An “Honorable Mention!” (writing career update)

This past Friday, I was incredibly honored to have received an Honorable Mention in the Spring 2020 Flash Fiction Contest held by WOW! Women on Writing. My story “Meeting Robert” met some success; what a way to start my weekend!

WOW! Spring 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Winners
Image credit to wow-womenonwriting.com

It’s even more gratifying that I had entered this contest before, back in 2018, I believe. I had received notification that I was a finalist but ended up not advancing to the contest winners. Since it wasn’t my first rejection (or silence, which is de facto rejection), I archived the contest winners announcement email and moved on with life and continuing to try. I try despite knowing I have peers who are traditionally published authors, who have sold screenplays, who have done [insert this thing I haven’t done yet but am weaponizing against myself as a time-bound measure of success because no matter how many encouraging “to each their own time” Instagram posts I’ve read I haven’t truly internalized being happy for myself and others yet la la la…]

To be truthful, I hadn’t entered another contest until later this spring, when I had nowhere to go during quarantine and therefore some time to write. It’s not that I hadn’t written in between these two WOW! contest entries, as this blog can vouch for me :). But I was simply afraid to enter another contest and face another rejection, even though realistically, I’m not alone in this fight to write and love it despite the self-doubt that comes with it. What I did in this case was to reframe the contest into an accountability mechanism for myself: I believe I had improved my craft in the interim, so I would put that to a test by finishing a piece and letting it fly.

I think another thing that worked this time was that I wasn’t afraid to let a (trusted) friend read it and really constructively critique it. When they asked me questions about what a sentence was supposed to mean, or even whether I could split a long sentence because they didn’t understand it, it opened my eyes as to the “vacuum of just me” I was writing in for a while. (That sentence just now? I probably could’ve broken it up too…!) At times I caught myself being defensive and wondering “but this is understandable to me!” But writing is meant to be read and understood by others, so I coached myself to stay open when I wanted to close myself off. It also helped to remember that it would’ve been disrespectful to my friend taking the time to give me quality feedback. (If someone makes general statements, then you probably want to look for productive critique elsewhere.)

With all that said, I’m sharing my flash piece “Meeting Robert” below. As I didn’t place in the top 10 but in the top 20, my story wasn’t published on the WOW! site. Cracking the top 10 is my next goal…!


“I feel like a kid again, but not in a good way.” Catherine closed her eyes and laid her phone back down on the coffee table. Her first instinct was to beeline for the fridge and grab the bottle of wine, received from her company’s holiday party two months ago but untouched since. Every year, she wished she could ask her dad what he thought of the brand, so they could admire it or joke about how her company was cheap. Truthfully though, alcohol wasn’t her coping mechanism of choice, but maybe taking a swig would make her feel like an adult again. She resisted only because Nick stood up with his arms outstretched, waiting for her. It reminded her that some things would not change, not yet anyway. 

He enveloped her, and she wiggled her chin in her usual spot, the inviting dip between his neck and clavicle bone. “Oh, there were good things about being a kid? Of course not.” Nick’s chuckle reverberated through his body. “Joking. Did it work? Nope, sorry.” 

Nick leaned away so he could read her instead of answering himself again. When they’d first met in their high school algebra II class, Catherine couldn’t stand this quirk of his: Did you get the bonus question right? I bet you did ‘cause you always do. Are you going to the pep really later? Nah, lame, right? 

Eventually, she understood it wasn’t that Nick was rude or had ADHD. He liked her. She hadn’t believed it, but her dad had called it. He was right, as usual. More surprisingly, he didn’t go all tiger dad on the development. 

She finally let go of Nick, and they both sat down, eyeing her phone. A preview of a follow-up message from her mom glowed. No doubt the name of Houston’s new dim sum restaurant she’d just invited all of them to eat together at, including Robert. She’d timed it well: Catherine and Nick were driving back to Houston from Austin for the long holiday weekend. Robert had said it would be his treat.

Of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of restaurant guests her mother had waited on since Catherine’s father passed unexpectedly when she was in high school, Robert had managed to become something more. An old anxiety gripped at Catherine’s chest. Who’s to say that Robert was the only one? Had her mother had dates—or god forbid—dalliances with other men who had “wavy, coffee hair” and love “all kinds of barbecue, especially Korean?” At that point in the call earlier, Catherine’s filter had broken, and she barked that Robert must’ve forgotten they were Chinese.

