Category Archives: Blog

Postcards from the Pandemic




Slow Cooker Collards

It took nearly two weeks and three groceries to assemble ingredients for Sunday dinner.  One night, smoked ham hocks were all that remained in the meat section at Vons. I froze them and hoped. Several days later, collards showed up  at the halal grocery  I grabbed 5 bunches. The salmon came from a third store.  Doing the groceries has turned into a scavenger hunt.

Recipes here:


Salmon with Anchovy Caper Butter 

In all other respects, Covid-19 has slowed everything down. In place of the regular morning routine of carpool duties and  yoga classes, I rise before 7 to disinfect kitchen counters, feed the cats and find some quiet time to write before the rest of the family gets going. Because now the three of us are in each other’s space all day, every day.

Yesterday Sofia laughed when I said  I was “going to yoga.” I wasn’t going anywhere but downstairs to the living room to follow a free class on Youtube.

Yoga with Kassandra seems particularly apt these days, given that her namesake was the Greek goddess of catastrophic prophecies that no one believed.

Postcards from the Pandemic


Welcome to my blog within a blog, which combines the need to write with the compulsion to  procrasti-bake/cook in times of  stress.

March 21

Teeny Tiny Egg In a Hole

Saturday brunch was  Quail Eggs in a Hole with home cured lox and home-baked whole wheat bread. As expected, brunch looked adorable.

To crack open a quail egg, click on this link.  I skipped the pouring into the ramekin part and poured them directly into the hole.

March 20

Home-baked Whole Wheat Bread & Home-Cured Lox

Eggs, regular flour  and bread are nowhere to be found, so I made do with what was available – egg-free whole wheat bread.  And because the xenophobe in the White House loves to talk smack about the Chinese Virus, the Asian groceries are relatively empty and salmon is more abundant than hand sanitizer. However bad things sound, you can still scavenge for  food amid scarcity. Here’s how:

Vegan dinner with Family

Most of the food was prepared by a member of our yoga family, but I brought the asparagus dish at bottom.  The only thing the Food52 recipe below needed were garlic cloves grated into the shallots.

March 19

After a fruitless search for eggs at Vons and Trader Joes, I found these beauties at Vinh Hung the Vietnamese grocery in City Heights.


March 18

Comfort food for a cold rainy day. Ground pork cradled in rice noodles, basil and spinach, immersed in a ginger, garlic, onion broth.


March 17


Though goat meat is readily available at the neighborhood grocery, I prefer to use lamb shanks and put everything in the slow cooker soon after lunch.  By dinnertime, our house smells like a Filipino home.  

March 16

Our cats ignored the memo on social distancing.   Happy Hour means nothing to them.


March 13

Last Supper

Home-cured lox  & whipped cream cheese

Lesley’s  much anticipated 70th birthday party was canceled three days before it was set to take place. A hundred guests were flying in from out of state and from  out of the country, and  ten of us had volunteered to make cakes.  But after Covid 19 reared its ugly crowned head, she thought better of putting herself and her guests at risk and called off the celebration.

Suddenly our weekend seemed bleak. But after spending a week in Texas, I was determined to see some friends before Covid 19  laid waste to our social life. Max and Consuelo came to dinner on Friday the 13th, for what now looks to be the last dinner party I’ll be hosting for the foreseeable future.

Roasted Cauliflower
Chicken with 20 Cloves of Garlic

Chicken with 20 Cloves of Garlic

Roasted Cauliflower:

March 11


We buy most of our fresh produce and proteins at the local Vinh Hung in City Heights (recently renamed Little Saigon) and at North Park Produce, the halal grocery so I had no idea that folks had been emptying the shelves at Trader Joe’s and Ralphs.

Perhaps the sole advantage to having a xenophobe in the White House who’s decided to call  the Corona Virus the “Chinese Virus” is that Asian groceries are relatively empty of shoppers. But even they have run out of flour.

March 9

San Antonio or Bust

Tower of the Americas

By the time San Antonio’s mayor declared a state of emergency over the Covid 19 pandemic last March 2, it was too late to get a refund on our Airbnb rental. I was traveling to that city with a lawyer, a poet and a  journalist to speak on a panel at the AWP Conference & Book Fair, an annual event that draws thousands of writers, editors, publishers, and booksellers. 

