Would you give us a bit of background about yourself? Briefly tell us who you are.
I am an overeducated middle manager in Los Angeles trying to finish writing something good even though I am afraid of failing.
Would you share with me what were some of your early experiences with reading, writing and art?
My parents, despite being Asian, are both liberal arts/humanities types, so while we can do calculus, we much preferred to read to each other, draw, paint, and write stories. They hired an art tutor for me once in second grade, so I could get better at drawing. She was not a very good tutor and just drew things for me, and when I tried to pass off one of hers as mine, none of the other children believed it, which was a better lesson.
When did you decide to be a writer, and how did you know?
When I was about 14-16, I worried myself into a depression. I worried about nuclear war, ivory poaching, skin allergies, and not being popular. I had a worry-stone from the Calico Ghost Town I used to rub, and I dropped it once and it split in two, making me worry exceedingly about the misfortune that would result from such carelessness. I superglued that thing, but then it had a crack where you rubbed, which didn’t help matters. When I was 17, I somehow realized I needed to get grounded so I could focus and be less anxious, and I worked it out on a brown paper bag that the most important things in life were love and art, and my art was most likely writing. There were many years of subsequent trial and error with different disciplines before I agreed with myself that the initial assessment was correct.
What was your family unit? Did you have brothers or sisters? Where did you grow up?
I have a brother who is 6 years younger, and my parents are still together in Huntington Beach, California. I grew up there and in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
What were the dreams of the future you had when growing up? Have you made any decisions in life based on those dreams?
I dreamt of being a Jedi Knight as a kid. I thought about it so fervently, that my mother one day miraculously told me to stop. She probably heard me whispering “Will I become a Jedi Knight?” before I laid out the cards for Solitaire one too many times. The Filipina maids who taught me how to play Solitaire had told me you were supposed to ask a yes or no question beforehand. Anyway, I tried to become an actress for about a year and tried to send a headshot to the Lucasfilm ranch, but they wouldn’t give me their mailing address.
What kinds of stories were you told growing up?
There were a lot of Japanese folk tales I grew up with which tend to all bleed together now. I remember one about two farmers who both had a large growth on one side of their face, perhaps a benign tumor, and they both went to a party with some demons where they each were given a box of treasures. One man was greedy and the other was generous, so when the greedy man stole the generous man’s box of treasure, he also received the generous man’s facial tumor.
Were there teachers or teachings that influenced you? How so?
There were two professors, both female and British, one very serious and the other very cheeky, both assigned to me as an advisor at different times. The serious one taught me that I was a better poet than a fiction writer and warned me that having a husband and kids and a pool made you happy and probably not write. The cheeky one taught me that being subversive was valuable and that a traditional narrative structure is sometimes more powerful than impressionism, even in poetry.
What are the things in your life that make you the happiest right now?
We only have a blow-up pool, but I am happiest with my boyfriend and stepson and when I write something funny.
Do you have any daily rituals?
Yes but not in the important things, just to get practical things done.
Do you remember your dreams? Are there any specific ones that you recall giving you insight into you’re life that you’d be willing to share?
My dreams are usually repetitive obstacle courses that are trying to tell me to wake up to go to the bathroom.
Do you have mentors or other working artists who influence you today?
You guys and the friends I have made through the retreats.
What do you think is the most important contemporary issue?
Ivory poaching? No, there are too many.
How did you come to have the creative pursuits and lifestyle you have?
Around the same time as the brown paper bag with “Love and Art” written very prettily in cursive, I posited that I didn’t want to wake up when I was 40 and wonder how I got there. On the other hand, near the end of college after a trip to Paris during which I did not have enough money, I also posited that I didn’t want to be a starving poet. I think I also posited that I wanted to live in the real world and not in academia, which was just some kind of gritty point of pride that may have been the fault of youth. So this has all led to a decades-long pursuit to have both a regular desk job that was not extremely stressful and to write, which hasn’t given me much success in either but a rather comfortable life and vacations. It may also be that I am just not good at being focused enough to make it work and constantly need reminders like this Interview exercise to keep going.
Has money or critical success influenced your creative decision making?
In my youth I was ambitious and wanted to be successful without knowing how. Now, because I have limited time, I definitely try to write things that I think will have a better chance of success than not, but my own tastes often push me out to the fringe regardless.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Let go of broken things earlier.
Do you feel it is important to have more than one pursuit in life? Or is it important to have a singular pursuit?
Grass is greener.
What do you want to be known for?
For having written some damn good things.