If I had a newsletter, it would look like this

I have been waking up and feeling in love and thought the feeling was strange because I am not in love in the romantic, partnership sense. Maybe it is a premonition that love is incoming or maybe I am in love in the cosmic sense.

Death and dying can be an opening. You have the potential to touch into your relationship with your own mortality in a profound, perhaps visceral, and potentially transformative way. In winter, my grandmother and my father died within in two weeks of each other and now, in spring, I wake up feeling in love. Feeling in love could be a note of gratitude for this aliveness.

CONTENTS:
  New Writing
  New Readings
  Upcoming Appearances
  Miscellaneous

NEW WRITING: Fall

The rocks in the water shine like silver, and in the middle of the creek, a tree glows yellow. I balance on the rocks until I am standing beside the tree. I hold my breath and reach out my hand. My fingers touch a large yellow leaf and I believe that I am touching my father’s death.

I wrote a haunting essay about nature and grief that Amy Fusselman published on her online literary magazine. You can read it here: Fall by Zoe Ruiz

Fall is part of a series focused on the seasons and written in a prose poem style. I will write the last of this seasonal series soon.  If you are so inclined, you can read Spring and Summer

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Image by Yumi Sakugawa, Poster design by Winona Leon

NEW READINGS: April and May

April 22, 2016
I am kicking of the fourth year of producing Readings by throwing a birthday benefit for Dirty Laundry Lit, an amazing LA-based series. 

Natashia said that I am generous because I am organizing an event for her reading series on my birthday, but I do not experience myself as being generous. My line of thinking is simple: Why not use the day I was born for something that betters my community, especially when my community makes my life better. 

It is going to be a fun night. Please come and support a great cause.

May 26, 2016
I will promote May’s reading in late April but SAVE THIS DATE because the line-up is amazing. The entire night will be fun and sexy. I promise you and I do not make promise I cannot keep.

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UPCOMING APPEARANCES

Shipwreck in LA: Wednesday March 30
Shipwreck is a monthly show that takes place in San Francisco but it is going to be in LA for AWP. So I am going to write erotic Sherlock fan fiction. What is not to like about sexy Sherlock stories? You can buy tickets here.

AWP: Phoneme/Unnamed Booth, March 31-April 2
I will be at the Phoneme Media booth during the book fair. Stop by and say hi and I will tell you about this nonprofit indie press based in Los Angeles. I will also be at Unnamed’s offsite event: Free Drinks & No Readings.

17 Television & Future Tense Books Present: DOWN N SOUND L.A.
I will read new work at Redwood Bar in downtown LA with Kevin Sampsell, Meredith Alling, Justin Maurer, and Juliet Escoria. More info here.

All Lit Up: Thursday April 7
I will read more new material at this reading series that takes place at Chevalier’s Bookstore. More information on the series and entire line-up here.

MISCELLANEOUS

-Viet Thanh Nguyen hired me to edit Nothing Ever Dies, which comes out from Harvard University Press this April.

-I am the publicity editor for Phoneme Media and publicist for Writ Large Press. I am also looking for more publishing work and editing gigs. #LitHustle

-I plan to have the first draft of my first book by April 23, 2017. I will be thirty-three years old.

-My new zines are for sale at Skylight Books and The Pop-Hop. You can send me $15 using square cash and I will mail them to you. I made them for LA Zine Fest. Read this LitHub article about the fest.

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My zines. Printed by ZOCHI, designed by Winona Leon

Second Half of 2015

My relationship with words is a love story and I am falling in love again and again always. In the second half of 2015, I fell in love again with editing and readings. I thought of each book as a gift. I thought of purpose. I thought of Tove Jansson’s book plates, her motto: Labora et amare. Love and Work. I imagined these two works inked in my skin, I think of them as a personal manifesto. In 2016, the words I might repeat like a mantra are Love and Work and Joy.

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I edited my first book-length manuscript! It was a fulfilling experience and I once again realized just how much I love to edit.

It was truly an honor to work with best-selling author and well-known scholar Viet Thanh Nguyen. I am thankful he gave me the opportunity to work with him.

