The moment of clarity came when I was 12. Mrs. Chen, my English teacher, had shared with the class a paragraph I wrote as an example of a strong opening hook on Singapore’s public transportation. In blue fountain pen ink, I had written ‘To see an SBC bus during rush hour traffic is to see it at its worst.”

Her tribute to this short, insignificant sentence had a big impact on my life. She planted the seed: a belief there was something I was doing, something in the way I was arranging words on paper that made them stand out.

That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. 

My first writing job was out of a small office in an old, two-story building on the outskirts of Little India in Singapore. I was there that April morning, drafting a feature on a nature preserve in Malaysia when my brother called about Mama’s accident. Four months later, I was in Ohio, taking notes at a graduate-level lecture on mass communication theory. The contents in my immaculately wrapped life-in-a-box had shifted. Drastically. Writing was my way of making sense of it. My mother’s unexpected death and the isolation of being oceans away from all I knew led to the first pages of my memoir

Classes dragged on, as they are known to, and I yearned to get back into the trade of writing. So, when it was time to look for a summer internship, I focused on the dreamiest assignment, one most brag-worthy to write home about. An internship at Working Woman magazine, right in the center of the land of literary dreams — New York City. Fortunately, no one else must have wanted an unpaid opportunity, so I got it. I rented a first-floor room in Corona, Queens, with a window (curiously barred and padlocked from the outside) overlooking NYPD’s daily encounters with the neighborhood. I left out details like this in my letters to my father and friends, along with the disappointing truth that I spent that summer answering phones, fact checking and filing for the magazine. 

But the sheer adventure! It was like I was in the middle of a limited-run series and I couldn’t just leave. It was a privilege I couldn’t squander and I felt compelled to stay in the U.S.  

 And so I did. I moved back to Ohio, completed my thesis and started working for one of Gannett’s daily newspapers. The discipline of news writing stripped my prose down to its bare bones. But the words and I survived. Together, we shared stories of a small town in southeast Ohio with big dreams. 

My words showed up other places as well. Letters I poured into, journals I scrapbooked, poems I hid. I wrote about the first time I touched snow, about cars that drive on the other side of the road, about distances on the map, and between hearts and minds.

 There was always something new to discover. I continued to be that wayfarer, traveling across plains of experiences,  driven by a desire to discover the little truths in my small sphere and needing to understand if they reverberated with greater truths that transcended cultures.

When it comes right down to it, wherever you go, there you are.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Breathe and let be, the mindfulness guru said. I fell in love, got married, left the newspaper and joyfully embraced the swap of dictionaries with diapers. My life was blessed and full! But my writing waxed and waned and finally went into an interlude during the 20 years where I traded my words for shiny marketing skills at a Fortune 500 insurance company.

Today, I am a proud mother of a 26-year-old spirited and incredibly talented daughter. We share a dependency on lists and an obsession with recipes. And, My Honey B and I found our way to each other, claiming the coveted Sweet Spots in each other’s better-late-than-never lives. 

But all through 30 years of shuttling in and out of life’s roles, I have been collecting and arranging words, pressed between pages of writing journals, preserved for the time when I would be ready. Julia Cameron says it best:

Some parts of our self are not yet spoken for … or perhaps not yet listened to.

julia cameron

Writing — it was always my first love and the one that got away. The Original Dream. I am drawn to write, and along with it, to speak and be listened to. So, here’s to the promise of a new adventure: of revisiting and rediscovering. 

My second act.


Selected participant

  • Kenyon College Summer Workshop 2021 with Dinty W. Moore
  • WWS Summer Writers Workshop 2020 with Sehba Sarwar
  • IWWG Advanced Memoir 2019 with Judy Huge
  • Antioch Writers Workshop Summer Program 2018 Creative Non Fiction scholarship
  • Antioch Fall Writing Retreat 2017 with Lee Martin

Workshops/classes/retreat attended

Let’s stay in touch

Subscribe for monthly updates on my book, my Morning Pages journey and get behind-the-scenes inspiration of my blog. I can also send new blog entries direct to your inbox right when I post them.

* indicates required

I respect your privacy and will not share my list with anyone.

Sidebar photo by Joy MillerUpton