Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fan Theories

Thanks to D.L. Hammons for hosting the Deja Vu Blogfest, where bloggers are invited to re-post something we'd posted earlier this year. Since I had posted about fan theories late on IWSG day back in the fall, I don't think this post got as many views by the IWSG community as it should have. So here I am, posting it again...

There are a lot of fan theories about popular stories of various mediums on the Internet. These fan theories range from the one about the classic film Grease, that Sandy actually died when Danny tried to rescue her from drowning, as referenced in "Summer Nights," to the speculation that HARRY POTTER’s Ginny Weasley drugged Harry with a love potion, to Gilligan being Satan while the other inhabitants on Gilligan’s Island were the seven deadly sins, to how, in the movie (or theatrical production, which I'd recently seen) of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's Bizarro twin was actually the deceased Wicked Witch of the East, whose face is never shown. But interestingly, the two ladies share a shoe size. 

The creator of Grease dismissed the fan theory about his musical being merely Sandy's coma dream. It wouldn't surprise me if other creators of stories coming under speculation would brush off out-there fan theories as well. Still, I find some fan theories quite insightful, regardless of whether or not I believe in them. The "what if" questions presented in some of these fan theories challenge my notion of what seems familiar and comforting in these stories and encourages the exploration of a darker or more twisted perspective of what could be lurking beneath the surface. (I should add though that fan theories where everything was just a dream or a fantasy in the protagonist's head don't do much for me.)

Taking the concept about hidden stories past fiction into reality, I am reminded that it's important to take a closer look at what, at first glance, might seem familiar and comforting and to remember what is intentionally projected in any environment for an audience might not necessarily reflect what is actually there. 

Do you have any fan theories surrounding a story? What fan theories have you heard that you find interesting? (I myself could spend a day discussing my fan theories about the movie Inception.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

IWSG: In Five Years...

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

This month’s question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Honestly, I don’t know where I see myself five years from now. Maybe I’d be a published author. Maybe I won’t be and will continue to brush off human irritants who say to me “You’re still not published yet?!” In five years, even if I’m not a published author, I’ll still be writing. I might have moved on from my current work-in-progress, a YA novel called KISS MY BUTTER. Either it will be published or I will have put it away. Nonetheless, my long-term plan is to continue writing, plotting and creating.

I do have more definitive plans for what I’d like to do in my writing career during the next five years but I won’t be sharing them here at this time.

Have you accomplished writing goals that you set for yourself five years ago?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IWSG: Daylight Savings

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and other details about their lives. Again, I am late to post today but it’s still Wednesday here in California! First, let me get to this month’s IWSG question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? One of the many things I love about writing fiction is that I have a tangible place to bring the fruits of my imagination and creativity instead of just letting it all sit in my head. Honestly, it wouldn’t be healthy if I kept all that stuff inside.

This weekend marks the end of daylight savings. The good news is that I’ll get an extra hour on Sunday. I'm hoping to spend this once-a-year gift working on my novel. And if not, I might spend this time sleeping in. So yippee for that extra hour! That said, I’m not usually a big fan of the end of daylight savings. There’s something about shortened days and earlier nights that reinforces the notion that there isn’t enough time to do things I want to do, and that includes work on my novel-in-progress. It’s an unproven notion at that but I still find something a bit disheartening about days cut short. 

What are your plans for the extra hour on Sunday? Do you prefer longer days or longer nights?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

IWSG: Fan Theories

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and other stuff happening in their lives. I am late to post today, but we still have a couple of hours left in Wednesday and here I am! This month’s IWSG question is: When do you know your story is ready?  My story might feel ready after I have had it properly critiqued, have given it an honest revision, have taken a break from it, and when I revisit it after a break, I don't itch to revise everything I see. Right now, my story is not ready.

Today I'm here to share an insight, not an insecurity.

There are a lot of fan theories about popular stories of various mediums on the Internet. These fan theories range from the one about the classic film Grease, that Sandy actually died when Danny tried to rescue her from drowning, as referenced in "Summer Nights," to the speculation that HARRY POTTER’s Ginny Weasley drugged Harry with a love potion, to Gilligan being Satan while the other inhabitants on Gilligan’s Island were the seven deadly sins, to how, in the movie (or theatrical production, which I'd recently seen) of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's Bizarro twin was actually the deceased Wicked Witch of the East, whose face is never shown. But interestingly, the two ladies share a shoe size. 