The book is called Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War and comes out April 2016.

A bit more about this book:

Drawing from this war, Nguyen offers a lesson for all wars by calling on us to recognize not only our shared humanity but our ever-present inhumanity. This is the only path to reconciliation with our foes, and with ourselves. Without reconciliation, war’s truth will be impossible to remember, and war’s trauma impossible to forget.

EVENTS

Bluebird Reading Series

Jessica Ceballos asked me to participate in the final event of Bluebird Reading series, which celebrated Gabriel García Márquez. I wrote a short essay about Innocent Eréndira for the event and am currently editing it because I want to submit it to a place where I have never been published.

Here is an excerpt of it:

During that time, I read a book of stories by Márquez, on my own, titled Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories. I still have the copy of the book. For some reason, I cannot let go of this copy. I do not like to hang onto books usually. I try to get rid of them every so often. My father was a hoarder and he hoarded books. I do not think about the library or collection I could have one day. I think of what I do not want to become, what I do not want to inherit. Even though you do not get to choose what you inherit.

Cultural Weekly Live

This weekend, I am participating in a panel titled Gatekeeping vs Holding Space: Editing, Publishing & Curating as Social Justice Work. It is moderated by publisher and poet Chiwan Choi. You can RSVP on facebook here.

READINGS

I curated two readings this year. Here are the photos of the posters!

Yumi Sakugawa let me use images from her artwork and Adri Gonsalves designed the September poster and Winona Leon designed the October one. Erum Khan assisted with social media presence. Diana Arterian assisted with set up when I looked lost and awkward in front of the sound system. Jessica Ceballos lent me equipment.

All the readers were wonderful: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Natashia Deón, Karolina Waclawiak, J. Ryan Stradal, Jen Hofer, Douglas Kearney, Myriam Gurba, and Teka Lark-Fleming. Lisa Dusenbery hosted.  Literary LA showed up and attended. Colorado Wine Company let us use their space.

It really is special to create and organize these gatherings. I love putting the spotlight on writers I admire and feel grateful for people who help me make the event successful.

BOOK LAUNCHES

I also organized two book launches when I was working as a freelance publicist for Kaya Press. The first was Sam Chanse’s New York book launch for Lydia’s Funeral Video, which took place at WORD, one of my favorite bookstores in New York. I also organized a Los Angeles launch for Nicholas Wong’s Crevasse.

WRTING

Maybe the hardest thing I have written so far is what I am writing now. Which is my father’s eulogy. Maybe I will not actually read it aloud, maybe I will not finish it. But I will share the first part from the first draft:

From my father, I inherited my looks and my love of books. We do not know what gets passed down to us or to our children, we don’t know what will shape us, we do not know exactly how we inspire or harm one another. But books and stories shaped me. I have built my life on writing and reading and editing and publishing. Which is to say, I do not know who I would be if I did not love books, if I did not inherit this from him. And he inherited this from his father, who I am told, built only one thing in his life: a floor to ceiling bookcase.

 

These days, I think of the opening of Amy Fusselman’s The Pharmacist Mate:

I was a child once, with a dad. My dad is dead now. He died two weeks ago. I have never had anyone so close to me die. I am trying to pay attention to what it feels like.

I’m trying to pay attention to what it feels like.

I think, too, of this line in Joan Didion’s Where I Was From: 

“I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.”

***

I love you.

Zoë

SUMMER UPDATE

I’m sitting on the front patio, the setting sun shining on my face, almost directly in my eyes. I can hear the sound of sprinklers because still in a severe drought Californians want their flowers and plants and gardens alive, and I’m not sure I necessarily fault them for it.

Last summer I was a hermit who stayed inside her home on the hill and stared at the palm fronds in the still, dry heat. What was revealed during those summer months of retreat is, of course, between me and The Silence. This summer, I have been more social–going to parties and book launches and dates, and below is an update of my summer, specifically in terms of writing, reading, and editing.