Catherine would ask herself these kinds of questions to get through all-nighters in college, masochistic as it was. They’d kickstart her motivation again when it’d waned. They’d be enough to get her through a paper, an internship application, another student event to organize—gold stars to bring back to stick on mom’s fridge. Would they be enough to distract her mother from needing someone else?

“Cat.” Nick’s hand on her knee finally registered. “Think of it this way. It’s just one meal. We can go on Monday, the last day we’re in town. And we can head back right after. I’ll let you sing from the bad pop song list. We’ll get the unhealthiest snacks from Buc-ee’s.” 

“Do I have another choice?” Catherine locked her gaze on Nick, but found her vision clouding. She would not cry about Robert. 

Nick struggled with whether to keep talking it out with her. He didn’t continue. He’d let her answer for herself. Of all the times to do so. 

“Traitor!” She thought. Her dad had trusted her around Nick, a precious blessing. Now Nick forgot that this made him special and kept pushing her along to the inevitable future. Where she needed but didn’t want to be. “It’s like you don’t even consider my dad.” 

Catherine thought she’d only been thinking the words. They struck Nick, and he returned with his own. “Have you considered that I was considering your mom? How long has it been, ten years?”

It would hurt less if there was malice, or even judgment, in his voice. 

This time, he continued. “Meeting Robert doesn’t erase your dad. Not unless you do. That’s the real choice, right?” 

“Right. Okay.” Catherine reached for her phone.

how i feel on a sunday (poem)

Wait for it all week
Wake up to wish it weren’t here yet
Yet Sunday in bed is where I remember
One day, I said, I will be live understand know do feel better
Yet I can’t grasp hold — each day so fast, trailing in its
Wake before I’m ready for the next wave so I’ll
Wait to re-surface today

Tree growing on a beach in Macau.
Tree growing on a beach in Macau. April 2019.

Shoebox Confessional: Part H

Dear reader,

If I wanted to break my current form and make the title of this post more eye-catching (read: clickbait-y), it would be called “How to Lose a Friend in 10 Years.” Additional subtitle: how I, a coddled millennial, learned that good things don’t last forever. But people would expect a list-icle, and this is not one. 

It wouldn’t be a very long and annoying listicle though. The only item on it would be: time. Its eroding power isn’t something I learned about recently, but I always try to forget it. Deny it, if I’m being honest, as somehow for me, the dissolution of friendships is even less pleasant than romantic breakups. Maybe because I’ve learned that friendship is the foundation to any relationship. That’s really all there is to it.

Thank you,

J Wang


The story I used to tell people about how we met was that I was mesmerized by your skirt when you first walked into our high school Japanese class. Some might consider this an expected, maybe even cliché, entry way into a female friendship. Taking gender out of the equation though, the piece you wore would’ve been a work of art in anyone’s eyes. When you stood, the cotton material fell almost to your slim ankles, so unlike mine, and unfurled visions of tropical splendor, the brushstrokes of the leaf and hut prints delicate yet evocative of another pace of life. I can see now how it might’ve appeared to be an item made for tourists, but no. The way you carried yourself in it suggested it had more meaning and maybe even a history, that it was a treasured heirloom. But to you whom I’d known for a minute up until then, I’d simply said, “I love your skirt.” And that was enough. You welcomed the compliment and soon, me. A new friend.

But technically, you had not been totally unknown to me. A few days before, I’d seen you when I stepped onto the ice to begin another session of struggling to master moves for my next figure skating test. You’d zoomed by, unafraid of your speed and potentially colliding with the other skaters, a foil to my cautious self. I admired that but really it was more so your lack of hesitation to assert that you had arrived, a new face here to stay. And after we’d shared chips dipped in your mom’s guacamole, study sessions that were too short but maybe also too long thanks to our goofing off, and shifts working together in the rink’s pro shop, I wanted you to. 

And you did. Through my ambivalence and “hater” period, when you successfully convinced me that prom must not be missed. Through the greatest surprise of my life, when you brought me back down to earth and assured me that it was true: I would be going to a college few get into and few thought I could get into, including myself. And shortly after, through the most painful, unexpected grief I’ve experienced, even though you could not be with me in person. In your stead, an arrangement of white flowers shaped like a puppy arrived at my door. The delivery man did not know what depths he’d pulled me out of. That you’d pulled me out of.

