Some of the many things I’ve done.

Current Project: River Lake People, a novel

I began writing River Lake People in the winter of 2018. The novel is based off a short story I wrote that, after the characters called to me, blossomed into a much larger thing. The novel is set in 2003 Sichuan Province, and takes place in the cities of Panzhihua, Leshan, and the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu. The main character, Liu Xiaomei, leaves her hometown of Panzhihua for a job working in a tech startup in the city of Leshan. She soon learns that the group to which the company belongs is as much mafia-run as it is legit. She finds herself caught in the middle of a succession crisis, as her mentor in the company vies for control of the sprawling group of companies and illicit businesses.

The story has elements of a classic Bildungsroman – a coming of age story for a young woman venturing out into the world – but what sets this story apart, for me, is the concept of “The Rivers and Lakes,” which is the Chinese term for all life that transpires outside of the mainstream. Gamblers and Taoists, sex workers and gangsters, martial artists and traveling actors all populate “the rivers and lakes.” There are countless Chinese novels and stories that tell of the rivers and lakes, The Water Margin, for example, and also any wuxia tales, like those written by the late great Jin Yong. I take inspiration from these works and many others in the vast corpus of Chinese literature.

I am currently in the third or maybe fourth round of revisions. I have two great editors, and together we expect the novel to be finished in the summer of 2024, and published soon thereafter. I also started an MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University in the Fall of 2018, and I will graduate in May of 2024. it goes without saying that the MFA has been instrumental in writing this novel. If all goes well, I’ll have a degree and a copy of the book in hand by the end of summer next year.

You can learn a bit more about the process and some of the characters in the book through blogposts and my Youtube Channel: Storytime with Sascha.

Creative Writing

I have been writing and telling stories as far back as I can remember.

Over time, writing creative stories and blogs, and little snippets of dream became a habit and somewhat of a compulsion for me. I didn’t really consider, or even know about, publishing in terms of creative writing or fiction. I did understand sharing, though. And money. And so my writing developed and evolved. In college I began writing journalism and my creative outlets became things I showed my friends, or outlets for stress and dread that I out into notebooks and Word Docs. It wasn’t until I got to China that I actually tried to publish. In the last five years, so from 2018 on, I began writing fiction and trying to publish in earnest.

“Festus Cripps,” a Finalist for The Malahat Review, (2018)

“The One-Legged River Ho,” published in The Rag (2011)

“The Imam who Sang,” published in the MaLa Literary Journal, Vol. 1 (2010)

“Son of a Soldier,” published in A Cup of Comfort: Military Families (2008)




Supply Chain Features for the Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics (2018 – 2020)

In 2018 I joined SCCE as a reporter and author of the Report on Supply Chain Compliance. I was hired in March of 2018 and had to fill my first newsletter by June. I took a deep dive into supply chains and all of the silos that interconnect around the concepts of compliance, regulation, sustainability, ethics, governance, and innovation. I studied export controls, trade agreements, data management, AI and blockchain tech, ESG and sustainability, food safety and a few other whole topics that slip my mind at the moment. It was one of the most fascinating beats I’ve ever covered. I spent two and half years on this project and wrote dozens of stories. Most of them are behind a paywall, but you can get an idea of the work I was doing here by clicking on the link below:
Report on Supply Chain Compliance (2018 – 2020) – a paywalled archive of stories on supply chains and compliance
I won the JDSupra award for Best Coverage of White Collar Defense in 2020 for my work at SCCE.

News, Features, and Travel Stories for the South China Morning Post (2001 – 2018)

