And how to be more productive and happy

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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…

Let me be proud just a little bit

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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…

Writing Analysis

Tone control, push-and-pull pacing, and the power of a dysfunctional family

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Disney’s long-anticipated Black Widow was everything I wanted from Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 2. Originally slated to kick off Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Black Widow follows Wandavision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki as a master class in genre-bending, character-driven action reaching beyond its already expansive but markedly two-dimensional comic book origins.

I found the writing satisfying for 3 reasons:

  1. Tone control
  2. Push-and-pull pacing
  3. The power of a dysfunctional family

(Spoilers ahead.)

1. Tone Control

Black Widow doesn’t shy away from blending different genres and their associated tropes and atmospheres. The movie starts off as…

Personal Essay

On grace, forgiveness, and overcoming negativity bias

Photo courtesy of the author. Do not use or distribute without permission.

My puppy, Angel, meandered off towards a tree after chasing me across the field. It was 7:30AM and the park was empty, save for a couple men hanging out or stretching ten feet away. Our patch of grass was cool, shaded by a building in the middle.

I squinted in the shaded morning light to scope out the tree. Our entire walk to the park, Angel had been tempted by chicken bones, remnants of a Big Mac, and rat carcasses strewn across the sidewalks. Running around the field had been nice because it was kept tidy by a private party…

Writing Craft

A thought experiment in form

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A girl saves a cat who turns out to be a talking alien. The cat dictates incantations that help the girl transform into a superhero. The clumsy, effervescent student band together with her fellow superheroes — all in Tokyo — and goes on to reclaim her throne as alien princess-incarnate.

I’m no expert in publishing, but at first blush I would think this series — Sailor Moon — would have ruined a writer’s reputation with the traditional publishers who gave it a glance, then languished in the e-pub market with sales as frequent as falling stars.

I’m re-watching Sailor Moon

Photo courtesy of author. Do not use or distribute without consent.

If you heard me talk about my puppy, you’d think she was a problem child: “She pees on herself,” “She’s already starting to tug,” “How do I keep her from jumping on the couch?”

The reality is that Angel (not her real name) is an eleven-week-old fluffball who’s already learned 10 basic commands, is mostly potty-trained, and has the sweetest, mildest temperament. …

Writing Analysis

About our love, loyalty, isolation, and resilience

Photo by 邱 严 on Unsplash

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APAHM) or AAPI Heritage Month, I’m sharing some of my favorite stories that showcase East Asian(-American) women in all our varied glory. #

Our identity shapes how we relate to our parents (Queen’s Luxury Spa), how we fall in love (Someday We’ll Embrace This Distance), how we fall out of love (Don’t Say We’ll Lose Touch), and how we hide ourselves (Safeword). Our identity binds us together, offering solidarity (The Lady of Butterflies) or causing rivalry (See It Slant).

Our demographic box is never the focal point of these stories…

Writing Analysis

Featuring Walter White, the Joker, Andy Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada—and the Ultimate Sad Guy Turns Bad Guy

Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

There are good people and bad people, and the good people are usually underdogs. That’s what we’re taught: David versus Goliath, Thirteen Colonies versus the British Empire, protestors versus what they’re protesting (the government, their employer). Most of us often find ourselves rooting for the underdog because we are them.

But power and virtue aren’t strictly opposites. The sad, weak person (“sad guy”) might be just as monstrous as the “bad guy” — they’re just unable to express their badness due to some obstacle (e.g. fear of tarnishing their reputation, or unwillingness to admit to themself). …

Writing Analysis

Photo by N I F T Y A R T ✍🏻 on Unsplash

Sam’s transformation into Captain America creeps up quietly. We first it see not when he dons the stars and stripes in the last episode, not when he picks up the shield, but when he pesters his sister, Sarah, in the first episode. The stubborn younger brother refuses to sell the boat his parents left to them, even while maintenance, storage, and upkeep are wringing their finances dry.

“I’ll fix the damn boat,” he says, over and over again. This refrain, more than the shield or costume, is how we come to understand he is our Captain America.

Sam is guided by his values — not by any person

Sam is not…

Writing Analysis

Can we separate an artist from their work? Should we?

Photo courtesy of author

I saw Ernest Hemingway portrayed in Midnight in Paris long before I read any of his works, and even then I was struck. Hemingway’s persona and influence are so pervasive that somehow I understood that this straight-shooting, chest-thumping man on-screen breathed life into Hemingway’s words. That feeling was confirmed years later when I read his short story Hills Like White Elephants for class and his novel Old Man and the Sea, which I rushed to get after reading the former.

Direct, almost terse, but always expressive, Hemingway’s prose has a subtle, devious way of packing in essays’ worth of symbolic…

YJ Jun

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

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