The Writing Year in Review


It’s become obligatory to start any year-end review by noting that 2017 was a gaping hell pit of a year and it was. So, there you go.

Personally speaking, it was pretty good, despite the blazing horrors going on around us. My son turned three and watching him grow and learn remains the most profound and steadfast joy I know. It’s a miracle, slowly unspooling for us day by day. A gift from God or gods.

I tried to capture some of that miracle in my writing this year, and if there was a common theme in my published essays, it was an attempt to examine the happiness and compromises of parenthood and aging. That and dragon farts.

In January, Catapult published “Teshima: On Hearing Loss, My Son, and the Sea” about our family trip to Japan’s Inland Sea, my single-sided deafness, and the myth of the Japanese shark-goddess Princess Toyotama. It remains my favorite thing I’ve written.

I also started writing for, and contributed two essays. The first, in June, asked (humorously) who would win in a fight between the dragon Smaug and the Balrog of Moria. Most people disagreed with my answer, but like Smaug, I refuse to back down. Then in September, I wrote about Gods and Spirits (and whatever Totoro is), looking at the Shinto and Buddhist iconography and influence in Hayao Miyazaki’s films.

For The Rumpus, I wrote a satirical take on the similarities between giving birth to a baby and getting a book published. The similarities are mostly about achieving a lifelong dream and then realizing you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

Back at Catapult, in October, I wrote about the ways J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have changed me, and for me, over the years, in “Where the Stars Are Strange: J.R.R. Tolkien and Me.” That essay is probably the best single piece of writing I’ve ever done, and reunited me with my own personal Fellowship of Nicole Chung and Jason Longo from our Toast Tolkien days (Jason created an AMAZING GIF for the article, that you can see above).

Finally, also for Catapult, I wrote about my nine-year old nemesis Yuka, the little girl who became my friend by being my enemy, and helped me feel at home in Japan.

I’ve also been thrilled to buy and read two books published by members of my beloved Lucky 13s writing/support group: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, and Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczinsky. Both are wonderfully written, gripping, funny, and imaginative. Following these talented ladies on their publishing journeys, and putting those two great books on my shelf, has been a privilege.

In 2018, I’m hoping to finish and submit my next middle-grade novel, as well as a proposal for a book of essays on Middle-earth and other fantasy realms.

Best wishes for the new year, and happy writing and reading!

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