I started writing for the South China Morning Post shortly after I arrived in China in August of 200. I was so blown away by China when I first arrived, it was nothing at all like I had imagined it … I was actually happy that I had something of a blank slate when I arrived. I knew some of the history, but I knew next to nothing about contemporary China, so I was open to whatever the country and the society gave me. And China gave a lot. I spent about 12 years in China total, living in Chongqing, Chengdu, and Shanghai and traveling to pretty much every major city in the country. I wrote for the SCMP almost the entire time, beginning with features and ending with travel stories about the cities I visited.
South China Morning Post author archive (2011 – 2018) – In 2011, I secured a contract to write sponsored features about cities in China for the SCMP. These features were paid for by the Municipal Propaganda offices of each city, and published in the SCMP to try and attract tourists and raise the profile of Mainland Chinese cities. It was a promotional gig, but it was some of the most fun I had as a writer. I was able to travel all across China, stay in really nice hotels and eat great food, get driven around and shown the sights by city officials, and I also got to write decent copy and get paid for it. I wrote a ton of these sponsored features, and there is a long list of them accessible through this author archive link.
School of Hard Knocks (SCMP Feb 2009) – I studied martial arts up in the foothills of the Himalayas, in a town called Hanyuan, under my master’s master, Dai Kang. This story was a hard write-up. I was still struggling with long form feature writing and although I knew I could write these types of stories, managing the structure and flow was still a work in progress. For a look at photos from “School of Hard Knocks,” check out this blogpost about the Kung Fu School with pdfs from the actual magazine – the SCMP story linked does not have the photos.
Thousands of People Rushed into the Streets (SCMP May 2008) – This story was in reaction to the Wenchuan Earthquake of 2008 that killed an estimated 80,000 people in Sichuan Province. I wrote a few pieces about this event, some for my personal blog and one for Chengduliving.com. This one for the SCMP was written right afterwards, before we had a good idea of the extent of  the damage.
Treasure Hunt (SCMP May 2006) – One of my favorite places to wander around in Chengdu was the Songxianqiao Antique Market. I loved that place. There were some real gems there: distinguished woodworkers and artists, painters and chop carvers, booksellers and trinket hawkers. There were all sorts of river lake craftsmen and hustlers at the market and I hope it still exists, and if it does, that it hasn’t changed much in the decade or so since I last visited.
Unlikely Band of Brothers (SCMP Feb 2006) – This story came out of the weeks I spent in Hong Kong during the World Trade Organization’s annual ministerial meeting in late December 2005. I was there as a correspondent for Antiwar.com, and I wrote a few columns for them about my experience there. After I got back home from Hong Kong, I stayed in contact with one of the men I was in jail with, Wen Zhiming, and he told me about his more profound experience being held by Hong Kong authorities for more than a month. This story is dense, and filled with legal details – I remember how exhausted I was reporting on this one. It does paint a picture of the legal system in Hong Kong, but for a better look at the Ministerial itself, check out the Antiwar.com columns linked here and again further below.
Burn Identity (SCMP Aug 2004) – Southwest China is home to a number of ethnic minorities who celebrate the Torch Festival, held in the late summer, during the Monkey moon, just before the harvest season. I traveled up and down this region for years, from Kham in the north to the borders with Laos in the south. This feature, in my opinion, does not do the festival justice, but it was one of my first forays into long form travel feature writing. I would get better as the years went on.
Chongqing Stickman Army (SCMP March 2001) – One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Chongqing the summer of 2000, was the incredible energy. Millions of people on the move, working, selling, playing, dancing, talking, arguing, fighting, chilling … a particular group of people struck me immediately: peasant migrants in blue Maoist clothes with bamboo poles on their shoulders, walking in groups through the city waiting for someone to holler “bangbang!” so they could cart something for a few coins. That initial experience resulted in a couple stories, only one of them survives, “Chongqing Stickman Army,” which only survives because the Hartford Web Publishing project picked it up and pasted the text.

Food and Travel Features for Roads and Kingdoms (2015 – 2018)

I began writing for Roads and Kingdoms in 2014 after I stumbled across the online magazine and marveled at the beauty and simplicity of the site, and the extraordinary talent I saw writing and taking photos for them. I reached out and eventually established a relationship that last for a few years. I wrote a couple China-based features for them and a few U.S. based ones. Every story was meticulously reported and edited, and I poured myself into the writing. At the time, the writing I did for Roads and Kingdoms was, in my opinion, the best writing I had done up until that point.
Cultivating the Concrete Jungle (March 2018) – I also put together a piece for Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” project with Roads and Kingdoms, about the shattered landscape at the outskirts of Chengdu where people had their little urban gardens. I used to walk through these gardens every day with my boys – a few pics from those walks are available on Chengduliving.com.
19 Things to Know Before You Go: The Tea Horse Road (June 2016) – The Tea Horse Road, or Horse and Tea Trade Route, is a network that connects Tibet with western China and Southeast Asia, going so far as Xi’an in the north of China and looping through Burma into India. It’s the  network I found myself traversing over and over during my time reporting and traveling in China. This guide I wrote is a decent primer for people headed out to this region to explore it for themselves, even if things have changed dramatically since this was published.
Sacred Grain of the Northwoods (May 2016) – This story took shape after I learned of work by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to protect wild rice waters in Minnesota. I was able to travel into wild rice country, near Bemidji, and meet a few interesting characters who told me about the history of the Ojibwe people and the importance wild rice has in their diets and culture.
Driftless Manifesto (Sept 2015) – I spent the summer of 2015 driving up and down the Driftless region in southwest Wisconsin and Eastern Iowa. It was one of the most beautiful summers of my life. I visited farms and restaurants and co-ops focusing on “slow food,” the antithesis to industrial farming and fast food that we as Americans have grown so accustomed to.
The Fat Man’s Belly (Jan 2015) – On one of my trips to Hainan to write travel stories for the SCMP, I took the opportunity to write up a piece for Roads and Kingdoms about China’s “Hawaii” in the South China Sea.

