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In July, Gwangju News converted its Postcard Poetry section into what is now a space for any sort of creative composition, Gwangju Writes. It won't surprise anyone who knows me, of course, that my real motivation for implementing the change was to get the magazine publishing a short story every month of 1000 - 2000 words.

Everyone, including me, was a little worried about the quality of the submissions we'd get and how we'd handle anything simply unfit for publication, since refusing work outright can create resentment in a well-connected community. I wrote the first story in hopes of getting things off on the right foot, but otherwise there was nothing to do but hope. 

Now the September issue's going to press soon and I'm happy to say it looks like we'll be in high clover for some time to come. In August's issue we published what I think was tonally the perfect follow-up to my Korean folktale, a firmly grounded short about a native English teacher. September's issue will science fiction in honor of the upcoming Alleycon convention. And I have two more publishable pieces on my computer that we'll use in October and November. Each of these four stories is by a different author, too.

And the best thing is that I like them all. August's "Ddongdae Teacher" and September's "Obsolete" may not win any industry awards, but they're entertaining experiences. They have character arcs, solid writing, and they're actually about something. They're the sort of work I wanted to publish, not simply what I've received. 

I'm already thinking that when I eventually step down as editor of Gwangju News, Gwangju Writes will be one of the things I'm most glad to have set up. 



 
 
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I'm putting this one up a little late, but July's "Behind the Myth" is up on the Gwangju News website. 

This one's about the factionalism and general scariness of living in Gwangju during its five-day uprising in May of 1980. 

 
 
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A few words about my Korean folktale published yesterday on Gwangju News Online and in July's issue of the print edition (PDF here):

- While digging around for information on the Korean mythology featured in my story, I discovered the real Korean folktale of a general named Sineui, who is said to have found himself in similar circumstances. My story owes a few of its details to that one.

- Speaking of influences, writing an involving story within only 1500 words is no easy trick, and so before I tried I naturally looked around for examples of other writers doing it well. Neil Gaiman's short story "Cinnamon", which you can read for free on his site, became my main point of reference; I even rather boldly stole the sentence structure of his first line for my own, though that was the extent of my thieving, I promise.

- Although I wanted the story to be set in a real time and place, I didn't want to burden my fellow waegukin with a lot of proper nouns that probably wouldn't increase their enjoyment of the story. For the record, though, the tale takes place somewhere in Gangjin County, South Jeolla, which still does have a reputation for some of the world's most beautiful pottery. Nam goes on the Gihae Eastern Expedition in 1419. The "new king" is therefore that most famous of Korean royals, Sejong the Great.

- The illustration of Yi Deok Chun is by Jen Lee, artist of the comic strip "Dear Korea" that's run in multiple publications here in Korea. It's an example of what she can do when you give her absolutely zero notice; you should check out what she's capable of when she has a little time on her hands.






 
 

Gwangju News did a Sewol-themed issue in June (that's the sort of timing that working on a magazine a month ahead of time gets you). The online version of the "Behind the Myth" column I did for it just went up. Some people seem to believe that the honor of Korean "comfort women" and Korean possession of Dokdo got in the way of recovery efforts during the Sewol ferry crisis.
 
 

The answer is, "Nope."

But you can read that answer in expanded form right here on Gwangju News.
 
 

You can find it here

It's been a while since I've posted one of those because the column for March's issue was guest-written so I could focus become more accustomed to the editorial side of things at Gwangju News. Truth to tell, I barely found the time to write this one - and I think it shows in this one, starting with my choice of a superstition for a topic, the type of pick I usually avoid - so maybe I should just face facts and pass the column to another writer. 

Can't quite bring myself to do that yet, though. There's so much material I still want to cover.
 
 
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So this was my big writing project for March. When Michael Simning, patron saint of foreigners here in Gwangju, passed away on February 28, I volunteered (read: demanded) to do the the inevitable cover story on him for Gwangju News.

It was cathartic to write. When I heard he had passed, I deeply regretted not getting to know him better during his life, and that sense of loss felt all the worse for feeling somehow unjustified, since we hadn't been close. 

What I realized, however, was that my unfamiliarity with him could be turned into a gift of its own. The attention of your family and friends is love, but the attention of strangers is an honor. So I set out to write an article communicating to our readers why Michael Simning was an objectively valuable individual; while everyone else would pound out their personal feels about him on their keyboards - meaningful thoughts to other members of their circle, but only abstract expressions of grief to passersby - I would prepare an essentially dispassionate piece aimed at helping people who'd never heard of Michael Simning "get" why it's a sad thing he's gone.

I tried. Here is the result. It's far from perfect - I see my mistakes when I look at my old work, believe me - but I think there's honor in it. And yeah, a little love too.

Edit 5/7/2014: Korea's Canadian embassy has run a highly abridged version of this article as their "Canadian Stories" column for their May newsletter.

 
 

... has been posted on Gwangju News Online. Props to the publisher for agreeing to let me tackle the subject.

EDIT: Whoa, this one blew up.
 
 
Yes, I'm still doing reviews for Waygeek, and yes, I'm still playing catch-up. You can find my latest one of "The Bridge" right here
 
 
Here's the link