The creator of Grease dismissed the fan theory about his musical being merely Sandy's coma dream. It wouldn't surprise me if other creators of stories coming under speculation would brush off out-there fan theories as well. Still, I find some fan theories quite insightful, regardless of whether or not I believe in them. The "what if" questions presented in some of these fan theories challenge my notion of what seems familiar and comforting in these stories and encourages the exploration of a darker or more twisted perspective of what could be lurking beneath the surface. (I should add though that fan theories where everything was just a dream or a fantasy in the protagonist's head don't do much for me.)

Taking the concept about hidden stories past fiction into reality, I am reminded that it's important to take a closer look at what, at first glance, might seem familiar and comforting and to remember what is intentionally projected in any environment for an audience might not necessarily reflect what is actually there. 

Do you have any fan theories surrounding a story? What fan theories have you heard that you find interesting? (I myself could spend a day discussing my fan theories about the movie Inception.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG: An Encouraging Comment

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. This month’s IWSG question is: How do you find time to write in your busy day? My response: I wrote about this subject in last month’s IWSG post. The truth is, I don’t get to work on my novel everyday but that doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about it or doing other things (reading a book, researching details, or just reflecting on my story) to prepare me for the time when I get to work on it.  

 A few months ago, the IWSG question of the month was about sharing the best comment someone made about our writing. I don't know if there is one best comment I've received, as I've been lucky to receive support from many people. But there is one encouraging comment that has stuck with me for a long time:

…Years ago, I attended a weekend writers workshop with about two dozen other writers. Most attendees were other adults, like myself. A youth program allowed a few teens to participate too. The first two chapters of my YA work-in-progress at the time was publicly critiqued by everyone. Most of the feedback, useful or not, seemed to come with kind intentions. Still, I came home from the workshop feeling misunderstood and defeated. A few grown-ups in the workshop clearly didn’t get what I was trying to do. *Sigh* As a courtesy, I still emailed most of the people I met that weekend, grown-ups and teens, with a quick note about how it was nice to meet them and good luck with their writing and all that stuff. One of the teens wrote back to me and shared that my manuscript had been her favorite among the grown-ups’ manuscripts.

It was a short note but it made my day. It also helped me see that not everyone has to get what I’m doing. But as long as someone does, it makes the effort to do what I'm doing worthwhile.

What  is an encouraging comment someone offered you about your writing? Have you ever felt, by certain feedback you have received, that your work was being misinterpreted?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IWSG: On Not Writing Everyday

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. First, I just want to say that this week is a busy one for me. So while I might be slow to visit my regular IWSG buddies, I will get to you! And as usual, I look forward to meeting new members from IWSG.

The IWSG questions of the month are: What was your first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now?Something I remember writing for a sixth-grade class was a fairytale about a lost princess. I remember the teacher was extra impressed with it because I bound my story into a little book and illustrated it too, which weren't part of the assignment. I actually don't know where the book is now. 

Onto my IWSG thoughts...Many years ago, when I first started on my journey to be a traditionally published author, I often felt guilty because I didn't (and still don't) work on my novel everyday. This is one example of many where I sometimes feel I am on a different journey from other writers. Nowadays, I see the big picture more. For even on days that I don't work on my book, I might be doing other stuff, directly or indirectly,  that contribute to its progress: reading a book on the craft of writing or in the genre that I am writing in, researching details, reflecting on where my story has been and where it is headed, etc...

Do you work on your fiction everyday? In what ways do you feel that your writing journey is different from others' journeys?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

IWSG: Red Flags

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. After this year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’ve been meaning to remain more active with my blog through the summer. But I’ve been so busy with other responsibilities that I haven’t been able to do much blogging stuff. But hey, it’s IWSG day, and I’m here!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my earlier years. I remember the lessons I learned the hard way about people and the fragility of any bond when one party doesn’t value the investment the other has made for the relationship. Those times left enough of an emotional imprint on me that even as an adult, I don’t have to look far if I ever need to locate angst, perhaps for a scene in my novel in progress or for any of the story seeds growing in my head. The silver lining is now I know how to better spot certain red flags in people. (Maybe someone only reaches out when they want a favor, for example.) This is not to say that I’m an expert. Sometimes I’ve still been fooled.

