August 27, 2017
Join us for the launch of Lydia Kwa's new novel Oracle Bone, the first book (chronologically) in a modern chuanqi trilogy of novels. The term chuanqi means, "to transmit the strange" and was a popular narrative tradition in seventh-century Chinese literature.
April 3, 2014
I am pleased to soon be part of an art and community initiative at Centre A gallery in Vancouver.
If you are in Vancouver and able to make it to the April 24th opening, I would be happy to see you there! Or perhaps, you might want to check out one or more of the other events occurring between April 25th and June 14th.
October 3, 2013
Please join us on Friday, October 11 at 7:30 pm as Lydia Kwa launches sinuous, her newest collection of poetry at UNIT/PITT Projects (formerly the Helen Pitt Gallery), 236 East Pender Street, Vancouver.
Through the mind's eye Lydia Kwa charts the path of the stranger in a new land, the immigrant seeking escape, and transformation from the suffering of the past. sinuous is a journey toward self-realization and acknowledges that through the fiery trials of life it is possible to find renewed strength and purpose for the future.
October 3, 2013
linguistic tantrums is a set of 12 visual poems — mixed media images created using mostly letter type, ink and paper — accompanied by 12 non-rhyming couplets on the reverse side. Two front cards introduce the project. This loose, unbound art/text chapbook is packaged subversively in a pedestrian, non-descript Ziploc bag for convenient storage and travel. You the peruser may choose to upset the order of presentation of the work, shuffle both the viewing and the reading, or even throw the cards up in the air for a chance encounter with gravity.
Set of 12 cards, images plus text, with 2 front cards.
$30 in Canada and US
First edition of 50 sets, printed September 2013.
To order, please email me at
June 23, 2013
I've finally joined Facebook! For future updates on readings and new artistic ventures, please visit my page!
September 23, 2012
At this year's Word On The Street festival, Alex Leslie will be hosting a reading showcasing six contributors to the Queer issue of Poetry is Dead magazine. I will be one of the six, along with Jen Currin, Antonette Rae, Leah Horlick, Kierst Wade and Ben Rawluk. The reading happens on Sunday September 30th, 1 pm, at the Magazine Life Tent, downtown Vancouver Public Library.
- The Word On The Street
National Book & Magazine Festival
November 8, 2011
I moved my psychology practice to the Old BC Electric Building at the end of August. I love being in my new spacious office. It's also very cool to walk down the hallway and be greeted by Elvis Presley album covers along one wall! I'm on the same floor as Red Robinson and Bruce Allen, so I like joking that maybe the celebrity glow is going to transport me to higher echelons.
The building is full of many interesting people and organizations, and is going to be 100 years old next year. It used to be a junction where electric trams were parked. It's been beautifully restored, and I find it a joy to go to work there!
My new office address and phone number:
Suite 515-425 Carrall Street
Vancouver BC V6B 6E3
Information about my private practice:
May 2, 2011
It's been quite a long while since I posted an entry. Since then, quite a few significant changes have occurred. The most dramatic events to report: the demise of Key Porter Books and the bankruptcy of HB Fenn. As you can imagine, this is very upsetting news.
Key Porter was the publisher of my last two novels, The Walking Boy and Pulse.
I have obtained rights reversion for these novels — in other words, I am now free to take these novels to other publishers should anyone wish to re-publish them some day in the future.
The company overseeing the Fenn bankruptcy, Grant Thornton, was unwilling to sell me copies of my own novels unless I was willing to purchase at least 500 copies. According to The Writers Union of Canada, this has been GT's practice toward other Key Porter authors so far. I would like to comment that the initials 'GT' stand for "Godzilla's Touch" in my latest novel. Rather macabre coincidence!
We will hope that copies of my work are still accessible somehow. As for me, I was caught being a bit slow with my own ordering and now am in possession of only 2 copies of Pulse!