Freelance work for Minneapolis Star Tribune, the City Pages, and the Growler Magazine (2015 – 2017)

The Food that Grows on Water: Harvesters and state agencies seek to protect Minnesota’s wild rice legacy (The Growler Mag, Aug 2017) – This story was something of a follow-up on a story I wrote for Roads and Kingdoms a year earlier, about wild rice and the MPCA’s efforts to regulate and protect wild rice waters.

East Meets West: Minneapolis restauranteurs are crossing the river to join in St. Paul’s restaurant resurgence (The Growler Mag, Sept 2017) – a little feature about St. Paul’s resurgence as a food and culture spot.

The U of M houses the nation’s largest collection of core samples (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 2016) – This was one of my first features for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and it turned out to be a fascinating experience learning about the role lake and ocean cores play in re-creating ecosystems from centuries and millennia ago. The research has all sorts of practical applications, not least of which is predicting what our world may look at if it grows any hotter.
Where to find authentic Chinese food in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, July 2016) – This little feature as well as Get the kids, and tube, skate, explore in the metro were both fun to write. Just little blurbs about life in the Twin Cities for the local paper.

The shockingly normal life of one Twin Cities prostitute (Minneapolis City Pages, Oct 2016) – This story was a big deal for me. I spoke to a sex worker in Minneapolis who clued me in on the scene in Minneapolis and I learned a lot about the industry, the way the city deals with it, and the way American society wrestles with the issue of sex, money, and women.

Linsey Williams, Minnesota MMA fighter, bends but won’t break (Minneapolis City Pages, Nov 2015) – This was my first feature for City Pages and it was a blast to report on and write. I got to meet Linsey’s family and follow her around for a bit while she fought and trained, and also got to glimpse a bit of the MMA scene in the city as a whole.

Martial Arts Features for Vice: Fightland (2014 – 2016)

I pitched a story to Fightland about a foreign fighter competing on the regional Chinese circuit, and that first feature turned into a relationship that lasted more than two years, and produced a host of stories on martial arts in China and later in the Midwest. This gig not only brought me in touch with China’s martial roots and the new fighters coming into the MMA scene, but also kickstarted my own martial arts journey, which continues to this day at The Cellar Gym in Minneapolis. There are so many fun stories from this period of my career, including trips to UFC events in Tokyo and Macao, stories on the history of martial arts in China, and recaps from small circuit events in Mongolia, Sichuan, Iowa, and Shanghai. Many of the stories I wrote for VICE were expunged from the VICE site after VICE: Fightland was folded into VICE’s sports coverage, so many of the links to the older stories are gleaned from the Wayback Machine. Unfortunately, only a small selection of the stories I wrote are still available on his VICE Author archive.
I think it’s important to add that I owe a tremendous debt to Ben Judkins of Kung Fu Tea, who helped me explore and understand some of the deep history and culture of martial arts, particularly in China.
Why Kungfu Masters Refuse to Teach (Jan 2016) – This link takes you back to the Archive page on this site, which is a collection of twelve good features I’ve written throughout the years. The post describes a bit of background, and has a link to the actual story. In this piece, I tried to convey the culture of martial arts in China, and why a lot of it seems like smoke and magic to the outsider, when in fact some of the greatest martial artists I have ever seen are in China, training every day. They just don’t seek out the limelight very much, because the limelight isn’t what they’re seeking.
Wild Monks: Origins of the Shaolin Martial Arts (April 2015) – This was one of the first stories I wrote that delved into the history of Chinese martial arts. This was a very fun and rewarding process, and I have to tip my hat to Ben Judkins of Kung Fu Tea. My conversations with him, and reading his work, were incredibly influential in my own articles about Chinese martial arts.
The Practical isn’t Pretty: General Qi Jiguang on Martial Arts for Soldiers (Mar 2015) – This is about a manual written by a general regarding hand to hand combat. The Chinese written corpus is really astounding. There are mountains and mountains of writing on every topic conceivable – this manual is one of the surviving tomes that is considered by scholars to be a solid look at historical views on Kung fu.
Shaolin Warrior Monks and the Japanese Wokou Pirates (Mar 2015) – This is a bit legend a bit history, but it describes some of the interesting political struggles going on in East Asia in the last centuries, between Japanese, Korean, and Chinese forces trying to maintain control and expand influence around the Yellow Sea.
Karate’s Sacred Tome: The Bubishi and the Evolution of the Martial Arts (Feb 2015) – This is a really cool story, and I tried to do it justice. Basically, scraps of many different Chinese Kung fu manuals made their way to Okinawa, where they were pieced together and turned into a manual that became the ultimate bible for karate, the Japanese martial art. Super interesting example of cultural transmission.
Building a Buddhist Army: MMA Reaches into the Himalayas (Nov 2014) – About Tibetan kids learning BJJ and Muay Thai in the mountains of western Sichuan.
The Night Everything Changed (Sept 2014) – This story was written from a capsule hotel at Tokyo’s Narita airport after UFC Japan in September 2014. Someone commented that it read like something William Gibson might write, if he were to write about Japanese MMA. I like that.
Mother of Elbows: A Kungfu Contribution to MMA (June 2014)- About the 36 Elbows movement taught by my own Kung fu master, Li Quan.
The Hard Knock Life of a Foreign Fighter in China (Feb 2014) – This is a raw story about MMA fighters in China’s very young, very raw fight scene. This story led to a deep dive into the Chinese regional combat sports world and for three years few foreigners knew more about it than I did.

