Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Jimin Han

Creative Spaces

Glass Room

I remember the starkness of the walls in a new house, the sounds of night those first days in a new place. I remember being afraid of what I couldn’t see in the dark and worried about what I would see the next morning in the faces of the new people I would meet. I had my parents, my brothers, an aunt and uncle and cousins who lived with us from time to time and whom we lived with at other times, a grandfather, my father’s friends from Korea. They came and went in various configurations, my aunt and uncle and cousins being the most constant even after they moved permanently away because I would visit them during summers. My most vivid memories are of mornings when I’d wake to the smell of ramen cooking in the kitchen. This is from the early Jamestown period, when it was my brothers, my parents and I. We had a kitchen box, a square brown box marked clearly in large hangul: kitchen. It didn’t go with the moving truck. It was packed in the car with us alongside the other marked box that contained our bedding. The kitchen box had five bowls (one for each of us), one large stainless steel pot, chopsticks and spoons. It would take me a while, those first mornings when I initially opened my eyes to remember where I was, and then I’d find my way to the kitchen where my mother commandeered the stove, the sink, the cupboards, the windows. The kitchen table was set with bowls and chopsticks, ramen waiting for us. I remember she filled the kitchen with her optimism, her hopefulness. It was hard not to believe that we hadn’t always lived there.

I can count most of them, all the places I lived before I left my family for college. My uncle’s house in Seoul, my grandmother’s house in Seoul, a house in Daejun, another house in Seoul, an apartment in Brooklyn, a mental hospital in Providence, a house in Providence, a second floor apartment in Providence, an apartment in Dayton, a house in Jamestown (Myrtle Street), another house in Jamestown (East Virginia Boulevard), another house in Jamestown (Maple Street), another house in Jamestown (Camp Street), a last house in Jamestown (Whitehill Avenue). My parents were always moving. They continued to move after I left for college. Some of the moves necessitated by finances, some of the moves necessitated by a quest my father had that I didn’t understand.

Years older now, old enough to make my own home, I have my own house. My children have known this same house for most of their young lives. I’ve chosen steadiness where I can, rooted myself to a single house, a permanent address. But something lingers from my moving days. I write in a small temporary room that’s mostly empty. I call it anyone’s room. The walls are blank. There is a bed in case someone comes to visit. In a pinch I can clear out, let a guest feel at home. The desk is a polished teak ellipse. It’s large enough for my laptop and a few notebooks. It faces a blank, white wall away from the casement window that looks out into a yard where a crab apple tree loads up with blossoms in the spring and beyond that a neighbor’s pasture where a horse grazes.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Jimin Han

After a life of moving, Jimin Han finally has a permanent “temporary” writing space.

When the writing isn’t going well, when I feel I’m failing, when the silence is paralyzing, I worry. I imagine crowding this room with things from my life for encouragement. A small painted rock the size of my hand, a quartz donkey figurine, a pale blue 19th century pill box, books that line the family room outside this room, paintings, photos of my children, my husband, my parents, my friends, my students, life that calls and calls to me. When the writing isn’t going well, I open the second door in my anyone’s room, the one behind my chair, and look at the dirt floor, look up at the broken slats of the wooden roof. Somewhere up there will be a room for me. Someday, a stair to it. The opposite of emptiness. A glass room. I have drawings of it. I have plans.

But for now and for years to come in reality, my small temporary blank room is all I have. All I might ever have. And I can’t say I’m unhappy with it. I know where I am. There is something that comes to this emptiness, something I am forced to make of it, make from it. I write and read and consider things in this place. I have always been here. My anyone’s room. Blank walls, blank canvas, silence or newness of sound, possibility. An unclaimed space. Something to work with.  Something that asks to be claimed, for the duration of the day, night, story, poem, essay.

Creative Spaces -- Guest Post by Jimin HanBio:

Jimin Han teaches at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and lives outside New York City with her husband and children. Additional work of hers may be found in a variety of places, including NPR’s “Weekend America,” The Rumpus.net, Koreanamericanstory.org, eChook’s memoir app, Kartika Review and The Nuyorasian Anthology. She’s on twitter, @jiminhanwriter, and she blogs at Tumblr.

