Friday, December 2, 2011

New Blog?

Considering starting a new blog on the life and adventures of a soon-to-be college graduate, complete with failed attempts at growing up and, of course, writing.  Stay tuned.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Want My Rose-Colored Glasses Back, Part 1

What a difference a week makes!

This past week has had more drama than I can remember.  On Saturday a blizzard hit Southern Connecticut and parts of upstate New York with a vengeful force, knocking down trees, causing extensive damage to power lines, leaving my entire campus without power.  Power went out Saturday night: by Sunday morning we had only begun to guess the extensiveness of the damage.  Trees were downed everywhere; I had to fight my way around a couple of straggling branches on my way to the library, but it was in vain because it was closed.  Everything was closed.  The entire town was without power.  I called my parents and they came and got me and took me back to New York for a couple of days.  Those who stayed behind either stayed in their dorms and their houses or huddled together in the library for warmth.  By Tuesday power in central campus was restored, but the seniors and many juniors live in separate houses that rely on the town's power source still had no electricity or heat.  My poor housemates were sleeping in the same room to stave off the cold.  They could see their breath inside the house.  In spite of the fact that the seniors were freezing their butts off , my university's administration announced that classes would be resumed on Wednesday, and that homecoming weekend would be happening as scheduled.  This was not a popular decision, but what could we do? We're dependent college students.  Occupy [my college's name] would not have been an effective strategy.

And then, Wednesday morning, on my way back to campus, I was in a car accident.  Thankfully no one is hurt, but the front of the car is damaged pretty badly.  I got back to campus in time for my afternoon class, and that night, after 94 hours without heat or electricity, power came back on for everyone else.  Power is coming back on slowly for more remote parts of campus, and the rest of the surrounding town should have power by Sunday if not before.

This entire week my brain has been going WTF.  At everything.  This blog post was supposed to be about reverse culture shock in a more indirect way: I'd be going through my daily life and noticing subtle changes I hadn't before.  Upon noticing how my powers of observations have changed, I would reflect, very poetically, about how before I left for Taiwan I was naive to the Great Injustices of the World and now I am growing and becoming a Person, yay for me.

Now I'm just like OMG We have heat and light and electricity!  Hooray!  Back to my mountains of homework!

Sorry for the lack of insight this time around--it's just been one of those weeks.

See you all soon!



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You Are Your Most Important Character

I survived the first round of midterms unscathed.  My second round of midterms is the first week of November, and I have a paper due in a week and a half.  But!  I am not thinking about those things right now, because fall break is this weekend! Huzzah!  Huzzah!  Huzzah!

I can't wait to catch up with all of you and see what magical words of mighty fiction you have been churning out.  I am sure they are numerous and splendid.

I have been feeling a bit guilty about putting aside my extra-curriculars such as blogging and fictioning.  But graduating from college is not optional.  It has something I have been forced to focus on with razor-sharp concentration.  I've been plowing through papers, short and long, week after week.  I can't believe it's already the middle of the semester.

My creative side side, as a result, has been feeling a little neglected.  "What about your characters?" it has asked me, sniffling a little.  "What about developing your voice and devoting yourself to launching your surely splendiferous literary career?"  Thus far, I haven't been able to come up with anything to console it other than bottles of wine my meager student budget can afford and binging on reruns of The West Wing.

But last week during office hours, it hit me.

In a weird way, you could say I am working on my fiction while I do my mountains of government reading and taking notes during class.  I'm forcing my brain to get smarter and more critical.  The stuff I was writing two months ago is not going to cut it now.  And I am writing.  The typing hasn't stopped.  The main characters are just not in my head, but on the world stage.  I'm pretty sure my characters are going to get more interesting and nuanced, because I'm training the organ that creates them.  As long as you're growing and learning, you're working on your writing.  The most important character to improve is yourself.

Happy Pumpkin Month.


Monday, September 19, 2011

School Daze

Hey folks!

Sorry about the brief interruption.  School's been hectic.  I've been picking classes, getting settled into my room, making sure my credits from last year transfer and that I'm on track to complete my major on time so that I can graduate in the spring.  Now that that's all taken care of, I can make my rounds and start commenting on your fabulous blogs and (I hope) start posting on a more regular schedule.

It's strange being back.  Last night as I was looking over photos from the Beijing trip, it almost felt as though I was looking at someone else's adventure.  My little college in Connecticut is not only thousands of miles away from Asia, it's several cultural arenas away as well.  The skills that I learned while traveling are definitely applicable in the routine of a college life, but they are in the background, like the hand that manipulates the marionette.  For one thing, I'm speaking Chinese way less, but weirdly, when I'm in Chinese class, my brain barely relates the fact that my professor isn't speaking English.

