Archive for the ‘The Art of Writing’ Category

  • WHAT MATTERS TO ME IS STORY

    Date: 2021.09.06 | Category: Poetry, Septuagenarian, The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    WHAT MATTERS TO ME IS STORY

     

    It’s been six months since my memoir in verse, Septuagenarian, debuted.  I think about this as another Minnesota poet, and another, and another has released another book of poems.  I think about how different our voices are. How different our techniques. I am less about craft and more about subject. Perhaps because I was told I didn’t learn how to write in graduate school, I didn’t want to prove them wrong.  Or, perhaps, because I was told that what I wrote about wasn’t trendy, I did want to prove them wrong. Trendy not why I write, but that what I write matters (if only to me).  As Deborah Keenan said about my book:

     

    Sherry Quan Lee writes with a purity of intention.  She has no interest in certain kinds of poetics that conceal, or only honor, adornment.  She has her gaze on the long sweep of her personal history.

     

    What matters to me is self-awareness and healing and to know and accept that I am strong—that I am okay. What matters to me is story. And knowing that mine is only one story, but stories intersect no matter how different they may seem, at least that’s been my experience.  Sometimes it’s a similar time and location, a tragedy, a celebration, gender, culture, sexuality, race, age—family.

     

    Yet, since publication, I have seldom opened my book to read what I had written.  Out of fear or out of closure I’m not sure which, maybe both.

     

    Recently I finally let go of dollars to find a streaming service where I could watch Queen Sugar.  I am on Season 4.  Every episode of the entire series has my emotions roller coasting as I come to it from my history and my experience. Nova is an activist, an artist.  She wrote a memoir telling family stories, divulging secrets.  Her family is unforgiving.

     

    Beginning seven years ago my sisters one by one turned from me.  If there was an excuse it was, to me, senseless; one sibling yelling she hoped my writing friends took care of me.  One sibling saying my highs and lows were too much for her.  And one sibling refused to come up with an excuse.  Were they afraid of my truth-telling?  Was I wrong to share our stories? Did my writing have nothing or everything to do with the separations? Two of my  three sisters gave me permission, the other sister I respectfully left out of my books.  I even changed my last name (another kind of separation).

     

    I hope Nova and her family can reconcile and forgive.  Yet for me, separation feels healthy, but sad—I can’t stop grieving.  Is truth-telling for a greater good if the truth be told continues a history of separation?   Does a writer/an artist have control over what they write? Are we born to disrupt?  Can our souls/our spirits handle the repercussions, the displacement?

     

    My most recent book struggles with the theme of separation.  The separations that have cursed my family. Black families/slave families were separated by the auction block, if not that assigned duties and  gender were other forms of separation.  A female slave assigned to house duties-including the duty of fulfilling the master’s sexual improprieties.  And from those liaisons, babies of various skin colors/mixed-race babies—my great-grandmother–added another dimension to the separation of families. Black men were lynched.

     

    Separation was created by laws that kept Chinese immigrants, who came to work in America as cheap labor, from bringing their wives.  West Coast Japanese were separated during WWII most in internment camps, some joined or were drafted into the armed services, others were able to attend college in Minnesota.  My Chinese father joined the Navy because he wanted to, leaving a wife and two young daughters’ home in Minneapolis while he fought the Japanese from a ship out at sea.

     

    My story is complex (as yours probably is too):  poverty, passing, fear, anger, divorce, addictions–separations.  Each poem, each book releases and sets aside who I was to create space for who I am.  Yet who I was has a way of creeping into who I am so I will never be free enough to be happy; but I am emotionally healthy which comes from years of learning, of therapy, of listening, of reading–of truth-telling. Minnesota is a choir of many voices, many songs; poetry. Colorful/diverse writers inform me, connect me, keep me from becoming idle, from being satisfied. Keep me alert.

     

    Maybe today I will open my book, Septuagenarian, and re-remember a life I have lived.  73 years-old.  I have no regrets.

     

    Sherry Quan Lee

    © September 6, 2021

  • THE WRITING PROCESS-what I remember what I don’t

    Date: 2021.02.20 | Category: Assignments, Poetry, Septuagenarian, The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    The Writing Process-What I Remember; What I Don’t

     

    A student once said to me that she appreciated me telling the class to keep everything.  Keep each and every draft of your writing, your manuscript.  Did I say that?

     

    Actually, I save nothing.  Okay, next to nothing.  When did I start letting go? It’s not about keeping what brings me joy.  My writing isn’t joyful.  Although, someone once said it had sass.

     

    I have always decluttered.  Every two or three months I purge-this includes not only things, but sometimes, people (sometimes they purge me).  But since the Pandemic, actually even before, I started a momentous purge—maybe it was when I turned 70 and knew any day now could be my last and why make my children go through my things, things they wouldn’t want.  Even worse, if they, without paying any attention to who I was, threw them out without a nod or a recognition.

     

    My office files are fairly pristine.  Sorted, labeled, shelved:  insurance, taxes, car, condo, publications—mine and those of my friends.  Yet, as the piles of my essays and poems thin, I am heart struck to notice a journey of words that repeat, that sail forth, that bring me to my writing/life today at the age of 73.

     

    I have a book forthcoming. March 2021, LHP:  Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die. Now that’s a scary title if not understood as a metaphor.  The mock-up of the cover has the sub-title in small font size.  What does that mean?  Are we afraid of death?  Actually, the title came from a poem within the manuscript and it stuck, the line in the title, not the poem.  It’s a metaphor.  Clarissa Pinkola Estés said What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? I say, what must I let go of to generate love, be love, give love, get love.