I’d seen much chatter on social media about the pros and cons of attending the conference, but since none of the other speakers on my panel voiced concerns about falling ill, and because three of us had already paid for our Airbnb rental, we decided to take our chances.  Armed with three packets of travel wipes and a travel sized bottle of hand sanitizer, I met the Anne, Carolyne and Ari at the San Diego Airport for our early morning flight.

After wiping down my  tray table, arm rests, and seatbelt buckles, I settled in for what I assumed would be a routine flight. As our plane approached San Antonio, we were rocked by five minutes of the worst turbulence I’d experienced in recent memory. Fearing we would crash, I began making nervous chitchat with the bearded  man  in the window seat. Robbie was attending the same conference, was the nonfiction editor for The Rumpus. I made a mental note to pitch him a story idea, if we survived this flight.  When the plane finally landed with a teeth-jarring thud, I was actually relieved to arrive in a city gripped by the pandemic.

The exhibition hall at Henry B. Gonzalez Convention looked twice as cavernous for its rows of unoccupied booths. Out of the 11,000 expected participants, about 5,000 had canceled.  

But I was grateful for those who showed up.

Nearly all of the panels I’d planned to attend  were cancelled, giving me more time to walk down each depleted aisle and to chat with indie book sellers and editors. Slower foot traffic meant less FOMO.  We greeted each other with  jazz hands and thanked each other for showing up. Each time I picked up a pen to sign up for their newsletter, they insisted I take it with me.  I collected many pens.

2040 Books publishes Writers of Color!

On the morning of our panel, both meeting rooms on either side of ours were deserted.  I worried no one would come to ours, because despite its provocative title He Done Her Wrong: The Redemptive Value of Reframing Violence in Story — did anyone want to hear about domestic violence when the Corona virus was dominating  the news? To our surprise, the room filled up. 

With Ari Honarvar, Carolyne Ouya, and Anne Bautista

Perhaps this was because ours was among the few panels still available to attend. I prefer to think people came to listen  because domestic violence  poses the more immediate existential threat than does this new, incurable disease.

I began by explaining how a  day job interpreting  for domestic violence survivors inspired me to write  The Mango Bride. Anne the immigration lawyer, laid out the basics of the Violence Against Women Act and the U visa. Carolyne  the Kenyan poet, led a call and response session before reading a piece she’d written about the American dream. Ari the journalist,  recalled how as a child in embattled Tehran,  she would sit  on the roof with her family and  watch missiles light up the sky. She described people on the streets  and those on the rooftops calling out  lines of poetry to each other, using  Rumi’s verses to dispel their shared fear of impending death.

To put things in perspective, folks have a far greater risk of dying from intimate partner violence, mass shootings, car accidents, and plane crashes than from Covid 19. The bottom line? Life itself is a risk, and I’m going all in for mine.

Free handout from  the Creative Writing professor

The Mango Bride Gets a Twofer in Podcasts


By either sheer coincidence or great good fortune The Mango Bride was  featured in two podcasts that celebrated  Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

You can listen to each one at the links below:!a88c6?fbclid=IwAR3mbhM15bxPcB42ziyiYoVD-OXIxfp8dw818Q3525hBOo5YrIcdGf4CzDI


A Script is Born


When I visited Manila in 2013 to launch The Mango Bride, Roselle Monteverde, head of Regal Entertainment, the oldest surviving film studio in the Philippines, reached out to me about adapting my novel to film. Talks continued sporadically over the years, but this past June they sealed the deal with a contract for the Filipino film version of my novel.  I give credit to the indefatigable producer/talent manager Girlie Rodis  for keeping the negotiations going and seeing them to fruition.

The Monday  after Thanksgiving, a lovely script written by the award-winning screenwriter Rody Vera  arrived via email, so fresh that a tiny typo was left on the title page.  I read it in under 24 hours loved it and am  now in conversation with Rody, Girlie  and Director Loy Arcenas and Girlie.  The next step will be a table reading of this first draft by professional actors, to see how the dialogue works. I’m hoping they’ll let me listen in on the reading via Skype.