Light Keeping by special guest Signe Pike

 

Signe Pike’s essay, Light Keeping, has been removed.

 

Light Keeping by Signe Pike

Signe Pike Bio:  Signe Pike is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World. Her recent collection of poetry—Native Water—was a #1 Kindle Bestseller.

 

Maps by special guest Elizabeth Eslami

“Here is the question: If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?  What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”

 

Maps

I’m supposed to tell you I’d hug her.            

Sixteen and she’s swallowed three seasons of the year by a men’s black wool coat that she thinks makes her look mysterious and androgynous, Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club or Jimmy Smits in NYPD Blue. Bangs to hide her face, soft plum of a chin, then another chin. Her acne’s bad but it could be worse. A couple of months ago, it dented her cheeks like someone held her face too long.

She’s hiding in the attic, reading, always, or writing plays for movie stars that come back – return to sender – accompanied by lawyer stationery, disclaimers. Mr. Martin has not received or read this material.  It’s hard to think with the engine. Outside, her father’s driving a tractor in circles, chopping and spitting weeds. Her mother wants her to drink more milk.

On her elbows so long her hands go numb. There’s no screen in the attic window and the bees get in, fat and wobbly, and fly around the small of her back, their feathery legs dangling.

She doesn’t want a hug, doesn’t want anyone to touch her. She wants to know the future. Is asking me, ghost of thirty-four, of iPads and crow’s feet and trick knees, about the future.  And so maybe I tell her.

I am sorry to inform you that sixteen is the year someone will throw twenty-three spitballs at the back of your head while you’re in the library reading Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire. Twenty-three: you’ll count them. You’ll pretend it’s not happening because you think you deserve it somehow, will wish you were thirty-four and brave and could walk over and tell this person to go fuck himself. But it won’t matter because when you’re thirty-four, you’ll see a photograph of him and he’ll be hunched and bald, wearing sockless loafers, standing on a boat that’s supposed to make up for the fact that his high school years were the best of his life.

You’ll see. Little by little, the bandages will come off.

You’re going to go to college, you’re going to go to New York, you’re going to have sex, you’re going to cry a lot, you’re going to sit on a wet bench smoking cigarettes, watching strangers get married in a park, the bride’s dress sweeping through goose shit. You’re going to talk to your friends on the phone, tell them how miserable you are while snow blows on the foot of your bed. You’re going to put cinnamon in your coffee and you’re going to call your mother and ask her how to make scrambled eggs. You’re going to watch Juliette Binoche in Blue and decide that’s who you want to be, French and beautiful and widowed, wearing a new, more form-fitting black wool coat. You’re going to have a crush on a girl in your D.H. Lawrence class whose cheeks look like apples and cream and you’ll decide you’re a lesbian for three months until you develop a crush on this girl’s boyfriend who has a beard and wears flannel shirts and smells like wilderness. You’re going to be bored and foolish and scared and thrilled. You’re going to, for an indecent amount of time, live on mashed potatoes and bagels.

It’s not going to be what you want because you’re not ready for it. You’re going to be surprised.  This poor girl, she doesn’t even know.

The things you love, the things you hate, will basically be the same in twenty years, give or take. These questions will keep you up at night, irradiating you, a trembling skeleton in the bed. That’s okay, really. Your heart will gush, but you’ll sit up, dip your pen in the blood, and write it all down. You’ll write a whole fucking book.

The things you find funny now – that time rehearsing “Tom Thumb, Tragedy of Tragedies,” when somebody farted, when you squeezed each other into corsets, when you and your best friend were each other’s prom dates, when someone mispronounced a word and it became hilarious in its new incarnation, a word you’d carry around and pull out like a magic trick prompting cackle-laughter and snort-spit – all these things you will forget for a time, scattered and fallow in your skull. But they will come back, buzzing like locusts.

