Friday, December 19, 2014

Deja Vu Blogfest: Time Capsule Reflections


A big thanks to DL Hammons for hosting the Deja Vu Blogfest. From DL's blog: On December 19th, anyone who decides to participate will re-post their favorite blog offering from earlier in the year, or one that you believe failed to receive the exposure it deserved.

So here's an excerpt of something I posted back in July earlier this year....


Time Capsule Reflections

In my neighborhood, there is a library that will be having its grand opening later this summer. People have been invited to submit to a time capsule that will be stored away in the library's tower. Among the items requested are family histories and photos. The time capsule will be opened in 50 years.

I contributed to the time capsule on behalf of my family. The family history I wrote was fairly short, less than one page. But this is more than just a family history. It is a love letter from myself to my children, and possible grandchildren, to be unveiled half a century into the future. Although my husband and I tell our children we love them enough, maybe they'd need to hear it again in 50 years.

If I read the "love letter" to my toddler children now, they wouldn't get it. But perhaps 50 years down the road, if my children are around to see the time capsule open, I can only hope my words might offer them some comfort and validation, wherever they might be in their lives at that time. 

What would you put in a time capsule to be opened 50 years from now?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On Tolerance and Harry Potter Books

Regular readers of my blog know I LOVE HARRY POTTER books and I’m a huge fan of J.K. Rowling and I know many many many Harry Potter fans who are super neat people. So when a party I follow on Twitter recently posted a link to an article about how some recent studies are showing that readers of Harry Potter books are less prejudiced and more accepting of others, I had to stop and look. I felt giddy to see that the researchers, who might love Harry Potter as much as I do, took the time to conduct this Harry Potter-themed study, and I’m glad that their results showed the positive effects of reading the books.

However, while I read the article, I remembered something I saw in the news around 2005, when the Internet buzzed about which lucky girl would be cast as Cho Chang, Harry Potter’s first crush, in the GOBLET OF FIRE movie. The plum role went to the lovely Katie Leung, a Scottish actress with Asian ancestry. Unfortunately, some Harry Potter fans who were unhappy with the casting choice attacked Katie online with rude and racist comments and hate sites. So while I’m pleased that the aforementioned study has shown some people can learn tolerance from reading Harry Potter books, there is pre-existing evidence showing that not all readers and fans of the Harry Potter stories are free of prejudice.

My “other side of the coin” sentiments aren’t meant to be criticism of the researchers or the study itself. Because really, it sounded like a fun project. It’s just that…as much as many others and I love books and have experienced the comfort and enrichment from reading a good book, I'm also aware that not everyone will be affected or enlightened by what they read, even if the book is an amazing work.

So I tweeted back to the party and condensed these thoughts into two posts of 140 characters each. And then I thought about it and….I deleted my tweets. I didn’t do this because I was playing backsies with my tweets but because I realized that in order to fully articulate how I was really feeling about this topic, I should blog about it here instead.

Tell me about a book that affected or enlightened you. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

IWSG: What I'm Working On

Today is IWSG day. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for organizing this monthly event where writers share about their writerly insecurities and other things. 

Oh my, it’s December. Where did the year go? I can tell you where my year went- working, preparing to move, interviewing vendors, moving, unpacking, organizing, and getting settled in, planning a big Frozen-themed birthday party, transitioning one kid into preschool and another one into kindergarten, and driving everyone everywhere. I have tried to use whatever spare minutes I had to write. 

One thing I’ve been reluctant to do is to discuss in a public forum what exactly I’m writing about. An author who inspired me to share more openly about current projects is Julie Dao. One of many things I admire about Julie’s blogging ethic is that she shares freely on her blog about what she’s working on, from the subject matter to the title of her book. So Julie, if you’re reading this, I just want you to know you inspired me to write this! 

So here are two manuscripts I’m working on: KISS MY BUTTER is a young adult fiction novel about a Chinese American girl who enters a culinary competition. THE ORANGE SOLDIERS is a non-fiction picture book about the community activism that steered the building and opening of a new library in my city. 

And that's what I'm working on.

How comfortable are you about sharing what you’re working on? Which bloggers/writers have inspired you to stretch yourself?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Some Picture Books I Read

November is National Picture Book Month. Good picture books have inspired and enlightened me from childhood to adulthood. I don't believe anyone is ever too old to be entertained and nurtured by a picture book. Anyhoo, here's a list of some picture books I've read recently,* either to myself or at least one of my children. 