We would be forever friends, I’d thought. So many people dream of finding their true romantic love, but for an only child like me, our kind of bond was my unspoken wish. A sister before misters. Unoriginal and oversimplified, but I clung to the phrase. Near the end of college, during which we kept in touch over separate continents thanks to that relic Skype, I thought back to an article that had made its way around the internet, saying that if a friendship lasts seven years, it was likely to last forever. I counted up our years: by the time we graduated with our bachelor’s degrees, we would be firmly over that mythical line. A wish realized. Even better, soon you’d be back in the same country after our diplomas were in hand.

For a year or two afterwards, reality and fantasy were one and the same. We were both working adults with some amount of discretionary income to use as we pleased. Over one long-awaited three-day weekend, we reunited in the happiest place on earth. Riding with the top of your convertible down, my heart flew. We had made it back to each other. Our sixteen-year-old selves could not have imagined the lives we’d created. 

There was my error. I marveled at our present through the lens of the past, while you must have already begun to move on to a future without me. Seven, eight, nine, we climbed but didn’t make it to ten. Monthly calls turned into biannual turned into no more. Then, I learned, secondhand, that you’d wanted to exclude me.

So recently I’ve found different evidence to sustain me: one study found that most friendships don’t last more than seven years. With that in mind I can say we had a good run. Above the average, enough to celebrate and little to regret. 

Maybe we’ll be in the same place again someday, or the same context, the more technical term. There could be something else of yours that I’ll love. But you can be assured, it’s not a new wish of mine. I have no more claim on you than you on me now.

Old friend, love you, too.

batshitrich

Dear reader,

I let this short poem quickly flow out of me after wanting to find a different way to express my frustrations as an Asian-American in the time of the COVID-19 outbreak. A bit of my logic follows. Also, warning on some strong language in the poem; the title of this post should hint at that.

On a global level, we’re in unfamiliar territory as our previous normal ways of life and the systems we’ve built to support it are undergoing a reckoning. Since I’m not a policy expert, and journalism outlets such as NPR are covering these aspects better than I can, I won’t discuss that much further. (Check out these episodes from NPR’s The Indicator From Planet Money: “Essential Workers” and “Why We Didn’t Prepare For The Pandemic.“) I just ask that we all think about what the pandemic has brutally taught us about what we need to change and rethink. Vote with your votes and consumer dollars.

Although The Indicator hosts discussed why we as a world economy didn’t prepare for this pandemic, I can’t say that I personally haven’t prepared — at least mentally speaking. As soon as I heard about this virus first appearing in mainland China, I knew what the knock-on effects would be for me as an Asian-American. At best, wary glances whenever I go out in public in this time. At worst, well, unfortunately, I don’t think there is a limit to what people can do. When I go out for walks now, despite being in a community where Asian faces are commonly seen and (begrudgingly?) accepted, I see my light exercise hand-weights as more than just an exercise tool, I have to admit.

I’ll note that I am, in fact, also in some new territory personally since poetry is an art form I’ve been able to appreciate, in most cases (don’t @ me). However, writing it is something I last tried in high school…maybe. This has been a humbling growing experience. So thanks for bearing with the length of this letter (and a helpful postscript) compared to the poem itself. Chalk it up to my nerves. I’m not so confident a writer where I let my work stand on its own with no preamble right now, I have to admit.

Thank you,

J Wang

batshitrich

this all started with us eating bats
they snap
but well our food has always been weird
they sneer
of course, our food meaning the real stuff
not counting the supersized sodiumized sweetified deepfried deboned
stuff
they love
     but honestly I've been corrupted and sometimes that is just the right stuff
     isn't that just batshitrich?

this all makes me think of that factoid the Bei Jing
or was it Wu Zhen or Yang Zhou or wherever 
my mom or grandma god I miss her took me that one summer
-- anyway, that tour guide 
they explained 
that you see these bat motifs 
(my Chimerican brain immediately went to bat mobiles) 
in this architecture because 
they were good to have around because 
they sounded the same as
fortune fú and fú
so they are fortune

