SELECTED ESSAYS

Scientific Method - New York Times Magazine "Lives" Column

The Betty Crocker from my mother’s cookbook is the quintessential all-American homemaker. But in 1968, my mother was neither American nor a homemaker. She was 22 and had just left Hong Kong for West Lafayette, Ind., where my father was starting a Ph.D. program at Purdue.

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On Leaving Space for the Reader - Glimmer Train Bulletin

In almost every workshop, I have a student who sees ambiguity as a very bad thing, an authorial cop-out. This student wants every loose end tied up and every question definitively answered—possibly in a flash-forward epilogue that tells you exactly where everyone ends up and what everything means, summing up the story as neatly as the conclusion of a five-paragraph essay. I think this reaction is often a response not to ambiguity per se, but to ambiguity done badly.

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Writing the (Quiet) Omniscient Narrator - Glimmer Train Bulletin

This novel needed someone to tell the story purposefully, framing it for the reader, weaving these different stories—which took place over more than a decade—into one. In short, what this novel needed was (gulp) an omniscient narrator.

The idea made me incredibly uncomfortable. To me, omniscient narrator called to mind the Dickens model: a Big Booming Voice who bossed the characters around, a know-it-all who judged everything. Someone very unlike me. 

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Captioning Emily - Kenyon Review Online

What I find is that I’m not the only one looking for meaning in Emily’s death. People who knew her even less well than I did—people who never met her—plug the hole of her death with their opinions. 

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Stranger Than Fact: Why We Need Fiction In a World of Memoirs - Fiction Writers Review

Unlike the memoirist, who promises to tell the truth, the fiction writer says upfront, “I am going to tell you a lie, but at the end you will feel that it is true.” He or she is a kind of magician who makes sure you know that the flames are only an illusion before letting you burn your fingers in them.

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ON TWITTER

Does Twitter count as writing? I say yes, yes, a hundred and forty characters yes. For miscellaneous musings, check my Twitter feed (@pronounced_ing):