Let me be proud just a little bit

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Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash

It took 4 years of a doing a PhD in a quantitative field to admit to myself I’d rather be writing fiction.

My university wouldn’t let me audit or pay for fiction classes — undergrad, MA, or MFA — so I looked elsewhere. I found a place with decent reviews and enrolled. I had to drive 40 minutes from campus to StoryStudio and another 20 back home every Thursday night for 10 weeks while wrapping up my dissertation in my fifth and final year of grad school.

That class became the most enjoyable two hours of my life every week…

And how to be more productive and happy

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Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash

My kimchi was bad — again, for the fourth time in a row. I glared at my black marble countertop as I crunched, trying to make sense of how the pickled cabbage could taste too bitter and sweet at the same time.

I went over the instructions again in my head. The day-long process of prepping 20 ingredients; salt-pickling the cabbage; dicing, boiling, and blending things together for the sauce; pulling on nitrile gloves to mix the pungent sauce with cabbage; and triple-checking instructions every step of the way to make sure I did it right this time.

The fresh…

Writing Craft

Navigating the landscape of speculative fiction

How do you build a world that’s believable, rich, and interesting — with vampires, cyborgs, time travel, and other things that don’t exist in our world (today)?

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Photo by Aditya Saxena on Unsplash

Broadly speaking, it depends on whether your speculative world functions on magic or science. Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for anything that isn’t realism, i.e. anything that isn’t set in the real world as we know it. The two poles of speculative fiction are science fiction and fantasy, though, like everything else in life, there’s a spectrum, and the two poles aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

Below, I map out hard and soft…

Writing Analysis

Inversion is the law of attraction. SPOILERS ahead.

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Photo by Nolan Simmons on Unsplash

A scientist places two bullets on the table in front of her. One is traveling forward in time, the other backward. “Can you guess which is which?” she asks the man in front of her.

She holds out her hand and summons a bullet. As it makes its way “back” into her palm, we see it wriggle before flying straight up, the reverse of how a bullet in forward-time would drop straight down, then ricochet before settling into a steady state.

The man has trouble re-enacting the summoning. “You have to feel it,” the scientist instructs.

The bullet flies “back”…

Was it hard for you, too?

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Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

I first met a Korean adoptee on a trip to the countryside of South Korea. I had been living in Seoul and my mom was a tour guide for English-speaking ex-pats. The adoptee looked Korean but seemed as bewildered by the historic palaces and squid-based dishes as her Caucasian peers. She behaved like she was floating through a dream, unsure of whether she could connect to this culture from which she was birthed.

I wanted to ask: did she feel disconnected? Disoriented? I know and respect that some adoptees don’t feel a need to connect to their birth culture, that…

No, it is not a totalitarian nightmare

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Incheon International Airport. Photo courtesy of author

I spent my first hours in Korea in a testing center because my temperature was 37.5°C (99.5°F), a hair above the cutoff of 37.3 (99.1°F).

That was after I was tested 37.8°C at the temperature screening station — right before immigration — and 37.6°C at the testing intake center next to it.

“Must be because of my beanie,” I explained. I had also been wearing the jacket I bought to fight off polar vortexes in Chicago. I had rushed off the plane to get home as soon as possible.

After giving me five minutes to cool down, the employee who…

Writing Analysis, Writing Craft

Deny it all you want.

Why is it so hard for me to write this?: I, a grown woman, love Frozen.

I love Anna. I love Elsa. I love Olaf and Kristoff and Sven and Iduna and the trolls. I love all the characters and the world they inhabit, their oft misguidedly expressed but always devout love for one another.

I saw the movie. Then the second. I saw the musical during it’s infuriatingly short-lived time on Broadway. With my Disney+ subscription I’ve rewatched Frozen Summer and all of Olaf’s goofy short films — all the fan service intended for kids.

When I visited Disneyworld…

Life lessons learnt from reviewing a stranger’s memoir

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Photo by Kevin Lehtla on Unsplash

I went into the workshop bristling. I had just read 3 chapters from a draft of a memoir from some jerk who had written about fatherhood. Apparently, it had been a big surprise to him that having a kid would change his life.

Between beautiful prose, he went into painstaking detail of his inner psyche the first few months as a father. He had freaked out. How was he, barely an adult (at age 40), supposed to take care of a living being? …

Writing Analysis

I nerded out when I watched Birds of Prey around the same time I binged The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. As someone who gravitates towards non-traditional structures, I felt like I had taken a master class on non-linear storytelling by comparing two distinct pieces of work.

(Spoilers ahead)


Both stories follow concentric circles: the first circle sets the story and introduces key events; the next, wider circle revisits the same events while revealing more. …

YJ Jun

Fiction writer. Dives into rabbit holes about stories — written, filmed, or otherwise.

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