I sat crouched over Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, so enveloped by the story that I could hear the sounds of the jungle. The story became real and visceral to me, so much so that to this day I'm still haunted by the images I read. I was in sixth grade and back then it took only … Continue reading English Major Confessions: Reading
Ambiguity can be the enemy of comprehension, but artistry can override this. The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey is a great example of this. Depending on who you ask, 2001 is either an ambitious piece of cinema or a dull, incomprehensible film. Critical analysis of Stanley Kubrick's space-age epic will often come up with creative … Continue reading 2001: An Odyssey of Tools
A favourite story of mine is one that my dad would always tell me and my sister when we were children. It's about a little boy who lived in a kampong, a small rural village in Malaysia, back around 1950. Now, my dad would say, this boy was incredibly mischievous, always getting himself into no … Continue reading Another Time, Another Place
Grass stood in patches and small tufts, like the patchy beard of the Earth. As a fourth grader, I sat and fidgeted, but soon the small movements of insects caught my attention, and I imagined them a story. We'd been instructed to sit outside and observe nature, taking mental notes to serve as inspiration for … Continue reading Catching Up with Poetry
I'm typing this in Schwarma Express, a Highland Park restaurant. There's a Toshiba flatscreen here, tuned to CNN. Joe the interviewee is saying, "There's a lot that people don't know." The news anchor is trying to pull more details out of Joe. And that's really his name. Joe is bald, black, and wearing a pinstripe … Continue reading Escaping Boston
It's a common occurrence that when people know you're a writer, you get asked to write speeches or messages in greeting cards on behalf of everyone else. They assume that because you craft prose for fun (or for a living, if you're lucky), you will always have the right words for the occasion. Sometimes, there … Continue reading Filling the Silence
Ji-eon approached me while I stood at the lectern. She sheepishly grabbed a black dry erase marker and wrote “sheet” followed by the word “shit.” Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “How to say?” she asked. I showed her the vowel sounds and had her mimic them back to me. The i in kid or lift … Continue reading Swearing in the Classroom
"My brother-in-law edited the manuscript, but they changed my voice. The story didn't feel like me any more." I've lost count of how many times I've heard this from clients. Editing can mean one of a few things, but it does not mean rewriting the manuscript to what the writer's brother-in-law--or friend, or co-worker--thinks it … Continue reading What the Hell Do Editors Do?
Durian is a strange fruit. With most other fruits, people either love them or treat them with indifference. Durian, however, polarises. There’s a great divide between the “love it” and “hate it” camps. Those who love it will wax eloquent on its deliciously distinctive flavor slightly reminiscent of custard, the sweet creaminess that melts in … Continue reading The Durian Divide
Cotton candy clouds. Perfect pink popcorn petals. These are the words my wife, Kimmy, uses to describe cherry blossoms. For a few short weeks in spring, everywhere we look the trees are covered with them. Then, as they age, they fall from the tree limbs like a soft snowstorm. The petals collect on the ground … Continue reading What’s your plumbob?