Literary Events

I participated in the Summer Writing Project, which is an annual collaboration between Black Hill Press, JukePop, and 1888 that takes place in Orange. They have a series of summer panels, and I was invited to discuss the author’s role in marketing. I put on my freelancer hat and my publicity director hat and discussed the subject at hand with Julia Callahan of Rare Bird Lit and Justin Hargett of Kickflip Publicity. It took place in the bookstore The Bookman, which I recommend perusing if you are in Orange.

If you’d like to listen to the podcast of our discussion, click here.

Below is the “blooper” group shot or as Julia calls it “The Paparazzi” shot.

Note: This is a good example of how not to act if you are trying to market yourself as an author and someone wants to photograph you for future promotional reasons.

I teach by example. My method: Cautionary Tale.

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I also participated in two readings: Slouching Towards Los Angeles, a Joan Didion-centric reading, and Sumarr, a summer reading series that Diana Arterian curates. During the Joan Didion event, I read an excerpt of a non-fiction piece about Play It As It Lays, specifically on the heroine Maria Wyeth. I have so much to say about that book. So much. I got to say 8 minutes worth and also listen to many other readers speak about Didion, which I enjoyed because I love Didion. The reading took place in a private residence in Brentwood. There was a lawn and a pool and later, a rainbow and sunset.

During Diana’s Sumarr series, I read Spring for the first time in public and then listened to pieces by Margaret Rhee, Rachel Kaminer, and Jibade Khalil-Huffman, and music by the Lilacs. The Pop-Hop was a perfect venue for this Sunday summer afternoon event. Photos below and here as well.

Things I Did

-Visited New York for Kaya Press related reasons
-Traveled to San Francisco for writerly research
-Began freelance editing an academic manuscript on ethics during wartime
-Continued freelance editing an academic manuscript on Buddhism in Japanese Internment Camps
-Um.
-Drank whiskey with publisher/poet Chiwan Choi
-Etc.

Books I’ve Read  (So Far) This Summer

Upcoming

Quickly here are few upcoming lit things I’m doing this fall:

-Traveling to New York for the Brooklyn Book Fest
-Curating fall/winter READINGS
-Promoting forthcoming Kaya Press titles
-Writing and research for my personal projects

MAY UPDATE

SPRING

This study confuses me. I am not confused that trauma changes our biology. That seems obvious enough. What I do not understand is this: Why cherry blossoms?

I have a series on Ohio Edit titled “From Her Notebooks” and my most recent prose piece is called Spring, which you can read here. I’m always thankful for Ohio Edit as it is a warm home for my writing. It’s edited by the talented, lovely, and bright Amy Fusselman, and I encourage you to peruse their site and like them on facebook.

THE PAPER MAN BOOK LAUNCH

This weekend the book launch for Gallagher Lawson’s debut novel THE PAPER MAN took place at the Last Bookstore. During our Q&A, I asked him about the fairy tale-like world he created in this story and his alluring characters. In the novel, Michael, a man made of paper, leaves his hometown and decides to live in the city. Throughout the story, he meets characters who influence his actions and mark his body. One of these characters is Mischa, who has a hint of femme fatale and is arguably a sadist. Lawson said she is an artist and people are her medium and I realized that all the main characters are artists in their own right. The book is divided in chapters titled after main characters and the structure of the book grounds the surreal story, which allows the reader to easily accept the odd, delightful, and creepy aspects that make the book sparkle. There’s a lot to talk about in this book: identity, art, civil unrest, and more.


KAYA’S SUMMER FUNDRAISER

I’ll be in New York to attend Me, Myself & Kaya fundraising party. The night will be emceed by Ed Lin and the line-up will include filmmaker & artist Roddy Bogawa, playwright & theater artist Sam Chanse, actress Cindy Cheung, lyricist & librettist Robert Lee, and novelist & poet Thad Rutkowski. There will be drinks and snacks and this is hosted by Kaya Press and spoon+fork. Buy tickets here.

