Back to school

After the final talk with the department head, I walked out with my head still spinning.

“So… did I get the job?” I turned to the program manager sheepishly.

“YES. YES! Do you know how relieved I am? The lack of an ideal candidate (who knows the Hollywood structure and is also fluent with the Chinese culture) had been the bane of my existence of the better part of this year.”

We haven’t yet signed the agreement, but I think it’s now safe to say that I landed the gig. The whole process is exactly like how I teach my students’ about the hero’s journey

A victory is fraud unless it’s earned. 

I earned it this time, for real. A LONG SIGH. 

In the drizzle, I lugged my suitcase and headed for the dorm they arranged for me. There I found my new roommate. The girl didn’t know there’d be someone else coming for the summer. After a moment of awkwardness, we started chatting, coordinating and cleaning. What would be a better way to start to know each other by getting manicure together. After a quick dinner, she headed back to the dorm and I headed down to the gym. My duvet is still en route to the campus. I woke up a couple of times while I was asleep, having to wrap myself in warmer clothes to battle against the night chill. 

My mushy thoughts wandered back to the time when I arrived at my college dorm with my family, meeting my three other roommates who secretly thought I was adopted because I spoke mandarin back to my family’s Shanghai dialect. And the time I arrived in Liverpool as an exchange student, shivering on my first night, sleeping on the carpet floor because the bed went missing. 

After only snoozing the alarm for once, I forced myself up. I don’t want to piss of my still asleep roommate at 5:45. Eating my breakfast in the lounge, a voice whispered in my ears: “Grow where you’re planted.”  So I am. 

Yours truly,

Lottery of birth

It usually means you were born into the Kadashians, the Gates, the Ellisons, the Bransons.

I realized that I won that lottery of birth too.

My parents let me pursue creative writing when neither of them is in this trade while both understand what a long shot this is.

“I just want you to keep a healty state of mind while you are at it. Don’t compare yourself to others, like why someone else got the visa but you didn’t; or someone else is making more money.  Just do your thing if that brings you joy.”

My dad revealed to me this morning while we were sipping coffee. I nodded.

Later in the day, he asked: “When are you going to sort out your tourist visa?”

“Maybe soon. I don’t know yet.”

“Get it done so you can fly back to LA whenever you want to. Shanghai winter is too brutal. Spend the winter there and write.”

“What about the Chinese New Year gatherings?”

“I already told your grandpa that you would be travelling.”


“Don’t worry about it. Go.” My mum chimed in.

You can’t choose your parents, but if you have parents who are willing to let go and trust your choice even though it sounds crazy? Isn’t it the definition of jackpot?

I confess that I still want to make a lot of money. Because I want to show them the world as I see it.


Yours truly,

PS. I knocked out the second draft of the short film and the assignment for a company. I feel pretty good. Tomorrow, I will start the feature rewrite after I ship this weeks’ podcast.



A million things

To do before my departure on October 14.

Today is September 21. Already?!

People start to text me for the final meet-ups.

“We haven’t seen each other for ages” is usually the icebreaker line, the way-in for the lost connection.

“Yes, indeed.” I took the bait.

“Let’s meet for [coffee / lunch / dinner, depends on the other side’s perception of our relationship.]”

“Sure.” I’d say.

Sometimes I wonder if people would ever meet if they don’t make an effort and meet on a regular basis until something’s up. For instance, the person is leaving, like me.

Usually people just drift apart. Life happens. [Translation: You’re not my priority. Right now.]

I look at my schedule next week. The most interesting one is this: I have a dinner with my former company.

What shall I wear? What shall I say?

I’ve decided that I’m grateful for all the attention I’m showered.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who picks up the tab. Or how much is the tab. But the person makes the effort and shows up.

Come to think of it, doesn’t everyone, at any given moment, have a million of things to do, to worry?

Here is the script I’ll stick to:

Thank you for your time.

And I mean it.


Yours truly,

Why always me

At 1:45 PM, September 15, 2018, I walked out of my studio apartment for one last time, call it mine for one last time.


In front of my landlord’s premium Range Rover, he handed me the pen and the paper. I signed. He tore the check and gave it to me.

The amount was exactly what we had agreed upon, including the six-piece furniture which I sold to him at a great price, including the move-out incentive, including the full security deposit.

Wait, can it be true? It felt surreal.

Is the check real? Will it bounce back?

I was breathless. I was a woman on a mission. I held on to the check, scooted to the bank, deposited it, double-checked that it landed into my account.

Then I texted my friend who helped me negotiated the amount.

“I got the check. It’s done. It’s finally done.”

Like a quarterback, I sandwiched my bedsheet that I forgot to remove earlier with me towards my friends’ apartment.

The husband had already loaded and unloaded the rest of my junk into their lovely apartment, the place I would stay for the next month… He slipped off the staircase earlier when we were loading. And yet, all he needed from me was “Are you okay?”

Who said Americans sue people to death?

The lovely couple charged me nothing for the month accommodation for this prime location.

The husband is making us dinner now.

