We are here at the very beginning of 2023 and I thought now would be a great time to look back at some of the amazing things that happened in 2022!
So much has happened this year in the world and in all of our lives that I can’t imagine that it will be possible to sum it all up. Time is also tricky for me these days because I feel like I am living by two nearly parallel calendars: the ordinary calendar year and my book year.
I do want to say thank you so much to all the booksellers, librarians, readers, bookstagrammers, and writers who have enthusiastically supported my debut. What We Fed To The Manticore was published on September 6, 2022 so my book year isn’t even halfway over yet!
But so far it has been a VERY exciting adventure.
Here’s a roundup of the highlights from my book year so far:
I went to AWP for the first time, which was an amazing experience. I had a chance to reconnect with old friends, meet up in real life with virtual friends, and even made some new ones! I also participated in my first panel with four exceptional writers (Donna Miscolta, Jeni McFarland, Aliah Lavonne Tigh, and Dawn Pichón Barron) where we talked about navigating the literary landscape as mixed writers.
I got to celebrate with so many beloved friends and family and I don’t know how I could have possibly found my way to this moment without all of their incredible support. If ever there is a reason to have cake, publishing a book is at the top of my list!
I got to speak at Reedley College as part of their Literary Arts Series. Community Colleges are such an important part of higher education in California and across the US and my time at Community College as an undergrad was really crucial to my own education and growth. So, it was really special to be able to be part of this wonderful program. If you are local to the Fresno area, they have programming throughout the year and I encourage you to come to their events!
I had two official bookstore events at the Skylight Books in LA and at Book Passage at the iconic Ferry Building in SF.
At Skylight I was in conversation with the amazing Melissa Chadburn who’s debut novel “A Tiny Upward Shove” was so captivating. I got to connect in person with two other spectacular debut writers, Laura Warrell and Ana Reyes and I got the chance to see old friends. Laura’s phenomenal novel “Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm” was published by Pantheon this year to rave reviews and it’s amazing! Have you picked up your copy yet? Ana’s novel “The House In The Pines” is out January 3 from Dutton and I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Melissa, Ana, Laura and I have all been students at the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop which is a life-changing place (it certainly changed mine).
At Book Passage, I had an event to help launch “Singer Distance,” written by my friend and longtime writing buddy, Ethan Chatagnier. Ethan and I are both published by Tin House and having my collection publish just a month apart from his book made the process so much more fun and way less intimidating than it would have been otherwise.
In fact, one of the great joys of this year was the way my writing community expanded so much. 2022 was full of incredible debuts and I was really lucky to have a wonderful support network through them. It’s exciting to publish a book, but the process is full of unfamiliar experiences. And from the beginning, being able to reach out to other writers like Jeni McFarland (“The House of Deep Water,” one of my favorite novels of 2020), Jocelyn Johnson (“My Monticello” is incredible, friends, and it’s out in paperback now!), Emi Nietfeld (“Acceptance” is a memoir that will change your understanding of the survival narrative forever), Prince Shakur (“When They Tell You To Be Good” is a moving dynamic memoir also out from Tin House!) and Jennifer Savran Kelly (“Endpapers,” a novel about a genderqueer bookbinder comes out in February 2023, get ready!), helped keep me grounded and reminded me that the best support is in community.
Since covid first transformed literary events in Spring 2020, almost every book tour that I’ve heard about has virtual events woven into the schedule. Personally, I am really happy about this. In-person events are a lot of fun and are exciting for readers and writers. But they aren’t always accessible and it can feel like many readers in smaller areas are left out of the tour plan. But as a reader, I have attended so many virtual events from home and I love the opportunity to hear from writers that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. The other benefit is that they are often recorded and I can return to them whenever I want.
I had some really wonderful virtual events this past fall and I loved them so much. City Lights Books and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop hosted an event where I was in conversation with Juhea Kim (“Beasts Of A Little Land“) and Meng Jin (“Self Portrait With Ghost“), who both wrote books that completely blew me away. When I first started writing as an adult, I wondered how it is that so many writers knew each other, especially when it feels like writing is such a solitary activity. But truly, writing is work in communion with the creative work of others. We are all in a long and wide-ranging conversation and it has allowed me to feel connected to the imaginations of so many other writers. The Writer’s Center in Maryland hosted a virtual craft chat where I got to dive into the details of craft with Zach Powers (“First Cosmic Velocity“) and I loved being able to share how I develop my work. Zach and I also attended the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop together!
I had a great conversation with Dayton Martindale on his podcast “Storytelling Animals.” Dayton’s episodes explore multiple facets of the ecological crisis through literature and I highly recommend listening to his entire archive.
One of the most exciting things to happen this year is that my collection was the September selection for Amerie’s Book Club! In addition to being an award-winning signer and songwriter, Amerie is also a writer. And she is the kind of thoughtful writer and reader that I could only DREAM of being in conversation with. At the end of September Amerie hosted an Instagram live chat and we discussed all of the big questions about art and conservation and interconnected-ness and meaning. It was a privilege to be read so carefully to have the chance to discuss my book with Amerie. Plus, her entire list of selected books is incredible and I hope you check them all out!
Many many (many) years ago, I went to the LA Times Festival of Books and I saw a debut writers panel with three incredible writers who were launching their first books. (Can you believe one of them was Min Jin Lee? I know!!! I saw her speak on this panel when “Free Food For Millionaires” was published!) I always wanted to be on a debut writers panel at a book festival but I had no idea if that would ever happen. But guess what??? I was on a debut writer’s panel at SF Litquake! It was so exciting to be able to meet Kai Harris and Pete Hsu and for the three of us to talk with the wonderful Elise Proulx about how we found our ways to publication.
Finally, Ethan and I participated in our hometown literary event, Fresno LitHop! Did you know LitHop was co-founded by California’s Poet Laureate Lee Herrick?
This year also included some very exciting publications! Several stories from my collection found homes in wonderful literary journals and I got to write an original story for Orion Magazine, which is the opportunity of a lifetime. I love Orion’s mission and the work that they have featured over the years and I have ALWAYS wanted to have a story in one of their issues so this was one of the nicest possible things that could happen.
I think perhaps the biggest surprise of all was finding my collection included on the longlist for two literary awards. When I started writing these stories over ten years ago, I wasn’t sure if any of them would be published at all. I hoped, but I really didn’t know if it would ever happen. So, it was more than I ever dreamed of to see them all collected into an entire book. But to see that book recognized on a longlist, let alone two, I was honestly overcome!
So far, my book year has been really wonderful and I’m so thankful for all the generous support my collection has received from the writers who interviewed me and wrote reviews. Publishing a book can be scary and it often feels really vulnerable. Knowing that there are readers out there who connected with these stories makes it feel so worthwhile. I hope readers out there will join the conversation and write stories of their own.
I feel like I say thank you a lot, and I talk and think about gratitude a lot. But I don’t think that’s going to change. The truth is, there are a lot of wonderful writers out there and there is a lot of incredible work. And much of it doesn’t get recognized in the way that it should. So, thank you readers for making space in your life for my stories. And if you are a writer and are still in those lonely beginning stages, I hope you know that there is room for you, and room for the art you are making.
I don’t know what 2023 will bring, but I hope for you it is full of good stories.
It was fun to read this and see the photos. What a great year for you! Congrats!
Donna! It was such a fun year! And thank you!