Publishing feels like a mysterious castle floating above the clouds, especially when you’re not white, you don’t live in New York, don’t have an MFA—or like me, all of the above, plus I don’t even live anywhere near America. An agent feels like an express shuttle who will whisk you past the grand gates of publishing.
What was I doing thousands of miles from home, in a place that had no interest in who I was or where I came from? Was it wishful thinking, hoping to find an audience for my work in the US? What I came to realise was that Tin House may mean the world to a writer from Singapore, but a writer from Singapore may not necessarily mean anything at all to Tin House.
In this room, in almost the exact same spot where my desk now sits in this photo, lies my earliest childhood memory. I was in kindergarten, around four or five years old, sitting in the wardrobe, wearing a dress I did not want to wear. I remember the soft, warm colour of morning filtering through the curtains, my sister still sleeping in the next bed.
2019, was for me, that year of change. It took me several more months to do something about it, but once I did it was as if a door had opened in my heart and the pieces began to fall into place. I realised I had gotten it all wrong. I was afraid to call myself a writer because for years I had struggled to get anything published, only to realise I was trying to put the cart before the horse.
(me, left, and my older sister)
Growing up, I never thought of myself as ‘pretty’. Pretty was my older sister, who got stopped on the street by modeling scouts and asked out by Eric Cantona when Manchester United visited Singapore. I was the awkward, bookish sister, who wore pink plastic glasses and could hang with the boys, but was never seen as a ‘girl’.
As a writer and reader it’s always difficult to review books written by writer friends you know. How much I like a friend has no…
Somehow last night I crossed 1,000 followers and for someone who had like 200 followers my first 10 years on Twitter that’s just insane.
I started posting more actively a couple of months back after leaving Facebook, with a vague sense that I might find an audience here. I never imagined I would meet so many new friends/make so many new connections here, just by opening this door in my heart and “putting myself out there”.
One result of writing not being my main career: I’ve written lots of things over the past two decades and frankly they’re all over the place. Here is an interview I did with my professor and mentor at UC Berkeley, Professor Andrew Jones, who happens to be 余华 Yu Hua’s translator. Yu Hua did a sabbatical at Berkeley while I was there, and Professor Jones arranged for him to meet us and conduct a series of readings. It was written more than 15 years ago (!!) and published in a Chinese literary magazine in 2003 (I searched high and low but couldn’t find a copy of the magazine…)