Walking up to a large, colorful brick building with art pasted to the windows, I realized that I had always passed by the center without properly seeing it. I learned about the Neutral Zone’s youth-driven programs, including sound-mixing classes, poetry workshops, and a printing press called Red Beard, which I would come to know and love in the coming year.
While grabbing more bags from the basement, overhear one of your co-workers mentioning to a customer that the book they are buying was written by a bookseller at this very store! Hear another co-worker chime in that the book is “amazing,” and feel so much warmth in your heart that you could cry. Then hide …
Sometimes, you circle and you circle, and you never find the point. But here is mine. I don’t know who will read my novel. I don’t know in what numbers. To ask these questions is to drive myself insane. So here is a better question to drive myself crazy as the days count down. Why do I read in the first place? Why do you?
On January 22, I drove back from Washington, D.C. The day before, I’d been one of the 500,000 that filled out Independence Avenue, one of the specks in those awe-inspiring aerial shots that plastered the news. I’d been cold and hungry and dehydrated and I had not felt any of that discomfort until I sat down for dinner later that night and nearly wept at the sensation of sinking into a seat.
Even if they don’t, even if our stories are met with apathy, with disdain, I believe our enduring anger and our passion require them. These stories sustain my activism because they make concrete the issues that, for me, have always had a certain looming intangibility to them. Scripts are not enough, and they were never meant to be enough. The best thing my scripts ever did was open up a channel to the people in my community. To force me to ask the questions that I had never thought to ask.
Needless to say, her signature dishes were delicious. Yet it became strange and almost uncomfortable to see her bent over the stove, night after night, in a way that it never was in the past when I’d seen her, bent over the stove, night after night. One dinner, she stood in the kitchen for what seemed like hours, searing small batches of sweet and salty bulgogi beef. I wanted to tell her to sit down, to relax, but instead, I just ate everything she put in front of me.
Even after I decided I wanted to be a writer—a career path that everyone, especially my parents, agreed was nebulous at best—I eventually saw how one could become a “successful” writer. Get into an MFA program, get published in a literary journal, get an agent, sell a novel, win a prize maybe, and, obviously get writing. I don’t think I’m alone in this way of thinking. I think we all, generally, have some idea of the signifiers of success.