Submitting To LTYM? Virgina Duan Has Some Advice.

by Tarja on January 30, 2017

Seven days. I don’t know how it happened, but the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER San Francisco 2017 submissions window closes in seven days! Whaaaa???!!!

It’s time to put quill to parchment, pen to paper, voice to Siri, fingers to keyboard, and bust it out. Believe me, I remember my college days of procrastination essay writing well, and I know how hard it is  to not only make time to tell your story, but to actually figure out how to do it.

Have no fear! 2016 Cast Member, Virgina Duan, a Taiwanese American lifestyle blogger who focuses on identity, social justice, religion, homeschooling, Chinese/English bilingual education, parenting, and raising multi-ethnic kids, is here to share her experience. Virginia’s essay last year was so powerful, so touching, it struck a deep chord in me. And she performed it so beautifully, that it’s easy to believe these words came to her without effort.

Not so.


Virginia Duan

I’m not gonna lie to you.

Writing my audition piece for Listen to Your Mother was hard. Real hard.

I mean, if you did even a cursory amount of research into the show and watched even one of the past performances on YouTube, you understand.

How am I ever going to live up to that? How can I match the depth, the humor, the emotional weight?

I mean, of course I envisioned myself in the spotlight, speaking my words with great dignity and heft and the laughs! Oh, the gales of laughter that I would evoke!

But, no words.

Everything I tried to write fell flat.

I had big plans to write my piece super early. I tried for weeks.

All my lofty expectations squashed all of my many, many words out and every writer’s worst nightmare of blank space stared back at me.

For weeks.

I tried to write something deep about my relationship with my mother, determined to wring tears from the audience.


I attempted some wisdom and resonance by writing about my kids.

Nada. (My husband is still bitter that I didn’t write about threatening to murder my daughter’s My Little Pony in a fit of pique.)

I tried to write something funny. (It wasn’t.)

The more I tried, the more I failed and the more I failed, the more I panicked.

Finally, three days before the deadline, I complained to my therapist and she said, “Stop. Stop trying to force an emotion you want people to feel. Just tell a story.”

And that night, I went out to write with a friend and after a few false starts, I told a story.

So, save yourself the weeks of angst and the $150 therapy session.

Tell a story. Tell your story. We want to hear it.

Also? You owe me $150.


So stop thinking, stop stressing and tell a story. Write it down. You can do it.

Remember, the submissions carriage changes back into a pumpkin next Monday, February 6th. Good luck!

Here is Virginia reading her essay “My Love Is An Act of Will.”

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