Posts Tagged ‘creative writing’

  • 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

  • Book Tour Interview Poetic Book Tours

    Date: 2021.06.20 | Category: Interviews, Septuagenarian | Response: 0

    https://jeyranmain.com/2021/05/18/an-interview-with-sherry-quan-lee/#comments

  • SELF-INTERVIEW: SWAN SONG. SEPTUAGENARIAN

    Date: 2021.02.24 | Category: Assignments, Interviews, Septuagenarian, Words of Wisdom | Response: 0

    SELF-INTERVIEW: SWAN SONG. SEPTUAGENARIAN

     

    1. You say your most recent book, Septuagenarian, is your swan song, what do you mean by that?

    Septuagenarian is the last book I will write. Friends ask me why and I respond
    “I am tired.” My focus has always been to discover who I am and why, while hoping to open up a space for dialoging about identity. I’m ready to engage in larger conversations, conversations one can’t have until we know who we are. That said, I am a one-on-one extrovert, not comfortable engaging in large crowds of public spaces.

    Early on in my writing career, I attended many local readings, hoping to support and engage with local writers, especially writers of color; but, in my later years I became more isolated. Maybe it has something to do with age, but mostly I think a change in location, moving away from the Twin Cities, was a detriment. The more isolated I became, the more I became a social recluse. And, although I’ve always been an introvert in larger gatherings and public spaces, the pandemic drew me inward even more. I don’t “Zoom” and I don’t want to (never say never), although I am getting comfortable with viewing the online options which are opportunities to see Twin Cities and national artists who are so generous with their time and talent in the comfort of my condo.

    1. Of all your books, which do you like the best?

    Thanks for asking that question. I actually like best the book I didn’t write, but edited, How Dare We! Write a multicultural creative writing discourse. It was an opportunity to work with twenty-four writers in the mix from across the country and here at home who had stories about their experiences as writers that needed to be told . I also think it gained the most attention of all my books. It is being used in college classrooms and included in Poets and Writers Best Books for Writers.

    https://www.pw.org/bestbooks/how_dare_we_write_a_multicultural_creative_writing_discourse)

    Also, And You Can Love me a story for everyone who loves someone with ASD is a book close to my heart because it’s based on my observation of and experience with my grandson who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 ½.

    The process from the beginning was a learning experience. I took a picture book class from Alison McGhee, international known best-selling author,  to learn what is involved in picture book writing. I, then, worked with two younger artists who also had no previous experience with picture books.

    To see my grandson, now a teenager, page through his book is my greatest reward.

    1. What have you left out of your most recent book and why?

    I can’t stop thinking about what poems I didn’t write. I have to admit that three or four years ago the book started out with just fifteen poems because I was submitting them for a competition-the first year poetry, then prose, then poetry again. Not a winner, I prevailed by, I admit,  padding the manuscript with previously published poems, and asking my publisher if he would be interested in my swan song. Which, by the way, became more focused when a discussion about the separation of Black families led to me being asked to write about it, to write about how separation has been prevalent in our/my family.

    To answer the question, I keep thinking of things I left out or could have explored in more depth, but mainly I left out the physical (including sexual) aspects of aging. I was able to add two lines into an existing poem, but the topic deserves so much more.

    1. If you could have chosen a different career, other than writer, what would that have been?

    That’s an intriguing question. I seldom think of  myself as “writer” as a career. Writing and teaching writing were accidents of a sort. I was working for an independent study program where men and, particularly, women were studying for graduate degrees while being in the work force full time and many raising families. I wondered if I could do it. I quit my job before knowing if I had been admitted to a graduate program, not thinking forward much at all.

    I wanted a graduate degree just to prove to myself I was smart enough to earn one. I chose writing because that’s the only program I thought I was qualified for even though I wasn’t. Despite, apparently, hesitancy on the Committee’s part, I was admitted and the rest of the story is too lengthy to divulge here.

     After graduation a series of community connections provided opportunities to teach, and in 2005 a special connection with a friend led me to my publisher, Loving Healing Modern History Press, who has been loyal to me, to my writing ever since.

    Back to the question. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, but when I was required to learn the “new math” I dropped out of college, only to return on again off again until I earned a four-year degree twenty years later.

    1. What will you do now?

    Now, at seventy-three, my first priority is to stay healthy, to eat well and exercise. But I will continue to work with other writers, to try to give back the support and encouragement my mentors offered to me. Maybe I will become a more consistent blogger and post future writing to my blog site or FB writer’s page. blog.sherryquanlee

    I hope to have an audience for my books, but I have little to no interest in book tours or public appearances. Although, if the Pandemic ever subsides, I would graciously accept opportunities to read at local community sites such as Moon Palace Books or East Side Library.

    I think it’s time for me to enjoy life now that I have forgiven myself of previous (and still working on) addictive/compulsive  behaviors. To reign in some of my I know I am right  pronouncements and listen more intently and less reactively, and to forgive abundantly (except those things I believe aren’t forgivable).

    1. What disappoints you the most about being a writer?

    Instead of disappointment I’d rather concern myself with gratitude, with the ongoing progression of BIOPC writers gaining visibility and recognition. That said, there’s a long way to go, especially when organizations make token efforts to be diverse by including BIPOC writers, but don’t respect their monetary worth; but applause for those who do.

    1. What is your weakest skill as a writer?

    Grammar and punctuation.

    1. What is your best skill as a writer?

    Honesty. Fearlessness; writing despite of/because of fear.

    1. What have been your biggest road blocks to becoming a writer?

    Critics:  professors that say “writing about race isn’t trendy.” Lack of professors of color in the academy. Lack of white professors who embrace “teaching moments;” and white professors who might know the needs of students of color, but ignore them.

    A lack of self-esteem.

    I’m not a disciplined writer. I write reactively. I write when a political or personal event, or a story or a poem, or a movie triggers me to react.

    1. What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

    Follow your heart, but more importantly follow your gut (and seriously, not just metaphorically). Don’t listen to, or at least ignore the critics who shame—actually, you will ignore them if you are following your heart and your gut. Seek out mentors, not just for the craft of writing, but for inspiration and motivation. I always told my students it’s who you know, but I meant that as a relationship of mutual respect and trust and friendship-not greed.

    WRITING EXERCISE

    I often asked my students to interview themselves as a creative project. I think it’s a way for aspiring writers to contemplate who they are as writer, what’s important to them as a writer, and where they are on their journey toward their goals.

    PREVIOUS INTERVIEWS CAN BE FOUND AT:

    https://turtleroad.org/2019/10/03/sherry-quan-lee-daring-to-nurture-untold-stories/

     

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

     

    https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/76349157.pdf

     

    https://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?id=41176

     

     

     

  • 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

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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SHERRY QUAN LEE

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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.

Enter Giveaway

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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