On the eve of NaNoWriMo

I didn’t accomplish my October goal to write every day to practice for National Novel Writing Month (November). So now I guess I must suffer the consequences of just having to jump right into it & learning to get 1,660 words down per day.

One good thing is that I got into the next AAWW writing workshop, led by Bushra Rehman, whose first novel was recently published and who read at the first event I ever attended at the workshop. (I write about it in a previous post on this blog.) She is doing six weekly sessions on memoir and autobiographical fiction — Hello, exactly what I want to do for November! Her novel is about growing up Pakistani in Corona, Queens, and the workshop filled up within a week.

I was definitely lucky to get in, because even though interns get to attend one workshop for free, there haven’t been any in the past few months, and there are a lot of interns who still have yet to take one. Basically, I wrote asking for permission as soon as it was posted and I was persistent. Squeaky wheel and all that.

It also helps that my older sister and a couple of other interns at the workshop are also doing NaNoWriMo, so there will be fellow writers I know suffering through the month.

Another good thing is that I have a friend who tried to do NaNoWriMo last year and gave up on it, with no regrets, so I won’t feel so bad if the same thing happens to me this year. I mean, it’s nice to know it’s not necessary or easy. I imagine there are lots of casualties of this thing; just guessing.

P.S. I’m not used to the WordPress app on my phone and accidentally published this before I was done writing. Also, didn’t see autocorrect typos till much later!

Loving the city

Shane and I had a fun adventure Saturday. Our only plan for the day had been to attend the opening reception of an art exhibition in which my friend and former coworker Kate Vikstrom is showing some paintings.

My favorite of Kate’s watercolors at the show:

katevikstrom1Shane’s favorite from the show:

katevikstrom2At the gallery, we realized we didn’t really know each other’s tastes in art, since we cannot afford to buy any art, so we played a game trying to guess which paintings we’d purchase if money were no object (besides Kate’s work, of course, because no question we’d buy our friends’ art before anything else).

This was my choice (by Rebeca Roman), which Shane poopoo-ed:

rebecaromanAnd this was Shane’s (Pink Meadow by Malgorzata Mizia), which I also liked:

miziaWe also liked this other one by Mizia:

mizia2So in a nutshell I like some abstract works while Shane prefers more representational, but we can meet in the impressionistic middle.

Before and after our visit to the gallery, we walked on the Highline, which was quite crowded with tourists. My favorite part of the Highline are the benches in water:

highlineOn the same Chelsea street as the gallery was this Banksy:

banksynyaccentAnd down another street nearby, this new Banksy collaboration with Os Gemeos:

banksy&osgemeosAnd some other art nearby:

hot sheepWe ate at restaurant in Chelsea called The Park, where I had a couple swanky cocktails. Then we walked in search of dessert, not realizing that two places I have been wanting to try were just a few blocks from the end of the Highline in the West Village: the Wafels & Dinges truck and the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. I had been instagramming too much, so Shane wouldn’t let me take photos of our desserts, but they were delicious. Just as we finished our Liege waffle with spekuloos (gingerbread spread), we walked a few steps to find Big Gay Ice Cream, where we simply had to try the Mermaid (vanilla soft-serve with key lime curd).

Art + cocktails + dessert = great time in downtown NYC.

Of handmade pasta and knitting

On the Friday night before my Sunday birthday, Shane’s friend Enrico had me, Shane, and their friend Evan over for dinner, and when they found out that my original plan to celebrate my birthday by doing karaoke that night had fallen through, I think they might have felt obligated to make dinner a special occasion in my honor. It was indeed special, and I deeply appreciate their efforts. These guys are incredibly good people.

The three of them are playing Bach inventions together, Shane and Enrico on guitar and Evan on cello, with plans to provide musical entertainment at the Columbia econ department’s Christmas party. They are expecting me to join them on the violin for Christmas tunes. But more on that at a later date.

Shane and I had invited them over the weekend before, to play music and drink lots, and we fed them some slow-cooked venison (courtesy of Shane’s hunting family), which they greatly appreciated, so much so that Enrico, who is from Italy, vowed to make pasta for us the next time we got together.

After getting out of Spanish class Friday evening, Enrico went home and made pasta dough, rolled it out with a rolling pin, and hand-cut the tagliatelle he later cooked and served with a creamy mushroom sauce he just threw together. It was divine. Then he brought out a caprese salad. Oh my god, some of my favorite foods….

