a few questions for you! + life updates
what advice would you give your 23-year-old self? what's the strangest thing that's happened to you this year? what's a folktale you were told growing up? what's a word you've been thinking about?
I’m turning 23 today, which according to the internet means I’ve lived 25% of the average lifespan of an Asian-American female in the USA.
Every year I’ve asked for thought-gifts on questions I can’t get out of my head. My questions this year:
What is the strangest/most surreal thing that has happened to you (this year, or ever)? I’ve been entirely immersed in magical realism and surrealist fiction this year, and curious especially about sensory details and the haptic/auratic experience of the surreal. My friend told me about waking up the morning after she learned she was six months pregnant to a baby bump that had not been there the night before.
What is a folktale or myth that your family told you growing up? I’ve been collecting strange myths and folktales from friends and turning them into longer fiction. If you gift me with a story you were told as a child, I would be so grateful. I’m especially curious about morality tales, ghost stories, and stories about food.
Are there any words you’ve been thinking about recently?
Miscellany: Is there any media or art you’ve enjoyed recently? Any feedback or advice for me?
Here’s a little form, but feel free to leave your answers in the comments as well. Answer one question or all of them, anonymous or leave your name + contact :) Thank you so, so much.
I’ll share my own answers here too:
I’m still documenting the year we just all went through. So much happened for me this year. My grandma, who helped raise me, passed away in China. We watched her leave us over a video call, and could only grieve from afar. I started weightlifting during the pandemic and watched as my body become a strange and unfamiliar thing to me in real-time. I started a company with my sister for fun and then it became a serious thing all too quickly, and I sold it while watching the frenzy around crypto / NFTs / SPACs / GameStop. All these experiences felt surreal and incongruent in different ways, and there are specific sensory details that I’ll share via more writing, hopefully soon!
A boy is incredibly spoiled. His mother loves him too much and serves him hand and foot, even feeding him by hand. He grows into a teen, and his mother’s mother is dying, and so she needs to leave him by himself for the first time. She cooks a massive jianbing (incidentally incredibly delicious), cuts a head-sized hole out of the center, fits it around his neck, and then leaves the village. It’s big enough that it should easily feed him for the two weeks that she is away, but when she comes home, she is horrified to discover that he has starved to death. The jianbing still encircles his neck. He had eaten the portion immediately in front of him, but he was too lazy to even lift his hands and rotate it.
Tender: having a soft or yielding texture: easily broken, cut, or damaged; showing care; something that may be offered in payment. Something something financialization instrumentalization gift economies crypto something something. Coherent thoughts slowly incoming - if you want to talk about gifting culture in crypto I’d love to learn with you. I’m excited to read The Professor and the Madman.
Nowadays, I’m working in mediums that require sprints, not marathons. Short fiction, not novels. Glass, not painstaking pixel-sculpting in Photoshop. I kept trying to write long essays in this Substack on grand themes (here’s one on value that I’m almost-happy with): seeking plateau versus peak experiences, or on Bourdieu’s understanding of taste and how astounding it was that even Virginia Woolf only felt she could develop aesthetic judgment after two years of financial stability, but I think this year is not the year of long coherent thoughts. This is the year of small things.
Some small gifts:
I’m currently reading The Ministry for the Future, The Spell of the Sensuous, and loved Her Body and Other Parties. I’ve resolved to start using Goodreads a bit more frequently, so let’s be friends there!
Some life updates:
I’m now in New York, will be in Montreal in the fall doing research, then hopefully back to NYC in January.
I signed my first nonfiction book deal with a dear friend of mine (!), but am hoping to embark on fiction short form and long form soon. If you’ve published work, I’d love to read it. I’m also looking to put together an online writing group that’d meet biweekly. If you write spec fic / sci-fi / personal nonfiction (broad, I know!), and such a group would be helpful for you, please let me know!
I’ve taken almost a year's hiatus from writing online, since so much stuff has been going on, but am aiming to write more in public this year, which I’m feeling both excited and nervous about! The main gift from the (still-ongoing) crisis is an increased sense of the fragility and preciousness of my own life, and all life, and I hope to keep this feeling with me in the next quarter of my life. Thank you for giving me some of your own wonderful and precious life and reading this! I hope you spend some quality time offscreen today.