Essays is a new line of writing for me. It started out with the occasional request to write a journalistic piece, say, on a political demonstration. These days, my essays range from book reviews to craft discussions, OpEd pieces to feature articles, and onward toward creative nonfiction and the lyric essay. Here they are.

Sweet Lit: A Literary Confection

I have been following Ira Sukrungruang on social media for ages. He’s one of the founding editors of Sweet Lit: A Literary Confection, an online journal that publishes poetry, creative nonfiction and graphic essays. Finally, my stalking had paid off. Volume 16 features my lyric essay “Food Fight.” As the name implies, food in my childhood home has been weaponized. Who will win: mother or grandmother? You can find out here. Publication date: 20 Feb 2024.


Hinterland Issue 13

“Hats” is my first lyric essay to be published in a UK literary journal. Hinterland is a print magazine “showcasing the best in creative non-fiction” from around the world. I’m chuffed (as the British would say) and otherwise pleased as punch to have my attempt at a Diane Seuss type essay included in Issue 13, the Family History special. Issue 13 is available only in print. You can order your copy here. Publication date: July 2023.


Essay on slavery, discrimination, person of color

In 2021, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam hosted its first ever exhibit on slavery under the Dutch. It made me think about being a person of color in this ethnically homogeneous nation, about who gets counted or seen and why. My lyric essay “Inventory” is the result.

I wouldn’t have known where to place such a piece if it weren’t for a submission call I happened to see on Twitter. Pleiades Magazine was looking for new work for a folio to be entitled “Silences of War: Erasure Within Conflict.”

We are seeking poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid work that engages with the untold or silenced side of “war” in all its variations—from global to national to domestic conflict. What and who is erased by violence? What sounds do these silences make, and how can they be honored and represented? How can destruction take the form of creation and utterance?

Pleiades guest editors Hadara Bar-Nadav and Jameelah Lang

Double issue 42.2 & 43.1 available only in print. Publication date: 9 Feb 2023

Pushcart Prize essay nomination

News flash: Pleiades nominates “Inventory” for the 2023 Pushcart Prize in the category of creative nonfiction. Announcement date: 22 Nov 2023.

Kenyon Review

Kenyon Review lyric essay

For some time now, I’ve been learning to write lyric essays. Thanks to a couple of wonderful workshops with Joanna Penn Cooper, a deep dive into the work of lyric essayists like Claudia Rankine, Jo Ann Beard, and Maggie Nelson, and some good hard pokes from my writing buddies, I took the plunge. I submitted an essay for the 2022 Kenyon Review Short Nonfiction Contest.

“Fish Tales” is an essay about childhood, Los Angeles, and leaving home. These topics have been swimming in my mind ever since my father passed away in 2020. They came to the surface when my mother moved out of Los Angeles and I had no choice but to say goodbye to all that.

In selecting “Fish Tales” as the winner of the 2022 contest, Maggie Nelson wrote:

‘Fish Tales’ has great rhythm and propulsion. It’s pretty then gross then sad then worrying then exciting. It slips in and out of weird synecdoche, swerves with grace between divergent forms of address. It treads on cultural fault lines, familial discord, sensory experience, the move from childhood to adulthood, without wasting time explaining. I’d read a book of it.

Maggie Nelson, Kenyon Review 2022

“Fish Tales” appears in the Winter 2023 issue of Kenyon Review. You can read it here. Or, if you prefer to hear your words read out loud, check out this SoundCloud recording.

Publication date: 25 Jan 2023

Brevity essays

Brevity Magazine

I have been trying to get my words into Brevity Magazine since 2018. All I got in return were rejections. Clearly, an acceptance was going to require more than me flinging myself against the fence. Hence the trek to the 2022 Kenyon Review summer writing workshop (see above) led by Dinty W. Moore, editor-in-chief of Brevity. That workshop, in turn, culminated in an invitation to submit. Hocus, pocus, presto, shazam! “Taiwan 1969” gets published in Brevity Magazine Issue 72. You can read it here. Publication date: 16 Jan 2023

And then there’s the post-publication fun.

On 19 April 2023, “Taiwan 1969” was featured in a webinar by Heather Sellers on “Strategies for Creating Compelling Flash Fiction & Micro-Memoir” as an example of how to open and close flash. A few days later, I learn on Twitter that Sumita Mukherji liked “Taiwan 1969” so much she wrote a mini craft essay on fantastical metaphors. Whoop!

News flash: Brevity nominates “Taiwan 1969” for the 2023 Pushcart Prize and the 2024 Best American Essays! Announcement date: 30 Nov 2023.

Hippocampus Magazine

“Drift” was born during my first lyric essay class with Joanna Penn Cooper. Her prompt was to write about a journey and to do so in the form of a collage. I am an obedient student who does as she is told. I wrote about our round-the-world trip that started on my 60th birthday and ended with the pandemic.

When I first submitted “Drift” to Hippocampus for publication, I had fewer than 1000 words on the page. The editors rejected this version though they urged me to revise. They said, think about drifting beyond the limitations of flash.

