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I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost!

One of the lanterns at the Keelung Hungry Ghost Festival.

This month in Taiwan is Ghost Month. Like an extended Halloween or Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Ghost Month is the 7th month of the lunar calendar. Apparently during this time, the gates of the underworld fly open and the ghosts are unleashed into the land of the living.

Sound morbid or spooky? Luckily in Taiwan, Ghost Month is quite raucous, loud, full of bonfires, parties in front of temples, festivals, and sacrificial offerings of food, paper money, and treats for one’s ancestors– who are just on an extended visit. Like a summer holiday with the in-laws, if you will. Continue reading

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13 Ways of Looking at a Coffeepot: An Expat Fable

Brilliant photo that captures my inner state by Lotzman Katzman, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Let’s face it: everyone has an opinion on the best way to make coffee. Some are downright elitist about the obvious supremacy of their method, others are looking to trade up in the world of home brewed caffeine. Others, like myself, shoot for an optimal blend, if you will, of their priorities: for me, it’s convenience, consistency, and flavor. So when I found my perfect French press coffee maker about 2.5 years ago, it stuck. And as this summer has been all about daily routines– writing routines; research at libraries, archives and doing interviews; waking up before 11am–the coffee routine has settled into a flow of shared French-pressing with my coffee-drinking roommate.

Until the day. The Coffee. Stopped. Continue reading

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Pop Goes My Heart: Taiwanese Songs for Every Occasion

Click here to check out more of Crowd Lu (盧廣仲, Lu Guang-Zhong)'s songs!

So everyone I know is, has, is about to, or is starting to think about leaving Taiwan. WHY is expat life sometimes like living in a freaking train station?!?!  Okay, rant over. It’s just I’ve been doing a lot of saying goodbye to lovely people who I adore, for say, the last few weeks (and also, 2-6 months), and sometimes, words are just not enough.

Sometimes, you need a good pop song.* Continue reading

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On the Writing Life: Chip Cheek, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, and Grub Street

This is how my writing desk is.... in my head. Photo by EvilErin, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

This week has turned into a week of writing about writing; how meta. Writing spaces, writing discipline, reactions to when writing gets read, reactions to when I’m bored with the sound of my own voice and it’s late at night and instead of analyzing my next stack of research I start reading funny blogs on the interwebs….

So now, to come full circle, here are some thoughts on the thoughts of some of my favorite Boston-based emerging writers, Chip Cheek and Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Chip is primarily a fiction writer, and Alexandria, nonfiction, and they were at times classmates, friends, and mentors of mine at Emerson College when I was doing my MFA in creative nonfiction writing.  Both of them published quite incisive articles recently on the Grub Street Blog, so here are excerpts and links, to share their thoughts on getting writing done, and prioritizing one’s choices when you’ve chosen to be a writer: Continue reading

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It’s Hard to Stay Productive! Shout out to NailsBails

This is my new favorite blog this week, like SERIOUSLY:

http://nailsbails.com/

Each pithy post has an even spiffier accompanying cartoon, and this one is called, "One Hundred Hours of Solitude," and it's all about working from home, something I can relate to (and the reason I prefer to run off to Fantasy Treehouses to write). Also, today's is called "The Unbearable Lightness of Sleeping." <3. SWOON.

 

Dear Mr. NB, can we please collaborate on a post about writing/not working/going crazy? Maybe call it, “A Clockwork Orangutan?” Call me! I’m a big fan.

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A Writer’s Rx: Developing a Writing Practice

Photo by lowjumpingfrog, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license. Rule number one of the timed exercise (freewrite): Don't let your hand stop moving!

If you want to write, I recommend that you first go buy a copy of Natalie Goldberg‘s book Writing Down the Bones. Just go to your local bookshop and have a look at the first few chapters (chapters are typically 1-2 pages long). If you are intrigued, pick it up, along with an empty notebook and a pen. Go home, and set a timer for ten minutes, and do some writing exercises. It will free your soul.*

I won’t belabor this story, but the first time I read Writing Down the Bones, it was the fall semester of my freshman year of college; I was 18 years old and it changed my life. Our freshman composition teacher had assigned it, along with a book of writing mechanics (punctuation, MLA citation rules, and so forth). So when I settled down to read a few chapters of Goldberg’s book, I had no idea what was about to happen. Continue reading

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Getting “Freshly Pressed”: Reflections on Almost a Year of Blogging

This weekend, Girl Meets Formosa was Freshly Pressed. Now I’m steeped in juicy pulp. (Just kidding. I know, that was terrible.)

To explain “Freshly Pressed”: WordPress.com is the location and also the blogging software that I use to host this humble site. Word Press is a very popular blog interface, and needless to say, gets lots of traffic on its homepage. Each weekday, the content editors at Word Press choose 10 posts to feature in a special section on the wordpress.com homepage called “Freshly Pressed” (with a feed to which you can subscribe). This Friday, Girl Meets Formosa was featured in that section for my post “The Fantasy Treehouse.” Thus, my site traffic has increased by an embarrassingly large number of page views in the past two days.

So, Thank You, Word Press!  (Click here to learn more about how blogs are chosen for Freshly Pressed each weekday). And many thanks to you, dear readers, who have supported this blog from its beginning almost a year ago, and have followed my adventures on it!

And to my new readers and subscribers, WELCOME! Continue reading

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The Fantasy Treehouse: Favorite Writing Spaces

Xinbeitou in all of its environmentally sustainable architecture glory, from Beitou Park.

So as I may or may not have mentioned, I have spent the month of July WRITING EVERY DAY…. just about. My initial goal was to write six days a week, and then take a break on either Saturday or Sunday, but then I started devoting my days off to blogging, and/or research interviews, etc, and then I found myself working every day and taking the occasional Wednesday-afternoon burnout break after like two weeks straight. In total in July so far, I have sat down for extended writing time on 24 out of 28 days. Written documentation of this is 2 full notebooks, and 2 more notebooks just begun.

Phew. Continue reading

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Finding Silai: A Search Through History

The view of Silai from Yanping Historic Street, a road that runs through the middle of town and showcases preserved and reconstructed traditional Taiwanese architecture.

In May, I went back to my grandfather Thomas Liao’s hometown of Silai, to meet people, conduct oral history interviews, and look for documents about Thomas’s life, family, and political career.

This was my second trip– the first was a somewhat ill-advised round trip scooter ride from Chiayi City that I did in one day and took 5+ hours. But this time, I had made contact with a very kind host, Stella Chen, who introduced me to everyone she knew in the greater Silai area (between Taichung and Chiayi), and everyone I met introduced me to everyone THEY knew, who might know something about the Liao family, or remember a funny anecdote, share a photo, or take me walking around a historical part of the town.

To say the least: it was intense.

Continue reading

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Silai Musical Interlude

To introduce a series of posts about visiting my grandfather’s hometown of Silai (in Mandarin Siluo, Xiluo, 西螺), here’s a sweet song and video slide show, made by the town’s historical society!! It’s called the Luoyang Culture and Education Foundation, or: 螺陽文教基金會.

So I hope you’ll give it a watch if you want to see how the town looks now– in Silai itself, there are some beautiful historically preserved old buildings, collections of old photographs and books at the historical society, and a traditional soy sauce museum and factory. Continue reading

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