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1. BATTLE BUNNY by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, Illust. by Matthew Myers (Simon & Schuster- Picture Book/Early Reader)  In a story that spoofs the vintage animal birthday story, the creators convert the doe-eyed Birthday Bunny into a power-hungry Battle Bunny with an "Evil Plan."

2. ME & MOMMA & BIG JOHN  by Mara Rockliff, Illust. by William Low (Candlewick- Picture Book) Inspired by a true story, this story shares the perspective of a young boy who remembers his mother's contribution to the building of the "Big John" Cathedral in New York City. 

3. IMMI'S GIFT by Karen Littlewood (Peachtree-Picture Book) An Eskimo girl who receives gifts from an unknown benefactor decides to offer back a gift of her own.

4. CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger, Illust. By Dan Santat (Scholastic-Picture Book) Crankenstein has many reasons to be moody…until he meets another like him.

5. TEENY TINY TRUCKS by Tim McCanna, Illust. by Keith Frawley
(Little Bahalia- Picture Book) Industrious delivery trucks mingle with nature as they venture to their destination.

6. MY DADIMA WEARS A SARI by Kashmira Sheth and Yoshiko Jaeggi (Peachtree- Picture Books) An Indian grandmother shows her granddaughters about all the uses for her sari.  

7. ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon, Illust. by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane- Picture Book) Told in verse, this book sheds light on the most beautiful things, and yet the most simple things, all around us.

8. HALF A WORLD AWAY by Libby Gleeson, Illust. By Freya Blackwood (Arthur A. Levine- Picture Book) Two friends miss each other terribly when one moves to another country.

9. KNUFFLE BUNNY by Mo Willems (Hyperion-Picture Book) A toddler struggling to convey a message throws a tantrum, much to the irritation of his father and other adults around him.

10.  SLEEPYHEADS by Sandra J. Howatt, Illust. by Joyce Wan (Beach Lane- Picture Book) Animals and a young child cozy up for bedtime.

11. TRAFFIC PUPS by Michelle Meadows, Illust. by Dan Andreasen (Simon & Schuster- Picture Book) Traffic pups catch speeding drivers and red light runners. Check out my interview with the author. 

12. GOLDY LUCK AND THE THREE PANDAS by Natasha Yim, Illust. by Grace Zong (Charlesbridge-Picture Book) Goldy Luck, tasked to bring turnip cakes to a neighor, wanders into an empty house with three bowls of congee.




What picture books have you read recently? 


*I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating that when I share "recent reads," I'm not listing everything I've just read, but just some things. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IWSG: Trick-or-Treaters

Today is IWSG day. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for organizing this monthly event where writers share about their writerly insecurities and other things. 

Earlier this year, we moved to a new house in a part of the neighborhood known for its extremely high foot traffic on Halloween. In the weeks leading up to the big night, I got several giant bags of candy from Costco, made a few shopping trips to various stores searching for decorations, and spent an entire evening setting up my window display. All this took time and effort. But I enjoy preparing for Halloween. On Halloween night, while my husband and daughter were out trick-or-treating with friends, I passed out candy to a few hundred trick-or-treaters.  

I was excited to see the fun and creative costumes on those who stopped by, and I was really tickled the overwhelming majority of children who came by (or their parents) were appreciative and friendly.

I was less moved by a few rude trick-or-treaters.

One girl, after taking candy from me and not saying thank you, craned her neck to see into my house and commented in disdain that she thought my house was messy. When I ignored the remark, she repeated herself, raising her voice. Still pretending I didn’t hear her, I shut the door.

Then there were a brother and sister pair, possibly in junior high, who weren’t shy to express they didn’t care for what I handed out to them. Now, I wasn’t giving away lemon-flavored chewables wrapped in quarter-sized wax paper. I'd given the two kids store brand chocolates.

With attitude, they demanded a trade. They wanted to sift through my candy until they found something they liked. Unwilling to offer positive reinforcement for their behavior, I smiled and told the kids that if they didn’t like my candy, they could give it to someone else. Then I shut the door. (Aren’t doors great?)

And yes, the parents were present but sadly inactive during both these incidents.
   