Loy Arcenas and Girlie Rodis where the director/producer team behind the critically acclaimed musical film, Ang Larawan (The Portrait)  based on National Artist Nick Joaquin’s play Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. I have no doubt they will do a wonderful job adapting my novel to film.

The film is scheduled for location shooting in Manila and San Francisco in April  and May next year.  If all goes well, they hope to release it at  2019 Metro Manila Film Festival.   You can bet I’ll be flying up to Oakland to watch the filming in the Bay Area and I’m looking forward to attending the premiere next Christmas!

Check back here for news on who’ll be starring in The Mango Bride film!


See who’s Speaking at Centering the Margins: Conversations with Writers of Color


Happy to share the speakers roster for Centering the Margins: Conversations with Writers of Color. March 1-3 2019 in at the San Diego Central Library and UC San Diego! Read on to  see who’ll be there:


Plenary Speaker : Lee Ann Kim

Lee Ann founded the San Diego Asian American Film Festival in 2000.  The former  KGTV news anchor   served as Executive Director of the San Diego Asian Film Foundation and its nonprofit partner, the Pacific Arts  Movement (Pac-Arts) until she retired from the nonprofit in April 2016.


Moderator: Cristina Rivera Garza, Ph.D.

Cristina is an author, translator, critic and distinguished professor of Hispanic Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Houston.  Her publications include: The Iliac Crest, trans. by Sarah Booker (The Feminist Press, 2017); The Taiga Syndrome, trans. by Suzanne Jill Levine with Aviva Kana (Dorothy Project, 2018); Había mucha neblina o humo o no sé qué (Random House, 2016). She received the Roger Caillois Award for Latin American Literature (Paris, 2013); the Anna Seghers (Berlin, 2005); and is the only author to have  twice won the International Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, in 2001 for her novels Nadie me verá llorar  (No One Will See Me Cry ) and in 2009 for La muerte me da.


Ari Honarvar is the author of the oracle card set and book, Rumi’s Gift and the founder of Rumi With A View, dedicated to building music and poetry bridges across war-torn borders. Her writing has been featured on Teen Vogue, The Guardian, Vice, Huffington Post and Elephant Journal. She currently facilitates a refugee women’s drum circle in El Cajon, CA, home to the largest population of Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the U.S.

Donna Miscolta’s story collection Hola and Goodbye  (Carolina Wren Press, 2016) won the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman, an Independent Publishers award for Best Regional Fiction, and an International Latino Book Award for Best Latino Focused Fiction. Other work includes the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011) and stories and essays most recently in The Fourth RiverCascadia MagazineMoss, and Seattle Review of Books.

Hope Wabuke is the author of the chapbooks The Leaving and Movement No.1: Trains. A contributing editor for The Root, her work has also been published in The Guardian, Guernica, The North American Review, Ms. Magazine online and others. She is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a founding board member of the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction.

Karen Llagas is a recipient of a Hedgebrook residency, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and Filamore Tabios, Sr. Memorial Poetry Prize. Meritage Press published her first collection of poetry, Archipelago Dust, in 2010. She has an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers,  lectures at UC Berkeley and works as a freelance translator.


Moderator:  Marivi Soliven

Marivi’s debut novel The Mango Bride (Penguin, 2013) won the 2011 Carlos Palanca Memorial Award, the Philippine counterpart of the Pulitzer Prize.  The novel has been translated into Spanish and Filipino, and the movie adaptation is in process. Stories and essays from 16 earlier books have appeared in anthologies in Manila and the United States.  When not writing or  organizing literary events, she works as a telephonic Tagalog interpreter.


Huda Al-Marashi is the author of the memoir First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story, set for release in November, 2018. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the LA Times, Al Jazeera, VIDA Review, Refinery 29, the Rumpus, and The Offing.

Irene Suico Soriano is the author of Primates from an Archipelago (Rabbit Fool Press, 2017) and founded the reading series Wrestling Tigers: Asian Pacific American Writers Speak at the Japanese American National Museum which she curated from 1994-2000The Los Angeles Times  noted her  curatorial work in the NEA funded World Beyond Poetry Festival, which featured over 100+ poets from the diverse communities of Los Angeles. Her poetry has appeared in the Los Angeles Times,  Solidarity Journal, and Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry (Rattapallax Press), and others.