Recently, I’ve detected red flags with some people. A part of me wishes that I could ignore those flags and carry on. After all, doesn’t it seem like everyone else carries on with them, even though most likely, they know what I know? But I’ve never been like everyone else, and therefore, I am going to politely and quietly walk away.

What do you consider red flags in people?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

IWSG: Mental Revising

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.

I have a tendency to mentally revise my work while I write. For me, revising isn't just about correcting faulty grammar or spelling. When I talk about revising, or mental revising to be specific, I'm actually discussing how I turn my story, with its plot, characters, setting, dialogue and stuff, inside out. Here, I dissect all the relationships and connections and things that make the story what it is and I critically examine if there's something that's obstructing the flow. While recently doing this mental revision with my WIP, I've decided that eventually I would need to delete traces of an unnecessary character while creating the presence of a completely new character. 

It's easier said than done. It means I have to delete blocks of text I'd written with such care and tear apart a good number of scenes and stitch them back together. Hours and hours of work I'd done earlier will go down the drain. The insecure writer inside me asks, Why do I bother laboring over these words, these scenes, these people, places, and things when so much of this ends up deleted? The writer inside me that's more grounded reminds myself that this is part of the writing process, and that my first drafts (even second and third ones) probably won't make great novels. 

How do you mentally revise your writing? 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Blogging from A to Z Reflections

I’m pleased to have this nifty new badge on my blog announcing that I survived last month’s Blogging from A to Z ChallengeFor this week’s reflections post, participants are invited to share their thoughts about their experience. First, I want to thank all the A to Z volunteers who maintained the operations of last month’s challenge and made this challenge possible for the many people who participated. 

During the challenge, I enjoyed connecting with new bloggers and getting to know better the bloggers I’ve connected with before. I was also open to meeting bloggers whose blogs/challenge themes didn’t match mine. That way, I got to learn more about subjects I didn’t know a lot about before. (Of course, there were bloggers who never visited me back in spite of my repeated visits to their blog. But I prefer to be thankful for the people who did come by to show their support.) 

My own challenge theme was about authors whose stories I read when I was younger. While composing my posts, I reflected on why certain stories stuck with me. Many of these thoughts were shared in the notes after a story synopsis. I noticed how certain subjects also occurred more than once in the books I shared- first time love, prom horror, the Ozarks, gang life, the disappearance of children, bullying and rivalries, to name a few.   

I made the effort not to discuss movies or other mediums inspired by these stories, even when sometimes I really wanted to talk about the movie. For example, for my OUTSIDERS post, I kept thinking about how The Outsiders movie was one of my favorites back in the day. Coincidentally, Rob Lowe (who played Sodapop Curtis) was in a number of my favorite scenes in the movie...So anyway, discussing movies and discussing books are two different things. So for the purpose of this challenge, I stuck with just discussing books.

If you have done the Blogging from A to Z Challenge before, what were your thoughts about your experience? Have you noticed recurring subjects in books you like to read?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

IWSG: Traces of a Story

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.

While preparing for last month’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I sifted through the little pockets of memory in my head to retrieve certain stories I read during my youth.  Sometimes I remembered the title, but not the author. Easy, I could just look up the title online. Sometimes I remembered neither the title or the author, but just traces of a story. In such cases, there was not much I could do to locate the title and author.

One particular story (sans title and author in my head) that really intrigued me when I was a ‘tween is a MG novel of historical fiction. If I remember correctly, here are the traces of the story… An older woman, someone who isn’t so pleasant, is about to inherit a big fortune, as long as no one else steps forward as being one of the relations closer to the deceased than she. A younger woman comes forward. She claims to be the daughter of someone in the family- it was thought that she, as a child, had died in a plane crash many years ago. If this woman is who she says she is, she will receive the inheritance. DNA testing does not exist in this time period so there is no way to scientifically test the younger woman’s veracity. But this young woman is able to tell stories about the family that only the family members know, and she easily identifies family members in person and in photographs.

At the end of the story, the younger woman takes the inheritance. It’s also revealed that the younger woman was actually the nurse of a true relation who, on her deathbed, wanted to target the older woman who was about to take a fortune that should’ve belonged to her. So she coached her nurse on how to pose as the heiress by feeding her family stories and making her memorize people's faces in old photographs. 

Does this story sound familiar to anyone? If so, can you please remind me of the title and author?