Sometimes when you’re sharing with others, it doesn’t mean that all the recipients of your offering would respond the way you ideally imagine they would. Sometimes people, young and old, look for reasons to be dissatisfied. This can happen when you’re giving away candy on Halloween.... And this might also happen in various instances during your writing journey. Perhaps one or both things have happened to you?

Don’t let rude trick-or-treaters, real or metaphorical, make you insecure or keep you from doing what you love. 

I’m already planning for next year’s Halloween.

How was your Halloween? Any interesting trick-or-treaters? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Survive and Thrive Bloghop: Asthma

Today I'm participating in the Survive and Thrive Bloghop, hosted by Stephen Tremp, Michael Di Gesu, Diane Wolfe, and Alex Cavanaugh.  Copied from Alex's web site: The blogfest is meant to bring awareness of disease prevention and early detection regarding medical conditions that may be averted or treated if caught in the early stages. Our desire is to motivate people to go in for early screening, and if a condition is caught early and treated, then our world just became a little better place to live.  The topics are wide open. You can post about a particular cause you support. Or you can share a personal or family experience that is near to your heart.

I’ve had asthma since childhood. Being a non-medical professional, I really can’t say if there’s a surefire way for anyone to prevent scoring this respiratory condition that offers wheezing, shortness of breath, and the company of inhalers. But if I were to give a cocktail party response about how someone can avoid getting asthma, I’d say that a good doctor listening to your lungs when you’re miserably congested might be able to detect early wheezing, and then they can offer immediate treatment to keep the wheezing from becoming more serious.

Growing up with asthma wasn’t easy. I didn’t know many other kids, if any, with asthma. I remember sometimes getting up in the middle of the night when I was in elementary school, middle school, and high school. I’d sit in bed and just cough and cough and cough some more. My post-nasal drip, either from general allergies or catching a bug, would tickle my throat and trickle down to my lungs. My eyes would tear up and my back and neck would ache from the physical exhaustion of coughing and inhaling heavily. The inhalers helped some, but I still had many rough, unwanted all-nighters at home or in the ER fighting my shortness of breath.

My asthma improved by the time I was a spring-semester high school senior. And my symptoms continued to subside as I continued on to college. I am pleased to say (knock on wood!) that as an adult, my condition is mostly much more mild now than it was when I was younger. 

While asthma might've deprived me of a good night's sleep on a number of occasions and it has given me some challenges, I'm not the fragile image of the suffering asthma patient you might've seen on TV or in a movie. Having asthma hasn't stopped me from pursuing what I want to do, whether it is working, writing, traveling, exploring, playing, or connecting with others. 

I just need to remember to bring my inhaler with me.

Do you know anyone with asthma?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

IWSG: Keeping a Dream Journal

Today is IWSG day. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for organizing this monthly event where writers share about their writerly insecurities and other things. This IWSG day is different from others because the posts IWSG folks are sharing today will be put into an eBook called THE IWSG GUIDE TO PUBLISHING AND BEYOND.

A few years ago, I started a dream journal. As much as I want to spotlight all the colorful and surrealistic experiences I've regularly recorded in this notebook, the truth is, I don't write in it very often. But it is there when I need it. I write in it uninhibitedly, and I don’t show it to anyone. (That said, I frequently share dreams with my husband in that just-woke-up mumbling and grumbling way that I speak in after the alarm goes off.)

Here are some benefits I’ve experienced from keeping a dream journal:

-Writing about a dream can help me recognize unresolved feelings I have about a subject.
-Reflecting on a dream can help me see where I'm growing. It can also help me see when it’s time to reach out to a confidante about something that has been troubling me.
-Sometimes stuff from dreams become idea seeds that I can nurture into stories or story elements.  
-Just by having this journal, I’ve gotten better at remembering dreams, even those that I don’t write down.
-Thinking back on a bad dream empowers me to realize something that bugged me was just my mind playing tricks, and that I can always change a bad dream into a good one. So the next time I'm stuck with lousy company in a stranded elevator with a psycho unicorn stabbing its horn through the doors, I’d know better what to do.
-Remembering a good dream is like reminiscing about a great meal.

Do you keep a dream journal? Would you like to share a recent dream you had, good or bad?

Cynthia is a reader and writer who blogs regularly at readisthenewblack.blogspot.com.

I give Insecure Writers Support Group permission to use this post, about writing, in THE IWSG GUIDE TO PUBLISHING AND BEYOND.