July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, we had a good run here, didn’t we?

But I need a more narrow focus.

If you’d like to hear more from me, please follow me to my new blog at


If you’ve subscribed to this blog, feel free to subscribe to that one as well. I look forward to seeing you there.


Blog Post: First Steps

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s something to be said for diving into unfamiliar waters head first. I’m not sure what that something is, yet, but I’m diving to find out. I’ve never had professional writing experience before (as in, I’ve never had a place to use my writing), but I’m embarking on that journey, and it’s bringing a lot of questions to mind.

Are there certain kinds of articles that might come out just as easily, if not more genuinely, from people inexperienced with their generally accepted constructs? An interview or profile article, for example, revolves around questions and curiosity about a person. If there’s a theme involved, that means that the publication has a specific audience whose average level of knowledge about the theme’s subject would be higher. So in this case, is it more beneficial to have an inexperienced writer ask questions of the person to be profiled with genuine curiosity or a more experienced writer who can start off at the level of the readership and progress higher?

Is it better to have someone who won’t assume they know the process of an artist who can ask question from the base up, or is it better to have someone at the level of the readers to work from there up, into something more advanced? Making the question even simpler, is it better to have someone discover something to shake your assumptions or better to have someone discover something that widens your boundaries of knowledge?

Also, are there specific kinds of articles best suited to someone who has less knowledge in the field? For example: writing an event of a review, writing a personal profile, writing an opinion piece? Writing an opinion piece might be terrible for a newbie to write, because their opinions are less informed and less polished than someone with more experience. But what about reviewing an event or profiling a person? Again, there are still downfalls. If the newbie doesn’t understand what’s going on at the event, they’ll cover it poorly. If it’s an event catering to gaining new members of the community, however, maybe a fresh mind would best bend the article to speak to other new minds and gain further interest. As for a piece covering a person, I’ve covered the pros and cons above, but I’m wondering where it fits in the spectrum of articles most accessible to less-knowledgeable writers.

Again, to clarify, they are not less-knowledgeable about writing, but about the subject matter of the themed publication. For example, if the publication covers math-related news and people. If the writer knows little about the progress in math, can they still adequately cover events, profiles, or opinion pieces?

And what is to be said for gaining knowledge as you go along? You might start out writing articles with little knowledge, but as you work, you will gain more and build a rapport and a relationship with the community you dived into.

I’m still working out a lot of these questions for myself. I feel it’s hard to answer a lot of them from the perspective of the less-knowledgeable writer, because I don’t know if the themed publication would appreciate reaching to a wider audience or would appreciate heightening the relationship they have with the established audience.

If you ran a themed publication that required extra knowledge that wasn’t picked up by the general public (you had to make an effort to be part of this themed community), would you hire a newbie to the subject or a seasoned community member more readily?


Writing Prompt: We’ll Try Interrogation if Nothing Else Works

July 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been hard for me to get back in the swing of things after coming back to Chicago from Prague. I had adapted to the work space and work environment there. I had nothing better to do than to write (in between the times I was sightseeing and traveling to other Czech cities), so that was what I did with myself.

Here, there is so much distraction. There are two other people in the studio apartment that I feel enough interest in to pay attention to, even when I don’t want to. There are tons of other activities I could busy myself with: cleaning, organizing, reading, painting, doing the laundry, anything but write. In Prague, I had what I brought with me: three books. Here, the shelves are filled.

So the subtle writing doesn’t seem to come as easily as it did. I know it’s just temporary. I know it’ll pass as I readjust, but for now I’ve got to find a way to cope. While sitting in the laundry room to get away from the activity in my apartment, I said, “Okay, just ask the characters your questions directly.” You can spend all day thinking about how you’d show that this man’s life was affected by the one time a girl turned him down for a date, the fountain in the background, the napkin in his pocket. But that takes a long time. And then after thinking about it, you have to write it down, too. And maybe it all doesn’t happen at once, so you forget about it by the next time it needs to swoop back in.

I needed to write and I needed to write right now.

So ask your characters the questions you want to ask them and see what unfolds. I got something good toward the end. It was something important to me, at least. What I found in this exercise as to remember that just because a character answers a question one way doesn’t mean that’s the way it actually happened or the way they actually feel. You’ll see. Try it yourself. Then post what you produce in the comments (or on your own blog and post the link in the comments) and let me know what you found out!

Dear Hyun, if you could find Eun-Byul again, what would you say to her?

I would have nothing to say to her. We had our moment and then it ended and with Eun-Ji I am happy.

Dear Hyun, why did you fall in love with Eun-Ji?

There is something that we can’t explain about a human’s relationship with a wild animal. I see them and I’m curious how they would act if they weren’t afraid of me. I don’t care about taming them. We have enough tamed animals, but i wonder what the world would look like if they were less afraid to rise up.

Dear Hyun, what do you think about abortion? I know, I feel it, too. This wall between us because I try to make you speak to me in English, but that’s not your language, not the way your thoughts naturally come. Would you prefer to sit outside or inside to have a conversation with the person you love?

