Cycling Guide to Lilliput (1-10), on Juked

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Back in January, I encountered the works of a miniaturist painter, Dina Brodsky.  Some of you may have read an essay I wrote about her project, “Cycling Guide to Lilliput,” this past May in KoreAm Journal.  Simply put, I love her work.  And when I love something, I want to write about it.  Which is what I did, but it turns out I wasn’t done.

Thanks to the editors of Juked, you can now read ten tiny short stories based on ten of these Brodsky paintings.  This year, I’ve interviewed Dina twice to hear about her cycling journeys.  These stories of mine are based on her trips, but they are also works of pure fiction.  If that sounds like a contradiction, you’re right.  I’m not sure what is real and what is not anymore, as the tales she recounted and the tales in my head have fused together.

During the submission of these stories, an editor from another journal taught me a new word: ekphrasis.  Apparently this is what I was doing.  Wikipedia’s definition is “a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art,” but what I really love is the etymology of the word: “From the Greek verb ekphrazein, to proclaim an inanimate object by name.”

To proclaim an inanimate object.  That’s it, exactly.  That is why I have written these stories, because I wanted to make these paintings come alive in my own mind, in the best way I know how, the only way I know how.

And now it’s your turn.  See the paintings.  Read the words.  Get on your bike and take a ride.

Inside the Writers House

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Yesterday I had the great pleasure of talking with Rutgers students via Inside the Writers House.  The event was conducted via Skype, which was great because not only did I not have to drive down there, but folks could also lay eyes on one of my cats.  We talked about my books and literature in general, an hour of stimulating conversation.  My hearty thanks to Alex Dawson who invited me and put the whole thing together.

One thing that Alex asked was if I could provide the students a writing prompt.  If you are unfamiliar with this concept, it’s basically just a little something to get the writing juices flowing; Writer’s Digest has an ongoing repository of them.  For mine, I read them this little short-short story:

I didn’t know your grandma would show.  How could I?  You said your grandma was out shopping, but boom, “Hi David, how’s your family?  How’s your job?” so I had to sock away all six balloons, and fast.

And your grandma is quick.  Darts around, up and down, old lady’s got top-notch vision.  Saw through my brown box that has two disco balls and says, “What is that?”

What could I do, Mary?  I had to show it.  And it wasn’t my fault.  It was your fault!  If you had rang just half an hour ago, our party would still…

I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t shout, but I know I’m disappointing you.  I know how much you want this to go smoothly.  You know that, right?  You my girl, baby.  Good days, bad days, always.

Anyway, so I say to your grandma, “Happy birthday, Mrs. Mills.  You got us.”  So your grandma looks around and says, “How many chairs in total?”  Wants fifty chairs.  So I gotta run out and bring back thirty additional chairs.  And now your grandma is looking at my music, what I was gonna play tonight, and says, “No, this won’t do, David.  It’s simply not a party without Lady Gaga.”

Mary, my darling, haul your ass, pronto.  Your grandma is nuts.  And I’m going crazy.

Do you notice anything odd about this story?  Perhaps the title will give you a clue: “A Surpris(e) Birthday Party.”

The e is in parenthesis because that’s the only occurrence of that letter.  Yes, this story does not feature a single use of the letter e.  This type of writing is called Oulipo, and I must thank J. Robert Lennon for introducing it to me.

Princeton Public Library’s Local Author Day

It was great being at Princeton Public Library’s Local Author Day!  Not only did I get to be one of the featured authors, but I also got to deliver a workshop.  I’m a little late with this, but for those workshoppers who wanted a copy of the syllabus/outline I used, here it is.  We got some nice coverage of the event via the Princeton Packet, and I made a new Facebook friend, Ed Tseng, another author who happens to be a big tennis fan.  Thank you, Princeton Public Library, for inviting me to this fine literary event.

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Starred Review from Library Journal

Thank you, Terry Hong of Smithsonian BookDragon, for loving Love Love!  This review was for Library Journal, and it came out on 10/15/2015.

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*STARRED REVIEW
At 40, Kevin Lee,  an almost-tennis-pro-turned-club-instructor, finds out he’s adopted when he tries to donate a kidney to his less-than-deserving widower father. The only clues to Kevin’s identity are an unfinished letter from his late mother with a nude centerfold of his birthmother.

Meanwhile, his younger sister, Judy, abandons her latest temp job, but takes a not-quite-budding office romance with her: Roger is late to their first date and dismisses a telling tattoo as a youthful mistake yet proves inexplicably devoted. Reeling from recent divorces, the siblings are, well, love-love for love. Both must leave – Kevin to San Francisco in search for his birth history, Judy to Cape Cod to recover from a rattlesnake attack – in order to figure out how to be whole.

Verdict: Woo is currently two-for-two with rollicking novels about Korean American family dysfunction starring a pair of New Jersey siblings. If Woo’s 2009 debut, Everything Asian, was charming and youthful, this new work is practically middle-aged, a biting, jaw-scraping, guffaw-inducing bit of fun complete with porn stars, rebel artists, and an aging, loyal dog who just might break your heart. Perfect for devotees of impossibly serendipitous comic fiction à la Carl Hiaasen and Tom Robbins and enhanced with multi-generational, cross-cultural depth.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, October 15, 2015

Published: 2015