     

    As I fumble through boxes of what I have not yet been able to discard, I discover a few poems that haven’t yet found their way to the trash.  One poem in particular, but there are others, starts out like this:

     

    “I woke up knowing I was dead.  The first thing I’ve been sure of all my life.  The marks stretched, some visible and some invisible.  Stretched past cardboard boxes.  None of them empty,  Each box filled with an arm or a leg.”

     

    The two-page poem contain boxes each labeled by a decade. It ends with:  “This was love.  She had finally gotten what she wanted.  But she was no longer who she was. She didn’t recognize herself….”

     

    The poem was dated October 15, 1999.  Only three years after I earned an MFA. There are hand-written revisions.  There is a short version printed in red.  A note says Vulva Riot.  There is a chorus that reads:  “Stretch marks, mark time, highway marks, passing marks, remarks, earmarks, market, marker, question marks, magic markers, grave markers, stretch marks.”

     

    Sometimes we don’t know why we say things, do things, save things—write things.  But there is significance to our actions.  I am glad I saved this poem. If I had come across it earlier, it would be in my book.  It would be the Introduction, the Foreword.  I am going to edit the poem.  This poem will not be discarded.  There are no rules I told my students.  Save all your drafts or don’t.  Discard everything so future generations won’t be bothered, or save what has been your life line and hope someone will embrace it.

     

    WRITING EXERCISE:  choose a word, such as mark and explore it and all related words by sound, by meaning, or both.  Create a chorus/a short verse.  Let it be the pattern that emerges.  How do you fill the empty spaces in-between?  Are they boxes marked by decades such as:

     

    “One box, marked 1953-1963, contained Hostess Cup Cakes.  Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  Barbie dolls.  Captain, May I.  Sorry.  Sugar and Spice.  Axel and His Dog. Captain Kangaroo. Nancy Drew. Bobbsey Twins.  The Little Engine That Could.  Pop Beads,  Roller Skates.  Crinolines. Hula Hoops.  Red Rover.  Pony Tails.  Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Kool Aide. “Go Tell Aunt Rhody the Ol’ Gray Goose Is Dead”. The Salvation Army Book Store on Nicollet Island. Government Surplus.  A metal Grocery Cart.  Trading Cards.  Air Raid Drills.  Standish Elementary School.  Woolworths. Wonder Bread.”

     

    I probably did tell the student to save all of her writing.  I probably meant it.  Much of my writing, my former life was left behind when I made, yet another relationship move.  This one sudden.  Sometimes things aren’t saved because we can’t take them with us.  But sometimes, a book authored and signed by you to another poet will show up on a Google search and you know not everything is lost, it just might have found a new home.

     

    Sherry Quan Lee

    February 18, 2021

  • MIDWEST MIXED WRITING WORKSHOP

    Date: 2019.03.27 | Category: Events, The Art of Writing, Workshops | Response: 0

    Here, We Are Writing Workshop with Sherry Quan Lee:  April 13 1-4pm at Eastside Community Co-op

    “The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story.”

    — Chimamanda Adichie’s, “The Danger of a single story,” TED Talk, 2009.

    Storytelling.  It’s monkey mind.  It’s conversation.  It’s crafting our lives by crafting our words.  It’s claiming the past and imagining the future with no rules of craft or politics except the ones we, individually, choose, the ones that work for us.  Stories that save our lives and enter our world like angels flapping their wings, creating music, something like jazz. Our goal is to break silence and invisibility by reading, writing, contemplating, and conversing; and, to imagine a future by breaking through barriers that have shut us out and shut us up-that have tried to define us. We will look within and without–and shout out, bringing our mixed race stories of intersectional identity to the surface. We will embrace our stories in all of their complexity in order to understand and challenge social or cultural obstacles to loving who we are.  We will look in a mirror and see beauty, strength wit, and wisdom.  We will look at each other and see the same. Participants will summon the past, witness the present, and invoke the future using literature, historical records, photographs, maps, and memorabilia to remember, reveal, confront, embrace, and document their stories.  – Sherry Quan Lee

    Read Sherry’s Community Spotlight https://www.midwestmixed.com/community/midwest-mixed-community-spotlight-sherry-quan-lee )

  • Oh So Wild and Oh So Beautiful

    Date: 2018.12.27 | Category: The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    What’s it like to be seventy?  2018, for me, was a year of introspection.  Check out my thoughts on Midwest Mixed:

    https://www.midwestmixed.com/community/midwest-mixed-community-spotlight-sherry-quan-lee

     

Artist Statement

Sherry Quan Lee approaches writing as a community resource and as culturally based art of an ordinary everyday practical aesthetic. Lee is a Community Instructor at Metropolitan State University (Intro to Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing), and has taught at Intermedia Arts, and the Loft Literary Center. She is the author of A Little Mixed Up, Guild Press, 1982 (second printing), Chinese Blackbird, a memoir in verse, published 2002 by the Asian American Renaissance, republished 2008 by Loving Healing Press, and How to Write a Suicide Note: serial essays that saved a woman’s life, Loving Healing Press, 2008.

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SEPTUAGENARIAN

Septuagenarian by Sherry Quan Lee

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY

Goodreads Book Giveaway

How Dare We! Write by Sherry Quan Lee

How Dare We! Write

by Sherry Quan Lee

Giveaway ends June 09, 2021.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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HOW DARE WE! WRITE

LOVE IMAGINED

Love Imagined book by Sherry Quan Lee

CHINESE BLACKBIRD

Chinese Blackbird Book by Sherry Quan Lee

HOW TO WRITE A SUICIDE NOTE

How to Write a Suicide Note by Sherry Quan Lee

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