Outside, especially in the country, whatever place feels more timeless.

Eun-Ji, is there a reason that I should admire you? Eun-Ji, Eun-Ji, can you hear me? What are you interested in? You are interested in something and I want it to be something I am not interested in because you are your own person, not just an extension of me. You are interested in one day owning a store. Maybe you don’t even care what kind as long as you own it and organize it, right? A clothing store with your friend from the other city? Maybe she talks to you about it. Maybe she’s the kind of person who takes a couple weeks out of the year and goes crazy producing designs and names and marketing strategies and calls you to follow her but runs out of gas and lets it fade back.

Eun-Ji, how do you love your father?

I remember that he would sit with me at the kitchen table and let me help him roll his cigarettes. I remember when he was done, he would sit and smoke one, and he would push the leftover tobacco toward me. It would line up against his finger and end up in rows, little walls across the table, so I’d try to spell out words in the tobacco by moving it like he did. It was hard with any 응 because the little circles were difficult to do.
I’d grab a little cup from my mother’s hand, still warm from the dish rack, and make little circles in the space beneath it by pressing it into tobacco hills, but still it was too hard to clear out space in the middle to make them look perfect. So I skipped my parents’ names and went to words like 사과 (apple) and 친구 (friend). He told me the secret of 사과, that when you want to apologize to someone and can’t find the words, you can give them an apple, the same word as apology.

I thought he was lying. I gave one to my friend after I took her hair band from her desk and wore it, but it didn’t help at all. Still, I felt calm when I would walk pas the door to my parents’ room and see an apple settled on the nightstand in the dark.

Dear Eun-Ji, did you ever give an apple to Hyun?

I never asked him if he’d been taught the meaning. I enver wanted to risk it. He never got very upest during our disagreements anyway, so level-headed. I think an apology would have been an insult, assuming he’d held on to a feeling longer than he really did.

Hyun, why did you fall in love with Eun-Ji?

She is beautiful and I saw her taking care of some animals in the park a long time before our friends set us up. I never told her that I saw her, and I haven’t seen her do the same since, but i fell in love with the chance to have someone take care of me even when I was wild and would never give anything back to her. I felt like maybe she could understand me in that way.

Blog Post: Prague Ducks

July 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

I had a lot more of these, but they weren’t very appropriate. I mean, it’s not like I drew these cute little duckies doing graphic sexual acts or something like that. They were just not something I wanted to carry back to the states with me, so I left them in a Czech garbage can. A few made it back, and I’d like to bring them back to life, too. So for now, here are three. I’ll make more. Promise!

I want you to read all of what I write and figure out who I am.

Sometimes I forget that I am fat.

What is in here that will help me understand out there?

What? What is it? Are you upset that I dove into comics that aren’t actually funny, or is it about the crappy scan job? The crappy scan job? I’ll give you a crappy scan job!

Writing prompts return tomorrow.

Happy July.

Writing Prompt: I Told You

June 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

People communicate with other people in a lot of ways. Sometimes we don’t even notice. Someone brought to my attention the fact that we so easily fall into step with the people we’re walking with. How difficult is it for a baby to recognize all the little signs of a person’s pace and keep up? We learn over time, but it’s never taught to us through words. I love that fantastic, unspoken communication. Spoken communication can be just a nice, however, and not necessarily easier to understand.

What if someone said to you: I told you not to tell anyone where I was.

Out of the blue. You had no memory of ever being asked to keep this secret. What would you do? Feel free to warp this prompt anyway you can. I did. Here’s my response, and remember to post your own in the comments!

Frankie had been her mother’s dog

There was a telephone line that hung down in front of the deli so that when Katarin looked out the window, ham or baby socks, sausage or linen shorts in her hands, she could see pigeons raising their tails and turning, turning, trying to decide which way to look on the telephone wire. The line had been knocked loose during the bad storm last week, and no crews had been by to fix it yet. 

Katarin kept one sign taped to the front register. It said “No checks, please” and “Finish with your cell before you talk to me, or the ham that you ordered goes straight to Frankie”. She didn’t know the rhyme didn’t quite settle, but she knew the threat was true. This was a business.  

Frankie was her small, yappy dog. He usually sat underneath the bench at the side of the room and woke up to snap at waiting customers who forgot he was there, when they slid their feet back under the bench and caught him in his stomach. Katarin filed his teeth down so they wouldn’t cut flesh, but they still pinched. People usually stood in Katarin’s deli. 

Margot made a point of standing when she came in the Tuesday after the storm. Katarin’s laundry was spread out over the top of the meat case in neat piles. Why waste time moving back and forth between the shop and the living room? 

“Could I have a pound of turkey, please?” 

Katarin winced to hear Margot because she knew that she had a cell phone, knew every time she came in, Katarin was tempted to ask to use it, ask for a customer to help her, do her a service. It would ruin the deli. It would make it go soft like a woman who realizes she’s old. Kids would hang out on the bench and tame Frankie. Maybe the meatballs would go mad. Who knows? She couldn’t have that.  