Stay tuned for my Blogging from A to Z Challenge Reflections Post coming next week!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z: Paul Zindel & THE PIGMAN'S LEGACY

"You see, my mother and father never even touch each other, which makes me wonder how on earth I ever was born. I figure it was just an accident- they both happened to be walking around the bedroom nude and they made a mistake and tripped." - Paul Zindel, THE PIGMAN'S LEGACY (HarperTrophy, YA)

When I was a young kid, I frequently tagged along with my older sister to the library's teen section (they didn't even call it YA then).  I remember Paul Zindel's books were always in the Z section. I read his book THE PIGMAN'S LEGACY ages ago. This book is a sequel to a first book, THE PIGMAN, which I don't remember if I read. THE PIGMAN'S LEGACY is about two teens, John and Lorraine, a pair of friends who meet the Colonel, a senior citizen living in the same home where another senior the teens once knew had lived. (That other senior died in the first book.) At first, the Colonel doesn't seem very friendly but he eventually warms up. John and Lorraine set the Colonel up with Dolly, a lady who works in their school cafeteria. Soon after the Colonel and Dolly meet, John and Lorraine learn that the Colonel is dying. He has always known this. After marrying Dolly on his deathbed, the Colonel dies. The story ends when John and Lorraine are walking through the hospital past the nursery with the newborns. Here, John tells Lorraine he wants to spend his life with her.

My description probably gives the impression this is a sad and somber story. But much of the story is actually told with humor, as demonstrated in one of John's quotes shared at the top of the post here. I believe  humor is a weapon that some of us cultivate to better deal with the pain we experience in our lives.

Have you read THE PIGMAN'S LEGACY? Have you ever used humor to cope with something difficult?

And that's my last post for this month's Blogging from A to Z ChallengeMy theme: authors whose work I read when I was younger. Thanks to all of you who visited and supported my blog this month! 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y: Laurence Yep & DRAGONWINGS

"I get the ideas from everything. Children sometimes think you have to have special experiences to write, but good writing brings out what's special in ordinary things." -Laurence Yep

Lawrence Yep's DRAGONWINGS (HarperCollins, MG) begins in 1903 when Moon Shadow, 8, leaves the only home he has known in China to live with his father, Windrider, who has been working in San Francisco to support his family.  Everything about America- the food, the houses, the people- fascinates Moon Shadow. Although Moon Shadow and Windrider regularly experience racism, they also make friends with the kind Miss Whitlaw her niece, Robin. Despite the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives, Moon Shadow and Windrider hold onto their gumption and work three years to build an airplane named Dragonwings that Windrider flies in 1910. 

While I've read a number of historical fiction stories set in the early 20th century San Francisco with the predictable Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (recorded magnitude: 7.8), the depiction of the 1906 earthquake in DRAGONWINGS is what I consider a very credible interpretation of an earthquake. I might be a more particular reader when it comes to earthquake fiction because I was a young child living in the City of San Francisco when, during the World Series, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake hit (recorded magnitude: 6.9). 63 people died, thousands were injured, an East Bay freeway collapsed, as did a part of the Bay Bridge. I was at home when it happened- I was reaching for something on a shelf when I felt the first shake. What a strange day it was, how things happened quickly and slowly at the same time, and how things were irreversibly changed for some, but remained the same for others...And in DRAGONWINGS, after Moon Shadow and Windrider help others in the aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake, they might momentarily forget that that they're foreigners in a new country until a police officer demands that the two aren't allowed to dine with a white woman. I think this part of the story shows that in spite of the changes going on around the father and son, some things still remain the same.

Have you read DRAGONWINGS? Have you ever been in a natural disaster? If so, what do you remember about it?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X: Antoine St.Expuery & THE LITTLE PRINCE

“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”  -Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

I'm cheating a little here. I enjoyed Antoine De Saint-Exupéry's THE LITTLE PRINCE (Harcourt, MG) when I was a kid, and part of the author's name makes the X sound. So, close enough. The story is about a prince from outer space dishing to a pilot about the asteroids he has visited and who he met there- a bossy king ruling no one, a vain man only hearing praise, a drunk person drinking to forget he was an alcoholic, a businessman laying claim on the stars, a lamplighter following instructions without question, and a geographer refusing to explore.

