Wednesday, February 3, 2016

IWSG: Blank Paper in My Handbag

Today is IWSG day, an online writers meetup started by Alex Cavanaugh that happens on the first Wednesday of the month. Today we writers share our insecurities, thoughts, and other stuff going on in our lives. Today, I don't have an insecurity to share, just some thoughts.

When I was a freshman in college, I had to read a book for a class about writing. The author would share stuff, like how she carries paper with her everywhere because she never knows when inspiration would hit and how she must write those idea gems down before she forgets them. Although the book is a well-reviewed writing book, I remember finishing the book back then feeling uninspired by much of the writing advice. 

In past years, I find I've been carrying more blank paper in my handbag to jot down notes about stuff I could work into my fiction. I know many writers do this already but I still attribute this habit to the book I read back in college. It's a small habit to keep, but a useful one. It's interesting how advice I discarded years ago has come in handy once I realized what I needed to do (not what I wanted to do) to become a published author. 

I wonder if I might come away with more if I were to read that writing book again, now as an adult. 

What writing advice have you once discarded that you later adopted? What writing books do you like? 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I'm Doing the 2016 Blogging from A to Z Challenge!

Yesterday, after visiting Alex Cavanaugh’s blog, I signed up for this April’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Participants are expected to blog about topics starting with the letter A on April 1, B on April 2, and so forth. During this month, bloggers visit one another and leave comments, and hopefully make new connections. I did the A to Z challenge for two years straight, and then I took a break for two years. When I did this challenge, I found the experience very rewarding because I got to connect with new writers and know some writers I already knew even better. I do remember visiting a few blogs and repeatedly leaving comments day after day without any reciprocation; from reading the recaps, it appears this happened to others too. So my goal in April is to seek out bloggers and writers with like-minded goals and intentions.

Are you doing the Blogging from A to Z challenge this year?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Thoughts on Atticus Finch in GO SET A WATCHMAN

Over the holidays, I read Harper Lee’s GO SET A WATCHMAN, something I pledged to do last year when the book came out in the midst of controversies and rumors surrounding its release.

The book further confirmed for me Lee's writing abilities. 

Before beginning WATCHMAN, I was uncertain about whether I should read the book as a standalone, a sequel, or a companion novel set in an alternate universe against MOCKINGBIRD's original setting. As I got into the book, my mind chose to lean on the book as a sequel, a continuation of MOCKINGBIRD.

The big twist in WATCHMAN is that Atticus Finch transforms from being MOCKINGBIRD’s progressive to an old man with racist views. According to Internet buzz, this widely publicized spoiler was a deterrent to reading the book for some. I was quite disappointed but not crazy shocked by the spoiler. Sometimes people change their political views over time. This is what I believe happened to Atticus. Not saying this is the conclusion Lee intended to convey, but that's the interpretation I choose. Being aware that real people can have more than one face, it isn't much of a stretch to accept that characters can be inconsistent in fiction too. 

I think the book spoiler might lead people to believe Atticus has become a racist rhetoric spewing ignoramus 24/7. The idea would make him easier to hate. But Lee also portrayed Atticus as an affectionate father to Jean Louise and the caretaker of the orphaned Henry Clinton, even helping to pay for his mother's funeral. So Lee painted a really complicated, flawed character in this new but certainly not improved Atticus that can incite endless reader discussions.

While I dislike the person Atticus has become, I don't consider him the story's main antagonist. For me, the true villain of the story is the deceptively charming community of Maycomb, Alabama. Here, neighbors bake for one another, attend church together, and seem to consider themselves respectable people, in spite of their terribly vile attitudes toward African Americans. I choose to believe Atticus in MOCKINGBIRD did start out as an idealist  but his views simply changed over time because he remained in Maycomb and sadly, allowed the town to seduce him to its way of thinking. Sometimes someone can faithfully live by one set of values but only until another party brainwashes them into assuming another values system.      

Have you read WATCHMAN? Have your political views shifted on any issue since your youth? Have you ever been an insider or outsider of a deceptively charming community? 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

IWSG: Birthdays

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives.

What makes this particular IWSG post special is that today is my birthday. Birthdays, for me, tend to be a time of self-assessment. For the last few years, these reflections often veer into something like “I’m X years old, and I’m still an unpublished author. Bah.”

While 2015 had its ups, it also came with downs. Fall was especially tough and emotionally challenging. Through these challenges, I found myself better appreciating the beauty of what was around me. A few incidents, unfortunately, also opened my eyes to the ugliness in some people around me. Maybe I had to experience the ugly in order to better cherish what's beautiful.

During my student days, getting through a tough test made me better enjoy the clean crisp air outside, regardless of how I think I scored. It was just a relief to be out.

Likewise, today, rather than lamenting that I’m still an unpublished author, I just feel grateful for my family and friends (especially my true writer friends who have been so supportive over the years), that I have a 90% completed first draft of a YA manuscript, a PB manuscript in progress, a metaphorical garden of ideas, and that even though I'm not a published fiction author yet, I am blessed to work as a professional journalist.