Note to the ladies: Enrico is single and apparently a brilliant doctoral student in economics, which means he’ll probably be making the big bucks after finishing school. Plus he is a great cook. And he even bought me flowers for my birthday!

I mention the handmade pasta on this blog because Enrico made a remark that is relevant to the idea of doing work that has visible outcomes/tangible results: He said that choosing to spend an hour making noodles often makes more sense to him than sitting and doing economics on a computer for three hours, after which he doesn’t see the result of his efforts anywhere in the world; but with pasta-making, you have pasta.

Like many people, I’m guessing, I completely relate to this — especially with the cooler fall weather arriving and as I feel a push to get some knitting done. All of a sudden I want to knit a million accessories for myself, not to mention the tons of holiday projects I’ve planned for other people, many of which have been in my Ravelry queue for years.

And instead of writing more, like I’m supposed to be doing, and reading the next book on my list, I just knit. A noodle, or a scarf, is just so much more satisfyingly and physically present than, say, an economics paper (or whatever economists produce), or a short story.

Sort of, not really, back to normal

Now that the literary festival is over, and we’ve moved vanloads of stuff back from downtown Brooklyn, we at the AAWW office finally get to wind down. We’ll slowly unpack boxes while getting back to the work of putting out three online magazines and preparing for other, smaller events.

I will get back to the project of creating a house style sheet/guide for the AAWW publications, which is kind if exciting if you like copyediting, as language-nerds like me do.

I also spent my first working day away from the office writing my long overdue article on the Quakers, whose service I attended weeks ago. If there’s time today, I may even finish it, which is no small accomplishment for me. I putzed around most of the morning yesterday until finally getting myself to the nearby cafe to work.

Haven’t started looking for work again yet. The whole part-time thing seems strange since I won’t be doing this internship long-term, but it’s no excuse.

I complain about working as an intern a lot, but it is a special thing to be working with writers.

One thing I found inspiring at the festival Saturday was unexpected, because it came from the author of several urban-fantasy romance novels and X-men comics, Marjorie Liu. While I love the X-men films (especially Hugh Jackman, I mean, Wolverine), I do not aspire to writing romance novels or making comics. But she said something that has given me motivation to start writing my own fiction, that you can talk about voice and plot and character development all you like, but you have to finish your writing. If you don’t finish something, none of that other stuff matters.

She also said that a lot of her writing, especially in the beginning, sucked, but that’s what revision is for. You have to spend a great deal of time revising to make the writing good. That’s something I definitely need to remember when my perfectionism takes over and harshly judges everything I write down or even think.

So I’ve now signed up to do National Novel Writing Month, in which people vow to write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days and keep track of it at the website.

Who’s gonna do it with me?

In preparation, I am going to have to spend the rest of October writing a lot, so I’ll have to journal daily, at the very least, which I haven’t done in ages, and maybe try for a short story or essay.

No procrastination, no training wheels, just writing … every day.

Final push

Page Turner, the AAWW’s literary festival, is Saturday; in preparation, the office is in overdrive, and I’m working the internship full-time.

That means long meetings about logistics, publicity emails, postcards and posters all over the city, and the process of procuring and moving materials to the venue. For me, it meant spending last Saturday walking all over lower Manhattan and Flushing to drop off postcards and put up posters, and again yesterday morning to hit a couple more sites.

I’m complaining, but only just a little, because had I not done it, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to the Museum of Chinese in America to see the Chinese American designers’ fashion exhibit, or part of the Highline, or Trinity Church on Wall Street, nor would I have had the opportunity to try the other dumpling shop in Chinatown or to buy yummy Chinese treats like longans, mochi, egg tarts, and steamed buns in Flushing. On top of all that, I got in a ton of exercise.

And while I am not enthusiastic about going out to pick up and schlep stuff back to the office, had I not walked the nine blocks or so to get the projector for Saturday, I would not have witnessed the mechanized wonderland that is B&H, a huge electronics store run largely by Orthodox Jews, like a kosher version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, except for photographic equipment. And had I not gone shopping for the workshop most of today, I would not have experienced Jack’s, a three-level dollar store in the middle of Manhattan.

New York is a fabulous place.

On the downside, my right foot, probably slightly injured over the last few weeks from wearing stupid shoes, has gotten a lot worse, to the point that I can hear bones clicking in it as I walk. Also, I think I have finally come down with the cold that was going around the office and which I have been trying to fight off for the past few days with Emergen-c and ALJ. I need increasingly large amounts of coffee and sugary snacks to keep from falling asleep. And I have had no time to work on my latest article or on the job search.

