Karen Kao

I was raised in the United States on stories of the China my parents fled in the 1950s. Those stories turned into seeds and those seeds grew and multiplied. My debut novel The Dancing Girl and the Turtle is the result.

While I was still in college, the Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa published my first poems. That seemed like enough success to embark on the writing life. My plan was to travel through the south of France with some pencils and a notebook, maybe a bikini and a change of underwear, too.

My father thought law would be a better choice.

For 25 years, I was a high-powered corporate lawyer, first in Washington, DC and later in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. There are lots of bad things to say about that life (stress, sexism, words as weapons) but there are good things, too. You learn how to read people and imagine how a situation could play out from beginning to end. They were good tools to have as a negotiator and, as it turns out, as a novelist, too.

I now write short and long form fiction from my home in Amsterdam, which I share with my husband Frans and Sam the cat. Whenever there’s food on the table, our two grown sons Paul and Mark show up, too.

My short stories have appeared in Jabberwock Review and Cha: An Asian Literary Journal. You can follow my journey, through the process of editing The Dancing Girl and the Turtle and on my other forays into life, at my blog Shanghai Lady.

Karen’s books published by Linen Press

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle