City Map of Sigiriya

 

You enter Sigiriya from the far left of this map, where pleasure gardens lie at ground level. Then you progress through the gardens, through one of the gates, and climb 1200 steps up the Lion Rock, past the Mirror Wall and stunning frescoes of the lovely topless ladies, to the top of King Kasyapa’s 5th century palace.

“Sigiriya or Sinhagiri (Lion Rock Sinhalese: සීගිරිය, Tamil: சிகிரியா, pronounced see-gi-ri-yə) is an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres (660 ft) high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure — Sīnhāgiri, the Lion Rock (an etymology similar to Siṃhapura, the Sanskrit name of Singapore, the Lion City). The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning.” (Wikipedia)

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

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A Video Game!

So we’re going to go through my visit to Sigiriya in some detail, as I’m working on a Sigiriya-related project right now, so this is also serving as my research notes.

What project, you ask? A video game! I’m partnering with Kel Bachus‘s Rad Magpie game company, to develop a Sri Lankan-themed video game. This weekend I’ll actually be flying out to Vermont for a retreat with Kel, the lead artist, Kat Weaver, and the game designers. We’ve been working on game possibilities for several months now, and by the end of the weekend, I’ll be able to tell you quite a bit more about the shape of the project. I am SO excited to be working with this great group. 

(We will likely need more artists to work on the project, and I would love to suggest Sri Lankan or SL diaspora artists; if that’s you or someone you know, please get in touch!)

I’ll also take this opportunity to give big thanks to Yudhanjaya WijeratneSuchetha Wijenayake, and Samanthi Hewakapuge, who have kindly agreed to serve as cultural consultants on the project.

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Road to Sigiriya

We made it to Sigiriya! At which point, we left Kavi in the van with the driver. I felt a little ridiculous doing so, but she had absolutely no interest in trying to climb 1000+ steps. Kavi really just wanted to read her book, and would’ve been happiest just staying in bed.

But I knew we’d be away from the hotel for 2-3 hours, and I just didn’t feel comfortable leaving her there on her own, even with a door that locked. I’m not sure where the age cut-off is for that; I think at 14, I’d have been okay with letting her stay on her own, probably? But not at 11.

  Kavi was pretty tolerant of her mother’s fretting, and just settled in with her book; our driver (who’d been with us for a week at that point; we hired Chamara for the entire trip) took good care of her, and even picked up some snacks for her at one point.

Jed, Karina, and I set out to climb. We were happy to see that there was lots of water in Sigiriya’s various water gardens — apparently if you come in summer, after May, it all is likely to have dried up. The water is v. pretty.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

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Leftover Veggie Poriyal

Doesn’t this look yummy? It’s a Sri Lankan veggie poriyal, but it is mostly using up leftovers! (I hate waste.)

1. Take pea pods and carrots leftover from the previous night’s party dip, where they’d been served with hummus. Chop up.

2. Take the kids’ leftover steamed broccoli, dull and unappealing. Chop up.

3. Chop one onion and sauté in a few T oil or ghee, with 1 t. mustard seeds, 1 t. cumin seeds, 1 t. salt, and 1/2 t. numeric.

4. When onions are golden, add raw veggies and saute a few minutes, then add steamed broccoli and saute a few minutes more. Serve hot!

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Pork Vindaloo and Banana Bread

We eat a lot of bananas in this house, but sometimes we don’t get to them before they start going bad, so we toss them in the freezer and every month or so, I pull them out and make banana bread. I am here to tell you that pork vindaloo is EXCELLENT on banana bread — it is so good that if I ever open a cafe, I would totally serve this, and people would go wild. I suppose it’s not so surprising that pork + bananas is yummy, but this specific combo surprised me. Experimenting yields great rewards sometimes!
 
I am imagining a fancy cocktail party or high-end restaurant appetizer version of this too — little circles of banana bread spread with vindaloo sauce, topped with a perfectly seared piece of pork (be sure to leave a little fat on), graced with a dab of yogurt and a tiny curry leaf.
 
But I am too lazy to go to that much effort. 🙂
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ADD and agents

Here’ s another ADD-thing maybe, this one writing / agent-related. I work in a lot of different areas, and it turns out that the literary agenting world is REALLY not set up for this. When I was last agent-hunting, Benjamin Rosenbaum was strongly advocating that I find an agent who could represent all the varied things I do. That sounds great, but the thing is, what I do is REALLY varied.

My attention scatters hither and yon, and as a result, I am working in the following fields: science fiction, fantasy, mainstream lit, memoir (two different ones), cookbooks, and kids’ lit (picture books, middle grade, YA). I also write poetry, but it is perhaps my salvation that I don’t even try to publish it properly, but just post it here. I dabbled in playwriting for a year, but thankfully managed to set it aside. Mostly. I keep fighting the urge to write a graphic novel; it’s a good thing I can’t draw.

I don’t know of ANY agents who actually represent all of that. I’ve asked around, a lot! Agents tend to specialize, which makes sense, because they need to know their sub-field really well in order to keep up with what’s happening there. So in the end, I decided to pick SF as my major focus right now, and choose an agent who was good at it.

Russ Galen is, in fact, GREAT at SF/F, and I feel very lucky to have him as my agent. He’s helped me see where my first attempt at a SF novel went wrong, and the version I’m working on now is, I think, much better. On my good days, I’m quite hopeful that I can write a good SF novel and he can sell it. (Last night I was being very mopey about that whole endeavor, but Kevin talked me down from the ledge.)