The wife is helping me with some eBay shit I’m selling.

Angels, after Angels in this City of Angels.

I’m warming towards this city I’ve begrudged for the last three years. Why now, when I’m leaving.

When I get beaten the shit out by life, I scream, “Why (the fuck) always me?”

When I get lucky, I never ask the same question… until now.

Yeah, why always me?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll join the Michelin Star Chef into their open kitchen and observe “how sausages are made.”


Yours truly,

Great view from the balcony on Wilshire Blvd
Great view from the balcony on Wilshire Blvd

The Angel

What does an Angel sound like?

“I just got the van. Now I have a lunch meeting downtown. But I will be at your place by 3. Fill out those forms. I know they’re ridiculous. ”

“All set? I’m heading your way sooner than I thought. I think I will be at your place by 2:30.”

“You take those smaller boxes. I’ll tackle the larger ones.”

“You get into the van and sort the boxes in place. Leave some room for more.”

“Shit. No trolley. Hmm. Here, you talk to the postman. I will get the stuff inside.”

“Okay! Fifteen boxes in total here. All set yes?”

“I can’t do dinner tonight. I gotta return the van now. Gotta beat the traffic and get it back by 6.”

“That’s what friends do. A ‘thank you’ is enough.”

“Look, I’ve spent most of my week this week with you wrapping and packing. I need to go back and work on my own stuff before my trip to New York next Tuesday.”

60 hours. Fifteen boxes. 425 lbs.

He rented the van. Never asked me to expense it.

Just like so many other deeds he has aided me.

I wanted to take him to dinner

The least I can do.

But he backed out the van and left.

And yet, the first thing I said to my parents tonight was:

I’m so tired.

I am.

Imagine what I could have done without the Angel.

I think I might be in hell by now, slaving away those boxes…


Yours truly,

A Beautiful Day in LA

Okay, I’ve been bitch and moan these days.

Having lived in California for half a year now, I have higher standard for the weather. Last few days were windy, cloudy and foggy. Then it rained overnight yesterday. Great.

When I got up this morning, the sun was dazzling.

I decided not to stay inside all day. I went to the nearest Mc’Donald’s for breakfast and enjoyed the perks of living in California.

Cue the background music: California Dreamin’.

Getting back in touch with nature makes me feel content.
I feel something that I thought was dead inside is growing again.
I also feel I can be more tolerant towards the people who are just different.
I feel my consciousness expanding.

I will walk more often as this hectic quarter comes to an end.

Thank you, California.


Much love from me,
Whiny Writer

Writing Comedy and etc.

I couldn’t sleep. 
I slept too much. 
I fell asleep too easily. 
I was officially immune to coffee.
My jaw hurt waking up from a night of incessent teeth-grinding.
My head was at the verge of explosion while asleep. 
I stress ate. 
I did everything to avoid The Very Task I was supposed to do.


Picture Credit:

I still haven’t finished the first draft yet. Yes, I promised myself to do so weeks ago. But every week before the class, I had to go back to the pages and polish until it was presentable. The pressure. The excuse…

My record was horrendous. One time I brought ten pages, half were killed on the spot. (*Cause: Activity vs. Event; Events move the story forward.) Another time — six weeks into the quarter, my structure was suffering, which made it irrelevant to discuss the pages. (*Cause: The story was about a competition, but the rules were vague.) It sank without a trace.

Last week, the teacher stayed late to critique my work while most of the classmates left. She offered some amazing directions. I wanted to make her proud so badly. But when I was home, I panicked.

Can I really pull it off?

Because I chose comedy, no laugh meant no go. But one shouldn’t do his piece just for the sake of jokes. I kept reminding myself. At the library the next day, a new character came to me and hit me hard. He, was a Scot.

At the reading yesterday, I chose two scenes around my new Scot character — the beginning of Act II A (Page 30) and the Mid Point (Page 60). Not having heard my characters speak for weeks made me antsy.

When it came to an end, I realized that I got more than a few laughs. The forever nurturing instructor said, “These are good pages.” I hadn’t heard that comment on me after the second week, now it was Week 8. “You are writing a comedy of the Chinese girls traveling to England and we as the Americans are the audience. Culture and comedy don’t normally blend. But your story and the jokes came through.”

I was emotional. I could have cried. But I knew my beloved instructor wouldn’t like it. “Why haven’t you cried yet?” is her “How do you do?” I fought the tears to the back of my head. Then I confessed, “It is hard.” She nodded and confirmed, “No doubt about it.”

I could live on those compliments eating nothing else for days. No wonder writers without constant validation tend to go loco.

Another classmate was fighting against a seemingly obvious notion. The instructor paused the clock and took time with her. She even chided the impatient classmates who tried to be smartasses.

I was really touched. That to me is what a great Teacher/Shifu/Sensei is. I texted her after the class to thank her again, knowing that under her tutelage, we were in a safe domain being insecure writers — to be who we are, and unapologetically.

Yeah, I am a lucky bastard. I know it now. And I know it better.