Jenn’s bringing treats back from Providence tomorrow!

There are a lot of other good things, though, and I have to focus on the positive. The major thing is being involved in this giant effort to promote Asian American writing and helping to gather over 70 writers and artists in a free event to celebrate their work. Plus, there will be vendors with good food, and wine and beer at the after party! Lord knows we at the office are going to need to relax at the end of the day Saturday.

Living and breathing the internship — and eating, too

The Asian American Writers Workshop is having their giant, annual literary festival — Page Turner — on Saturday, Oct. 5, in Brooklyn, and we are consumed by it in the office. In addition, we have had two events there this week already and are co-sponsoring another about Edward Said tonight at CUNY.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of work to be done. Since I don’t yet have another job, I am working the internship full-time for the week and a half leading up to Page Turner. This leaves little time for me to work on my next article for the religions series or for my new pastime of birding, but I am eagerly awaiting the next week’s migration news on BirdCast and hoping that Saturday is going to be a good day for birding on Van Cortlandt Park’s free bird walk. Plus, I can work on the article. And of course look for jobs…. (Oh yeah, that other thing I need to do!)

Last night was the book launch for Jen Lin-Liu’s On the Noodle Road, a travelogue about searching for the origins of noodles along the Silk Road from China to Italy. She did a cooking demonstration, and we got to sample manti, the Turkish dumplings that are very similar to Italian tortellini, in a yogurt sauce. She also cooked up some tortelloni, the bigger cheese ones, with some butter and fresh sage. (Tortelloni were by far my favorite food in Bologna when I was there, except I had them with this heavenly butter-tomato sauce called burro e oro.)

on-the-noodle-roadAnd to end things, we also had some Chinese vegetarian dumplings, which I had to schlep all the way from this tiny hole-in-the-wall place called Prosperity Dumpling in Chinatown. I’m not complaining because they were delicious and cheap and I have found my new go-to place for dumplings; while I waited for the dumplings I got a free piece of this giant fried sesame bread, 芝麻大餅 — so tasty and I have never seen this thing before, where’s this thing from? — and on the menu it only costs $1.50. I love Chinatown!

I wish I had gotten a picture on my phone of them frying this thing in a wok — this is not the usual scallion pancake 蔥油餅 that we have had all our lives; it’s a thick yeast bread that’s fried, kind of like this one:

zhimadabingexcept mine might not have had scallions, and it reminded me of New York-style pizza, because it was huge. You can order it plain or with different things inside, like egg or different kinds of meat, but I got the veggie filling of carrots and cilantro and a nutty blend of spices — oh my god, so good.

It was also quite inspiring to hear about Jen Lin-Liu’s book, because I’m interested in travel writing — I mean, who wouldn’t be interested in traveling and then writing and publishing a book about it? And on top of that, food writing — eating and then writing and publishing a book about that!

Link

My birding blog

I’ve been trying out different social media/blog thingies, mostly because job descriptions for editorial assistants sometimes want you to be familiar with them, and I’m getting to like Tumblr after having an empty account on it for a year.

I called it “pillowtumblr” after the fashion of Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book (not the Ewan McGregor movie, which I have not seen, but beware searching “pillow book” because you’ll get all kinds of photos of naked bodies with calligraphy on them). If you don’t know it, it’s kind of this Japanese court lady’s journal, but it’s done in mainly lists of things, such as:

“64. Surprising and Distressing Things
While one is cleaning a decorative comb, something catches in the teeth and the comb breaks.
A carriage overturns. One would have imagined that such a solid, bulky object would remain forever on its wheels. It all seems like a dream — astonishing and senseless.
A child or grown-up blurts out something that is bound to make people uncomfortable.
All night long one has been waiting for a man who one thought was sure to arrive. At dawn, just when one has forgotten about him for a moment and dozed off, a crow caws loudly. One wakes up with a start and sees that it is daytime — most astonishing.
One of the bowmen in an archery contest stands trembling for a long time before shooting; when finally he does release his arrow, it goes in the wrong direction.”

Well, if you aspire to be the social media version of a Sei Shonagon, there is no way you will write anything … for a whole year. I could make lists, but they certainly wouldn’t be anywhere nearly as entertaining or profound as hers. (And Sei Shonagon’s would-be Twitter account has been cleverly done already — “Peach trees are blooming, nice. Willows looking good omg am I done yet” — there’s a screenshot of it from one of my early pillowtumblr posts, too.)

