Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thirty-five Years Later

Three more days, it'll mark the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Thirty-five years ago, I tried to escape with the frantically departing Americans but failed. Thirty-five years later, I'm striving to make a name for myself as a well-established writer in America.

Looking back, my ten-year living under Communist rule has left a painful mark on me that still gives me flashbacks but at the same time has enriched my life because now I know first-hand what it was like living in a dictatorship, a dictatorship in general, a Communist dictatorship in particular. A political system that had affected people in half of the globe. And Vietnam shut its door for ten years. During those ten years, the government oppressed and persecuted us--people of the South. When most of us--the unwanted--left the country, it opened its door. Now the Communists welcome us back. I do want to return to see how much remnants of their former brutality could still be traced. Probably none. Shrewd and sophisticated, they know how to whitewash every bloodstain.

I do want to go back for another reason: to touch my mother's urn that my sister has put in a temple. My mother, the most important person in my life, died the second year I resettled in America. Without her, my life would have been a totally different story.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Twenty-fifth Anniversary

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of rebuilding my life in America. It's been one quarter of a century since I lived in the U.S. coming as a refugee. Looking back, I was amazed at what I had done. Thanks to my mother who sent me to an English language school in Vietnam during the 60s, though I didn't graduate, I had a foundation to build on in order to pursue my writer's dream in my adopted country whereas such dream of mine would never be fulfilled in my homeland. Coming alone as an older adult in my thirties and without a high school diploma and having lived in a cultural desert--Communist Vietnam before opening its door in the late 80s--for ten years, I was enrolled in Kishwaukee Junior College three months after my arrival in DeKalb, IL, and at the same time working on my GED. In seven years, I earned my MFA in English and playwriting.

So far I'm most proud of myself for having transformed myself from a high-school dropout to an MFA holder. And I did it in my third language.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fresh Eyes

I like to talk about eyes a lot, don't I? In my previous entries, I wrote about a writer's eyes, objective eyes, and so on. Now I'm writing about fresh eyes. For a writer, she can get fresh eyes from two sources: 1) a writer friend, a free-lance editor included, 2) herself. I'd like to talk about my own fresh eyes. How can I look at my work with fresh eyes? This is what I'd do--putting the "finished" writing away for a while and then revise it. For my novel, I didn't work on it for six month. Yes, six months. From July 2009 to Dec. Last January, I took it out and looked at it and saw problems I hadn't seen before. That's what I mean: my own fresh eyes. Quite reliable. For some writers, six months would be too long. For me, it's worth the "delay" because I want my first novel to be the best I can write. Also, my past writing experience has taught me a good lesson--I was too eager to get my work out into the world and only to receive rejection after rejection. It turned out to be a waste of my time, my money, and my energy.

After revising my novel for three months, once again I let it cool down, for a month only. I believe when I rework on it in May, I'll see it with fresh eyes.