China-based Freelance Stories for The Economist, ChinaFile, and others (2012 – 2016)

The Bamboo Bicycles of Chengdu (China File 2016) – I loved writing this feature, but it was a slog going through the editing process. I really wanted to link the ancient bamboo technology in China to the modern sustainable bikes being built by my two friends in Chengdu, but it seemed to be a difficult mix. It turned out well, I believe, and this story gives a good look at bamboo as a material, as well as the deep wisdom available to ancient Chinese scholars.

Podcast: Chinese Martial Arts (China File 2014) – Like the Bamboo Bike feature above, this podcast was put together for ChinaFile, another moribund blog from the old days in China. The people who put that site together are still working on China-related matters, but these stories and podcasts live in the limbo world of forgotten links. I had a lot of fun doing this podcast, and it was put together at the height of my work with marital arts in China.
Ain’t that a Kick in the Head (The Economist 2013) – the first story I wrote for The Economist about regional Chinese MMA in Mongolia.
Local hero: A well-known writer draws praise and ire (The Economist 2013) – This is a little blurb about a well-known Sichuan writer and dissident who held a small meeting in downtown Chengdu. The fact that he was able to do so without getting arrested or detained was pretty interesting for me.

Urban China features on China (Next City) – Next City is a non-profit with the mission to “unleash the transformative power of solutions-based journalism to equip communities and their leaders with the knowledge and connections to re-imagine cities as liberated places of economic, environmental and racial justice.” I wrote several stories about the city of Chengdu for Next City, focusing on the unique urban characteristics of Chinese cities during the breakneck development phase of 2000 – about 2015. Although he only wrote for them for a couple years, the articles were heartfelt and informative.

Tiny Farms and Gardens Sprout in China’s Urban Rubble (Next City 2014) – which Sascha wrote after spending hours walking around his liminal neighborhood in Huayang with his two toddler sons

Surprise! China Built the World’s Biggest Building, and it’s a Boondoggle! (Next City 2013) – about the New Century Global Center, a focus of a couple features and a video for Chengdu Living.

China’s Organic Food Cooperatives Must Overcome Trust Deficit (Tea Leaf Nation 2013) – This story came through my interactions with the rising, conscious middle class in China that sought food security in the wake of many food-related scandals involving everything form tainted beef to fake soy sauce to toxic baby formula.
Journalism 2.0: Microblogging the Lede (Tea Leaf Nation 2012) – This is a brief discussion about Weibo and Wechat, and how social media was taking over traditional journalism.
Tibet: a world apart (Roger Presents 2012) – This was a one-off for a friend’s site, but I still enjoy the raw descriptions of Tibet at this point in time, in the heavily Tibetan Sichuanese prefectures of Aba and Kham. This story, I believe, gives a good look into the street vibe that Chinese and Tibetans experience on a daily basis.
Flower Town (Antihill 2012/LA Review of Books 2019) – I have this feature linked above and in my Archive page, and this particular link goes to a reprint of the story in the LA Review of Books. This story is one of the most emotional ones I have ever written. I tried to maintain a posture of distance, as a journalist, but when I read some of the lines from this tale, I go back to 2008 Chengdu and it’s hard not to break down and cry. You can find the 2019 LA Review of Books reprint of Flower Town here.

