Dec 12

NaNoWriMo Fail

I totally screwed the pooch on NaNoWriMo.

By the 26th, I had only about 32,000 words, even counting all my writing besides my novel (personal blog posts and posts for work). Even counting writing the same scenes again because my computer died when I was home in New Jersey.

That was what discouraged me. Although I remembered most of what I had written, it was still a pain to recreate it all again, and to know that I wasn’t moving ahead. Plus I had to deal with recreating a work document I had lost too (which actually didn’t take too long to redo and which I’ve put into Google docs, lesson learned).

It was also a pain in the ass tracking word count day to day. If you’re working on one thing (which is what NaNoWriMo is designed for), it’s easy, but I was driving myself crazy counting every single word in everything I was working on.

Then again, despite having to rewrite several scenes, I did move ahead in my novel, and I probably blogged more here than I usually would have. But I think I like better the habit of just making sure I work on my novel almost every day (with an unofficial minimum word count of 200 words), with one day off and one day to work on something else.


Nov 12

Writing Update


My latest writerly shenanigans!


I had fun writing How to Talk Like Jane Austen for Talk Like Jane Austen Day, and people seemed to like it too. First, the always awesome @ElectricLit tweeted it. Then somehow it ended up in the November 1 headlines of The Morning News. Then curator goddess Maria Popova, aka @brainpicker, tweeted it too! The post also made an appearance on the fun site, Yes and Yes, as a November 11 Web Time Wasters.

For Halloween, I wrote about ghostly words, and for Election Day, words on politics and campaigning. For Diwali, I thought it’d be fun to write about English words that are derived from Indian languages,which got a mention in the language blog of The Economist. Nice!

The Beautiful Anthology

Some exciting news here as well! The Beautiful Anthology made the list of The New York Times‘ Best Bathroom Books of 2012! These books “stock the ideal bathroom library,” and the anthology is described as mostly featuring “good writers you’ve never heard of.” Like me!

The day after I posted this update, I learned that The Beautiful Anthology had also been included in the Daily Candy’s Best Books of 2012. Woot! So many great books on that list. I loved The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac and Where’d You Go Bernadette?, and there are several more that I want to read.

Nov 12

How I’m Doing NaNoWriMo This Year: Cheating

I’ve done NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month) several times. I’ve completed two bad novels, got partway through another, and spent one NaNoWriMo revising my memoir. Last year I started NaNoWriMo, then decided to do NaNoPlanMo instead, planning my novel, the same novel I’m still working on now, a year later.

Little by little I’ve been adding to it, and I’m finally in the home stretch. I have about 80,000 words, and just two or three chapters left write. But it’s been slow-going. I write between 200 and 300 words, five or six days a week. Once in a blue moon, I’ll write between 500 and 1,000 words. Better than nothing, but not a lot. So this year I thought I’d do NaNoWriMo, not to write a whole new novel, but to up my word count toward 1,667.

The thing is I don’t want to write that many words a day for my novel. Number one, I write a lot for work, and after doing a blog post, I’m kinda burnt out. Two or three hundred words is doable, but not much more.

Number two, I don’t want to write shit. In the past, I’ve written a lot of shit just to get in my word count. Not that every word in my current novel is gold, but I don’t want to be typing and not knowing where the story is going. I want to stop when I feel like I’m pooping out. I want to be able to research and revise.

So this is how I’m cheating: I’m counting everything I write in the 1,667 word count. Not emails or anything like that, but blog posts and shorter pieces (though I don’t think I’ll start any new stories or essays until the novel is done). The post I wrote for work earlier today counts (566 words) and this post right here counts (over 300 words).

And the total? About 1,200 words, which means I’m still short.

On the upside, I blogged for the first time in a while, and I added 374 words to my novel, which is slightly more than I usually do. Hopefully I can make up the difference on another day.

Oct 12

Book Soup: Reading from The Beautiful Anthology

As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to participate in a reading for The Beautiful Anthology at Book Soup in Los Angeles. 

Not only did I get to share my work, I finally had the chance to meet a few fellow TNB writers in person, including Brad Listin, Rachel Pollon Williams, and Rich Ferguson.

Plus! I got to hang out with my brother.

Get yourself a copy of The Beautiful Anthology if you haven’t already.

Oct 12

Writing update: Asian Cha, The Frisky, Book Soup

The latest in my writerly shenanigans.

Cha: Asian Journal

I first heard about Cha through a Twitter friend who had a lovely essay in an issue that had just come out. I read another beautiful and moving piece, and was hooked.

My essay, Home Sick, is in the September issue. It’s about a terrible New Year’s Eve I had in China, the strange experience of being considered a foreigner in a place where everyone looks like you, and just missing home.