Russ has given me permission to go find other agents to represent anything else I do, but unfortunately, that’s turning out to be really difficult. Most agents would prefer to represent an author entirely, so a lot of people will just say no straight off, when they hear that Russ is representing my SF/F.

After talking to some more agent friends, it seems like I MIGHT be able to find someone to do just my kid lit, so I’m agent-hunting for that now. But agents are really quite resistant, even in the initial inquiry phase, which is disheartening.

Agent-hunting is maybe not quite as terrible as job-hunting, but it’s close. I think I’ve been spoiled because I’ve never really had to do it before — I got my first agent through editing a book with Bob when he was still an editor, and I got Russ through an introduction from a fellow writer. I’ve never done a real agent search before. It sucks.

Anyway, to come back to the writing-in-many-genres thing — a lot of people would say to just pick one and stick to it, that it’s almost impossible for someone to do well in multiple genres.

But almost impossible isn’t the same as impossible, right? Iain Banks / Iain M. Banks published in both mainstream lit. and SF. Ursula K. Le Guin wrote SF/F, published as mainstream, and even did a lovely children’s book (Fish Soup) that I’m insanely fond of. Michael Chabon writes mainstream lit. and superhero stories and Frankenstein baseball. (Yes, I am aware that these people are exceptional. Sigh.)

I am *trying* to focus. I am. But sometimes my brain just spins out in other directions. On my good days, I’m hopeful that it all goes together in some sort of hodgepodge that I hope will work synergistically.

My work does center around certain things, no matter what genre it’s in: Sri Lanka, domesticity, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, immigrant / refugee / nationalist politics, polyamory, food, gardening. (A bit of climate change too, as it intersects with postcolonial concerns.)

I mean, that’s a weird mix, but it’s me, and I can hope that there’ll be *some* crossover in readership across genre borders. I think I don’t really have a choice about writing all of that, honestly — I can’t seem to stop working in multiple genres. Maybe someday it’ll all come together in a glorious explosion.

But right now, it makes agenting / marketing much harder than it would otherwise be. Sigh.

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ADD thoughts

You know, I was actually in many ways a terrible student. I was bright enough that I tested well on standardized tests, and engaged enough with literature that I aced essay writing classes, but even there, I usually wrote the papers the morning they were due, getting up at 4 a.m. to crank out a quick first draft and hand it in.
 
I didn’t learn how to actually study until my Ph.D. program in my 30s, and I remember looking sort of bewildered at my college roommates, how they would just sit on their beds and study. For hours. I didn’t get *how* they could make themselves do that. I mostly didn’t try.
 
I think I am slowly processing this diagnosis / understanding of how my brain works. I hadn’t really found my ADD upsetting before now, but last night, while talking to Kevin, I kind of lost it a little. Looking back at all those years of half-attention schooling, wondering what my education might have looked like if I’d been able to approach it fully equipped. Maybe I wouldn’t have flunked calculus freshman year. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me three tries to get into grad school. (I really am stubborn. A reasonable person would probably have given up.)
 
I spent so many years in temp secretarial jobs, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t doing better career-wise. Which, okay, maybe makes me a better teacher now, because I have a lot of empathy for my students who are struggling. But still — frustrating. Roads not taken. Lots of what-ifs.
 
Which are all kind of pointless to dwell on, I know, but maybe I need to sit with the frustration a little bit before I can manage to release it and move on. Going to start meditating again today, though, after a long hiatus. I think I need it.
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Christmas present

Kevin and I were going to try to do a monthly date night this year — it was part of my Christmas present to him, to spend more time together, just us — which doesn’t seem too much to ask, one night a month — but then I asked if we could push the one we’d scheduled for last week to this week because I was feeling so far behind that I was too stressed to take 3 hours off on a Friday night. He said sure.
 
So we pushed to today, planning to have my assistant come in late and stay and keep an eye on the kids while we were out, but then we realized that with me going out of town for a work weekend tomorrow and him with a late work thing on campus, it’d be better if my assistant came tomorrow so we’d have coverage of the kids from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m (not that they can’t manage on their own for a few afternoon hours at this point, but it still stresses us out a little (more him than me, but still)).
 
So we thought we’d just make the kids eat pizza upstairs tonight and we’d lie in bed and get fancy takeout and watch a rom-com and call that date night, but we’re both working at home today, so he suggested we could also go out and work at a cafe together the way we used to do when we were young and carefree and I said that’s great, but it’s cold and I don’t want to leave the house.
 
So we appear to have ended up with me setting a load of laundry going and pulling all my winter clothes out of storage (because I’m cold and don’t have enough warm clothes available in my closet) and him piling them in the library for me to sort through later. And then with him lying in bed doing serious math stuff, and me lying in bed next to him half-watching cooking shows (which he swears won’t disturb him) while posting research photos from the Sri Lanka trip I took without him.
 
And maybe we’ll order some takeout later, but I actually kind of wanted to try making a curry to go with the pongal I cooked on Tuesday, so maybe we won’t do the takeout thing at all….and this, this is why even a once-a-month date night is maybe not going to happen for us despite our best intentions.
 
Maybe in February.
 
I love you, sweetie. Best of husbands.
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