I never saw bats the same way after that tour wherever
and I swallowed that fact and kept it in my belly because 
I know now
this heritage is my fortune

this all made me think though
once
why did some of us have to go and eat bats
(I didn't and I'd never)
was it for the fortune because
seriously, can we stop believing that that's how this works?
no -- seriously, can they stop believing that that's how this works?
don't they want to save their fortunes?  
they made it worse for faces like mine
f 
f u!
shit
I'm no better than they are
     that's just

my mom and dad always said
     all the knowledge you learn goes into your stomach
     it'll feed you and you'll always have something to eat
this time, I let myself be fed what
they thought and said

this started
this started.
so there are those who really deserve some fu right now
yes, I mean fú 
yes, let fortune favor us all
as some of us favor fú 

P.S. Depending on your screen resolution, this poem may not reflect its original formatting. For a little more context, check out these links about how bats are seen in traditional Chinese culture: The Silent Language of Jade” in Honolulu Magazine and commentary on a Chinese tapestry by the Met Museum. And a short history of Chinese food in America and American Chinese food by Time magazine. I scrutinized as much as possible to ensure that these are reputable information sources. There’s a lot of batshit trashy content out there.

From Yang Zhou, China, I believe.

Shoebox Confessional: Part A

Dear reader,

The confessional that started this series was about an old romantic relationship. This one is about a friendship, and I surprised myself by writing a longer piece for it than the first one about feelings unspoken.

Actually, I talk about feelings unspoken here, too, but unfortunately they’re of the more petty type.

I’ve kept this letter shorter because I won’t lie, writing the confessional itself was hard enough. However, confronting the hurt I’d caused, when I haven’t articulated it so fully before, was a necessary form of self-flagellation. Maybe there is no need to publish this, but I was inspired again by an NPR podcast I listened during the past week. The episode is here and called “Do Self-Help Books Actually…Help?” Kristen Meinzer, one of the women involved in a social experiment of living by self-help books, explained that displaying the results and struggles of the experiment helped to create a community. She was able to see that people connect through vulnerability, and so she felt that if she “can start that dialogue by being shockingly vulnerable at times, that’s awesome.”

This is hard to do in practice for so many reasons, including cultural and psychological factors. But it’s a noble goal, and I couldn’t agree more.

Thank you,

J Wang

P.S. I should’ve explained sooner, but the person’s first initial is what I’m using to name each part in this series. It’s TBD as to how I’ll deal with same first initials. I’ll probably add their last name initial, still keeping it anonymous enough.


I know I lost you, A, because I forgot how to be generous. The same kind of generous as when I don’t hesitate to donate three hundred dollars for refugee aid but also don’t broadcast my contribution to family, friends, or strangers. Until now, that is. Perhaps this is the issue. Maybe I didn’t forget how to be generous because I never knew. After all, this need to be recognized for how good I’m being—or more specifically, how much good I’m doing by someone—is the complete opposite of a genuine giving spirit and who a friend should be. I’m a fraud or was, as I like to think, but not anymore. Even though I view myself as having improved in this aspect, if only to preserve the remaining friendships I have now in my mid-twenties, it doesn’t mean I get you back. I don’t really deserve to. 

We found each other on the ice, and then had so much to share off the ice. In a population of our fellow tween figure skaters who found us offbeat for not sharing their love for One Direction or Justin Bieber—baby, baby, baby, ooh, be damned—you were my lifeline. We both liked anime before Michael B. Jordan being a fan of it made it cool. You shared with me your earliest versions of singer-songwriter style tracks, not fully formed but I found them incredible anyway, given my untouched music composition notebook. I put together poor imitations of outfits I’d seen in Teen Vogue and served as your photography study. 

With you, I could be my full weird.

How stupid it was, then, for me to resent you over some money. This was a hazard of friendships crossing into adulthood that no one had warned me about. In any case, hindsight is not twenty-twenty. Hindsight is being able to objectively see what happened between us but still not comprehend why I could convince myself to think so poorly of someone I’d shared my tweenhood with. How I could not be giving with what I had, like you always had for me, even if it was only time that you could afford to give.

