Showing posts from October, 2011

Field Trip To The Smithsonian And The Indian Embassy

This Saturday, November 5,  I'll be heading to the South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (1000 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004). My panel is from 2-3 p.m., but the entire day's program is free and open to the public, so if you're in the area please come and bring friends.

As for Saturday night, I'm busy because I received this thrilling invitation from my country of origin:
You are invited to kindly attend a reception with the participants of the South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival (SALTAF) on Saturday, November 5, at 6:30 pm at the Embassy of India. Now here's the key question: sari or suit?

Why Not Write A Novel This November?

No sun—no moon! No morn—no noon— No dawn—no dusk—no proper time of day. No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, No comfortable feel in any member— No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!— November!
From the poem "November" by Thomas Hood What do we have to lose? Join me by writing a novel of your own during the 30 darkening days of November. National Novel Writing Month has everything we need to keep us inspired, along with pep talks for writers of all ages.

(I'm going to take my own advice, because I'm one of the 2011 Pep Talkers.)

Writing the Empty Nest at Parents' Weekend

I'm back from parents' weekend at Saint Mary's College of California where we attended classes without quizzes. I signed up for a writing class taught by Rashaan Meneses, who led us through a brilliant workshop on enhancing voice with detail.

We started with a short story by Sandra Cisneros called "Eleven" from Women Hollering Creek, discussed it, and then each chose an object from our past for the writing exercise. Here's what I scribbled (stet), surprised by how freeing it felt to write once again via pen on page:
The night I left the boys at Saint Mary's, I tried to cry myself to sleep but sleep kept slipping from my hand like a leash yanked hard by an eager dog. I scanned the room, my old room where I'd slept as a child, and my heart did a double take. There he was. High on a shelf, alone, forgotten. Faded, eyeless, mouthless, but waiting for me, for this wakeful night full of endings. I grabbed him, held him close. He tried, oh how he tried.…

First Prize: 2011 Teens Between Cultures Poetry Contest

First Prize 2011 Fire Escape Poetry Contest

My Grandmother's House by Yun-Jung, Korea/MA, age 18

It surrounds me, The smell of dried ginseng and fertilized bean curd, Clay vases that I could curl up in But hold instead a snake immortalized in rice wine. My father tells me The persimmon tree was planted when he was born In this strange country. Now it stretches out sturdy branches, Weighed down by an abundance of blushing fruit. He plucks one from the branches I can’t reach, And hands me the sticky sweet product of their efforts. Scraping dirty feet across stone steps, My sister and I slide open the panel doors and wonder How people can live in a house made of paper. And we hurry to find the answers to our questions Sitting in our grandmother’s bedroom. She sits as if the whole world was hers to bear on her Tiny shoulders. When she speaks, her words make little more sense to us Than a fork being run across a plate. And when we can’t piece together the words to answer her questions, …

First Prize: 2011 Teens Between Cultures Prose Contest

First Prize 2011 Prose Contest

Picking a Side by Helen, Korea/CA, Age 16

At age five, the only thing that separates you and your seatmate in class is, well, nothing. His sandwich is as good as your packed Korean food, and your handwriting is just as good as his. You play with the same lego blocks and throw around the same rocks during recess, and you even share bits of your lunch.

At age nine, you’ve measured the length of your table and found where the halfway mark is, and then drawn a shaky line across your table. That’s all that separates you from your seatmate that, and that he’s a boy, with cooties. He still reaches across and slaps your arm when he’s feeling manly, and you can still extend your leg to kick his knee in retaliation.

At age thirteen, you learn a new word : racism. You’ve learned it in classrooms before, since a young age, since you can actually remember history class. You’ve learned about the slave trade, and you know the dictionary…

2011 Fire Escape Prose Contest: Second Prize

Second Prize 2011 Prose Contest

by Chisimdi, Nigeria/NC, Age 17

“Michael Brown?”


“Lucy Dune?”


“Jennifer Grise?”


“Morgan Kringle?”


