Continuing breaducation | Everyone loves a Zoombombing cat
In February, I had the honor of workshopping with memoirist Cyrus Dunham at Tin House’s winter online workshop. I consider Tin House like the Western States of writing: you’re lucky if you get in.
One of the most important things I came out of the workshop with is trusting my gut and readers. I had expressed anxiety about not fitting into a category, of wanting to fit the publishing industry’s mold of writing nonfiction. Will my work get published if I am writing a nonfiction manuscript that’s, in quotes, hybrid - lines blurred between fiction, poetry, play?
It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with for a long time, and not just in my writing, but in running (ultras vs. road vs. trail), working in the kitchen (culinary vs. pastry), performing arts (conventional vs. experimental theater). Then even in writing, do you write journalism, media, or literature? People want something easy and digestible, linearity, your brand identity.
The more I think about these categories, these binaries, in life in general and the obvious ways we binary people by gender, economics, race, class, etc., the more I find them strange and sad. So my question is, when - and how - do we dare break free of these conventions?
Writing | In Progress
Image description: butter cookies in white crinkle papers in a round green tin sits on a wood grain table.
For ANMLY’s blog, I wrote an essay on "The Blue Tin", a ubiquitous sight for a lot of (immigrant) families and also grandmas everywhere. Chances are, you may gotten played by a Danish butter cookie tin of sewing supplies, quarters, or other knick knacks in your childhood. I conceived writing this piece in December, but the kernel of the story shifted when I was finalizing the draft in January, around the time of the shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay.
Yellow Arrow Publishing, who nominated my essay “The Hawk” (from their Fall 2022 journal) for a Pushcart Prize, featured me for this month’s .Writers.on.Writing. interview. Also, as a side note, Pushcart Prize acceptances are sent out (by mail) this month.
I received an invitation for my first-ever residency at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. However, they rejected my application for a funded fellowship, so I’m still mulling over this and other opportunities, because, well, it’s expensive.
Image description: cup of milk infused black tea diagonal to yellow-crusted bolo bao ("pineapple bun") on rectangular plate, on wood grain table.
“Yeast smells fear,” one of my chefs warned me.
Bread is my krpytonite, even though I have devoted the last ten years of my work life to pastry production. Bread just doesn’t come naturally for me. Like anything, though, continuing to work at it helps alleviate those fears. I’ve yet to develop a milk bread recipe of my own, but I’ve been using the one from Woks of Life and have developed the intuition to add more flour than they recommend.
Image description: Butter slab with visible cracks between pieces lies on dough layer, on the diagonal, on brown marbled granite countertop. A pastry brush sits above the dough, while a silver ruler and the corner of a sheet pan with silicone mat sit below the dough.
After a hiatus, I’m back to working on my lamination again. Between these two butter blocks (the top for brioche, the bottom for croissants), there’s a huge difference in how the butter is seamed. (Though, for the brioche, the lack of seaming is due to being forgetful about smoothing out both sides of the butter block.) Those details matter. Laminated dough is powered by both mechanical (water in the butter turns to gas) and biological (yeast) leavening. So, uneven seaming can result in uneven layers and expansion in the dough once baked.
Image description: Square butter slab lies on square dough on floured brown marbled granite countertop. Straight sided wooden rolling pin sits below.
Image description: orange cat with yellow eyes lies over royal blue tabletop in foreground. A lamp, pink flowers in smaller vase, and orange and purple flowers in larger vase in background.
During my time at Tin House, the cats made their feelings known. As in, if I left the door to my office open, Oren would jump on my desk and walk over the keyboard, orange tail swishing on camera exactly when I unmuted my mic to speak. “Pardon my cat, for he doesn’t have manners,” I would insist. Fortunately, everyone loves a Zoombombing cat.
How to Survive a…
“Thinking about na3na3” by noam keim: An exquisite essay on mint and the ritual of tea in Moroccan lineage from a fellow Tin Houser, whose debut essay collection will be released next year.
“The Switzerland Schedule” by Thalia Williamson: From another fellow Tin House workshopper, a deeply heartfelt read on her mother’s decision to die.
I’m currently reading The Man Who Moved Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras as well as Paul Tran’s All the Flowers Kneeling. I loved Khadijah Queen’s Anodyne at the line level, and Elaine Castillo’s How to Read Now challenged not only my reading practice but also how I’ve viewed my own writing.
The new album Into the Arms of the Bay by Back Alley Nebula
Animal Run: If you’re in the Bay Area (or virtual option if you’re not), come on out to Miller-Knox in Richmond on May 21st to support the Paw Fund.
Top Surgery GoFundMe: Re-sharing for the friend of a friend of another fellow Tin Houser.