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 to creative nonfiction. Here they are.
The Habtic Standard
I’ve 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
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.
- Sunrise Trekking in Taiwan’s Alishan National Forest. Publication date: 12.09.2019.
- Hiking among the Temples of Angkor Wat. Publication date: 26.09.2019
- Japan’s Long-Distance Trail – The Nakasendo. Publication date 05.12.2019.
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
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.
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.
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.
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: bookish.asia. 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.
Inspiration resides in the strangest nooks and crannies of the mind. But every now and again it needs to be fed. And that’s when I go a-travelling. My blog post Wanderlust was republished by Authors Electric on 31.08.2017. It was a truly electrifying honor.
Authors Electric is a platform for independently-published authors who like to write about writing. Starting 10.04.2018, I became a regular contributor. My plan is to publish craft essays there. Here’s my list so far:
- On the importance of setting in fiction 10.04.2018
- What exactly is creative nonfiction 10.05.2018
- The next big thing: sensitivity readers 10.06.2018
- The not-so-gentle art of editing a novel 10.07.2018
- Fear of rejection 10.08.2018
- On blogging 10.09.2018
- Writing as a second act 10.10.2018
- Origami for authors 10.11.2018
- When to end a short story 10.12.2018
- Starting over 10.01.2019
- Writing between languages 10.02.2019
- How to write (violent) historical fiction 10.03.2019
- On 100 rejections 10.04.2019
- To teach or not to teach 10.05.2019
- On rage, fear, and hope (aka manuscript revision) 10.06.2019
- How to write interlocking short stories 10.07.2019
- On labels and Charlottesville 2 years later 10.08.2019
- On navigating a city using a mind map 10.09.2019
- Why point of view is a critical writing choice. 10.10.2019
- Finding a good critique group 10.11.2019
- On hermit crabs and memoir 10.12.2019
- On how not to write historical fiction 10.01.2020
- Being mindful 10.02.2020
- On the art of translation 10.03.2020
- How to write dialogue 10.04.2020
- Can I write while on the road? 10.05.2020
- On writing and making choices 10.06.2020
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. 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.
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 and Español.
Nunum.ca 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!
News flash #1: Nunum nominates "Frogs" for the Pushcart Prize. Read more here.
News flash #2: "Frogs" chosen for Nunum Anthology 1: the Best of 2018. You can buy your own copy here.
News flash #3: Nunum nominates "Frogs" for the VERA award.
The Shanghai Literary Review
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.
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.
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.
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 came and went, I guess I won’t be writing any more essays about being 50.
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers is a guest blog post (published 26.01.2017) that I wrote at the request of Femflection.com 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.
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.
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 essays to appear in Dutch and English. You can read the English version under the title These Boots Are Made for Walking.
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 06.07.2020.