[ t h i s q u i e t a f t e r ]
I've been waiting to write this post for a long time.
As a fiction writer, all my stories are darlings, although creating each is a different experience. Some stories cost me more to write, some stories are more difficult for me to enter, some stories feel closer to my own voice than others, some stories come to me in one frenzied session. But I'd be lying if I said I loved all my stories the same. There are stories I write that matter more to me, personally, and these are the ones I feel most desperate to share with the world, not because I necessarily have the ego to believe what I say should matter to others, but because I don't feel I can move on unless the story has been birthed.
There is a story I started almost two years ago that has been dearer to me above all others.
This story, "The Quiet After", was published in Kartika Review's Winter 2011 issue today.
I think sometimes when I write, it's like taking the chaotic fragments of life and rearranging it into a mosaic that makes sense. This story is a collection of reimagined moments, real and created, that are vivid in my mind, and somehow they've fallen upon the page in a way that hang together in a complete story. It is personal, if not true.
Quite honestly, I don't know what else to say about this story. I can say that it was born out of a brief conversation Eugenia Leigh and I had with the boys we were working with in jail in the spring of 2010. They'd asked her how to say "I love you" in Korean, which triggered a memory. I can say that it is the first story I've ever completed that even remotely focuses upon Asian American issues. I can say that writing the first draft of this story was so hard that I found myself having trouble breathing at moments and driven to anxious tears at others, for reasons I still do not understand. I can say that this story is the first story written in a voice that I felt was closest to who I am, soul-deep. I can say that the ending has been so controversial in workshops that I wondered whether I'd ever publish the story, and yet I stubbornly refused to change the end. A professor told me, wisely, that the ending was a way for me to deal with a particular obsession of mine, and so I've stuck to my guns. I can say that I wished and wished and prayed and prayed for somebody, anybody to take this story so I could move on to other things. I can say that this story was written for (but not necessarily about) somebody who will probably never read it.
All of this might begin to explain some of why this story has meant what it has. To say anything further would be baring much more of myself than is proper for a professional website.
I've admired Kartika Review for awhile now, for its beautiful format (both online and print) and what it has done for Asian American literature. I'm thrilled to be part of issue 11, along with some other great writers, including the poet Oliver de la Paz. Thank you to Paul Lai and the staff of Kartika for fulfilling a goal of mine to be published in this journal. It means so much to me that this particular piece is in there. Please consider purchasing a hard copy of this journal from the Kartika website!
Hmm. "The Quiet After" seems apropos as a title even for this post.