After months of anticipation and saving up for your Los Angeles visit, you and your flight finally landed at LAX. I remember feeling like the night was forgiving for summertime, and how maybe that was what kept people’s tempers cool in the notorious traffic circling the LAX terminals. Making LAX trips was an act of love, the local pop radio station hosts often joked, and I still agree. I’d been able to at least keep that self-congratulating quip to myself.

You had made a list of the things you wanted to see and places where you wanted to eat and take photos of. I had helped vet and curate, using my extensive three years of experience in the sprawl of LA as a guide. I offered to add Disneyland to your joy, using up the last free passes I had saved from my former job. You were staying at my place, minimizing your costs, and since I had a car and did drive, I’d be driving us everywhere. I understood my role as a hostess. And as a thank you, early on in your trip planning, you had promised to treat me when we got to the Korean barbecue item on the list. It sounded like enough. It should’ve been. 

At the time of your visit, I was back to searching for full-time jobs after spending a year trying to be a writer, living a cliche. You’d been there for me through it all, giving feedback on passages of my mediocre novel and listening, or reading, my venting in the messages I sent: sometimes a torrent of clips, sometimes bigger blocks of frustration. And I didn’t just come to you about my novel. The stupid ubiquity of unprotected left turns in LA. The confusing parking restriction signs, one stacked on top of another, so how I was supposed to make a call while navigating a busy street? There may be a more technical term for it, but I can say I was generous in this crap way. 

I’d known my risk of failure was high, but the living of it, trying to get out of it, and sitting through traffic getting to tutoring jobs to survive it changed how I saw things, and in uncharitable ways. The days I spent with you weren’t paid vacation days. (I know they weren’t for you either, though I couldn’t see past myself at the time.) When I had to tutor a client during your visit and dropped you off at the movies, I breathed a sigh of relief, alone in my car again, even though before your visit, that kind of loneliness and the romance to it had long faded away for me. 

For all the years we’d been friends up until then, I should’ve been able to admit all this to you at some point during the week you were with me. Instead I stayed tight-lipped and acted my way through it badly—as in, not good at it. You saw through me earlier on and asked if anything was wrong. If you’d known, you may have pitched in more. Even if after my admission you couldn’t though, at worst you’d just see me as a cheap hostess. At best, we’d still have an open line between us, and I wouldn’t be writing this now.

I had a narrow fixation on what it meant to give. You had already helped me so much, and I wanted more. I never acknowledged how your tendency to empathize and receive could exhaust you, how much of a burden I was to you, then I went and made you feel like one in an unfamiliar city, when you were meant to be a guest. I’m sorry.

We didn’t discuss again the now-obvious mask I’d put on before you left, and after you flew back to Houston, I saw the advantage of our message exchanges in a different way. Before your visit, I could pour my sorrows out to you and not worry about the toll it might’ve taken. Separated again by a two-hour time difference and the advantage of a backspace button, I chose not to be upfront about how I’d really felt. You shared videos of fun things you came across on the internet. I replied immediately with a short acknowledgment of mutual admiration. I thought my act was working. You must’ve thought you could go on, too.

You didn’t. 

This time, the big block of words came from you, and you were clear. I was not good for you, you realized. 

The sad thing is, I kept trying to act. I told you I couldn’t see what about my recent responses made you feel belittled or not taken seriously. You told me if I couldn’t see it, then I never would.

Just like with the novel I gave up, I respected that we also had to end. I respected your choice to go.

To soothe my ego, and because she is my mother, my mother agreed with me that you should’ve done more of this for me and I couldn’t have done more of that for you. But in the end, this was a friendship between you and me, and I did not do well by you.  

You were not the first friend from my grade school years who I assumed I’d get to keep growing up with. And when we could still be vulnerable with each other, I had learned that I wasn’t the first for you either. By now I hope you’ve found a new friend, or many, who make you feel confident in that, yes, they value your company. They share your interests without hesitation and unconditionally. They are people you want to keep close as long as they’ll have you. For having known you for the years that I got to, I can only imagine how lucky they are.

Shoebox Confessional: Part M

Dear reader,

I’ve named this series the way I have because I’m writing it with my laptop perched on top of a large plastic storage container that’s serving as a shoebox.

Why a series of confessionals? And why don’t I have a proper desk?