But she hadn’t heard from her mother since the storm, had no idea where she would be, embarrassed to ask after a homeless drunk she was unfortunately and blessedly related to. 

“Sure,” said Katarin. She took out a lump of what she’d shaved that morning, then grabbed more to bring it to a pound. “Anything else?” 

“No thank you. How are you by the way?”  

Katarin finally felt the chill from the cooler case on her thighs and closed the door, distracted by the paint that was chipping from the tiles across the room. 

“I’m okay,” she said, eyes turned to focus on the numbers that registered on the scale. “All your family do alright in the storm?” She wrapped the meat. 

“Yes, yes. Everyone’s fine. Seems like everyone in the whole town’s fine. Only damage was some flooding and of course you know about the power lines.” 

“Telephone lines.” 

“Yes. Could I actually have half a pound more? Thanks.” 

From the chill, as she pulled out more turkey, Katarin said, “Say, Margot…” The words were cut off from the rest in a big nervous slice. Asking about the storm was polite. Business. Authority. Using her first name was already too familiar. She remembered the last time she had seen her mother, dirty and curled around a toy stuffed duck, stroking her stringy gray hair like she was preparing to go out. 

Already to familiar, so she might as well sign it and seal it up. She could already see the surprise in Margot’s honeyed eyes. 

“Could I borrow your cell phone for a minute?” She kept her eyes down, at the turkey, as she arranged it, felt it slip and stick on her plastic gloves. Margo dug in her bag, “of course,” and set the phone next to a pile of hand towels. 

Katarin took the phone into the back room. 

She dialed the number of the pay phone where her mother was supposed to be, the number her mother had written on an old chip bag. 

It rang. It rang. It rang… 

“Thank you,” said Katarin, placing the phone back on the counter. She gave Margot her total, took her money, watched her leave, whistled at Frankie to get back under the bench. The sky outside was gray and hung close to the buildings like matted hair. 

Katarin went to try her ground line again, turned back to the counter, folded a shirt, went back again to check for a dial tone. She didn’t know which way to look.

Happy writing!

Terezin and Children’s Poems

May 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sunday brought a trip to Terezin, a concentration camp about forty-five minutes out of Prague. I have a lot to say about it.  A lot of my thoughts I haven’t even put into words yet, but I will say that it was powerful. There are a few thoughts I had that I want to highlight.

First, after we arrived at the small fort, we found out that there was a fee to be able to take pictures of the location. I didn’t ask why; I guess I like trying to figure it out on my own better than being told an answer. I wondered whether it was simply to raise extra funds toward maintaining the place, or whether maybe there was another motive: trying to discourage taking pictures of such a painful place, or at least trying to discourage those who were not serious enough about taking pictures to pay the fee.

I chose not to pay the fee. At first, I didn’t know why I made that choice either. I decided to sketch sights that struck me instead. But there are two reasons I’m taking pictures in Prague.

One is to augment my own memories.

The drawing, I think, might work better to augment my own memories anyway. Moving my hands through the shapes helps keep the memory in a different place than it might have normally been kept. Looking at the sketches and trying to work the (badly drawn) scenes back into photo quality also helps getting more areas of the brain working than just looking at a photograph. So that might work to my benefit.

The other reason is to share sights with my family of the places I have been.

But I wonder if I want to share this concentration camp with them. I was looking around and it seemed like everyone on the tour was very internal, experiencing the places in their own way. It was very personal to me. I got things out of it better, I think, without worrying about what was important to capture for posterity. Any way I’d try to explain it in the future would have come out distorted by my own lense of view anyway, so perhaps it is better to leave such powerful sights for personal experience.

The other experience that I want to highlight was the children’s museum. There was a girl’s school in the city near the big fort where a trunk full of children’s drawings had been discovered not long ago and turned into a museum. They drew pictures of their old life, their new life, fairy tales. Mostly things that any child might draw. They were a little eerie. What struck me most, however, was a poem in a room made of walls covered in names:
A little garden,
Fragrant and full of roses.
The path is narrow
And a little boy walks along it.

A little boy, a sweet boy,
Like that growing blossom.
When the blossom comes to bloom,
The little boy will be no more.

by Frantisek Bass

Flowers, in my mind, are so fleeting. They wither when their season is over, sometimes even before winter. They die soon after you pluck them up from the earth. Boys, on the other hand, are hardy and filled with so much potential for life. They have a long time to live ahead of them. But there, in the place that I visited and little Frantisek Bass had to live, flowers were outlasting little boys. It’s hard to swallow.

And it reminds me again that writing is words, but the writing is not in the words. The writing, the meaning, what we communicate is what is between the words, what it means that “[w]hen the blossom comes to bloom,/ The little boy will be no more.” Or what it means when the book of poems in the souvenir shop is titled “I have not seen a butterfly around here”. There is a lot of power hidden behind words, behind walls that without a tour guide might not hold knowledge or change. I hope that you and I can find at least one moment where we can write something as powerful as what that little boy wrote, and maybe in the future someone will read those words, and we will move them.


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