The Frisky

It wasn’t enough for my to ranttwice – on my blog about a couple of inane articles about interracial dating. I had to rant on The Frisky too.


As always lots of blogging for work!

Punctuation Soup, September 24, 2012
Atomic Bombs, Time Machines, and Lurve: Words from H.G. Wells, September 21, 2012
O. Henry: The Gift of Words, September 11, 2012
Breaking Bad Words: Thieves, Drugs, and Special Sauce, August 29, 2012
True Blood: Some Fangtastic Words, August 22, 2012
Favorite Food Words: Celebrating Julia Child’s 100th Birthday, August 15, 2012
Shark Week: Sharkings and Loan, August 9, 2012

It’s always interesting to see which posts will be popular. For instance, I thought more people would be into the True Blood one, but it was only moderately popular. On the other hand, I didn’t expect the Julia Child post to be as popular as it was but then it got some heavy-duty retweets.

My personal favorite was the Breaking Bad post. When I first started collecting words from the show, I was kinda meh. But as it all came together, I found the lingo to be quite noir-ish with a dash of fast food.

For TV shows, we usually post the Wednesday before the season finale. Then I noticed an interesting phrase – queen for a day – in the Breaking Bad season finale, and added it as an update. Well, I guess a lot of people were wondering what that meant because the post ended up on Reddit.

It only got 14 upvotes (last I checked) and a lot of obnoxious comments. I guess Reddit commenters are known to be sort of dickish. But I didn’t really care because that post had over 1,000 hits that day, which is a lot for us.

Book Soup Reading

Lastly, I’ll be participating in a reading with other Beautiful Anthology authors in Los Angeles on October 17, 7 PM. Here’s more info from the Book Soup site:

A group event featuring readings from Angela Tung, Rich Ferguson, Rachel Pollon and Brad Listi

What is beauty? Why do women usually think they are not beautiful, and what do women (and men) find truly beautiful in life? These important questions are answered in “THE BEAUTIFUL ANTHOLOGY: Essays, Poems & Art,” the new book from the acclaimed literary site The Nervous Breakdown (TNB Books). The answers will surprise you, shock you, amuse you, and make you think. Contributors to “THE BEAUTIFUL ANTHOLOGY” include best-selling authors Jessica Anya Blau, Melissa Febos, Robin Antalek, Greg Olear, and many more, for an eclectic, international combination of established and emerging writers and artists all riffing entertainingly on the theme of beauty. Declared a stunning, unforgettable collection by author Diana Spechler (“Who By Fire” and “Skinny”), this groundbreaking anthology is not to be missed. (Tnb Books)

I haven’t done a reading in many years and I’m a bit nervous. Then again, just reading is better than having to give a memorized talk.

If you’re in Los Angeles, you should come by!

Aug 12

The Beautiful Anthology: Largehearted Boy and Availability

As I’ve mentioned earlier, one of my essays has been included in The Beautiful Anthology, a compilation of  fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from 27 amazing writers, and published by TNB Books, the official imprint of The Nervous Breakdown. Here’s a roundup on the anthology’s latest news and availability.

Beautiful Playlist

Today, Largehearted Boy – aka David Gutowski  – featured The Beautiful Anthology in his Book Notes series, in which “authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.” My choice was “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World.

I’ve written about this song before, and how it resonated so much with me when I was going through a tough time in my marriage. Well, you can read about it again over at Book Notes, along with the song selections from my co-authors.

Beautiful Availability

The anthology is available at a variety of places:

Beautiful Trailer

You’ve seen this before. Look again.

Jun 12

Writing update

More writerly shenanigans! (I know I should think of a new word besides “shenanigans” but it’s so perfect.)

The Beautiful Anthology is now available! Published by TNB Books, the official imprint of The Nervous Breakdown, the anthology includes my essay, “Blemish,” along with fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from 26 amazing writers from The Nervous Breakdown. The book was featured recently in GalleyCat’s Coming Attractions, and has been called “a fresh exploration of everything from body art and big noses to musical ‘perfection’ and misguided parenting.”

Still not convinced? Check out the trailer.

At about 1:19 you can see a lovely picture of me taken by my friend Yiannis. He knows I dislike my freckles (the “blemish” of my piece) but still refrained from photoshopping them out. Good call.


More word nerd blogging! For Bloomsday, which celebrates James Joyce and his novel Ulysses, I wrote about words Joyce coined or popularized, and for George Orwell’s birthday, I wrote about Orwellian words.

Late last week, I acted all journalist-y and wrote a quick roundup of words and terms that pertain to Obamacare, the SCOTUS ruling, and the ongoing healthcare debate.

