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March 16th, 2013 - Pete Hsu

It is March 16th, 2013. I am writing a novel. It is the first time I have attempted to write a novel.

My novel is titled SCHLONGKY KONG. It is about a woman named Scharlene Kong who is the singer in a rock band called Schlongky Kong. It is set in the 1990’s. Scharlene is trying to get famous while also trying to rescue a group of indentured Chinese nationals. I am calling it an Asian American Sex Comedy.

I take a novel writing class titled Novel Writing 3. The school has five levels of novel writing classes: levels 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. I have not taken levels 1 or 2. I am confident that my work is so good that I do not need to take these earlier levels. But, I am humble enough not to try and take levels 4 or 5. Also, levels 4 and 5 require instructor approval, which I do not have.

I get to work on my novel.

Meanwhile, I visit local seminaries. Seminaries are graduate schools for the study of religion. The religion I am interested in studying is Christianity. I grew up in the Christian church. I have mixed experiences with the church—some good, mostly bad. The church’s politics have become mostly terrible. A lot of the people in the church have turned out to be fake and also materialistic. But still, Christianity was my first experience of the divine. This is important to me. I get it in my head that, If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them.

I visit an evangelical seminary in Pasadena. It is a somewhat famous seminary. I go on a school tour. There are a lot of people there. They are very friendly people. They are very energic. They are mostly young and they seem to come from all over the country and also from other countries. The seminary gives me a nice satchel bag for free. They also have a brunch buffet, also free. I confess that I do not think I believe in the literal Christian god anymore, but I still consider myself a Christian person. Nobody likes this. Someone calls me Simon Magus. This is not a compliment. Simon Magus was a sorcerer who wanted to buy the Holy Ghost from the apostles. He is considered a villain.

In my Novel Writing 3 class, I meet the other writers. The teacher has written a novel about a boy leaving his religion. One student is writing a science fiction version of a Faulkner novel. Another is writing a YA version of a Shakespeare play. Another is writing a wildly beautiful coming of age novel about a girl in the desert. I like their writing. I also like them as people.

I share my work with the class, my novel’s first chapter. This is something I have written and rewritten several times, so it is probably my best work—or, it is at least something I have obviously worked on a lot.

My classmates tell me how much they like it. Also, they tell me that I am good at writing from a woman’s point-of-view. I am flattered but also not surprised, because I think I am a really good writer. I do not let it show that I think I am a good writer. I try to act like I do not think I am very good.

My second turn to share my work, it goes differently. My classmates are confused. I have brought in new elements to the story, like track & field and classical quartets. I have not explained these new elements. My classmates do not understand why I have brought in these new elements. Also, I have written a sex scene. My classmates find my sex scene neither sexy nor anatomically possible. I am surprised by their reactions. Also, someone questions whether or not my novel infringes on copyright laws.

Meanwhile, I visit another seminary. It is not an evangelical seminary. It is what they call a mainline seminary. I feel very comfortable there. They seem to be anti-capitalist and to believe in LGBTQIA rights and immigration rights and social justice causes. They do not seem bothered that I do not believe in the literal Christian god. They tell me that atheists are welcome to attend their seminary. I like all this. But, there are only about five or six people at the visit, and they are not very energetic. They are also somewhat old. I am somewhat old. I am forty years old, but being forty years old makes me the youngest person there. Also, the buildings are dilapidated.

I decide I do not want to enroll in seminary.

Back in class, I work on my novel some more. I think about what my classmates have told me. I keep writing. My writing seems to get messier but also more entertaining. I like this. It is a strange thing—I feel like my writing is both better and worse than when I started.

As it turns out, my novel SCHLONGKY KONG is never completed. I write a draft of it. It is one hundred pages long. It ends with a rescue scene followed by a chase scene followed by a last stand against the evil kidnappers. It seems by the end to have nothing to do with the rock band, which is why I wanted to write it in the first place.

But, one chapter from SCHLONGKY KONG is good. At least I think it is good. I take it and rewrite it into a short story. I submit it to journals. It is accepted pretty quickly and becomes my first publication.

The rest of SCHLONGKY KONG is lost forever when my computer crashes. I did not have the cloud back then. I am not sad about this.


Pete Hsu is the author of the short story collection If I Were The Ocean, I’d Carry You Home (Red Hen Press, 2022) and the experimental chapbook There Is A Man (Tolsun Books). His writing has also been featured in The Los Angeles Review, The Bare Life Review, F(r)iction Magazine, Faultline Journal of Arts and Letters, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and others. He was a 2017 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow and the 2017 PEN in the Community Writer in Residence. He was born in Taipei, Taiwan and currently resides in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley.

Pete would love for you learn more about 826LA, a nonprofit "dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write."


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