2015 Update: Kaya, AWP, and Other Things

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.53.04 PMKAYA PRESS: MEET THE STAFF

I am working as a publicity and events associate at Kaya Press, which is an LA-based independent press that is committed to publishing diverse stories and writers. Kaya is housed at the University of Southern California (USC) and comprised of a small staff that consists of publisher and editor Sunyoung Lee, managing editor Neela Banerjee, and board member Jean Ho.

That’s right: I work with a staff of women! In publishing! And women of color, no less. Which let me tell you: It is a refreshing difference as it is a crucial one.

In case you do not know much about Kaya, here is a bit about their staff:

Sunyoung Lee has been with Kaya Press for twenty years and not too long ago received her MFA at UC Irvine. In a recent interview, she mentioned that her job as an editor involves giving a shit and added, “That’s what I think should be our unofficial motto: We give a shit. We really do.” Sunyoung is a publisher and editor who is passionate and cares about the stories, books, and writers that Kaya publishes.

Managing editor Neela Banerjee is an editor at LA Review of Books, instructor at Writing Workshop LA, and a new mom! I have not worked all that much with Neela because she has been on maternity leave. Recently she has been back in the office and I look forward to getting to know her.

Board member Jean Ho works on all things development and was recently accepted into USC Creative Writing PhD program (Hooray!) and she was also accepted as a Kundiman fellow. I am interested in seeing how her craft and career unfolds.

Oh, and I also work with enthusiastic and literary minded USC undergraduate interns who are paid for their hard work!

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AWP: TABLE, PARTY, PANELS

I will be at AWP in Minneapolis and managing the Kaya table, which we will be sharing with LA-based publisher Writ Large Press. Last year, Chiwan Choi of Writ Large Press often visited the booth I was managing to give me whiskey and hugs, and this year we are sharing a table because sometimes life works out magically. Be sure to stop by! I will tell you about all things Kaya and will gladly accept beverages and hi-fives.

I will also be at Kaya, Kore Press, and Kundiman’s AWP offsite event Sexy Motherf***er, which is PRINCE themed! Have you seen the video for the Prince song Sexy Motherfucker? Watch it. You can thank me later.

In terms of AWP panels, I plan to attend three. Two are focused on trauma: Mining the Gap: Trauma, Memory, and Reimagined Pasts and Writing the Broken Body: A Reading. The other is focused on publicity: The Rise of the Independent Publicist.

OTHER THINGS: BOOKS, PAIN, TRAUMA

Other than working at Kaya, I am freelancing editing a book on Buddhism in Japanese Internment camps, which is taking longer than I anticipated. It is my first book I am editing.

I am reading Eduardo Galeano’s trilogy and currently on the second volume: Faces & Masks. I haven’t had a book break my heart like this book is breaking my heart. It is one of my top 10 books and I am taking my time with it. (Does that make me a masochist?) I am including an excerpt at the bottom of this post.

I am still managing chronic pain and fatigue but that seems to be getting better, albeit slowly. I would like to read more books on pain and the body, so if you have recommendations, please send them along. I will admit that sometimes I get worn down because I have been managing chronic pain for 5 years now and never imagined that for myself, but life hands you your cards and you play them accordingly. You play them as best as you can. As Cheryl Strayed once wrote:

You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt with. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding and my dear one, you and I have been granted a mighty generous one.

I am continuing to do trauma work in therapy, which is probably the most difficult kind of work I have done. Joan Didion once wrote, “You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from” and it occurred to me recently, on a particularly difficult day, that I will not walk away from this kind of work. It might be the only place I do not walk away from. I could see me leaving everything else: Los Angeles, writing, California, publishing, but that is another story.

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Excerpt from Eduardo Galeano’s Faces & Mask

November Update

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 3.19.04 PMKAYA PRESS

The most consistent intelligent wide-ranging committed press I know – Kaya is an example of how to turn ‘small’ books into literary arrows that shoot straight and true into the heart of our culture and (of course) ourselves.

— Junot Díaz

For the next six months, I will be the Events and Publicity Associate at Kaya Press, a local independent press that focuses on publishing Asian Pacific Diasporas.