If this book is a Buzzfeed article, it would be titled "6 Types of Contradictory People You'd Meet in the Universe." Told with a delicate balance between dreaminess and cynicism, I found the little prince's observations similar to ironies I can't help noticing in some people when I'm feeling less dreamy and more cynical (no delicate balancing here). Contradictory people I notice include rude customer service employees, anti-bullying advocates who bully, leaders who are minions, dishonest people who preach integrity, people who have melodramatic meltdowns to show how "tough" they are, people who criticize others for the exact stuff that they themselves do...and the list goes on. 

Have you read  Antoine De Saint-Exupéry's THE LITTLE PRINCE? Let's get cynical! Are you familiar with any of the contradictory people I listed? Can you think of other examples?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W: Wilson Rawls & WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS

“It's strange indeed how memories can lie dormant in a man's mind for so many years. Yet those memories can be awakened and brought forth fresh and new, just by something you've seen, or something you've heard, or the sight of an old familiar face.” -Wilson Rawls, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS

When I was in junior high, I had a thick and heavy textbook in my English class. It was filled with short stories and it included the novel, Wilson Rawls's WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS (Yearling, MG), historical fiction about a man Billy remembering his childhood when he was boy who hunted raccoons with his pet hounds at night. One day we had a substitute and she assigned the first few chapters of RED FERN for reading homework. When the real teacher came back, I was disappointed she didn't assign any more reading chapters. (The other kids were relieved but I was a book worm even then!) 

Since junior high, I have read RED FERN from cover to cover. The setting of the Ozarks in Cherokee land was beautifully illustrated. Within this setting, two things struck me: One, religion was comfortably woven into RED FERN. I've heard from industry professionals that working religion into kidlit is a risky thing to do, how it might affect market interest. But RED FERN has been out since 1961 and it's still considered a classic. And two, the setting was considered safe enough for Billy to be out alone at night with his hounds while he hunted. Once, Billy even stayed out overnight without telling his parents. And Billy was considered a good kid and his parents, good parents. I can't imagine most parents today allowing their 'tweens and even teens to stay out like this alone, even if the area is supposed to be "safe." It's interesting to see the contrast between what was considered acceptable parenting back then versus what's acceptable today.

Have you read WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS? What are your thoughts about religion in fiction?  What other contrasts between acceptable parenting during the good ole days versus now can you think of?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V: Cecily von Ziegesar & GOSSIP GIRL

"I never once said that I was writing books with guidelines for how to live. I mean, they’re fiction, and I think that’s the role of fiction: to entertain. And I don’t care whether it’s for children or for adults. That’s what fiction is about: escaping into another world. I absolutely hate kids’ books that have lessons telling kids how to behave. For me, that is not the role of fiction at all."- Cecily Von Ziegesar
Cecily Von Ziegesar's GOSSIP GIRL (Little, Brown, YA) centers around the lives of teens, most who live in New York City's Upper East Side. In this world, affluent teens consume alcohol alongside their parents, shop at Barneys and receive Kate Spade handbags as party favors. Here, you're only a "somebody" when you're being gossiped about so an anoymous web site called Gossip Girl dishes gossip about some of these teens' lives.

In the beginning of the book, Blair, a high school queen bee, is ready to lose her virginity to her long-time boyfriend Nate while her socialite mother is throwing some bash in their home. But Serena, Blair's former best friend, crashes the event and interrupts them- Serena just got kicked out of boarding school in Europe and has returned to the Big Apple. Turns out that Serena and Nate lost their virginity to each other back in the tenth grade but Blair doesn't know that for most of the book until she and Nate are ready to try having sex again...and then Nate tells her the truth.

You know that so-called writing advice about making your characters, especially the female ones, likable and good role models with their every thought and action? Without apology, Cecily Von Ziegesar breaks this rule. Her characters are not always likable. But they're believable and interesting, and that is what's more important to me from a reader's perspective. I can also see how some of these characters' questionable behavior stems from their pursuit of loyalty and acceptance and their fear of rejection and betrayal. That is the universal rhythm of how many teens (and adults and children) tick inside. And you don't have to be from the Upper East Side to relate to that.

Have you read GOSSIP GIRL? Do you find books with subliminal lessons on "the proper way to think and behave" patronizing to the reader?

Monday, April 25, 2016

U: Ursula Nordstrom & THE SECRET LANGUAGE

This month, I've been doing the Blogging from A to Z ChallengeMy theme: authors whose work I read when I was younger.