You should thank your teachers. Tell them the truth, that you don’t understand everything – anything – but you know you want to be like them instead of like Juliette Binoche. Stop skulking. Your teachers have given you a gift, and the least you can say is, hey thanks, I’ll remember you. Because you will.

That man you’ve been looking for? You already know him. One day soon, out of the blue, he’s going to call you up and for no reason either of you can understand, you will whisper into the phone for five hours, until your throats hurt and your mother leans through the kitchen and shushes you.  You’ll lose him for a few years, keep bumping into him buying trash bags and talking about books in parking lots. Have you by any chance read – ? Yes. Yes. Yes.  

That your mother was right about the milk.

That terrible things will happen, and beautiful things will happen, and you will live them out but not work them out, for they are the things that pull at you and freckle you and make those parenthesis around your eyes. Dearie, your body is recording your life.

But maybe I won’t tell her any of this, because I don’t believe in straight lines, in inevitability, that there’s a high probability that she will become anyone.  I don’t know what would happen to her, what could happen to her, if she waits five more minutes, takes a different train. There she is now, shapeless and jittery, on a street somewhere, pretending she doesn’t need a map.

Oh hell. Can’t I give her a map?

_________________________________________________ © 2012 Elizabeth Eslami

Maps by Elizabeth Eslami

Elizabeth Eslami

 

Elizabeth Eslami Bio:  Elizabeth Eslami isMaps by Elizabeth Eslami the author of the novel Bone Worship (Pegasus, 2010).  Her essays, short stories, and travel writing have appeared in numerous publications, including The Millions, The Nervous Breakdown, Matador, and The Literary Review, and her work will be featured in the forthcoming anthologies Not in My Father’s House: An Anthology of Fiction By Iranian American Writers and Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema.  Her story collection, The Hibernarium, was a finalist for the 2011 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She currently teaches at Manhattanville College.  For more information, visit her website at Elizabeth Eslami

 

Time Loop by special guest Dr. Harrison Solow

“Here is the question: If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?  What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”

 

Time Loop

If I could talk to my sixteen year old self, I’d be silent. I’m not disposed to dispensing advice. And she isn’t disposed to taking it. Already she has begun to sense the fallibility of the advice dispensers in her life, so she will view me with suspicion. She isn’t happy to see me. I know her. I know all about her. Every single thing she ever thought and did – 100% of her life. She knows but a fraction of mine – nothing beyond what she is at the moment we meet. She feels at a disadvantage.

And I’m no longer what she is…

I look at her, with her Catholic school uniform (plaid skirt, very white shirt and saddle shoes), thin, ink-stained fingers and sunburnt California face, knowing that this is the summer she will spend mostly at the beach, reading 133 books in a mad quest to know everything.

And now she wants to know what will have happened to her by the time she is me-now. I can’t tell her. I can’t tell her a thing, because, the time-space continuum being what it is, if I do, her future might not happen and my sons won’t be born. I will protect their existence over hers. I’m not her mother.

But she doesn’t know about time-space continua. She doesn’t like science fiction and Star Trek hasn’t even aired yet. Her mind is full of Whitman and Eliot, Merton and Woolf. She doesn’t know that she will take Astronomy & Physics at foreign universities or that I will have changed her mind about this magnificent speculative literature – that it will become an enormous part of our life, that sometime in the 1990s, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, most of the Star Trek cast and other icons of that world, will have become her friends and colleagues. She doesn’t know that because of it, she will marry a man whom Variety calls “a Hollywood legend” in that world and beyond.

She doesn’t care, anyway. She wants to be a priest.

That’s the first direct question she asks me – “Am I – uh – are you – or we – a priest?”

I don’t know if it’s okay, in this timewarp, to tell her what hasn’t happened – but I risk it. “No,” I say. “It still isn’t an option for women, even in my now.”

I don’t look at her when I say this, not wanting to reveal by a single twitch of a muscle either what I feel about this; or that her current predilection has undergone considerable alteration in my life; that there are deeper priesthoods in her future.

But when I look up, her face is stricken. Her eyes are swimming with tears. My stomach tightens. My throat constricts.