Features and Columns for ChengduLiving.com (2010 – 2015)

In 2010, my friend and Starcraft nemesis Charlies Moseley built ChenguLiving.com, a site dedicated to chronicling life in Sichuan’s capital city. I became the main writer for the site and contributed dozens of stories on local food and culture, political and economic issues, expat life, and more. This was an unpaid labor of love, and it provided a needed outlet for me to explore topics without the constraints of editors, agendas, or standard journalistic constraints. I could write whatever I wanted, how I wanted, and it was for myself and the community of people I lived with in Chengdu. It might not be surprising that some of my best writing on China appeared in Chengdu Living.
How I Built my Compound (Dec 2013) – is another good one about life in China. At some point, I decided I wanted to create my own vision for a living space in China. By that point I had two sons and a wife, and they wanted to live in a place that was safe, spacious, and beautiful. This compound, called Shu Jun just outside of Chengdu proper, was an attempt at that. It was a wonderful year and that place gave me hope that, someday, I might be able to build a true and lasting compound with my two somewhat handy hands.
Chengdu and China’s New Future (April 2012) and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in Chengdu (July 2013) – these two stories represent the economic and political writing that I did for Chengdu Living. There were many stories in this vein, but these two might be the most interesting and well written. For me, they are the most memorable. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was a long project that involved deep investigative reporting and a video that took a look into the inner workings of Chengdu’s government, and the dark and light sides of the development push that the central authorities had initiated for Chengdu back in 2000. It was an ambitious story, and it ended up getting me in some hot water, but that too is another tale to be told at another time.
The Ace of Diamonds: Surviving the 2008 Earthquake (May 2011) – This was an interview with Charlie Moseley after he returned from Qingcheng Mountain, a Taoist holy place and a tourist destination. The 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake hit while Charlie was on the mountain, and this story is an account of how he got off the mountain and back home. This story had an incredible impact on me. I too experienced the earthquake, and wrote about it on my blog, Chachin’ Ain’t Easy, and for various outlets. It’s hard to describe here how it felt to be in a disaster zone. I went up into the affected areas several times and volunteered to help, but there was little to be done other than witness the destruction, the death, and the grief that follows on something like an earthquake that instantly killed thousands of people. Estimates of the total death toll hover between 80,000 – 100,000 people …
China’s Soul Search (Jan 2010) – This story impressed an Economist editor enough to get me hired to write features for him. It’s a raw and heartfelt account of what I thought I was seeing around me: the concerted and determined attempt by Chinese people old and young, rich and poor, to establish an identity that took into account the legends of history and the realities of modern life.
Giving Birth in Chengdu (Jan 2010) – This was the first installment in a series of stories about becoming a father in China. I talk about hospitals and breastfeeding and visas and the cultural nuances of mixed blood babies. Much of the content still applies, and the whole series is available on Chengdu Living’s Post Series page.
On this site’s Archive page, you can also access “Fan Jianchuan’s Obsession (May 2012),” a story published on Chengdu Living about one of the most unique museum China has to offer.
For anyone interested in what life was like in China during this period of time, the stories on Chengdu Living are a valuable resource. All of my stories can be found on his Chengdu Living Author archive.

Travel stories and Videos for Ctrip (2010 – 2012)

I actually worked for Ctrip full time from 2010 to 2012 as a reporter and videographer. I wrote maybe a hundred stories for them and edit a hundred more. Unfortunately, the sites I worked on during that time underwent extensive changes and the vast majority of those stories are gone, and only a few remain cached in the Wayback Machine. A few random stories remain on the old Ctrip English Language Author page. It’s too bad. There were some decent travel stories in the bunch, lost and gone forever, but I had a good time working with an all-foreign editing team for China’s most successful (at the time) travel company.

I also did a few videos with Stephan Larose, a videographer, writer, and photographer who worked at Ctrip. Those videos are still accessible on the Ctrip Youtube Channel and on my own Storytime with Sascha Youtube Channel.