"I am a former child, and I haven't forgotten a thing." -Ursula Nordstrom

Ursula Nordsrom's THE SECRET LANGUAGE (HarperTrophy, MG) is probably one of the first older girl books I've read. My sister owned a used copy of the book. I was around second grade when I borrowed it to read and was thrilled I was reading a book with chapters. THE SECRET LANGUAGE is a book about a girl named Victoria who is sent away to live in a boarding school. A homesick Victoria befriends Martha, who teaches her a secret language where phrases like "leebossa" means great and "ickenspick" refers to something silly

Boarding school stories tend to fascinate me, possibly because I had a strict upbringing and didn't always feel I had the freedom to do the mischievous things that children living in a boarding school could do, such as planning a secret midnight feast, depicted in this book.

Have you read THE SECRET LANGUAGE? If you had a choice to attend boarding school when you were a child, would you have chosen to go?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T: Amy Tan & THE JOY LUCK CLUB

"People talk about this 'bucket list’: 'I need to go to this country, I need to skydive…’ Whereas I need to think as much as I can, to feel as much as I can, to be conscious and observe and understand me and the people around me as much as I can." - Amy Tan 

I read Amy Tan's THE JOY LUCK CLUB (Turtleback, Adult) when I was in high school. The book features the mothers and daughters in several Chinese American families.The scene I still remember is the Chinese New Year crab dinner, hosted by June and her parents. Invited to the dinner are Lindo and Tin Jong and their daughter Waverly, a successful professional working at Price Waterhouse and former chess champion. 

When the two were children, Waverly had said to June, "You aren't a genius like me" after June botched a piano recital.  As adults, Waverly still torments June. During dinner, Waverly compliments June's hair, and in the same breath, she hints that June's stylist could give her AIDS. Waverly recommends her hair dresser to June and then implies that June might not be able to afford him. Finally June points out that Waverly's company hasn't paid her yet for her freelance writing work. Waverly smugly responds that the quality of June's writing isn't good enough by her company's standards. Waverly demonstrates that in spite of her looking-good-on-paper accomplishments, she is an awful dinner guest. 

Being Chinese American, I feel particularly connected to this scene because it hits home. I've known people who behave like Waverly. The scene also shows the petty rivalries that can sometimes occur internally among members of a community, such as this story's Chinese American community. What I feel is behind this is an unspoken perception, true or false, that there's not enough of a resource to go around among the group. Approval and recognition for Chinese females, for example. 

Have you read THE JOY LUCK CLUB? Have you ever hosted a terrible guest?

Friday, April 22, 2016

S: April Sinclair & COFFEE WILL MAKE YOU BLACK

“And another thing, Carla, good people come in all colors and types, just the same as bad people. But you're just too scared to find that out!” -April Sinclair, COFFEE WILL MAKE YOU BLACK

April Sinclair's COFFEE WILL MAKE YOU BLACK (Harper Collins, Adult ) is considered adult fiction though it tells the story of an African American girl named Stevie from ages 12 to 16 living in Chicago from 1965 to 1970. The story begins with 'tween Stevie asking her mother what a virgin is. When Stevie is 16, she tries to lose her virginity to her boyfriend but couldn't go through with it. Her boyfriend breaks up with her and her best friend harshly tears into her for not giving in to the boyfriend. At the end of the book, Stevie considers that she might be attracted to a woman. 

What makes COFFEE memorable to me is that it's one of the first books I've read where the main protagonist has to struggle with both racial issues and her sexuality simultaneously. I read the sequel too.

While I lived in San Francisco, I saw April Sinclair once. (Her bio says she lives in the Bay Area.) My nerves took over and I didn't know what to say or do. So I just smiled at her in passing, and she smiled back. To this day, I still regret not stopping to tell her how much I enjoyed her books. 