“You’re sixteen,” I say, finally. “You would have had to have started seminary at eighteen. You didn’t really think the Church’s entire dogma on the priesthood would change in two years, did you?”

It doesn’t sound very compassionate to me, even as I say it, but I remember that shock, that bitterness so well – that day when I was sixteen and someone came to visit me and told me something like that. (Was it an aunt? I don’t remember. Someone who looked like me anyway.) The bitterness must have crept in from memory, changed the sound of my voice…

“I don’t know,” she says, squinting, looking up at the sky, “Maybe.”

I remember then how very young sixteen was then. Much, much younger than now.

Suddenly she says, “Is Brother Joachim okay? I mean in your time? Tell me.”

The intensity of youthful friendships in those faraway days, the loyalty, the honour, return for a moment. Innocence. Joy. I remember her – my  –  beloved Franciscan friar, close my eyes against decades of memory and grief, and nod almost imperceptibly, hoping the universe won’t notice.

She doesn’t press me for a verbal answer, but I see her body relax slightly.

“Do I get to go to university?” she asks. “Do I get a PhD?”

I can’t tell her any more, I say, but this time I tell her why. I tell her that her life won’t be like anything she has yet dreamt; that we are meeting in a brief aberration of time – a Temporal Paradox; and that anything she knows about her future could alter it.

“Then what are you here for?” she asks.

“To talk to you – to give you a little advice.”

“But hasn’t my future already happened?”

“Not for you.”

“Yes, but my future is your past, isn’t it?” she asks.

“Not all of it.”

“Well, up to this point it is,” she answers. “So what advice could you possibly give me that would actually work?”

I look at her squarely, face to face, right into the dark, dark eyes I know so well. It is then I realize what I’m really here for.  I give her the answer she already has:

“None.”

She smiles, then –  a clean, sweet, sad, sixteen year old smile, and turns away.

I begin to retreat into the unstable time vortex that seems to be forming around me but she suddenly turns back, takes my hand – and I return for a moment to hold her to my heart.

“Right,” she says, as I slowly release her into my past. “Because, of the two of us, it’s only your future that can actually change.”

__________________________________________________  © 2012 Harrison Solow

Harrison Solow Bio:

Time Loop by Harrison Solow

Dr Harrison Solow

American writer Harrison Solow has been honoured with multiple awards for her literary fiction, nonfiction, cross-genre writing, poetry and professional writing, most notably winning the prestigious Pushcart Prize for Literature in 2008.  A writer and strategic consultant of rare experience, her work spans Hollywood, Academia, Business, Law and Literature. Harrison Solow is one of the two best-selling University of California Press authors of all time (at time of publication), a Notable Alumna of Mills College where she earned an MFA, and holds the rare distinction of a British PhD in English (Letters) with a critical and creative dissertation “Accepted as Submitted: No Changes” from Trinity Saint David in 2011.

She lectures in English and American Literature, Creative, Nonfiction and Cross Genre Writing, Specific Authors, Science Fiction and American Culture, Professional Writing, Philosophy and Theology at a number of universities, colleges, arts and cultural institutions in the United States, Canada and Great Britain.Time Loop by Harrison Solow

A former faculty member at UC Berkeley, she accepted a lectureship in the English Department of the University of Wales in 2004 and was appointed Writer in Residence in 2008. She returned to America in 2009.

Dr. Solow is a strong proponent of the traditional Liberal Arts, the Fine Arts and the Utilitarian Arts as separate and equally respectable entities, an advocate for Wales and a patron of literary endeavours.

She is married to Herbert F. Solow, the former Head of MGM, Paramount and Desilu Studios in Hollywood and has two sons.

Her latest book is Felicity & Barbara Pym: Amazon and WordPress Page

Harrison Solow is available for interviews, lectures and workshops. She can be reached through her manager, Simon Rivkin at simonrivkin@solowtwo.com

Harrison Solow’s Web pages: Red Room and Academia   Follow Harrison on Twitter: @harrisonsolow and on Facebook