Their work is rooted in community, diversity, and the belief that writing can be challenging and transformative and beautiful. After meeting Kaya staff and learning more about their publications, I’m happy to team up with them!

Meiko Takechi Arquillos

Meiko asked me to be her test subject for her portraiture project. At first I thought I would have a friend do my make-up, cut and dye my hair, and wear a 1960’s inspired outfit to fit the graphic nature of Meiko’s B&W photography. As the date got closer, I just wanted to show up to the camera, the way that I show up to life. I arrived sans make-up, wearing a thrift store dress, and let myself be awkward and talkative and grateful to have Meiko as a friend. This is the outtake from the shoot. Let’s both agree I was thinking about Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio in New Mexico at that exact moment. See more of Meiko’s photography on her site or her tumblr!

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Reading at Giant Robot!

In a few weeks, I’ll read at Giant Robot with two very gifted writers: Yumi Sakugawa and MariNaomi! Hopefully I will have a new Ohio Edit column ready by that time. When the the seasons changed, so did my writing process. I’m now slow and methodical. I spend countless hours with the same paragraph, allowing the words to reveal the essence of the story. It seems to require patience and faith. Info on the reading:

November 29, 2014
Giant Robot 2, 7 p.m.
Los Angeles, CA

Random

I decided to do two collages last week using a pop-art book and defunct 1960’s California textbook.

 

No Sudden Movements: A Comedy Benefit Show

On September 23rd, join us for a night of comedy that benefits Homeless Health Care Los Angeles and features an awesome line-up!

Curated by Kyle Kinane

MATT BRAUNGER
RICKY CARMONA
EMILY MAYA MILLS
BETH STELLING

SPECIAL GUESTS (so far) include:
NATE CRAIG!

$7 at the door (SO CHEAP! you can donate more at the door, if you like)

Doors at 8:30 p.m./Show at 9 p.m.

The Virgil
4519 Santa Monica Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90029

RSVP on facebook

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Poster art by the talented and lovely Meiko Takechi Arquillos

If you’re wondering why I’m doing a comedy show, it’s because I’ve been spending a lot of time focusing on my writing and it’s been difficult. I wrote about how it’s been difficult in my column Birth. I try to balance writing at my desk (read: crying at my desk) by organizing literary events and this summer worked on three events. I co-produced “Bad Feminist: Roxane Gay & Friends with Roxane, co-organized Ménage à loss with Myriam Gurba and MariNaomi, and curated readings no. 8 for DTLAB and Writ Large Press.

But I wanted to do something funny because it’s been so sad over here (and by here I mean being a hermit in a house on a hill with my books and notebook and pen) and not just funny but something that would be for a good cause. So I decided to organize a comedy benefit show and asked Lisa Dusenbery, who is also a former managing editor of The Rumpus and LA-based writer, if she’d co-produce a comedy show with me and she said yes.

Around this time, I learned about the nonprofit Homeless Health Care Los Angeles (HHCLA) from Jill Soloway, who is a badass writer and filmmaker. Recently I drove to Paramount Studios to watch a screening of a couple episodes of her show Transparent and let me tell you: I cannot wait to binge-watch her show on the release date. Anyway, after learning about HHCLA, I reached out to their staff, learned more about their mission and work, and chose them for this comedy benefit show.

I don’t think too many people know that In my early twenties, I worked full-time in Skid Row for a nonprofit that provided services to homeless women. While there, I ran a gardening club with the women in the program, researched funding and wrote grants, and basically learned about the huge problem Los Angeles faces when it comes to homelessness. So I am looking forward to raising awareness about their nonprofit and funds through this show.

Since I don’t know any comedians but wanted to produce a funny show, I reached out to Kyle Kinane, who is one of my favorite people in Los Angeles. He’s hilarious and an all-around good guy and really I have nothing but pleasant things to say about him and could go on about him for a while but won’t for his sake. I asked Kyle if he would curate a line-up for a comedy benefit show and he is busy as heck but agreed and he curated an awesome line-up! So you should totally go and support HHCLA.