Monday, March 26, 2012

Closing Times and Thoughts

Thanks to everyone involved, I've had a fabulous time.  So fabulous that some people even asked, can you come back and do this again in a few years?  To that, I do not have the correct answer.  We'll have to ask the Annenberg Beach House and City of Santa Monica.

Last Saturday, knowing that my time was very limited, I ran along the ocean before official office hourse began.  As I returned early, a mother asked if she could take a photograph of me with her young daughter.   I was a little sweaty, a little out of breath, and really didn't want to.  This is L.A., after all, and you're not supposed to let them see you sweat.  But this girl, smiling and full of sunshine, was wearing a Knicks 17 Jersey.  A girl after my own heart.  Bring on the Wang-sanity!

What's a little sweat?  A racing heart?  You can't get anywhere without drive, passion, talent.  

Some of you have visited me to learn more about the residency.  Check the website, look into your heart and soul, look out onto the ocean.  Listen.  To Your Voices.   Voices Lead to Vision.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

LA Magazine! And a round of applause

Thank all of you for attending my final reading/public performance at the Marion Davies Guest House last night.

It's very scary to read work-in-progress.  It can feel like indecent exposure.  Like you're being judged.  All sorts of butterflies jumping in your stomach.

Pulitzer prize winner Jennifer Egan said she writes as many as 50-60 drafts per novel.  Ethan Canin once shared he wrote so many drafts he couldn't remember if his character was still epileptic, or not.  Philip Roth said he often has to write a hundred pages or more before there's a paragraph that's alive.

It takes a special community to go on this journey with you.  Thank you, Beach Culture.  Annnenberg Beach House & Marion Davies Guest House Supporters.  Thank you, Dear Husband.  Thank you, Santa Monica.

A friend who hasn't seen me in a long time found the LA Magazine article, and sent me an email.  "Is this you?"

"It is."


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Marion Davies Guest House Closed Today March 17th

Public Service Announcement

Due to heavy rains, dangerously slick roads, wind, and possible thunder....for everyone's safety, the Marion Davies Guest House will be closed today.  No office hours.

Wishing everyone a safe "lucky" St. Patrick's Day, and hope to see you Monday night!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Chapter at the Beach House

Extra, extra, read all about it!  And then come on down Monday night, March 19th!

David Colgan, Staff Assistant to L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, writes:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Press Release! The Online Version

Some of you asked when to let you know when.....
It's here....

I'm featured in the current March/April 2012 issue of University of Chicago Alumni Magazine
Career change | The University of Chicago Magazine

Monday, March 12, 2012

Writing to Win, Place or Show

      The marine layer has burned off, the sun is shining, and it's another glorious day at the beach.  During my residency, I've met some interesting folks, and thought I'd share some of the joy visitors bring.  The questions they ask.  The things they carry.

     Last Saturday was really crazy, and apologize if you tried to visit, but couldn't.  If it makes you feel any better, I couldn't even find a parking space, and had to circle around.  UCLA and USC were having a volleyball tournament with their respective bands playing.  And in the Annenberg House, there was a barmitzvah.  The good news, there's still time.  You can visit me Saturday, 17th, during office hours, come here me speak/read Monday the 19th, March 24th and March 26th.

     As you might predict, most of my visitors loves stories.  Love telling stories, sharing stories, writing stories.  How do you start out?  This question is easy, and not easy.  Bird By Bird.  It's an excellent motivating book by Annie Lamott.  There are no ways out.  If you want to write, you have to lock yourself up, unplug and face that blank screen, blinking cursor or blank page.

   But the cool thing is that you can do it!  There is more than one way, more than one path.

   Many people have commented that I've won a lot of awards.  I had to.  It wasn't just the "Asian Tiger/Cub" upbringing, it was a way to prove and motivate myself.  When you first start out, it's likely that you are the only one who really believes in yourself.  Even people who say they support your decision might just be saying that to be nice.   And there are the people blessed with candor.  Many have good intentions.  "How will you pay your bills?"  "What about health care?"  

    With an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago, and being a former bond trader on Wall Street and serving as deputy chief of staff during Mayor Dinkins' Administration in NYC, in the beginning I couldn't get anyone to read my work.  People told me I was too left brain to have a fully-functioning right brain.  Everyone knows artsy-fartsy people can't do math!   Overheard one artistic director tell another, what could a bond trader have to say that's worth listening too?  I had no publication credits, no English major, no M.F.A.

