2020 in Review

Writing round-up, favourite reads, 易如反掌...

I must say, it’s incredibly cool to be sending out the first issue of my newsletter. Thank you, thank you, thank you to you—my merry little band of first-followers (Hi, Mum!!!). I’m still somewhat overwhelmed that you like my words enough to allow me to drop a bunch in your inbox at unpredictible and irregular intervals.

At the start of 2020, I had hoped to finish my specialty training and spend the latter half of the year travelling, writing, reading, learning Chinese, volunteering, and engaging in purposeless revelry. COVID-19 thwarted those plans and sent me into a spiral of Netflix-binging and mild existential angst. (Still, I’m immensely grateful for the security of many things in my life, including where I live and what I do and who I have around me.)

On reflection, though, I’m proud that I’ve done some pretty cool things in 2020:

  • Signed my debut novel, Every Version of You, with Affirm Press!

  • Made my first pro publication: my novelette, Jigsaw Children, in Clarkesworld, free to read or listen online. Jigsaw Children is eligible for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and grants me eligibility for the Astounding Award.

  • Published short stories in two dream Aussie SFF venues: The Ethnographer, in Andromeda Spaceways, and Father’s House, in Aurealis. Two very different stories; both were a challenge and a joy to write.

  • Published short stories in anthologies I lo-o-ove. Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is a collection of horror stories by Asian women writers. Alongside some seriously breathtaking tales, it features my Malaysian Chinese gothic ghost story, Of Hunger and Fury, as well as a reprint of my Aurealis- and Norma K Hemming Award-nommed piece, The Mark, a psychological horror story inspired by the Capgras delusion.

  • I was lucky to have my short story, Mother of the Trenches, accepted into the deliciously monstrous Unnatural Order, now available for pre-order from the CSFG. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this twisty, dark, fantastic collection!

Please check out my website if you’re curious to know more about these tales.

As we roll over into 2021, I’m so excited to dive into structural edits for Every Version of You, to participate more thoroughly in writing communities, to catch up on panels from writing conferences I attended in 2020, and to work on writing and submitting more short fiction.

Bedroom Activities with Books

I set myself a goal of reading 30 books in 2020. I fell short of that—I’ve read about 20. This is partly because I spent a large part of the year studying for an exam, and partly because I committed to reading more short stories, novelettes, and novellas.

Some of my favourite fiction reads of 2020 were Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan, Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho, and Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling. I also adored the simmering, sweltering nostalgia in Shu-Ling Chua’s pocket-sized essay collection, Echoes. (I’ve just noticed that all of the above are short story collections.)

I recently shared a Twitter thread of my favourite short fiction reads:

I didn’t read as much non-fiction as usual in 2020. My most memorable non-fiction read was White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color, by Ruby Hamad. It’s an uncomfortable but eye-opening read, and puts language to society’s gender and racial rifts.

Re-Learning Mandarin Chinese

Like countless other Chinese diaspora kids, the Saturday mornings of my childhood were passed in the underheated portable classrooms of much-dreaded Chinese Class. What little knowledge of 汉语 I managed to squeeze into my 脑 through rote memorisation and gritted teeth quickly fell out within several months. When I finally persuaded my parents to let me quit at 14, they told me, “One day you’ll be grateful for it.”

This year, I’ve finally come full circle. The characters I loathed and rejected in my childhood now entice me with their elegance, beauty, history. It’s interesting to think about why different things compel us at different points in our lives, and how we change more than we think we do.

Here’s a 成语 (chéngyǔ, idiom or proverb) that I encountered in the Chinese historical drama series The Rise of Phoenixes:

yì rú fǎn zhǎng

Literally, it means, ‘as easy as turning over your palm’. I like it a lot, because you can just throw it into conversations with a self-assured nod of your head and a wink—easy as pie.

Are any of you on language-learning journeys? I’d love to hear about your successes and challenges.

That’s all for this time, friends. If you’ve read this far, I thank you deeply. I hope that as 2020 comes to a close, you find a pocket of space-time to slow down, reflect, and savour. Despite the difficulties, I hope you find a moment of OK-ness. Happy new year. See you on the other side!