Have you read April Sinclair's COFFEE WILL MAKE YOU BLACK? Have you ever had a friend who was unsupportive at a time when you needed support?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R: Ray Bradbury & ALL SUMMER IN A DAY

“Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority. We all have our harps to play. And it's up to you to know with which ear you'll listen.” -Ray Bradbury, FAHRENHEIT 451

Ray Bradbury's short story, ALL SUMMER IN A DAY, was first published in the March 1954 issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION. The story is about a group of nine year-old schoolchildren living on Venus, where it rains 24/7. On this planet, the sun appears very briefly only once every seven years. Most children living here don't remember having ever seen the sun, which feels almost like a myth to them. Margot, one of the schoolchildren, knows the sun because she lived on Earth before moving to Venus. On the long-awaited day when the cherished sun is supposed to appear on Venus, Margot dreamily shares her memories of the sun with her classmates. It is clear that she misses the sun and her old home on Earth. The children accuse Margot of lying about the sun's existence and forcibly lock her inside a closet. The teacher is unaware that Margot is missing and the children soon forget about her. When the sun finally appears, the children enjoy a couple of glorious hours playing outside. When the sun disappears and it rains again, the children remember Margot and let her out of the closet. The sun will not return here for seven years. 

Contrary to the notion that victims of bullying are often lacking in a prized area, I feel that bullying victims are often quietly regarded to have an advantage over others in some way. I believe the kids were hating on Margo because she has known the bliss of being regularly pampered with the sun's light and heat while they have not. Her knowledge and experience might've made the others feel inadequate. 

Have you read ALL SUMMER IN A DAY? What do you think is a suitable punishment for the children, perhaps even the teacher, in this story? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q: ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE

"In 1941, [former editor-in-chief Frederic Dannay] explained his manifesto for ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE as being to "raise the sights of mystery writers generally to a genuine literary form," to "encourage good writing among our colleagues by offering a practical market not otherwise available," and to "develop new writers seeking expression in the genre." -from www.themysteryplace.com/eqmm/

By now, you might've noticed that I liked to read in the suspense and mystery genre when I was younger (still do, among other stuff). A magazine I occasionally thumbed through was ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. Lots of short murder mysteries and opportunities for writers to submit stuff. Regretfully, I haven't kept most stuff, including magazines, I owned in my youth. So I don't presently have any ELLERY QUEEN magazines to refer to specifically. Sifting through vintage EQ covers online, I chose this cover. Though I don't remember reading this particular magazine, the cover is interesting enough for me to perhaps look into purchasing a used copy. Many EQ covers come with a cryptic tone, and this one's no different. The holiday decorations and the man in the chef hat hint at a seasonal food themed mystery. In my writing life, I'm working on a food novel with a mystery component, though it's not a murder mystery, as is what's shown here. 

Have you ever read the ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE? What magazines did you read when you were younger?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P: Susan Beth Pfeffer & THE YEAR WITHOUT MICHAEL

"Playing with an idea is completely different from writing a book. I've been playing with an idea for a book that wouldn't even be all that hard to write for months now, and I haven't noticed myself scurrying to the computer and setting up a brand new doc. But I do love playing with ideas, so I've been letting myself enjoy this one." - Susan Beth Pfeffer @ susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com

Susan Beth Pfeffer's THE YEAR WITHOUT MICHAEL is about a girl named Jody and her family trying to survive an unexpected loss. In the beginning of the story, Jody's brother Michael leaves home for the softball field but he disappears along the way. At first, the police believe Michael ran away. But of course, he could've also been kidnapped. The parents hire a private detective, but no leads turn up. The family is tormented and heartbroken as they wait for Michael's return...or news. But nothing comes. After a year without Michael, Michael hasn't returned. The tone of the ending suggests that he would probably never return. 

I read this book a number of times. I liked reading the parts when Michael was still physically present in the story...When I was in junior high, I did an oral report on this book.  When I finished giving my report, a few of my classmates shared that they thought, from the book's title, that Michael would return after being missing for a year. I told them no, my story was about how a family survived the first year after one of their own goes missing. I still remember the room was quiet for a moment as my junior high classmates processed that some stories don't have happy endings.

Have you read THE YEAR WITHOUT MICHAEL? How does one heal from a terrible tragedy? 

Monday, April 18, 2016

O: Joyce Carol Oates & FOXFIRE

This month, I'm doing the Blogging from A to Z ChallengeMy theme: authors whose work I read when I was younger.

