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Mind Map

Shanghai Noir

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle: publication date 01.04.2017

Great news. I've been invited to join the teaching staff of a local writers' workshop. It's an incredible honor to be asked and I think it'll be a lot of fun, too. But first I have to complete my teacher training. And so, for the past few weeks, I've been auditing writing workshops.

One class has already inspired me to write about growing up in East LA. Technically speaking, Montebello falls just outside this unincorporated area of Los Angeles but more than close enough to get the idea. PBS says that East LA has the single largest Chicano/Mexicano population in the country and the largest Hispanic community in the United States. It's home to the Zoot Suiters, Cheech and Chong and gangs like White Fence and Maravilla. When I was a kid, my dream was to become a chola.

The inspiration for this week's blog comes from another class I audited. We were talking about my creative process, which the teacher very kindly described as "organic". Chaotic would have worked, too. But there is, every now and again, method to my madness. For example, I have long been obsessed with The Lord of the Rings: first the book, then the movies and finally the making of. The latter includes a virtual map that Peter Jackson and his crew made, pairing the real life shooting locations in New Zealand with their parallels in Middle Earth. Et voila, this week's blog: Mind Map. Part mood board, navigational aid and a place to store junk, my mind map is the way into my fictional Shanghai.

But not everything lends itself to being tacked onto particle board. Memories, for example, can be hard to hold. All the more reason for me to be thankful for the response I got to an interview in my high school magazine. An alumna wrote to me to share her memories of daydreaming backstage at the theater of Ramona Convent.

I see her sitting cross-legged on the warped wooden planks. She leans against the heavy velvet curtains with her eyes closed. Maybe she's thinking about the road not taken or trying to guess at the paths still to be found. Who needs a map if you can still dream?

Day of the Dead
Laogai
Shanghai Noir
Peace Court
Ghost Month

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