Nonetheless, I remain determined to keep writing and publishing…
June 21, 2010
Info about my upcoming reading in Singapore this Friday (June 25th) is available here:
- Pulse by Lydia Kwa (Facebook Event)
May 28, 2010
For readers of Pulse, please note that I have found two errors in the first printing of the book! Here are the corrections that will appear in subsequent editions.
- Page 60, line 20: "the Malayan Communist Party" to be replaced by "some of them"
- Page 125, line 2: "Conception Vessel 17" (not 7)
May 17, 2010
I'll be doing two readings in Ontario. In Kingston, on Sunday May 30, 7 pm at the Sleepless Goat Café (91 Princess Street); and at International Festival of Authors in Toronto on June 2nd.
May 12, 2010
Pulse: Book Launch and Reading
Sunday, May 16th, 6:00 pm @ Rhizome Café
Come celebrate the launching of Pulse (Toronto: Key Porter Books) by Lydia Kwa. To be followed by a discussion of a variety of issues raised in the novel such as the impact of colonialism, racism and homophobia in Southeast Asia; the evolution of Japanese bondage from forms of torture; and the choices of the individual in responding to collective trauma.
March 8, 2010
Just a quick note to let you know that Pulse will be out in bookstores in Canada on March 15th! It's currently available for pre-order at Amazon and chapters.indigo.ca.
October 7, 2009
It's a beautiful autumn day here in Vancouver and I have emerged from another hiatus. A couple of updates since the last entry: the title of the novel is now Pulse, and it will be out in mid-March 2010! I prefer this title because I think it captures a broader spirit of the novel. I also love the cover that the design department at Key Porter Books has produced!
Another piece of news: an excerpt from This Place Called Absence (Turnstone, 2000) is featured in Writing Singapore, an anthology of writing just released from NUS Press in Singapore.
I spent a few days in late September visiting my friend Kevin Spetifore, who now lives in Vernon and runs a B&B called The East Hill Inn. It was a fabulous break after an intense period of doing some revisions to the manuscript that will soon emerge as Pulse! It was my first time visiting the Okanagan, and I loved the landscape and the wonderful wine and fruits I sampled. Here are two snapshots from Kevin's gorgeous house and garden.
November 29, 2008
This site has come back from the land of the lost! Thanks to my webmaster, it's been rescued from the odd state of suspension that's lasted most of the second half of this year. Funny, that's how I've been feeling too. Temporarily lost and in a liminal zone.
I'm working on a novel set in Singapore in the 1960s and 70s, as well as in present day Toronto. It is slated for a release in 2010, from Key Porter books. I would love to travel with this novel, to promote it not only here in Canada, but particularly in Southeast Asia and perhaps Australia. But I'm running ahead of myself. I had better put nose to grindstone and get down to the grit and sweat that's needed for finishing the baby. And what's the name of the beast, you ask? Godzilla's Touch.
May 26, 2008
My apologies for a lapse in keeping you posted. In February, I visited Siem Reap in Cambodia and the temples near the small town. Here's one of the photos I took; check out the rest on Flickr!
July 12, 2007
Dying to Dress is a video poem that I put together with the help of my friend Jason Sims, who masterminded video editing, sound design and music selection for the project. We premiered the work at Spatial Poetics on July 7, an evening of experimental and collaborative performances and videos. I think Jason and I had the most fun in the audience! Dying to Dress uses some images and video clips I shot over the past 4 years, and is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of fashion and aging in a woman who's prone to occasional bouts of dressing up. I wrote some poetry to go with the visuals. It was great to be part of a collaborative venture filled with synergy and creative enjoyment! For more details about Powell Street Festival events, check out the official website:
April 10, 2007
It's been 7 long months since my last entry! So while I can't possibly catch you up on all that's happened since then, I will give you some highlights of my trip to Singapore and Malacca in January. I was surprised by the cool and windy conditions that prevailed in Singapore, especially in the first week there. The monsoon just wasn't leaving. But it didn't stop me from enjoying a trip to Little India.
In my last week, I took some shots of orchids at the Botanic Gardens, and snapped a few photos as I wandered around Katong, the neighborhood I grew up in.