   So it's possible that you have to make time to write in a world that is downright "hostile."  There are days you'd rather suck gas than write (writing is solitary, $$$ worries, life is busy, the house is dirty, you've just been rejected, again!), and contest deadlines were a way of pushing me.

   You will get this done.  You will submit.  You will take a risk.  Plus you can keep it a secret.  No one has to know.  Ssshhh.  Until of course you win, because no denying, it's fun when you win!  My first award was from the Kennedy Center, and my world changed.  Opened up.  Productions, two page profile in the New York Times.  I remember feeling like Sally Field, My doormen respect me!  My doormen really respect me.  You see, before that award, everyone worried about  me.  My friends, my in-laws, my doormen.  Even me.

   For example, I learned Saturday that NPR currently has a 3 minute fiction contest.  I thought for many of you who visited, or follow this blog, you might be interested.  I've cut, paste, edited below:

All Things Considered is launching Round 8 of its Three-Minute Fiction contest. Here's what we look for: original, short fiction that can be read in less than three minutes – that's no more than 600 words.
Each round, we have a judge who gives us a writing challenge. For Round 8, our judge is Luis Alberto Urrea, the award-winning author of 13 books, including The Devil's Highway, The Hummingbird's Daughter and his most recent release, Queen of America.
For Round 8, Urrea wants you to start your story with this sentence:
"She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door."
For your story, you must use that full sentence exactly as it is. Those 17 words are included in the 600-word limit, too, but all the other words are up to you. Each and every story will be read, and once again, we're lucky enough to still have creative writing graduate students from New York University and the Iowa Writer's workshop on board as our first readers.
The deadline for submissions is Sunday, March 25, at 11:59 p.m. ET. After that date, we'll post some of our favorites on the website and read highlights during weekends on All Things Considered. Meanwhile, you can keep up with the latest posts on our Three-Minute Fiction Facebook page.
The winning story will be read on air, and the winning author will receive a signed copy of Urrea's book, Queen of America, as well as join us on the show.
Before you get started, though, Urrea has a last tip for writers:
"Be bold, baby. Just jump in there and let us have it."

   I agree, if you want to write, jump in.  Be bold.  Be you.  I'll meet you at the Winner's Circle.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Moo Goo Gai Pan Asian

Moo Goo Gai Pan Asian courts many Muses.  Its first inspiration comes directly from the Asian American experience -- first, second and third hand.   The hilarity as well as the sturm und drang.   The play is also inspired by my research of Bananas and Banana Republics.  The formation, propogation, history, migration.   I was fascinated to learn that the Cavendish is endangered, and its predecessor the Gros Michel completely wiped out.  That India has the most variety of bananas in the world.

This biting comedy is also inspired by George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum comprised of "Exhibits" that showcase, spotlight stereotypes of African Americans.  It's provocative because race makes us uncomfortable.  Super uncomfortable.

So uncomfortable I struggle with Moo Goo Gai Pan Asian.  Is it worth rewriting?  Developing? Worth weaving the history of the Banana with the Diaspora of Asian Americans?  It's a play, no surprise, with a cast of mostly Asian American characters, and also no surprise, a bunch of theaters told me they cannot cast.

Then a funny thing happened off the keyboard, on the courts and across America.  LINSANITY!  Yes, Jeremy Lin.  And how the Media treated race in its reportage.

Jason Whitlock and his racist tweet.
ESPN with "Chink in the Armor" which had actually been used before with no repercussions.
Ben & Jerry criticized for including "Fortune Cookie" but not lychees as an ingredient in its Linsanity flavored ice cream
The Saturday Night Live sketch that ratttled off a set of racist imagery that every Asian American I know has had to live with.

When I was a bond trader on Wall Street, I was given a lot of nicknames.  Yellowtail, Yellow Pages, Snowpea, Radar.  I thought Radar was a step up because the nickname was a "tribute" to my impeccable memory & ability to anticipate the future.  Every few days I was asked how to make lemon chicken, who was General Tso, and so on.  Asked if my dates were ever tired of eating "Chinese." My friend on the corporate desk was called Cato relentlessly.  We just let it go.  Rationalized it as the price of admission.

After all, it wasn't like once we left the trading floor, we were free.  Unfortunately, racism, discrimination, inequality is everywhere.

When is a Fortune Cookie just a fortune cookie?

Jeremy Lin is such a positive role model for everyone -- all stripes, all ages, all creeds.  His story resonates with us all.  The overlooked, under-appreciated, humble professional basketball star inspires us all.  To be better.  To believe.  Push.  Change.

Bring on the Wang Sanity!  And Go, Knicks!