It was a Monday morning, the start of a new school year and students were settling into their classrooms, faces eager to learn or just to converse with all their classmates, some old, some new. In their minds, this was the day where they could make the friendships and bonds that would last them a lifetime or maybe just for the rest of the school year because, no one wants to spend the rest of the year as a loner.

Class had already begun and the teacher at the moment was calling roll, making sure that everyone was at school, in the right class, sitting in the right seat. It was the first day for me at this school. I looked around the classroom, starting from back, all the way to the front where my teacher stood. Everything about the classroom screamed, “small town.” Most students had been in the same grades together …

2011 Fire Escape Poetry Contest: Second Prize

Second Prize 2011 Fire Escape Poetry Contests

I Am Too

by Hailan China/CA, age 16

I am from
a snow still morning that perches aloft
and blushes at a wintry sunbeam kiss,
like crimson lanterns of velvety soft,
and red-pigtailed child’s sugar-coated bliss.
In rusty black bikes rattling and tattling,
letters and pretty art not prosaic,
into stifling swarms in subways battling,
these waves of heads, a weaving mosaic.
But as gossamer floating, passing by,
a tear for my home, and good-bye

I am from dumplings steaming
silky tofu quivering
and swirling memories of grins with each
savory smell of shops and fairs,
smooth, sliding noodles in rich beef broth
strawberries ruby red and glistening black seeds
luscious, plump, and steamy rice
dinner together, tonight, everyday
snapping chopsticks
and laughter leaping
happiness soaring

I am from
Milady and Amaranta,
loquacious Miss Bates,
a stubborn red-head, freckled too,
Hot cocoa on rainy days,
a single ivy leaf through a winter’s storm,

2011 Fire Escape Prose Contest: Third Prize

A Letter To The Judge
by Julia, China/MD, Age 14
Dear Judge,

My name is Jacob Smith*. I am American.

My parents are Joe and Anne Smith. They are also American.

In fact, my whole family is American. We were one of the first to settle in America, the first shipment aboard the Mayflower.

I always regarded that with pride. We were the first immigrants. And that made me, Jacob Smith, the descendant from a proud lineage of true Americans. I was the most American of Americans.

Well, we don't really live on the East Coast anymore. My family moved to California years ago, during the big Gold Rush. And stayed in a little town, until it became a ghost know what? I might as well skip the story. We have a long history. Just know that we moved a couple months ago, and we were stuck on the outskirts of San Diego.

So there I was. The lone white kid, in an all Hispanic community. And I hated it there. I loathed it there. I abhorred it there.

It was always the same. At school, I was the …

2011 Fire Escape Poetry Contest: Third Prize

Playing Between Two Worlds
by Jingyi China/MD, age 15

The girl delicately plucks the strings of the zither
creating a rich and harmonious music that no one else can seem to understand.
Music flows out, soft and graceful against the backdrop of run down apartments;
with trinkets strewn about on the hard pavement sidewalks, vying for attention.
The music becomes louder and more demanding
as cars zoom thoughtlessly across the tumbling streets, thinking not of lights nor people.
Everything is shaded with hues of brilliant red and sunlight yellow
reminding people of glory, pride and trust.
The music continues, with tired bodies walking home against a brilliant fading street, dim and worn down, holding bags upon heavy bags of groceries barely tumbling out.
The girl smiles, nonchalant and undaunted, not afraid;
bravely playing alongside the border of two very different worlds.

Photo Credit: Clyde Robinson via Creative Commons

Jingyi on Life Between Cultures: The hardest thing about bala…


In August, thanks to First Book, the Kaufman Center in New York City adapted my novel Monsoon Summer into a musical. Here's the gorgeous cast:

The composer/songwriter, Beth Sorrentino, sent me a demo of herself (listen above) singing "Monsoon Summer," which was sung as the finale by the entire cast in (her words) "a full-out Bollywood number." The Center is going to send me a DVD of the show, and I can't wait to see it and hear the kids singing this and the other beautiful songs Beth created for the musical.

Exciting: My WHITE HOUSE RULES Releases in India!


Which Cover Has The Bollywood Vibe?

(One was released in the US, and one is releasing this month in India.)