Malacca, on the other hand, was hot and sunny. I loved being in the old part of the city, with its colorful peranakan houses and narrow streets. I stayed at the Hotel Puri Melaka in the heart of the old section. It's situated on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, formerly known as Heeren Street by the Dutch. The hotel was formerly the residence of a rubber plantation owner Tan Kim Seng. It's a beautiful house, with many of the features associated with peranakan architecture. In the middle foyer, there's the very quaint phenomenon of "permanent house guests": swifts that live in the eaves. They return in the evening and zoom around the hall, making quite a wild din with their calls, before settling in for the night!
Malacca has lots of old ruins, having been a former Dutch, Portuguese and British colony. And of course, the food is fabulous there, and astoundingly cheap by North American standards. I was there to have a bit of a vacation, but I was also doing some research for my next novel, set in Singapore in the 1960s. Why Malacca, you might ask. Well, I'm not sure yet, but I wanted to become re-acquainted with the peranakan culture of that era, and Malacca is a great place to do that! Besides, they were playing music from the 1970s, a bonus. For 5 days, I listened to Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Carpenters, Burt Bacharach, and even ABBA. Out of this world!
September 1, 2006
The end of August included the exciting buzz of the Queer Film Festival here in Vancouver. I went to three screening events, a total of four films, and was in a rather philosophical space about what makes people feel as if they "belong." These days, in the midst of so much divisiveness and violence, it's understandable that we would seek security and affirmation in "our own communities." There's a lot to be enjoyed from hanging out, like birds of a feather — we assume — singing in harmony. There were a couple of films at the film festival that were so quirky and smashing of stereotypes that I emerged out of the cinema feeling delighted. We don't all have to be "the same", as if that were really possible.
These days I've been reading a book called The Art of Peace, about the life of Morehei Ueshiba. Translated from the Japanese by John Stevens, the second half of the book contains sayings by the founder of aikido. I've been reading and re-reading, because I'm completely in awe of what Ueshiba had to say. O-Sensei ("revered teacher") had a lot of compassion and wisdom to share, emerging from his experiences in the military with the resolve to develop a nonviolent form of self-defence that not only sought to protect the victim, but the attacker as well. Here's one of the things he said:
"War must cease. We are all members of one big family; now is the time to eliminate fighting and contention. This world was created to be a thing of beauty. If there is no love between us, that will be the end of our home, the end of our country, and the end of our world."
July 20, 2006
Summer always seems to move faster than the other seasons. Einstein's theory of relativity must echo this experience for those of us who are fortunate to enjoy relative ease and good health in a world where for many, the passage of time is fraught with immense loss and suffering.
In a couple of weeks, the paperback version of The Walking Boy will be out on the booksellers' shelves. There are a few additions to this edition: three lovely hand-drawn illustrations at the front of the novel.
I have been having daydreams about the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, a place I have yet to visit. Those caves must be cool — in both senses of the word — and in the summer months, a welcomed refuge from the strong sun. I was quite nervous writing about them, wondering if I could pull it off. Thank goodness for an impressive body of research accessible through the libraries as well as on the Net! Writing about Ardhanari and Old Gecko allowed me to enter the world of the Mogao Caves, where imagination was put in service of Buddhist iconography and concepts. And yet, even there, beauty and sublime experiences cannot escape being tinged with the influence of political and cultural agendas.
I have only taken one class in sculpture, but it fired up my interest in the discipline. I often think of how powerfully our minds, and in particular our imaginations, are manifested in the way we use or misuse our hands. For more information on the Mogao Caves, check out these links:
April 1, 2006
There will be a launch of No Margins — an anthology of lesbian fiction by Canadian writers — in Toronto on the 7th of April at Toronto Women's Bookstore, and on the 20th of April in Vancouver at the Honey Lounge, Lotus Hotel (click here for more details).
I have a short story "Soft Shell" published in the anthology. I started writing it in mid-2005, while intensely working on the final revisions of The Walking Boy. Maybe that explains the strangeness of the story!