I miss writing.  My work in progress is on the hard drive on my other computer, my old Dell that overheats and shuts down without warning.  I've been thinking of how to bring all the loose ends together, and I was discussing this with another writer friend of mine, who's in the middle of his own projects.

"Do you know how it ends?" he asked me.

I told him that I did.

"Then write it down," he said.  He told me that if I have the ending written down, it'll help for my next episode of writer's block, because I'll know where my novel is going.

So, the next time I get a hold of my work in progress, I'm pounding out that ending.

Also:  I'm turning 22 on Thursday.  I'm OLD.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who Likes Pictures of Bunny Rabbits?

I got this a while ago from Steph Schmidt, and kept putting off doing this question-y thing because I was busy getting ready for China, then recovering from jet lag, then getting ready for school.  Now that I'm settled, it's meme time!

1. Are you a rutabaga? I don't think so.  It would be upsetting if it turned out I were just a rutabaga dreaming that I was a real person.

2. Who is your current crush? I currently don't have one, which is a first for me.

3. Upload a heartwarming picture that makes you smile

4. When was the last time you ate a vine-ripened tomato?  A while ago.  I regret that I can't remember the last time I ate one.  Tomatoes are the best.

5. Name one habit that would cause others to plot your demise.  Inability to keep my room clean and I turn everything into a debate somehow.

6. What is the wierdest, most-disgusting job you've ever had to do? Look through an inmate's personal belongings to find anything potentially anti-establisment.  It wasn't so much what I found as it was the weird feeling of rifling through someone's personal belongings with rubber gloves.

7. Where da muffin top at? Sitting above the muffin bottom.

8. What author introduced you to your genre? I don't have a specific genre.  I just write fiction about people.  I guess you could say I really clicked with Russian literature in high school, because I like to write about the non-supernatural sufferings of mere mortals and find the twisted humor in it.

9. Describe yourself using obscure Latin words. Lux et veritas (light and truth).

I shall announce the three recipients of the blog on fire award in the comments!  Yay!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Some reflections on traveling

On the Great Wall with new friends.

I've been having some technical difficulties with Blogger this evening, so I'm just going to type away and hold my breath.  I need to get better at using Blogger.  Good thing I'm a writer and student--they are very low-tech kinds of jobs.

Beijing was wowza awesome.  I met people that for the first time in my life I clicked with intellectually and were also incredibly fun to be around.  I talked about politics and economics and culture from morning until night and then went clubbing with my new friends until the wee hours of the morning.  I visited schools for migrant worker children and China's top consulting firm, and attended lectures on art, NGOs in China, health care, and the economy.  Nearly every moment was saturated with provoking questions, deep thoughts, and stimulating conversation.

This year, I lived in Taiwan and visited Hong Kong and Beijing.  These are very different places with people who speak very different Chinese from each other.  The first few days in Beijing were overwhelming as I adjusted to listening to Chinese spoken with an accent that was a world away from what I had grown accustomed to.  The first time I visited China in high school, I had much less of a problem with the accent than I did this time around.  I guess it shows how fast you can get used to doing something one way, only to find that you can get just as used to doing something another way over time.

Things were very different for me a year ago.  I took some very big risks and ventured way out of my comfort zone, but look where I wound up!  I found a wonderful and supportive community of writers, I have lived abroad, and am taking writing more seriously.  I have gained enormous perspective and insight and learned a ton about myself.  I know I'm going to look back on this year as a big turning point in my life, because this was the year that I realized what I am capable of.  And you, my dear blog followers, have played a strong supporting role in that revelation.

But I should warn you: traveling is not a cure-all, nor does traveling in and of itself make you an interesting person.  The experience of travel is merely an opportunity, and it's up to you to make the most of it.  I say this because traveling can also be inconvenient, expensive, aggravating, and even disappointing.  Flying for more than twelve hours and missing your connecting flight is no fun.  A week of jet lag is a pain in the ass.  Culture shock can be daunting, and homesickness is very real.  The excitement can (and does) wear off after a while.  I'm pretty happy to be able to park my butt in one place for a substantial period of time.  But I'm so glad I did it.  I'm living the life I always dreamed of right now, not at some fuzzy point in the future.  Traveling and writing has helped me understand that when you're on the move and spilling your guts across a page, right now is all you've got.