Kat Tanaka Okopnik is a writer and editor, currently hosting public discussions of social justice, geek culture, food, and parenting on her Facebook page. She can also be found at and on most social media platforms as @ktokopnik.

Her ongoing major project is the Dictionary of Social Justice.

Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar® Award-winning author of the Mas Arai series and Officer Ellie Rush mysteries. She was a reporter and editor of The Rafu Shimpo at the height of the redress and reparations movement for Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes during World War II. An active consultant on historic exhibitions and TV programs, she also writes nonfiction books, middle-grade fiction and noir short stories.


Moderator: Namratta Poddar, Ph.D.

Namrata writes fiction, nonfiction, and serves as Interviews Editor for Kweli where she curates a series titled “Race, Power, and Storytelling.” Her work has appeared in Longreads, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, Transition, VIDA Review & elsewhere.

Her debut collection of stories Ladies Special, Homebound was a finalist for Feminist Press’s 2018 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize and is forthcoming from Speaking Tiger.  She holds a Ph.D. in French Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, an MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars, and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Transnational Cultures from UCLA. Website:


Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende’s is a Zimbabwean writer whose work has appeared in  the anthology Where to Now (AmaBooks, 2011), on Storytime online literary journal, and in the annual short story Anthology, African Roar, and Guernica. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Muse for Women, 2013 and African Drum (Diaspora Publishers, 2013). She was a Hedgebrook Writer in Residence in 2014.

Jason Magabo Perez, Ph.D. is the author of Phenomenology of Superhero (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016) and This is for the mostless (WordTech Editions, 2017). Recipient of an NEA Challenge America Grant, Perez has performed at the National Asian American Theatre Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,La Jolla Playhouse and others. Jason holds an M.F.A. in Writing & Consciousness from New College of California and a dual Ph.D. in Communication & Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego. He is an Assistant Professor of English/Creative Writing at CSU San Bernardino.

Madhushree Ghosh is a Senior  Editor at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel.

Her work has appeared or a finalist in The New York Times, Panorama Journal (Pushcart-nominated), Hippocampus, Zoetrope, Unearth Women, Catapult, The Rumpus, Glimmer Train, The Chicago Quarterly Review, DAME, and others. An Oakley Hall scholar, Madhushree works in cancer diagnostics and speaks frequently on”Women in Science” panels  worldwide. She’s currently working on a nonfiction book, “Hatke”, on outlier women.

Noelle Q. de Jesus’s first short story collection, BLOOD Collected Stories, launched at the 2015 Singapore Writers Festival, won the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award for the Short Story category. Her work has appeared in anthologies and literary journals in Southeast Asia and in Puerto del Sol, Mud Season Review  with work forthcoming in Witness. She has an MFA in Fiction from Bowling Green State University


Moderator: Brandon Som, Ph.D.

Brandon is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at UC San Diego and author of The Tribute Horse, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and the chapbook Babel’s Moon, winner of the Snowbound Prize. He was the Anne Newman Sutton Weeks Poet-in-Residence at Westminster College, and was awarded fellowships at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and Civitella Ranieri. He holds a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California, and an M.F.A. in Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh.


Jen Soriano is a Filipinx-American writer whose work blurs the boundaries between nonfiction, poetry and speculative fiction. Her lyric essay “A Brief History of her Pain” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and her essays have appeared in Waxwing, Pleiades, TAYO Literary Magazine and others. She is also the hopeful published-author-to-be of Making the Tongue Dry, an essay chapbook that was a finalist for the 2018 Newfound Prose Prize. Jen holds an MFA  in nonfiction and fiction from  the Rainier Writing Workship, and lives Seattle, WA with her two favorite boys in the world.

JS Lee authored the novels, Keurium (Pent-up Press, 2018), An Ode to the Humans Who’ve Loved and Left Me (2015); and literary non-fiction, It Wasn’t Love (2014).  She wrote and illustrated the children’s books, For All the Lives I’ve Loved and Lived (2015), and For All the Friends I’ve Found (2016). Navigating the nuance of race, adoption, identity, and trauma, her work aims to provoke understanding of the oft overlooked. She was adopted to New England from Korea, and currently lives in the Bay Area of California.

