23 May, 2015
With author Ed Lin
at the Hill Country Chicken Restaurant
My goal as a writer is to be able to write and sell books that are entertaining, educational and mean something to my readers. I'd love to break out with some level of mainstream success (I use the word 'success' loosely because depending on an individual's perspective the word can connote different things) and, ideally, be in a position to give up my day job and write full-time. I also wouldn't mind breaking into the contemporary Asian American writing scene and, God and luck willing, be spoken of in the same breath and with the same respect as, say, Don Lee, Lisa See, Susan Choi, Jhumpa Lahiri and Ed Lin, just to name a few. Lofty aspirations, I know, but aspirations I am working to fulfill albeit with a lot of (self-imposed) stress and anguish.
I contributed to a crowd fund last fall to help finance the publication of an issue of Hyphen Magazine, the premier magazine of Asian American culture, goings on, art, music and literature. As a result of my financial support, I was pleasantly surprised that I'd won lunch with the esteemed Ed Lin, the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards (AALAs) and the author of Waylaid, This Is A Bust and Snakes Can't Run. We met at Hill Country Chicken (1123 Broadway, at the corner of 25th Street and near the Flatiron Building) on a wet and cold February Saturday, a few days after one of the multitude of snowstorms we had last winter. Having won three AALAs and looking at some of Ed's pics online, he looked like a very serious fellow. I am, too, but not in the way I judged Ed to be based on his accolades and the focus of his expression. So, while I was excited for our lunch, I was a touch nervous but, as soon as I shook his hand, all my apprehensions left me. Ed, you see, is a funny, easygoing guy. Naturally, we talked about writing. We also talked about 1980s video games, movies, Ninja Turtles and food. We talked about our day jobs - he's a journalist, I'm a teacher - and New Jersey where we both grew up.
We're both serious about our writing but meeting Ed and hanging with him for an hour or so, I was reminded that writers - not all of us, anyway - are stuffy high brow literati. And we don't have to be. We're real people who write about real things and fantastical things. Ed, of course, isn't the only successful writer I've met and many of the writers I've met seem like regularly people too. I'm also too old and experienced in life to get star struck but, as I pursue my writing career with serious conviction, sometimes I forget to take a moment and enjoy what life has put in front of me. Thanks to Ed Lin, just from his demeanour, I've started to enjoy those everyday moments with a fresher perspective. So, not only do I need to thank him again for some of the best fried chicken I've ever had, I need to thank him for being who he is, for 'keeping it real.'