The second question isn’t as important though easier to answer. I am still in the unmoored phase of my life, and where I can avoid acquiring heavy objects, I do. Interpret that as you will, though to be honest, it ain’t that deep. (For those who need it, an Urban Dictionary definition is here.)

As for the first, the content of these confessionals have weighed on me, and I finally decided to give them words, as a way of owning them and also letting them go. Recently, after listening to a poignant NPR podcast episode called “The Reluctant Immortalist,” I learned that a tiny, otherwise insignificant animal called the hydra is potentially immortal. This is due to its unique biology, with more details you can learn in a separate article here, but boils down to how it’s essentially continuously shedding what (cells) can no longer serve it or even harm it. From the podcast: “The best guess scientists have these days as to how it cheats death, as Rob Steele explains, isn’t just its crazy stem cell production, but its highly unusual ability to let go.”

Where this analogy ends: I don’t see these memories as no longer serving me, but as lessons. I looked to the earnest style of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the first in a young adult novel series I love by Jenny Han. Sharing them though, letting them go on my site here, which is maybe brave or maybe brazen, I can hold myself accountable. Names have been redacted out of respect. Maybe these memories will become or beget something else. And perhaps someone else, after reading, becomes inspired to take the time to reflect on significant episodes in their own life. On this topic, I’ll admit that I used to not be a fan of memoirs or non-fiction. I almost exclusively read fiction, unless non-fiction was demanded for academic work. This is largely because it is a lifelong dream of mine to (traditionally) publish a worthy novel. Of course, to do this, one not only has to read great examples but also to write. For roughly the past two years though, I had stepped away from writing for so long, scared of the blank page or screen and overall feeling like an impostor. Through writing these confessionals, I’m finding my way back into writing in general. What a joy it is. And during the time of COVID-19 we’re living in now, we should allow ourselves that when we can.

Thank you,

J Wang


Ever since my dad passed away, I became accustomed to sleeping next to my mom in my parents’ bed whenever I was back from college. It wasn’t so strange to me, since the king size had become too much for her.

One night when M crashed at our house, after making sure he had what he needed to sleep, I turned away and headed to my parents’ room as usual. It was only after our stilted greetings the next morning and after M had left when I realized. Fully awake, a more coherent reading of our texts had clarified things. I wasn’t supposed to turn away and follow my mother. He thought I’d join him in the room he was staying in, a room we’d converted into a guest room. He’d wanted to bang, in short. Didn’t I?

What I’d wanted to find was some sentimentality in our simplistic messages. It wasn’t there. And really, should it have been? I was home only for a short fall break. But I guess his thinking was: we’d had something for each other once, and since then, we’d both had more experiences in and out of relationships. These should have been sufficient ingredients to set off a physical reaction. If I hadn’t wanted more at the time, I might’ve gone for a bang, letting it serve as a delayed declaration of sorts. 

When we were together in high school, I deemed “I love you” off-limits. I’d simply felt that it was cheapened when said too often. That went for expressing affection for my friends too, so at least I was consistent. I thought that it had to be reserved for when people really knew and felt deep regard and care for one another. Maybe my friends and I did, despite the small scales of our lives then: soothing each other over the sting of an A- versus an A, preemptively grabbing straws for each other’s bubble tea. But in my eyes, we weren’t truly responsible for anything beyond being our parents’ children, so I didn’t believe we could commit to or feel anything profound. Of course, I’ve learned since then.

So was it that I felt I had to save it for a big, pivotal moment? I had my chance at senior prom, the quintessential American high school event I hadn’t wanted to go to but did, thanks to my former best friend. I can’t remember M without her, but she is another memory. She’d been the one to push M and me together, prompting him to ask me to be his homecoming date. What I had with M, I owed to her. 

What happened instead has been my wondering until now if I should’ve just said it. Should’ve just snuck away to the bed he was waiting in.

In any case, I know now that by any average, reasonable person’s definition, the affection and care M had shown me when we were younger was love. Driving to the hospital and waiting with me and so many others for the inevitable passing of my dad, even though I had not flung myself into M’s arms, cried on his shoulder. Then years later, calling me to tell me that his father had passed away, too, and that he wanted me to know before I heard it through the grapevine. It was a kindness to me, even though it’s unlikely that I would’ve found out that inelegant way. Most of my surviving high school friendships are too tenuous, rarely getting past the basic updates out of politeness, for sensitive information like that to be divulged. So in recalling this gesture of M’s, I found another reason to believe.

