Being water, my friend

A few years ago, my colleagues and I won an Emmy for our web series The Beauty Inside. For my surprise, that TV award unlocked a literary career that had been stuck for years.

Damn, I tried. Knocked on so many doors. Asked so many favors. Showed it to. So many people. And crickets. Until that point, publishers in Brazil weren’t interested in my stories. They said the theme I picked — the overlap between Brazilian and African cultures, religions and mythology — wasn’t very marketable. Which was a code for “the world this story represents does t buy too many books.” Which is equally frustrating as it is revolting. For a segment that was supposed to be so avant-garde, so world changing, publishers’ conservatism still baffles me.

But then, once I won the Emmy, they suddenly wanted me. My story was perfect.


The good news: the audience, that one that wasn’t supposed to buy books, seemed to agree with me. Right out of the gate the book reached one of the top positions in the best selling lists among Brazilian fiction books. And in the second volume of the trilogy, and for a few weeks, it reached #3-5 overall, beating all Brazilian books (including Paulo Coelho who was a few steps below me).

All that to say that I have never been shy of picking themes outside the hottest trends, or to keep fighting for a place for my story until I find the right house. Like Bruce Lee famously said, if you behave like water, gently poking the rock with enough resolve, eventually it will give you passage.

My first book took 10 years to break through those rocks and find a publisher. This new one, The Girl from Wudang, took 5. But it finally found one. Now, in one more year, my story will be in your house too.

I can’t wait.


PS. A full decade later and I still get messages from readers thanking me for bringing a world they can relate to literature and from writers who can now get their story published because of the work I started. Resilience makes you work hard for a while, but pays long dividends too. ❤️

Pretty Boy


I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area because of Bruce Lee. As a young girl isolated in mainland China, I fantasized with the vibrant fighting community he inspired, to this day ready to confront laws and canons, set to prove new combat ideas in the real world.

So I applied do Berkeley. Physics. This way I could witness that culture and also pick up some science to supplement my training.

The opening day, I was there. All suited up, the world so much smarter than what I knew… I couldn’t wait to meet the real fighters, the wild scientists. Then the classes commenced. Months in and there was still none of the juicy stuff. Just basics and more basics, no sign of getting better.

Tedius quickly turned annoying when the grades arrived and no one believed my D’s and E’s. Apparently, if you are an Asian in STEM, you have the duty to get A’s.

Stupid whites.

I had already made the decision to drop out when I walked in the classroom and the chick next to me tried to disappear behind her hair. She was sniffing, her face so red and swollen it appeared she head-butted a hornet’s nest. “Are you ok?” – that’s all I said. The story erupted from her lips: the party, the drinks, the hookup, the… “If you are not careful, it will happen to you too.” – she interrupted her account to warn me.

I may not be good with numbers and formulas. But I know a few things. Beating people. Breaking bones. Sending assholes to the hospital. She wouldn’t give me the name, though.

We made a deal: I would teach her to fight. The coming morning, I was showing her first moves at the park next to the Campus. Tai chi felt like the most suited for her hippie-ness. I was right. She loved it, both the slow and the fast. The ideas and actions. The applications. I chose to go easy but deep, making sure each motion she learned, she could truly use.

Her enthusiasm must have made an impression. For every class, an onlooker asked to join. I took them all. Young and old, students, professors, college officials and store clerks. Anyone, as long as they didn’t have balls.

The multiple ironies weren’t mute to my ears, of course. I had jumped from being the Asian in science to the Asian in Martial Arts. Moved from the People’s Republic of China to teach at the People’s Park of Berkeley. I was a walking, pushing and slow kicking cliché. I was having fun, though. Finally.

Until Miranda didn’t appear two classes in a row.

I searched for her. Called. Nothing. Days later, I noticed one of the Cal star swimmers limp his way through the corridors. I’ve seen him before. Good looking, hopeful Olympian, full of himself. He had a black eye too. You know, the pool may distress a hamstring, but no belly flop would cause a dark swollen socket.

From class to class I followed the guy. When he left the school grounds, I went behind toward the dorms, waiting for the right opportunity. A little alley, poorly lit. That was it. I reached out. “Miranda asked me to check if she hadn’t hurt you too much” – I bluffed. The jock never questioned who I was. Just begged for forgiveness.

Which of course I did. But I broke both his legs first.