Finally, I realized I could forget about trying to make pithy lists and simply make lists for myself of birds I see, since I’ve now become a compulsive beginning birder (a recipe for frustration if ever there was one). It’s good to write down what you see on a birdwalk. And most definitely, there are visible outcomes of birdwatching — you are bound to see something, even if it’s a park full of Canada geese, or some sparrows and pigeons.

So in the absence of a post here about looking for a job (not really happening much) or my internship, I am linking the birding blog.

I feel old

There aren’t many places where I would take an unpaid internship; the Asian American Writers Workshop is one of those places. I applied for a fall internship there last year and had an interview, then tried again in the winter but wasn’t called back. This summer, with all different editors and managers, I got it.

I figured, it’s only part-time, so I could have a paying part-time job while I’m doing it, make lots of good connections in the publishing world (which I sorely lack at this point), learn about nonprofits and digital publishing (since they have three online publications, including CultureStrike, about changing mainstream views of immigration through culture and art, mostly in response to anti-immigration laws in my home state of Arizona), and though it’s unpaid, there is a travel stipend and a free writing workshop. My dream, after all, is to write fiction or creative nonfiction, and I’d be in this ethnicity-based genre whatever I wrote, so where else better to intern?

My first event was Friday night, a reading at the workshop space in Chelsea by Bushra Rehman, from her novel, Corona, which is about the neighborhood in Queens where she grew up. She was joined by other Queens artists from the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective. The readings left me feeling rejuvenated, especially Bushra’s. I can’t wait to read her book; the parts I’ve read and heard are really good.

Corona-TRUE5x8-100dpi

Monday was my first official day on the job. I was there with three other interns, all college students, all of them really nice. That was weird, though, to think these kids are, what, 20 years old? And I am working for free alongside them, even though I am almost twice their age? I couldn’t help but think to myself, what am I doing here? I’m turning 37 next month and I’m an intern! But I try not to feel embarrassed and remind myself that I’m getting connections, lots of connections, which is the only way to get a job in publishing.

Meanwhile, I wonder what would happen if I got called for any of the full-time jobs I applied to before accepting this internship. I mean, if I were offered a paying job with benefits, I would feel weird turning it down for an unpaid internship, but I have this deep sense of responsibility, making a commitment to an organization I feel passionate about, that would basically put me in a state of agony.

In fact, the same day that I was offered the internship, I was sent a copy test, my very first one, for a copy editor’s position for a digital media company, something to do with comedy, which is why I was worrying about whether “ball sack” should be one word or two (for those who saw my Facebook post). My solution, in the end, was to just use “balls” and avoid the problematic term. I never did hear back from them for an interview, though, which is disappointing, but it’s also kind of relief for my abovementioned sense of duty.

So the goal today is to apply for some part-time jobs, I guess clerical stuff at universities, which is my default, because I am so good at that sort of mindless labor, especially making copies, and working with students and professors. But I know you can make mad tips waiting tables, so that’s an option. I mean, I could do anything I wanted! I would prefer copyediting, but that’s been a hard little network to crack. I’m working on it, though, joining copy editors’ associations and reading articles and books on how to get freelance gigs….

I also need to work on my last InDesign assignment, though that online class is getting so tiresome that I’m certain to skip the last discussion session and go to a happy hour in Brooklyn for CultureStrike.

Link

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

Since this is a blog about being able to see the results of your work, I thought I would post this interesting article by an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, on the rise of what he calls “bullshit jobs.” I would say that perhaps these are jobs in which the workers don’t see any outcome, or at least little socially beneficial outcome, from what they do at work for 40 or more hours per week, as opposed to say, garbage collectors or MTA construction workers or farmers, or even teachers.

Even though my presumption here is that teaching does not yield adequate “visible outcomes” for me, now that I have sufficient distance from that profession, I would say it does produce some results, though perhaps much more infrequently and of a totally different nature than I had expected. For example, as a teacher, you do sometimes see the students respond to your care, whereas few, if any, will remember that calcite dissolves in acid. (Though when I learned that a few years ago as a third-grade teacher, I couldn’t imagine how anyone would forget. And yet, the only thing I think my students remembered of that science curriculum is that water beads on wax paper, which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing. I probably should’ve turned that into a lesson on surface tension or something.)

I wouldn’t rule out teaching as a possible route in the future, but I don’t mean elementary school or even high school — if I ever venture into teaching again it should probably be to adults. I simply can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do with 20-30 young humans who would rather not be there, trapped in a room with you all day, or even for 40 minutes. I am just not that kind of manager.