What do you think about on your birthdays?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

IWSG: My Inner Cynic

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and non-insecurities too. I'm so late with my IWSG post this month but I'm here! Today has been a long day. While I could rant about a number of things right now regarding current events, it's probably best that I keep this post about my writing.

I'm feeling a little bummed that I haven't fulfilled my November goal, which was to finish the first draft of my YA novel. Just five more chapters or so, and I’d be done.  And if the NaNoWriMo participants could churn out 100,000 words in 30 days, shouldn’t I be able to do just a fraction of that?

But last month a number of unexpected things came up and they distracted me from my fiction writing.

Maybe it’s because it’s that time of the year when people tend to wrap up their projects or unfinished businesses...and since my novel is still unfinished, my inner cynic nags: What a slowpoke you are. At this rate,  you'd probably never finish your novel. I know….I’m supposed to just keep writing. That’s what I’m trying to do, even though sometimes it’s easier said than done.

I hope that I can find some time in December to finish up my novel. Here my inner cynic goes: You're kidding, right? How are you going to find the time to write before, during, and after the holidays?

How do you deal with your inner cynic?  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG: Published Book Review & the Perspective of Karma

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and non-insecurities too. On the first Wednesday of the month, a bunch of us gather on the blogosphere to share and visit one another.

Some fun news. Earlier this year, I submitted a book review to SCBWI Bulletin, the quarterly magazine of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. My book review spotlights Jennifer R. Hubbard's LONER IN THE GARRET: A WRITER'S COMPANION. Shortly after I sent out my review, an editor informed me that my review was accepted and the check was in the mail. I'm giddy to share that my book review appears in the Fall 2015 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. LONER IN THE GARRET is not a craft book but a book that acknowledges the vast range of emotions writers experience, including our many insecurities….so this is right up IWSG’s alley.

Karma is another topic I want to discuss today. The idealist in me has always wanted to believe if you do good things with clean intentions, you get mostly good things back and if you’re a jerk, you reap what you sow. Sometimes my inner cynic couldn’t help but to notice bad things happening to good people and bad people thriving on their toxic behavior. This is a simplistic statement on my part, as I don’t know every detail of people’s lives and of course, no one’s perfect. Without going into specifics, I still know enough to confidently make this generalization. While a number of stories in my writerly mind come from a hopeful and optimistic place, at other times, they come from a cynical perspective too. I find that some people refuse to acknowledge the grain (or bushel) of truth that can exist in the latter of these narrations. But I hope if I ever pursue the writing of these stories, they will find a welcoming audience that gets it.

What books for writers do you like?
Do you believe in karma? Why or why not?

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Listing Fest/Some Books I Read

Writer Bish Denham is hosting The Listing Fest today. Thanks for organizing, Bish!  From Bish's website: The rules are simple. All you have to do is sign up in the linky thingy below, grab the banner, and make a list. I suggest you keep your list to between 5 and 25 items long. 

Today, I’m listing some books I have read. (When I share these lists, I name only some books I’ve read in a time period, not all.)

1. LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell (Adult-St. Martin's Press) A woman in a strained marriage discovers a magical phone that allows her to have phone conversations with her husband from the past. 

2. LIKE SISTERS ON THE HOMEFRONT by Rita Williams-Garcia (YA-Lodestar) A teen mom, after having an abortion, is sent away from the city to the South to live with her uncle, aunt, and cousin, family she'd never met.

3. A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park (YA-Clarion) A boy living in 12th century Korea aspires to learn how to craft pottery.

4. WOVEN (YA-Scholastic) A murdered peasant boy teams up with a snobby princess, the only one who can see his ghost, to locate a magic needle. Check out my author interview.   

5. CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT?: A MEMOIR (Graphic Novel for Adults, Non-Fiction- Bloomsbury USA) With humor and bittersweet nostalgia, a woman struggles to take care of her aging parents before they pass on. 

6. THE CHOKE ARTIST: CONFESSIONS OF A CHRONIC UNDERACHIEVER by David Yoo (Adult, Non-Fiction-Grand Central Publishing) This memoir shares essays detailing a Korean American man's many agonies-from bedroom anxieties to workplace drama to family-related angst. The first book I read by David was GIRLS FOR BREAKFAST, a YA novel. Check out my author interview.

7.  ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson (Graphic Novel for MG readers- Penguin) A girl sadly observes her best friend befriending her bully and moves on by participating in a roller derby camp.

8. BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson (MG, Non-Fiction- Nancy Paulsen) Told in verse, an African American girl raised as a Jehovah’s Witness shares about her upbringing during the 1960s and 1970s.

9. THE ADVENURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIENDS by Dan Santat (PB- Little, Brown) An imaginary friend waits to be imagined by a child so he can become real.

10. THE TREE LADY by H. Joseph Hopkins, Illust. by Jill McElmurry (PB, Non-Fiction- Beach Lane) Kate Sessions, a teacher and horticulturalist, helps beautify and add green to San Diego by embarking on a tree planting campaign.

11. THE PEOPLE WE USED TO BE   by Madeline Mora-Summonte (Adult- Amazon) This collection of short stories, both light and dark, offers glimpses of people, young and old, in various journeys.

What books have you read lately?