I’ve started working on a non-fiction book about the thirty year “circus affair” between Nanjing and the Bay Area. The focus is master acrobatic trainer Lu Yi, who has had a profound influence on circus in China, Australia, the U.S. and Canada, as well as the world of synchronized swimming here and in Japan. He has also been my teacher, my lâoshī, and a friend.
At first, a group of circus folks and I thought we would mainly interview Lu Yi and possibly a few other folks to fill in details. The story has grown and now we’re also interviewing lots of his ex-students, family, and colleagues.
Besides the challenge of writing non-fiction – “WTF? I can’t just make stuff up?!?” — what is really blowing my mind is how little I know about my own history. I am amazed to hear what was going on in the lives of people I thought I knew, people I worked with every day, whom I considered close friends, people I risked life and limb with. Some had families I didn’t know about, some had businesses, some had deeply held views of the world, and I never asked.
I’ll turn sixty-six this week, a good time to reconnect with old friends and finally ask about the parts of their lives outside of the rehearsal room, the stage or the classroom, the parts I never saw. The process of creating this book now seems as important as the eventual product.