"Any kind of creative activity is likely to be stressful. The more anxiety, the more you feel that you are headed in the right direction. Easiness, relaxation, comfort- these are not conditions that usually accompany serious work." - Joyce Carol Oates

FOXFIRE (Dutton, Adult)  is the first novel I read by Joyce Carol Oates, and it's one of the darker stories I'm sharing here this month. The story takes place during the 1950s in upstate New York. One of the first scenes depicts a junior high girl named Rita who is lured by her younger brothers to a clubhouse built by older neighborhood boys. Once inside, it's implied that Rita is gang raped. She returns home alone, bleeding and crying. Her mother takes a look at her and slaps her, refusing to hear about what has just happened. Rita goes on to join Foxfire, a girl gang led by a charismatic girl named Legs. Later, when a male teacher fondles Rita during detention, the Foxfire girls vandalize his car and call him out for his behavior. The teacher soon retires.

The story is told from the perspective of Maddy, another Foxfire member. Maddy wants a typewriter. While bargaining with a man to sell her the typewriter that he intends to throw away, the man tries to sexually assault Maddy. Maddy tells the Foxfire girls about what happened and then she returns to this guy. While he undresses, the girls emerge. They beat him until he passes out. Maddy leaves some money behind and then snatches the typewriter. 

Told with a gritty honesty, FOXFIRE challenges the 1950s as being a gentler time when parents were thought to be more nurturing, families were more solid, and girls were more docile and safe from sexual assault. Reading this book also made me think of Lois Duncan's DAUGHTERS OF EVE, though I'd say that FOXFIRE is darker with much more sexually explicit language and content. Interestingly, I found this book in the MG section of a library when I was a teen. It is currently marketed as adult fiction, though it could also be considered YA. But a MG book this is not. 

Have you read FOXFIRE?  What do you think about when you think of the 1950s?
Have you ever strongly felt that a book's intended age group has been wrongly classified?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N: Natalie Babbit & TUCK EVERLASTING

"The question of what it might be like to live forever is something that everyone thinks about. And I think you think about it more when you find out you can't do it. It's an idea that's been sitting around in my head for a lot of years."  -Natalie Babbitt

Natalie Babbit's TUCK EVERLASTING is about a 'tween girl named Winnie who meets the Tuck family and learns they have been cursed with immortality after drinking water from a magical spring near her home many years ago. The elders in the Tuck family warn Winnie about drinking the water, that not being able to die and being stuck living forever was really a wretched thing. Still, Jesse Tuck, who is forever 17, secretly asks Winnie to wait until she is his age to drink the magic water so they could be together. When the Tuck family have to go on the run, the moral dilemma Winnie encounters is whether she should drink the water. 


The epilogue shows Winnie's tombstone 60 years later. She went on to be a wife and a mother... and she didn't drink the water. It was a wise choice on Winnie's part, and possibly not an easy one to make. Sometimes wise choices are not necessarily easy choices. 

Have you read TUCK EVERLASTING? How would your life change if you found out you are immortal?

Friday, April 15, 2016

M: Marilyn Sachs & HELLO...WRONG NUMBER

"When I grew up, I found that I had become a great expert on bullies, and my books are full of them." -Marilyn Sachs 

I read Marilyn Sachs's HELLO...WRONG NUMBER (Scholastic, YA) when I was in grade school. The story, told strictly in dialogue, starts with Angie calling for a hot boy she likes named Jim. The boy she calls is named Jim, but she dialed a wrong number. This Jim and Angie attend the same high school, but haven't met. Angie keeps calling Jim to talk. Two weeks into these phone calls, Jim sings a song to Angie and confesses his love. Around this time, Angie jokes about a boy with a big nose at her school who has been following her around. She's unaware of how uncomfortable her shallowness makes Jim. 

Angie finds out that the boy with the big nose is Jim, her phone buddy. She also learns from talking to Jim's ex-girlfriend that Jim lied to her about some stuff. The ex-girlfriend said she broke up with Jim, but Jim told Angie he broke up with his ex-girlfriend. Jim also told Angie he is a professional musician, but in reality, he is too shy to even try out for chorus. That sort of stuff.  Angie angrily confronts Jim. Jim says he wanted her to think he was someone special. At the end of the story, the two meet and talk for nine hours. After their talk, they talk on the phone again and Angie tells Jim she loves him too. 

This book is one of many light teen romances I read back in the day. For both their sakes, I'm relieved that Jim isn't a sex offender and Angie isn't a Fatal Attraction-type stalker. 

Have you read HELLO...WRONG NUMBER? Could you be in a relationship with someone who once shallowly judged you by your appearance or lied to you to make themselves look cooler?