I must have always known it was love. And though it’s passed, I’ll treasure that sense of high regard and care forever. I can’t ask for more, not when I’ve had friendships I believed to be forever dissolve instead. 

Thank you, M. And did you know? In my main college application essay—also so long ago—the alias I gave to the little boy I wrote about was your name. That was my first paying homage to you, however small. I don’t think I ever told you, just like I never said I loved you.

One Page for 10/21/2019

Even though this blog shows that my last one-pager post was from June, I have been writing in this journal on a more consistent basis. It partly comes from a place of self-flagellation (my friend gifted me this journal two years ago…) and of plain self-doubt. There is the recurring question of “what’s the point?”, which has also come into my thoughts as I considered whether to renew my domain for this site.

In the end, I decided to keep it on, as the cost is negligible compared to some other things I’ve been splurging on, and part of me hopes that it’ll be a good repository of my headspace in this period of my life or the inspirations most salient to me now. A sort of digital “Pensieve” 🙂


Prompt: She was the new girl. The one who sat in the cafeteria at lunch alone. Maybe she was from the next state over. Maybe she was from another country. I wanted to know everything about her: her mother’s name, her favorite movie, if she had brothers, sisters, what she…

Response: …did on the weekends when her friends bailed on plans they’d made together. OK, that’s me starting to project, and I own up to that. I’m about to get up and switch to her table when Matthew — my Matthew, well not as in boyfriend or anything but my best friend who I would not turn down an invitation to become more than a friend — swings his ratty backpack onto the bench seat and offer her his hand to shake. I have many questions. One, I thought he was making up a physics lab, or doing an extra one because that’d be who he is. Two, I thought he’d come to me first, and then we could welcome and absorb the new girl into our weird circle, if she wanted to join. By the looks of her open-mouthed laugh now, she’d follow Matthew anywhere, that’s for sure. I haven’t seen him look up and around for me at all. Want as I might to include myself, I’m not sure he’d want me there. I’ve never had a thought like this before, and it creates a weight on my chest and I put down my food, preventatively reach for a napkin. My things I want to know about her have changed: How are you not nervous to laugh that big in front of him? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you like Matthew?


I started reading a new young adult novel, if it’s isn’t obvious already.

One Page for 6/1/2019

Somehow, it is June. I thought it’d posted a one-pager in May (AAPI Heritage Month, woo!), but I let things slip again. I’ve frankly been wallowing in a shit period of self-pity about various things in my life, so today I tried to take on an optimistic tone in my scribbles. I’ve reverted back to contemporary realism from fantasy last time, but it’s definitely influenced by the rom-com novels I’ve read within the past year. Sometimes when you’re working through shit, you just gotta let yourself have some cheese.

At the start of the page, I didn’t think I could go on. But I reminded myself that the page isn’t meant to be a final draft; it’s a work-in-progress. Like life.


The words:

Prompt: It quickly became a game: who was going to say the first word, who was going to smile, who was going to pretend to cough, and who was going to make the first move. Jack stared straight at his coffee, stirring and stirring it even though he drank it black. Sammy…

Response: …resisted staring for too long, since there’s that thing where humans, like any other animal, can tell when others have them in their sights. Truthfully though, Jack was. There’s that other thing where people say you’ll just know when you see the other person. Sammy didn’t believe in love at first sight, or at least, she’d learned from enough encounters that alcohol-tinged vision really could grant most people a favorable glow. But Jack. Even a table away in this Starbucks, Sammy could feel possibility again. And that was what she’d needed after, due to some cosmic freak scheduling, attending three weddings in the past six months, either in a friend group or alone. Everyone around her, it seemed, was pushing their lives along, one milestone at a time. She felt she’d settled, lost control or the drive to get off the path she was on. In a job she was adequate at, in a city she could enjoy enough. But Jack. She had seen him here two weekends in a row now. She was nervous. She wasn’t good at this kind of thing, not like her friends who grabbed what they wanted, and got it. But Sammy had to start. This pretending and not living could not continue. “Hey…” she began.