Work Stew

Remember my Work Stew contest entry that I shamelessly begged asked you to Like? I got 25 Likes, which is pretty good! But still not enough to be a finalist. So I was surprised and delighted to get a tweet telling me I had made the cut. The kind folks at Work Stew ended up picking seven finalists based on number of Likes, and three regardless of Likes, one of which was mine. Thanks Work Stew! Winners announced on July 1.

UPDATE: Winners have been announced! Congrats!

Jun 12

Writing update

My latest publications and writerly shenanigans.


As always, blogging the word-nerd way. To celebrate Shakespeare Day, I rounded up some words the Bard coined or popularized, while for May Day, I delved into the origins of words related to the holiday. Next, I got extra excited about the premiere of The Avengers by writing about Marvel-ous Words, or words from Marvel Comics. Our post was featured at Comics Beat, The Angry Spark, Movie City News, and Red Eye Chicago of The Chicago Tribune.

For the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who brought us Sherlock Holmes, I wrote about mystery words and mystery solvers, which got a mention at The Rap Sheet, which specializes in crime fiction. For Morse Code Day, I explored the language of the telegraph, which was all an excuse to write about morse finger, sort of precursor to mouse elbow.

Finally, for the Mad Men season finale tomorrow night, I collected some Mad Men lingo. The post was featured at Wet Paint.

The Beautiful Anthology

I got my author copy!

The Beautiful Anthology

I’m in great company with a whole slew of writers from The Nervous Breakdown.

The book will be available very soon. In the meantime, go like the Facebook page, and check out this lovely write up in Sliver of Stone Magazine and this interview with Elizabeth Collins, the editor of the anthology.

Like Me (You Really Like Me)

Finally, I entered Work Stew‘s contest: “Write a letter to the bright-eyed job seeker interested in following in your footsteps. Illuminate. Opine. Advise.” The posts with the most Facebook likes become finalists. So go like mine now. :)


May 12

Happy Mother’s Day!

I realized today that I write a lot about my mother. Since I can’t be with her today, I thought I’d celebrate her with a round-up of my mom-related writings.

Dear Mom, You Were Right About Everything (Almost). I originally wrote this for The Frisky a while back, but they’re running it again.

Striving for Imperfection. My contribution to the My Tiger Mom and Me anthology.

An Old Man on the Frontier Loses His Horse.  My award-winning essay for the Bellingham Review.

Writing For My Mother. My guest blog post at Wisdom Has a Voice.

And if you want to be amused, here’s some of the crazy stuff my mom has said.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. Now to call mine and hope she doesn’t grill me about anything.

May 12

Blogging and learning

I’ve been inconsistent lately about my blogging. My last post was on my birthday, nearly four weeks ago! For a while I had the goal of blogging at least twice a week, and for that short while, I was good about it. But lately something always comes up. Writing for work, my novel, shorter pieces, being lazy.

This week I read this post from Chris Dixon about how he uses his blog to learn. Specifically, he tries “to learn at least one interesting thing each week and then blog about it.” I love this idea.

Like Dixon, every morning I catch up on the news mostly via Twitter, and for work, dump links to interesting stories (mostly regarding words and language) into a Google doc for a bi-weekly series that I write. Why not do the same for myself? Often I’ll read and retweet interesting stories, but it ends there. Once in a while I’ll blog about something interesting I’ve come across, such as the lies behind the etymology of iceberg lettuce and details about the Sino-Japanese war. But I’m not consistent. I do it only when the mood strikes me or when I happen to remember.

So I’ve decided to follow in Dixon’s footsteps and blog once a week about something new I learned. It could be via Twitter or my news feeds, or as I’m doing other research, or even – gasp! – in real life. I want to blog more regularly and I want to document stuff I’ve learned so that’s killing two birds with one stone.

This week I learned, aside from the idea of blogging what I’ve learned (how meta), that I should try applying my work techniques to my personal life. I’ve already mentioned how I gather interesting links. Something I also do is keep a schedule of upcoming words of the day, lists of the day, and blog posts. The schedule helps me keep everything organized and also gives me ideas. I have to follow it, well, because it’s for work.

Why not do that for myself? The only blog schedule I have is vague and in my head. “I should do two posts this week.” But when and what about? Every day I work on my novel. That’s a given, especially since I don’t want to give MB ten bucks. But often I let other submissions slide. I realize, often too late, that submission deadlines are upon me (or worse, already passed) and I end up having not enough time to submit as much as I want to.

I put the deadlines on my calendar, but it’s not enough. I really don’t look beyond the current week. For work, I schedule everything in a spreadsheet so that I can see several weeks at once.

Seems like such a simple thing, but it took reading Dixon’s blog post and forty minutes on the elliptical to figure it out. Now let’s see if it works.