Kelly Crigger’s The Comfort Station

I got an early look at Kelly Crigger‘s latest book, The Comfort Station, and I was not the only one who found an engaging, well-crafted novel:

The Japanese enslavement of Korean women during the occupation is seen through the keen eyes of Ki-Hwa Kim, our heroine who learns the true meaning of courage and perseverance. Packed with memorable descriptions and enticing characters, Kelly Crigger’s The Comfort Station is the kind of historical fiction that teaches as well as entertains.
-Sung J. Woo, author of Everything Asian

Good historical fiction doesn’t just bring us to another time and place to make us consider the lives and journey of the past – it brings us into the past and immerses us in those lives and journeys. Kelly Crigger’s The Comfort Station is such a book. Crigger writes with passion for, and knowledge of, World War II and Pacific bastion of Rabaul. More importantly though, he writes the characters that make up The Comfort Station with fullness and dimensionality. Not to be missed.
-Matt Gallagher, award winning author of Youngblood

A lyrical novel about a young girl taken captive and forced to serve as a comfort woman. The plot is fast paced and intriguing, but still takes the time to explore the people and places in a beautiful, poetic manner. It’s hard to know if I appreciated the quality of the prose or the excitement of the story more.
-Alana Terry, author of The Beloved Daughter

Now here’s a photo of my cat Mac with the book, since we all know how much the internet loves cats.  Looks like he’s already halfway into the book…

Slice Magazine – Issue #19, Distraction

Happy to report that the good folks at Slice Magazine will be publishing my ekphrastic endeavor later this month.  The issue is titled Distraction, and it’s got some heavy literary hitters as you can see from the cover.

My part will be small, which makes sense as the paintings I wrote about are small, too.

slice19

This is a print magazine, so if you wish to revel in the glory of paper, you can order your copy.  Once I have it in my hands, I’ll put up some pics.

Cycling Guide to Lilliput (1-10), on Juked

lilliput

 

Back in January, I encountered the works of a miniaturist painter, Dina Brodsky.  Some of you may have read an essay I wrote about her project, “Cycling Guide to Lilliput,” this past May in KoreAm Journal.  Simply put, I love her work.  And when I love something, I want to write about it.  Which is what I did, but it turns out I wasn’t done.

Thanks to the editors of Juked, you can now read ten tiny short stories based on ten of these Brodsky paintings.  This year, I’ve interviewed Dina twice to hear about her cycling journeys.  These stories of mine are based on her trips, but they are also works of pure fiction.  If that sounds like a contradiction, you’re right.  I’m not sure what is real and what is not anymore, as the tales she recounted and the tales in my head have fused together.

During the submission of these stories, an editor from another journal taught me a new word: ekphrasis.  Apparently this is what I was doing.  Wikipedia’s definition is “a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art,” but what I really love is the etymology of the word: “From the Greek verb ekphrazein, to proclaim an inanimate object by name.”

To proclaim an inanimate object.  That’s it, exactly.  That is why I have written these stories, because I wanted to make these paintings come alive in my own mind, in the best way I know how, the only way I know how.

And now it’s your turn.  See the paintings.  Read the words.  Get on your bike and take a ride.

Inside the Writers House

Inside_the_Writers_House_w._Sung_J._Woo

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of talking with Rutgers students via Inside the Writers House.  The event was conducted via Skype, which was great because not only did I not have to drive down there, but folks could also lay eyes on one of my cats.  We talked about my books and literature in general, an hour of stimulating conversation.  My hearty thanks to Alex Dawson who invited me and put the whole thing together.

One thing that Alex asked was if I could provide the students a writing prompt.  If you are unfamiliar with this concept, it’s basically just a little something to get the writing juices flowing; Writer’s Digest has an ongoing repository of them.  For mine, I read them this little short-short story:

I didn’t know your grandma would show.  How could I?  You said your grandma was out shopping, but boom, “Hi David, how’s your family?  How’s your job?” so I had to sock away all six balloons, and fast.

And your grandma is quick.  Darts around, up and down, old lady’s got top-notch vision.  Saw through my brown box that has two disco balls and says, “What is that?”

What could I do, Mary?  I had to show it.  And it wasn’t my fault.  It was your fault!  If you had rang just half an hour ago, our party would still…

I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t shout, but I know I’m disappointing you.  I know how much you want this to go smoothly.  You know that, right?  You my girl, baby.  Good days, bad days, always.

Anyway, so I say to your grandma, “Happy birthday, Mrs. Mills.  You got us.”  So your grandma looks around and says, “How many chairs in total?”  Wants fifty chairs.  So I gotta run out and bring back thirty additional chairs.  And now your grandma is looking at my music, what I was gonna play tonight, and says, “No, this won’t do, David.  It’s simply not a party without Lady Gaga.”

Mary, my darling, haul your ass, pronto.  Your grandma is nuts.  And I’m going crazy.

Do you notice anything odd about this story?  Perhaps the title will give you a clue: “A Surpris(e) Birthday Party.”

The e is in parenthesis because that’s the only occurrence of that letter.  Yes, this story does not feature a single use of the letter e.  This type of writing is called Oulipo, and I must thank J. Robert Lennon for introducing it to me.