Chachin’ Ain’t Easy Blog (2008 – 2010)

This was my forum for whatever was going on in my head at any given moment. There are about 400 or so posts in those two years, the majority of them written in 2008. There’s actually a lot of good writing on these pages, a lot of stream of consciousness and heartfelt expression that typified my style at this point in time. There was a lot going on, with life in China and my own aspirations for myself as a person and a writer. I had just turned thirty when I started this blog, and I thought I was grown in some ways, but knew I wasn’t in others. A lot of that crazy period of time in China is recorded here, and I often go back to read what my younger self wrote to gather some of that inspiration, that angst, that yearning that drove a lot of my words and actions.
The old blog (on Blogspot no less) can still be accessed at Chachin’ Ain’t Easy. The new blog is accessible here.

Freelance News, Travel and Feature Stories (2007 – 2011)

Travel Stories for Europe Up Close (2009 – 2011) – This was a gig that allowed me to use my experience living and traveling around Europe to create helpful, interesting travel shorts. This gig came during the brief “blogs are going to rule” phase of the Internet. Blogs still exist, for sure, but they have since been replaced by social media and other modes of digital communication. But for the time, this travel site about Europe was fun, helpful, and gave me a chance to write about places I had visited in my youth.
Series on Tea (Skrewtips 2009) – I got big into tea around 2007/2008 and carried it forward till pretty much the present day. During this period I entertained dreams of a tea business of some nature, but th emost I got out of it was a few sales and this series on different types of tea, their histories, and how to best drink them. I think it still holds up.
Kauai’s rugged hiking, camping require thoughtful preparation (The Oregonian 2009) – My friend Q invited me to go to Hawaii with him back when I was living in Portland and I took him up, of course. The trip was fantastic – we camped on the beach, cooked our own food by the waves, and hiked a chunk of the Napali coast. I managed to get this story published about the trip.
How Love And Money Conquered Communism At The Beijing Olympics (Matador 2008) – This gig … I had been desperately trying to get a job at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and my man Philly hooked it up. I ended up being a security guard at the Holland House and getting a front row seat to a bunch of different Olympic events. It was a blast. This is one of the stories I wrote during that time. I also put a lot down on my blog, which can be found here under the label Beijing Olympics 2008.

How The US Prison System Has Become a Big Business
(Matador 2008) – A decent little blurb about the private prison system and how the U.S. profits off punishment.

Future’s so Bright (Guernica 2007) – I traveled to Cairo, Egypt in 2007 to visit an old flame of mine and while I was there I learned about her friend who worked with the Zebaleen in Mokkattam. The Zebaleen are Coptic Christians who handle all the garbage in Cairo, and they live in the neighborhood of Mokattam, surrounded by garbage and pigs and poverty. This story was one of the first long form features i wrote for a solid and esteemed publication.

Weekly Columns for Antiwar.com (2001-2008)

For Antiwar.com, I wrote primarily geopolitical stories and first-hand accounts of Chinese responses to certain geopolitical events, such as the Hainan Spy Plane Incident and China’s Word Trade Organization membership bid. Some of the writing is very raw, and all of it is passionate. At the time, I was given a lot of freedom to express my own ideas and emotions regarding life in China and the economic and political realities of both the national and international situation. I was just forming those ideas at this time, and many of the articles for Antiwar.com were thought experiments as much as reportage.

China’s Manifest Destiny (Dec 2009) – This was the last story I wrote for Antiwar.com and it reflects some of my ideas regarding China’s “coming of age” process in the 21st Century. By this time, after the Beijing Olympics, China’s self-confidence as a modern nation was almost completely intact, and the relationship dynamics between China and the West was shifting toward a balance, as opposed to the imbalance so often present when the industrialized West, backed by U.S. military power, interacts with the rest of th the world.

The Security Blanket (Aug 2008) – I wrote this one in the middle of the Beijing Olympics about the measures China took to keep the Games safe and to make sure every damn corner in the city (and beyond) was monitored.

Setting the Stage (Dec 2005) – This is the first story I wrote for Antiwar.com while on assignment covering the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in 2005. I stayed in the infamous Chungking mansions from December 13, 2005 until Christmas of that year, attending Ministerial events and forums, following protests, and filing stories from mys coffin-like room at the end of the night. I was there when the protestors broke through police lines on the last day of the Ministerial and rushed the building where WTO delegates were holding their meetings. Although I tried to stay impartial, it was hard for a young man to not get passionate about the protests and the movements; I was arrested along with everyone else protesting and sent to a jail cell way out in the New Territories for ten days. it just so happened that I was in the same cell as the leader of the Korean Peasant Army, a bookish librarian with intense convictions. The other stories that came out of that trip are: Let the Hostilities Begin (Dec 2005), Livelihoods at Stake (Dec 2005), and Drums in the Streets (Dec 2005).