I think that's enough for now.  I'm gonna turn in.  Thank you all so much for your support.



I'm in the Apple store in Manhattan falling in love with a Mac as we speak.  I'd like to take a minute to congratulate Misty Provencher and Michael Offut for getting agented and book deal'd.  You guys are awesome and have been longtime supporters of this blog.  I am proud to be your friend in the blogosphere.

Things are still a whirlwind.  School is just a few days away, and I need to post a longer post about Beijing with a few pictures.  I mean, we need at least one of me on the Great Wall! :)

And I will get around to talking more about the lovely award Steph Schmidt gave me.  Non-jet lagged brain FTW.

Love you guys!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jet Lag and Exhaustion, Day 4

Spent the last days sleeping and resting, and
Watching hurricane coverage on CNN.
Don't go to the beach.
See y'all soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back from Beijing

Got in from Beijing at around 11:30 last night.  So tired, but China was unbelievable.  I met so many amazing people and I learned so much about myself.

Things were so different a year ago.  Yesterday, August 23rd, made the one year anniversary that I got on a plane and headed to Taiwan, and my traveling adventures began.

I will post more when I am less groggy.  Also, thanks to Steph Schmidt for the blog award she gave me a while back.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Symptoms of Burnot Include

 I was going to spend a productive day packing and getting ready for China on Friday, and the only thing I've really done so far today is shower and send a few emails.  And check my new Twitter account obsessively.

I had to write a biography of myself for this conference that was 600 words or less, so when I finished this version I thought, I'm doing fine.  Until I checked the email again.

 Turns out no one wants to know that much about me.  They wanted 600 characters or less.

Here's the long version that I'm going to whittle down for the conference.  I'll even add a few dull details to make it more conference-apropos.

I was born and raised in New York City, and surrounded myself with almost every kind of book within my reach.  Frequent trips to the library were a staple of my childhood.

I had the almost impossibly good fortune of attending a school whose core philosophy was learning for learning's sake from the age of six until seventeen.  There were no grades, only written evaluations, and starting in high school we could form our own curriculum based on our own interests and ambitions.

The founder and longtime headmaster of this school, Stanley, recently went gently into that good night.  As I reflect on my own story, I will always be indebted to his bold vision of education and the tenacity with which he clung to it.  I am who I am because the school Stanley built taught me to have the courage to be the person I want to be right now.

I was monolingual until I took Latin in sixth grade, and then switched to Spanish in middle school and and added Chinese and French in high school.  I've stuck with Chinese as an East Asian Studies major at college, and just returned from a year abroad in Taiwan.  As a child people asked me if I spoke Spanish at home and if I frequently visited my grandparents in Puerto Rico because of my last name and my heritage.

These questions always befuddled me: I was American and I spoke English, as did both of my parents and their parents.  I didn't understand how the color of my skin determined an allegiance to a particular language, so I tried as many languages on for size as I could.

As I grew older and continued to ask bigger and more provoking questions about myself, I've discovered that the only way to learn anything about yourself worth knowing is not studying your own history, or 'discovering your roots', as some call it.  You must immerse yourself in the life of a stranger until you understand that he is you, even the parts of him you can't stand.  To know yourself is to know others, and vice versa.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I'm on it.


I had an account in 2009, and I didn't see the point.  It was incredibly distracting and I figured Facebook would be enough.

But it's a convenient way for me to keep in touch with friends, family, and my interests: publishing, politics, and literature.  I need to keep up on the run.  It's just the way my life is going.  If you have Twitter, and you follow this blog, I'll get to you soon.

So much has happened since Sunday it feels like it's Friday.  I'll see you all in China if I don't post before then



Friday, August 5, 2011

Just Do It

I'm writing this post to give myself a little motivation.

I'm in a major transitional part of my life right now.  I'm switching computers (going to buy a new one very soon).  I'm going to China next week.  I'm entering my last year of college, or university, as some of you might call it.  I'm turning twenty-two soon.

Not to mention I've hit full-on re-entry shock.  So that's been interesting.

I've been feeling kind of grumpy about getting back on a plane, to be honest.  I didn't like the idea of packing, going to an airport, going through security, and then just SITTING for what feels like an eternity.

"How am I going to do this again?" I moaned to myself in my head as I performed my daily tasks.

"You just do it," my better sense replied.

I've been making excuses like this about not writing.  How am I going to write a WHOLE book?  I'm too young.  It will suck.  I don't have the time.

Again: I'll just do it.