One Page for 4/20/2019

I could’ve sworn I’d posted something (or had written a one pager to post) between March 27 and today, but it looks like I overestimated my willingness to think through even a page before going on vacation and visiting family. Today I’m happy with myself for finally being over my jet lag and having slept through a night without waking up in the middle of it. Even happier, I coaxed myself to write a page with another genre in mind–fantasy!

This was difficult for me, as I realized it’s been a while since I’ve even read fantasy or even YA fantasy, and also because lately I’ve worried that I’ve begun to lose my imagination. That’s of course not the biggest problem in the grand scheme of things, but for someone whose life goal is to publish a novel–I’ve already achieved my goal of writing one, technically :)–it is a real concern. However, I’m also beginning to believe that it’s truly a muscle everyone can work on. Although speed is not the most appropriate metric to measure myself on, I’d like to eventually write some fantasy without telling myself I can’t and then getting up to check my phone, take a sip of my tea, fix my cuticles, organize my stationery…you get the drift! This time, I thought back to the first episode of the last season of Game of Thrones, which I watched having watched well, two episodes of the first season ages ago. Here goes.


The words:

Prompt: After three days, the storm let up and the winds died down. But there were dark clouds on the horizon, and we knew we didn’t have long. They’d be out looking for us, so we had to load up on supplies, hit the road toward…

Response: …my cousin Silmka’s settlement further down the river. To be honest, I couldn’t be sure that she would welcome us, let alone protect us from the [Driftlings] we’d gotten off our tracks–up until now. Of course, I couldn’t tell the rest of my party any of this. Party isn’t even the right word for us either. We’d banded together out of a lack of alternatives: me, a former tutor in the castle, then other castle residents fighting now to survive alongside the less privileged settlement dwellers who were suspicious of us and always would be. Like Silmka was of me, or became so after I had to start keeping my correspondence with her plain and unspecific, when she’d wanted to press me about my students or their families. She, in turn, made it plain that I’d become one of “them” now, and our letters had ceased. But when one from her arrived three weeks ago, asking if I’d heard anything about recent Driftling sightings–before they turned into massacres–and whether as blood family I would honor our bond and share information, I’d told her. That the security and military ministry heads had gathered some survivors to [“]study their immunities.[“] I’d risked a random search of outgoing letters from the castle. Silmka hadn’t replied, but I’d hoped she honor our bond in exchange now.

One Page for 3/27/2019

Hello 🙂 It seems indulgent to, but I’m adding a smiley right off the bat in this post because I’ve written another one-pager before March ends, thus preserving my once-a-month streak…for now. 🙂 (Thanks for indulging me that second smiley!)

This one ended up being a sad one as well; perhaps I’m a glutton for this kind of emotional pain? Kidding, half. I’m quite happy about this one-pager honestly. It’s been one of my most cathartic ones, and I’ll keep my preface brief today by saying it’s grounded in the very real experience of losing my father before I felt like I was a complete person. Consequently in the years since, it’s been a lot of reaching backwards for memories, much as I always try to live my life moving forward.


For ambience:

The words:

Prompt: I looked up at the night sky and thought of the stories he used to tell about the stars, the constellations, and it seemed sad that I couldn’t remember a single one of them. There’s a string of stars called Orion’s Belt, and I think Orion is known as a hunter, but I’m not sure of what. It’s funny to think that, because in a way I’m a hunter, too, only I hunt…

My response: …for memories of him. In some ways, it isn’t hard to because we have several shelves in the gameroom full of photobooks my dad stuffed with important and not-so-important records of our time as a complete family. I prodded at him as a kid, trying to find out why he insisted on including the photos that didn’t make sense to me to include: ones in which my chin was tilted so I had chins, ones where the sun’s glare had caused overexposure, ones where my mom’s hand stuck out, because she wasn’t ready. “These are also important to remember,” my dad had said. “And besides, we have plenty of room in the books to fill.” And so, it’s those “in-between” pictures that make the memory-hunting hard again. They remind me that every moment then, we were living and creating home in our minds. When the photos aren’t enough to sustain me and soothe the ache of knowing home is a place i have to recreate without my dad, I try our home videos, or more like the ones he taped. When those fail, I lie down, close my eyes, and have to do the devastating work of waiting patiently and actually making my mark: hitting upon a moment I’d thought I’d lost forever and will stay lost to a home of the past, once I open my eyes again.