March 15, 2006
Exciting news! I'm pleased to learn that The Walking Boy has been nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. The 22nd annual BC Book Prizes ceremony will be held the end of next month, but there will be several other events leading up to it, to publicize the books that have been nominated in the various categories. Tell your friends!
March 10, 2006
I encountered these exquisite plum blossoms when I visited the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden on Sunday, February 26th. The flowers scented the inner courtyard next to the Scholar's Hall. This experience was a wonderful contrast to the long deluge of rain throughout January, and cheered me up considerably. Indeed, the appearance of plum blossoms in winter has been celebrated in various parts of China and in Japan throughout the centuries. In Japan, early February plum blossoms coincide with the Shinto ritual called Setsubun, signaling the end of winter and the start of spring.
I was in the chill of Ontario in mid-February, doing a reading and talk at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The AGH is a beautiful space. My event occurred just 2 days before the opening of several exhibits there, one of which is The Manchu Era: Arts of China's Last Imperial Dynasty. This was a small yet deeply fascinating exhibit, travelling from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Although my novel The Walking Boy is set in the Tang dynasty in the 8th Century, the AGH organizers were interested in hearing how I went about doing research and what drew me to that time period. Needless to say, a large part of the initial intrigue was because of the Female Emperor Wu Zhao. In the depths of winter in Hamilton, I was warmed by the calm image of Guanyin, bodhisattva of mercy and compassion.
December 21, 2005
Happy Solstice! A little note to say that the rights to The Walking Boy have been acquired by Prozoretz in Bulgaria, and Seix Barral in Barcelona, which will publish translations in those countries. These two publishers also put out translations of my first novel This Place Called Absence. Needless to say, I'm pleased.
I've also added an interview with Rebecca Wigod, about The Walking Boy, that was published in the Vancouver Sun:
November 21, 2005
IFOA in Toronto was a very rich and exciting time. For a laidback, low-key writer from Lotusland, the big TO was rather dazzling, and even more dizzying because of the hype of the Harbourfront events. The highlight for me was meeting old friends and renewing acquaintances with other writers, as well as making new connections with writers from outside Canada! I was part of a group reading on the night of October 28th, and a Round Table the next day. Thanks to this interested audience member who provided feedback.
James O'Hearn did an audio interview with me while I was in Toronto.
Last, but not least, here are two reviews of The Walking Boy:
October 20, 2005
In a couple of days I'll be heading off to Toronto for the International Festival of Authors, also known as the Harbourfront Reading Series. I'm both nervous and thrilled to be invited to this prestigious event!
It is an exciting and packed Fall season for me. I did 6 readings in 3 weeks, starting off with my book launch at Fireside Books here in Vancouver on September 14 (here are some photos of the event), followed by 2 readings at the Sun Yat-Sen Garden for mid-Autumn Moon Festival; Word on the Street on September 25; then the Ottawa Writers Festival; and finally, back to Vancouver for the People's Co-Op Bookstore 60th Anniversary Event on October 6.
Autumn is my favorite season, and I'm looking forward to checking out the deep, intense changing colours of the foliage in Ontario next week. Autumn is rich with reminders of the vital force of transformation in nature. Transformation () is the central symbol on the cover of the book and serves as a motif throughout The Walking Boy.
In my September 1 entry I talked about Wu Zhao. This time I want to say a bit about Baoshi, the intersexed person who's the main character in the novel. He and his Master/Mentor Harelip call him "boy" but as Harelip says, "…'boy' is what you make of it…a word, meaningless until we impart meaning to it." I refer to Baoshi as possessing Two-in-Oneness. Baoshi's body shows the literal co-existence of both male and female genitalia.