In her second lyric essay class, Joanna helped me think about sequence and signposts, just enough to help the reader go with the flow. Surprisingly, the essay turned into a piece about aging and sex (if those two topics belong in the same sentence). I guess that’s what turning 60 does to you.

You can read “Drift” here.

Publication date: 7 Sept 2022

The Cleaver Quarterly

The Cleaver Quarterly

From concept pitch to live date, it’s been a three year long journey for my essay, “Lord Millet.” This is my thought experiment on the evolution of millet in the Chinese kitchen, as told through the eyes of six avatars.

Should he plant his millet today or next month? Will it grow better in the shadow of his home or close to the reeds where the wild millet grows? He is the first in his family to try to tame the millet that runs wild along the banks of Lake Baiyangdian. Who can he ask but the gods?

Karen Kao, “Lord Millet” in The Cleaver Quarterly

From neolithic times to modern-day Aohan, it was a hoot to research this essay for The Cleaver Quarterly. And a true learning experience to write and re-write this piece as I struggled to master the fine art of the long-form essay. Why work so hard on one piece? Because “The Cleaver Quarterly tells you everything you wanted to know but never knew to ask about Chinese food.”

Publication date: 22 Nov 2021

The Habtic Standard

pandemic essays
The Habtic Standard, issue no 1

I had never tried my hand at journalism before, let alone a feature article. But thanks to friends in high places, I got my first chance at The Habtic Standard, an online magazine

dedicated to providing a singular, authoritative voice in the opportunistic jungle of corporate wellness.

My article, The Long View, offers a perspective — historical, geographical and multidisciplinary —on how businesses could learn from coronavirus. Publication date 06.07.2020.

How cool is this? The Long View makes it into the top 5 favorite reads in The Habtic Standard. Don’t believe me? Read it in the words of editor-in-chief, Mindy Ran. Publication dated 25.06.2021

pandemic essays
The Habtic Standard, issue no 6

Another first! An OpEd piece for the 2021 new year’s issue of The Habtic Standard. My job was to say goodbye to 2020. Publication date: 15.01.2021.

In 2020, we buried family members, mentors, teachers and peers. We lost them before we realized how much we valued them. They left before we could say goodbye. What more must we part with before this pandemic is done with us?

The Habtic Standard, issue no. 9 Narratives

Another OpEd piece on one of my least favorite habits: corporate jargon. Also known as Lost in Translation. Publication date: 15.04.2021.

Expat Hikers

travel essays
Expat Hikers

A little bit off the beaten track for me in terms of publishing venues, but why not write for a group of fanatical hikers? Expat Hikers is a community of hikers and a great platform for me to write about hiking while traveling around the world.

Read about:

International Writers’ Collective

craft essays
Logo International Writers’ Collective

I teach at the International Writer’s Collective. Level 1 creative writing for poetry and fiction. It’s a wonderful experience watching these writers grow. I’m hoping that they will go all the way: to finish that great short story or poem they brought to class. For some of them, writing is an end in and of itself. But for those students who want to see their names in bright lights, here’s an article I wrote: If you want to get published. Publication date 24.07.2019

How to write historical fiction: well, the title says it all. This time, I’ve drilled down to the building blocks we teach at the International Writers’ Collective — plot, characters, description, dialogue, and setting — to look at their respective roles in the theater called historical fiction. Publication date: 08.04.2019

For my students and aspiring writers everywhere, I wrote about the ways in which I trick myself into writing every day. Getting started is the hardest part for some. Getting unstuck is the challenge for others. Me? I just stay in bed for My daily practice. Publication date: 01.12.2020

The Common

essays on place
Image source: Facebook page for The Common

The Common is an online and print literary magazine hosted at Amherst College. Its mission is to deepen our individual and collective sense of place. And since I’m obsessed with the city of Shanghai, I’ve had my eye on this literary magazine as a place to get published. They post the coolest essays.

The Mapmaker

So you can imagine how proud I am that my piece, The Mapmaker, made it into The Common Online. My essay is a work of creative nonfiction that blends memories, real and imagined, of my first trip to Shanghai. Publication date: 11.07.2019.

Can you believe it? The Masters Review chooses “The Mapmaker” for its July edition of New Writing on the Net! Publication date: 25.07.2019.

This is nice. “The Mapmaker” gets included in The Common’s reading list to honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. May 2022

Going Home

A 7 month trip around the world was bound to offer inspiration. But I had no idea that coronavirus was going to be the impetus for this Dispatch for The Common Online. Going Home is about sheltering in place while on the road. Publication date: 25.03.2020.

book reviews
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In my never-ending quest for world domination, I’ve cast my eyes about the blogosphere and particularly in the direction where Asian books rule. There is only one book review site that qualifies for attention: This is what they say about themselves.

Bookish Asia is a book review site dedicated to showcasing quality fiction and non-fiction works about Asia. It is the creation of the three founders of Camphor Press: Michael Cannings, John Ross and Mark Swofford. 

I’ll be writing occasional reviews for these fine folks. Here’s my first review of the Japanese classic: Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Kawabata Yasunari. Published 21.06.2018.