In Defense of Piracy (July 2004) – This was a fun one to write, and was inspired by my regular trips to the low-key pirated DVD spot near my house in Chengdu.

Chinese Dreams, American Dreams (November 2004) – I loved writing this one. It was inspired by some Immortal Technique beats and lyrics and also came at a time when I was full of ideas regarding Sino-U.S. relations and my place in the worlds between them.

Reporter at the The Minnesota Daily (1997 – 1999)

The first bit of reporting and writing I did was for The Minnesota Daily, from 1997 – 1999. Some of those stories are still available online, but generally without the media that came with the story, and without formatting. I had a lot of great experiences at the Daily. The U of M paper was an award winning publication and several of the people I worked with went on to do great things. One of them, Nicole Vulcan, currently edits The Source in Bend, OR; in 1998, Nicole, me, and photographer Scott Romsa went on an epic adventure through Ireland together. We toured much of the west coast, Dublin, and up to Belfast. I later hitchhiked around the north, visiting Omagh, Derry, Portadown, and back to Belfast before returning to the U.S. via another wild adventure in London (a tale to be told at another time). Those experiences culminated in “On the Brink of Peace (April 1999),” still one of my favorite stories:

Northern Ireland is as green as the Republic, make no mistake. When the sun shines on Belfast, the largest in the province, the colors are vibrant; people seem to forget the political and sectarian issues that dominate a foreigner’s perspective of the North. It’s when night comes that Belfast dons her infamous cloak of gray, and one is reminded of the city’s turbulent past. Armored jeeps patrol a silent Donegal Square, the center of Belfast, while the words of the Crown Royal doorman on Victoria Street create an atmosphere of tension.

“‘A bit of advice: don’t go out at night,” the doorkeeper said. “And avoid Shankill.'”
University facilitates students’ globalization (Dec 1999) – This was my last story for the Daily and was actually part of my graduation requirements. I did a ton of reporting for this one, and spoke to some big wigs throughout the U. I didn’t follow through the way I could have,m though, and ended up with a C. Not because the story sucked, but because I had started a project that probably required a series, or at least a lot more space than this one took up, and never finished it.



Sichuan Teachers College: (2010 – 2012)

This was my last teaching job in China. I already had two sons by the time I started teaching here, and we were considering a move back to the U.S. – which would not happen until 2015. I taught ESL and Creative Writing here, and it was one of my more memorable times as a teacher. I was older and more experienced, and i was able to really help some of my students improve their speaking and writing abilities, as well as expand their understanding of American and Western culture.

Sichuan University (2005 – 2010)

During this five-year stint at Chengdu’s most prestigious university, I elevated my teaching skills dramatically by diving into small, focused classes. I taught Creative Writing and Literature, Business English, and of course standard ESL. I also taught German for a semester, which proved to be very difficult, even though I am a native speaker.

Southwest Agricultural University (2000 – 2001)

This was my first ever teaching job. I was 23 years old, barely a year or two older than most of my students, and this was supposed to be a one year gig. I ended up staying in China for the next 15 years, give or take a few years traveling and living in the U.S. on and off. What happened? China happened, I suppose. I learned Chinese much quicker than I thought I would, and was able to connect with the people and society around me in profound – and not so profound – ways. The kickoff to this 15 year journey that has had an incredible impact on my life was my year at Southwest Agricultural University, where i tried to teach English to college Freshman and Catcher in the Rye to agribusiness PhDs.


Quantum Trading and Services (2003 – 2006)

This was my bog foray into big business in China. I parlayed my network and a bit of cash I earned from the closing of the Guan 9 bar into an apartment/office in the most famous and well-equipped high rise in Chengdu, at the time. I tried all sorts of businesses. I worked with a German friend to try and import industrial printing machines; i worked with the same German to import electromagnetic mats that realigned one’s internal frequencies to a healthier and more natural state; I tried to help local Sichuanese and also Cantonese plastic mold manufacturers enter the U.S. market; I tried to sell Sichuan tea to U.S. and European markets; I tried running a team of performers on a 29 -city tour across China to promote Coors; I tried selling German ATM cleaning cards in the Chinese market; I tried selling Chinese pool tables to the U.S. market.