The term "hermaphrodite" is a vestige of 19th Century thinking (see the Wikipedia "intersexual" entry). That term places emphasis on the appearance of gonads as the way to define "true sex." These days, "hermaphrodite" has fallen out of favour in the intersexed community: there are a variety of intersexed conditions and realities which are not necessarily determined or adequately described by the appearance of a person's external genitalia. In reality, there are many chromosomal combinations beyond XX and XY. A person's sexual anatomy is further modified by different kinds of hormonal functioning or differences in the body's response to hormones. The Intersex Society of North America has a fine website with lots of information. Baoshi's intersexed condition would be a chromosomally XY condition called 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (you can find this on the Wikipedia site too).
In addition to Baoshi, several characters in the novel don't fit the simplistic or previously straightforward categories we call "male" and "female" even though they may be biologically XX and XY types (then again, who knows for sure?). It's important not to equate or confuse biological sex/intersex conditions with gender identity, a psychological construct. For instance, I've already heard a few people incorrectly use the word "androgynous" as a synonym for "intersex". The first term is a psychological one and the latter term refers to sexually ambiguous (I prefer to call it complex) anatomical conditions. Instead of going on at length about this semantic confusion, I'll just say that in The Walking Boy I wanted to transgress and transform notions of what "male" and "female" could mean, and I hope that readers will enjoy the playfulness and complexities in this book.
Here's a little anecdote to end off this rather lengthy entry: I stumbled onto the website JenBurke.com when I recently Googled myself (I haven't done it in at least 3 months, believe me) and found that Jen mentions both my novels on the site! What a pleasant surprise. It's a very informative website on gender, transgender, and intersex issues, stories from people who identify as "trans" and/or queer, with a ton of links!!
September 1, 2005
About two weeks away from the launch of The Walking Boy, I am most understandably wondering about the kinds of responses I'll be getting from readers. There'll be lots of questions coming my way at readings, talks, interviews, and perhaps even through this website. Some of your questions may be addressed by checking out The Walking Boy FAQ.
I'll start off by saying that I'm no expert on ancient Chinese history. But I was so drawn to setting this novel during the reign of the only woman to have ever ruled as Emperor. I ended up doing a fair bit of research and enjoyed learning as I made forays into the historical, geographical and literary details! Wu Zhao was a driven woman, who believed in her destiny to become ruler of China; she grew up hearing about the prophecy made by a fortune teller — that she would one day be Emperor; she persisted in her path until she acquired full power in the Tang dynasty court. Ironically, at the time of the fortune teller's prophecy, he had mistaken the female infant for a male. Now, what can we say about that?
So much has been written about her. Even movies have been made. When she died, her posthumous name was Wu Zetian, In her lifetime of about 80 years, Wu Zhao fulfilled her "destiny" to become Nü Huang (Female Emperor) and proclaimed her own Zhou dynasty. What a woman! If you check her out in history books and on the Internet, there's quite the variety of tales and versions about her and even variances in dates of birth etc.
Was she an early version of a feminist? I like to think of her as a feminist gone bad! Of course, this is a very un-academic and playful way of using the present construct of "feminism" to interpret the past. Here I am, a Chinese woman in the 21st Century, looking back and curious about the actual woman, but also wanting to explore themes of what makes a woman a woman? And what makes a woman more "a man" than many "men"? Which started me developing notions about gender crossing within the novel. I've used the facts of history to inspire my fictional narratives. Well, I'll stop here and leave you with two websites I found, which talk about Wu Zetian aka Nü Huang/Wu Zhao, and Shangguan Wan'er, her Imperial Secretary.
Questions for Readers
I thought I would post a few questions for those of you avid readers out there, in case you wanted to get together with one or more friends after reading The Walking Boy, to chat about your responses and questions to this novel. These are five very basic questions to get you started. I'm sure you'll have tons of other questions yourself. Hopefully, that curiosity may send you into doing some research yourself!
- What do you experience, reading a novel that's set 1,300 years ago in an unfamiliar time and place?
- Can you relate to some of the struggles of the characters?
- What kinds of contrasts do you notice between the lives of "ordinary" folk and those who live in the Palace City?
- What kinds of marks — visible and invisible — exist to distinguish the main characters?
- How is fear manifested in some of the characters? How about compassion, passion and love?