And here’s review #2: The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi, long-listed for the Man Booker International Prize 2018. Published 16.09.2018.

My most recent review for Bookish Asia is a whopper. The three Han Kang novels that have been translated to date into English: The Vegetarian, Human Acts, and The White Book. Published 30.03.2019.

Review #4: Wild Geese Sorrow: The Chinese Wall Inscriptions at Angel Island. New translations by Jeffrey Thomas Leong. Published 20.04.2019.

My 5th review is of Hong Kong Noir, a short story collection edited by Jason Y. Ng and Susan Blumberg-Kason. Published 20.06.2019.

Of course, this is only a small selection of my book reviews. You can find the rest here, Book by Book.

Authors Electric

Craft essays
Image source: @AuthorsElectric

Authors Electric is a platform for independently-published authors who like to write about writing. Starting 10.04.2018, I became a regular contributor. Here’s my list so far:

Global Voices

This is a serendipitous tale. My friend Tori Egherman is looking for sources to use on a story she’s writing about the rise of racism in the Netherlands. I say, hey, I’m writing about the same thing, here’s my draft. Lo and behold: we both end up on the website of Global Voices, a borderless community for citizen media reporting and my essays on current affairs begins. Global Voices published Hitting a Low Point in the Low Countries on 21.03.2018. As of 10.04.2018, that piece has been translated into 繁體中文, 简体中文, Ελληνικά, Malagasy, Français, Deutsch, Español, Nederlands and Italiano.

current affairs essays
Image source:

Tori was also instrumental in getting another piece of mine published on Global Voices: Uighurs in the laogai on 20.09.2018. This one has been translated into Greek, Italian and Spanish.

Article number three! The Cop and the Showgirl was republished on 01.11.2018. It’s also about China, this time its newest and most frightening detention system called liuzhi. Also available in Italiano, Español, and Ελληνικά.

flash fiction essays
Image source: is a brand-new website that blends flash fiction with visual art from its home in Canada. Editor Geoffrey Miller found me through a short story I wrote for Cha, a Hong Kong literary journal, and asked if I would write something for his blog, something about writing, because he liked my voice. Notes on a Palm-of-the-Hand Story is a riff on flash fiction inspired by the eponymous collection by Kawabata Yasunari. Published 14.02.2018.

Don’t miss my short story Frogs also published by Nunum in the Fall 2018 issue!

The Shanghai Literary Review

Shanghai essays
Issue No. 2 table of contents. Image source:

It was a long-shot for me. A competition for essays on the theme of Concrete. I started writing and ended up with Memory Palace, a work of creative non-fiction about the way memory feeds into my fiction. It had little to do with concrete but lucky for me, the editors at The Shanghai Literary Review liked it. Published in Issue No. 2, December 2017.

News flash: The Shanghai Literary Review nominates “Memory Palace” for The Best of the Net anthology. Read more here.

Books by Women

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I have struggled my entire life with labels. I don’t want to count toward any diversity quota. Don’t look at my gender, ethnicity or immigrant status. Don’t treat me differently because I’m one of them.

But in order to succeed as a writer, you need to carve out a niche for yourself. And now I’ve found mine. We Are Not Labels was published on 20.07.2017. This first in a long series of essays on gender and race.

Then I changed my mind. You can check out my thinking these days in Labels and Charlottesville.


This online platform dedicates itself to the quality of women living a fearless life after fifty.

personal essays

Kitten Heels is about how I transformed myself from corporate lawyer to writer. And why it would have been impossible to write my novel, The Dancing Girl and the Turtle, at any age other than the one I am now: 57. Published by Fiftiness on 29.06.2017 and republished with permission on my blog.

As my 60th birthday has since come and gone, I guess I won’t be writing any more essays about being 50.


political article
Women’s March on Washington. Image source:

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers is a guest blog post (published 26.01.2017) that I wrote at the request of founder Anja Uitdehaag. She asked me to report on the Women’s March in Amsterdam. My first attempt at political essays. Here’s my take on the Women’s March and my own slow transformation from apathetic sideliner to activist.

Linen Press

craft essays
Linen Press logo. Image source:

Ping-Pong: The Editing Process is a joint blog post for my publisher Linen Press. Director Lynn Michell and I talk about the editing process. Read how we transformed The Dancing Girl and the Turtle from a promising manuscript into a polished novel. (She was Ping and I was Pong. Or the other way around, I forget.) Published 23.01.2017.

NRC Handelsblad

OpEd essays
NRC Handelsblad OpEd page, 11 November 2016

In the direct aftermath of the Trump election, I wrote my American swan song. That piece, Amerika is mijn land niet meer, ended up on the OpEd page of the Dutch national newspaper NRC Handelsblad (11 November 2016). This is the first of my OpEd essays to appear in Dutch and English. You can read the English version under the title These Boots Are Made for Walking.


live blog article

I loved being backstage at the Stadsschouwburg, the Amsterdam temple to theater. The occasion for this visit was TEDx Amsterdam. You can read about that madness in one of my earliest essays, The View from Backstage – TEDxAms 2015 (November 2015).

This webpage was last updated on 22.04.2023.