Katherine Agard is an interdisciplinary artist and writer from Trinidad and Tobago. She holds an  MFA in Writing from UC San Diego and has received fellowships from Callaloo, Kimbilio, VONA and Lambda Literary. Her writing has most recently appeared in Yes Femmes, Anmly and the Black Warrior Review.

Miranda Tsang is a writer multiethnic poet, writer, and educator from San Francisco living in Los Angeles. A graduate of the UC Riverside MFA program, Tsang has received scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and Kearny Street Workshop. Her writing is published in New Life QuarterlyLumen, and The Offing. She currently oversees programming at writing center 826LA in Echo Park.


Moderator: Zeinabu Davis, Ph.D.

Professor Davis is an award-winning director of such films as Compensation (Gordon Parks Directing Award) and Spirits of Rebellion (Best Documentary Feature Film, San Diego Film Awards, 2017)  Her vision is passionately focused on the depiction of African American women’s  hopes, dreams, past and future. Her interests include altering and diversifying the terrain of mass media, film history, world cinema and folklore. She frequently writes and lectures on African and African American cinema.


Jennifer Baker  is a publishing professional, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor to Electric Literature. In 2017, she was awarded a NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship & Queens Council on the Arts New Work Grant for Nonfiction Literature. Jennifer is editor of the short story anthology Everyday People: The Color of Life (Atria Books, 2018) Her writing has appeared in, LitHub, and Bustle among other online publications. Her website is

Thelma Virata de Castro is a Filipino American playwright. She is the founder of San Diego Playwrights and a Teaching Artist and Community Programs Coordinator for Playwrights Project. Her project, “The Fire in Me: An Exploration of Domestic Violence in San Diego’s Filipino American Community”, won a The San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Grant with Asian Story Theater and a California Humanities grant with Access Inc. For more information and performance dates, visit

Troy Espera is the executive producer for News at ABS-CBN International’s The Filipino Channel (TFC) in Daly City, CA. His work has won two Emmy Awards, the National Journalism Award for Broadcast from the Asian American Journalists Association, multiple Telly Awards, and a Vision Award nomination from the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC).  In 2018 Troy was selected to participate in the Maynard 200 National Fellowship Program at the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Sarika Mehta hosts and produces  Intersections Radio which also airs locally on KBOO Community Radio and XRAY.FM. She is also one of the producers for the Disability Visibility Project podcast hosted by Alice Wong. Previously, worked with APA Compass collective and I used to anchor the Evening News on KBOO 90.7 FM. In 2016, I was a New Voices Scholar with the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR). Her work focuses on issues concerning race, disability, and intersectionality.


Moderator: Claire Light

Claire is a Bay Area writer, cofounder of Hyphen Magazine and cultural worker  with over two decades of experience in nonprofit administration, focusing on  arts in the Asian American community. Her fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, Hyphen, Farthing, and The Encyclopedia Project, among others. A short collection of her stories, Slightly Behind and to the Left, was published by Aqueduct Press in 2009. She just completed an urban fantasy novel based on the myth of the Monkey King.

Hiram Sims is a poet, publisher, and professor of Creative Writing, teaching at the Los Angeles Film School. He is also the founder of the Urban Poets Society and the  Community Literature Initiative, a publishing program for Los Angeles writers who want to publish books here at USC. He has published three collections of poetry, and one amazing textbook. 

Neelanjana Banerjee teaches writing at the Asian American Studies Department of UCLA and is Managing Editor of Kaya Press. Her writing has appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, The Rumpus, World Literature Today, The Literary Review, Teen Vogue, Fiction Writers review and many others. She has had residencies at Hedgebrook and the Blue Mountain Center, and received scholarships to attend the David Henry Hwang Writers Institute and the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop.

Stefanie Sanchez von Borstel is co-founder of Full Circle Literary, with more than 20 years of experience in trade book publishing. Prior to becoming a literary agent, she worked in editorial, publicity and trade marketing with Penguin and Harcourt Children’s Books.  Stefanie represents children’s books from toddler to teen, and select adult nonfiction.


Charmaine is a Filipina jazz singer based in Los Angeles, best known for blending traditional Filipino folk songs and instruments with American jazz and blues in a newly developed musical genre called “Jazzipino.”  Charmaine will perform several songs as the opening act to Open Mic Night on Friday, March 1, 2019.

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