I tried a many other things as well, I can’t even remember them all. Most of these ideas failed.
In 2006 I closed the doors of the office after getting paid a very large sum by Coors following the end of the tour. It was the only really successful business I did. I was exhausted, demoralized, and jaded. I had tried very hard to bring people together to pursue a common goal. I held so m,any meeting with my good friends at the time, meetings I hoped would bind us together as a team and help us to face the business world in China together. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I had friends in Shanghai who were able to rely on family money and business lines to kickstart their career, but I had no such support. I was on my own. In trying to bring my friends together, i almost lost them. Money and profit and work made everyone act different, turn suspicious, and forget the ties that bound us together. I myself began to view things from a profit lens, and I spent hours staring off into the distance and trying to envision the ways I could make money, maneuver things, who I needed to talk to, sit with, give a gift too. When this business closed I took what little money I had earned and went on a trip around the world. I went and trimmed weed in the hills of Northern California. I reconnected with my people, and tried to reconnect with my family. It was a dark time, but a time in which I figured out what I wanted to do and how I wanted to live the rest of my life. It was during these days that I decided i wanted to be a writer, nothing more, and I spent the next 15 years of my life building a living off of that (as well as many other odd jobs, because writing doesn’t often pay). It was hard, and it still is hard. But running a business like this was an invaluable experience and taught me what I’m capable of, what I love to do, and what I don’t love to do.
It taught me that my friends are more important to me than money; social connection is more important to me than social climbing; and that although I probably could have been a good businessman had things been slightly different, my true calling, and the calling I have accepted as my own, is Storyteller.

Guan 9 Bar and Restaurant (2002 – 2003)

This hippy backpacker bar was arguably the first of its kind in Western China. Paul’s Oasis might have been first, but Guan 9 was bigger and had better decorations, so I’d argue with Paul about it even though it would be a waste of time. I was a partner in this bar and at the time I thought I was pretty much an owner, even though I had literally zero stake, had not seen a single document, and my main partner, a trailblazing Chinese philosopher, had taken off for Dali right after opening night. I ended up running the bar with the team from the Dragontown Hostel. Dragontown was a very successful hostel in the old part of Chengdu, built into a renovated Qing Dynasty building. Billy, the man who ran that hostel, was a true businessman and he helped turn Guan 9 into a marginally successful joint for a year, during SARS, before selling it off to someone else. I walked with a bit of cash, and felt like I had been a part of a cultural moment in Chengdu. Later on, people would come up to me in various parts of China and ask if I had been a part of Guan and I would proudly say yes, of course. There was nothing more satisfying to me at the time than being associated with a bar that everyone thought was “cool” and fun to hang out in. Being the host appealed to me; I am good at it, and watching people party and have a good time and trying to find ways to enhance that good time was fun for me, even if the whole business was slapdash and rickety.

Sichuan American Chamber of Commerce (2002 – 2003)

I got a job building the AmCham website for the Chengdu chapter through a friend of mine who I played poker with every weekend. He was, at the time, the director of AmCham Chengdu even though he was British. I didn’t know anything about building websites, but I had a friend who did and he taught me the basics of Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop and I was able to cobble together a decent redesign that stayed up for almost a decade. There was a lot of chaos going on for me during these years. I was constantly trying to hustle my way into the big get rich wave of entrepreneurial fervor washing over China. But I didn’t have a reliable visa – I had left Southwest Agricultural University, who had provided me with a working visa – and I didn’t have any support. I was doing everything basically on my own, in a foreign country, with very little money and very little experience. It was exciting and exhausting and stressful, but i was proud of myself for not only learning how to code HTML on the fly, but also troubleshooting the various personal and professional obstacles that came up while working for a governmental agency in a foreign country.

MERS English Training Services (2001 – 2002)

This was my first real business venture. I went home for just under a year after my teaching job at Southwest Agricultural University and while there I set up a website for English speakers who wanted to teach in China. I wanted to cash in on the English teaching craze in China and at the same time give English speakers a reliable partner in China who could help them through the process of figuring everything out in China. It didn’t work out. I found that being a middleman for human beings was incredibly difficult and sleazy and I didn’t enjoy it or enjoy the ways this could have earned me money. I learned through this initial foray into business that people matter more to me than money, and that would be a defining insight throughout my short, energetic career as an entrepreneur: it turns out that, often, one has to choose profit over people or, to put it another way, one has to find the balance between being a good person and running a business (in an extremely cutthroat environment) and finding/losing that balance led to me eventually turning away from business and focusing solely on writing.

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