fifth-grade English teacher was remotely encouraging about my work, and it was only because of Mrs. Heath’s belief in me that I kept writing for pleasure. My favorite thing to do in school was to diagram sentences, and create little train tracks or tree branches of words, all connecting with each other in a magical and logical way to make a sentence.
An Abridged Autobiography, in Books & Comics & Such…: Sept. 25, 2018
Don’t remember much before 1970, when I was about four. I watched The Bugaloos, the bug rock-n-roll band who lived in the forest and had to outwit an evil witch. I loved them so much I got the official Bugaloos lunch box and matching thermos, to take to pre-school. I spoke more Bengali than English. I remember going to India for a visit and my grandparents telling me stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and my uncle buying me comic books. My life was complete.
A Circuitous Route: Sept. 18, 2018
The reflection of the world is blues, that’s where that part of the music is at – Jimi Hendrix
I have no way to express how stunned I am, sitting here today, holding my newly hatched ARCs. It is surreal to see this book in galley form, it is surreal to see my family hold my debut novel in their hands.
By all accounts I should not have this book. Although it was mostly completed by 2009 — I lost most of it in 2010. And I had to start over.
The Twice-Born Book: Sept. 11, 2018
I wrote my first book because I wanted to read it – Toni Morrison
I’m a voracious reader. I admit it. I started young – one of my favorite books came in to my possession when I turned nine. A friend of the family gave me Anthony B. Lake’s A Pleasury of Witticisms and Word Play. Inside those pages I learned all about anagrams and palindromes, limericks and sonnets. I was hooked, and a poet was born.
Origin Story: Sept. 4, 2018
I am the sum of so many things and it is at once easy and difficult to place labels on myself. I’ll begin in the most obvious ways: I’m a daughter to an academic; my dad is a mathematician and was immersed in the world of biostatistics and multi-variant statistical analysis for more than a half-century before retiring this year. I saw how much he loves math — and I love language and writing and books in the same way. I’m a sucker for a good story, no matter the form or topic....