So I've been finding (or stealing, rather) little bubbles of time to write.  Two hundred words here.  Seven hundred there.  Making the most out of fifteen,  twenty, thirty minutes, if only to silence the voices in my head that tell me AH HA HA THIS BOOK IS RIDICULOUS GIVE UP NOW OH LOOK A SQUIRREL YOU HAVEN'T HAD ENOUGH ICE CREAM TODAY.

Some days I don't feel like a writer.  But a writer I am and write I must.  So, off I go.  I wish you all very productive weekends.  Or not.

What do you all do to get yourselves kickstarted on a project?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Very Special Lady


So the author of this blog has a Mom, who is totally awesome and classy, and this weekend it's her birthday! She's the one I get the traveling gene from--she went to Africa for a year when she was in college and this picture is us together in Hong Kong. She's been a longtime supporter of this blog and always encourages me to write. Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leaving Again

I'm going to China in two weeks.

I'm trying to let that sink in.

I feel like I just got here.  I'm finally adjusted to being in this environment.  I've barely settled into this routine.  To being back in the time zone as my friends and family.

A part of me wants to ignore the inevitable, wants to pretend in two weeks I won't throw all my stuff back into a duffel bag and take a taxi at some ungodly hour to get on a thirteen (or more) hour flight.

At this point, I'm practically commuting back and forth to Asia.

I know I should feel excited, but that emotion is a bit slow coming.  I think I'm wishing for a little more of the mundane banalities that everyone else seems to complain about.

But les's be honest, being stuck in the same place for very long was never my style.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

She's Back

The writer is in the building.
Worked on the work in progress last night, and that intoxicating feeling of getting back inside my protagonist's head. It was like taking a drive with an old friend.
Can't wait to get back to it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What do you do when it's 100 degrees outside?

Stay in an air conditioned room and write ficiton.  DUH.


            Taipei, Taiwan: Three years ago

Marjorie’s eyelids popped open to the sound of a blunt object pounding against the front door in a staccato rhythm: boom-boom-boom. Before she could move, Tomasz, the man who a moment ago was warming his hands against the small of her back, shoved his legs into a pair of pants and waddled to the door.

            “Coming!” he shouted in Mandarin.  A woman was shouting in the hallway.  Marjorie recognized who it was (Mrs. Liu from downstairs) and what language it was (Taiwanese), but understood almost none of what was said.  She was grateful that Tomasz was handling whoever it was at the door.  She and Tomasz had an agreement that he would take care of any calls or visitors before nine in the morning.  Marjorie pulled the covers over her head in a vain attempt to muffle the noise.

            In spite of the cloth barrier, Marjorie could hear the exchange between Tomasz and the unwanted parties with perfect clarity.  The men at the door were some kind of officials, though their Mandarin was slurred with a thick regional accent.  Their deep, chesty voices demanded to speak with Tomasz.  They uttered the syllables of his Chinese name—De Tang Mu--with the same peppered tempo to knock on the door.  Tomasz, ever the skilled diplomat, replied in hushed tones like a mother attempting to soothe a distraught child.  Only a trained ear could catch the underscore of repressed irritation.

The men demanded to see Tomasz’s passport.  Apparently they did not believe Tomasz was who he said he was.

In a moment, Tomasz was at the bedroom door again.  Marjorie noticed that in his haste Tomasz had put his T-shirt on backwards, and his coppery hair looked like the spines of an agitated porcupine.  She smiled and opened her mouth to greet him and to make fun of the men at the door with their strange accents, but Tomasz held up his hand like a crossing guard and shook his head as if to say, “Not now.”  He hovered for a moment over the dresser, and then picked up his American passport.  He led Marjorie by the elbow into the bathroom.  Marjorie swallowed her laughter when she saw that Tomasz’s eyes, the color of storm clouds, did not contain a trace of amusement.

            “I’m serious,” he whispered.  “Not a sound.”  He tugged the shower curtain so that it completely concealed her, and left.

            Like most Taiwanese apartments, Marjorie and Tomasz’s bathroom contained no bathtub.  Only a shower curtain and a drain were in the northern corner, placed inconveniently next to a sink and toilet.  The floor tiles felt clammy against the soles of Marjorie’s feet.  The voices at the door were louder, and a knot of worry twisted inside Marjorie’s stomach.  Things weren’t going well.  Tomasz wasn’t going to amble back into their bedroom and bury his hands in Marjorie’s hair, wrapping his fingers around her curls the way she liked.
            She heard the telltale sound of cartilage breaking and Tomasz howled.  She burst from the bathroom and ran through the bedroom, but it was too late.  Marjorie only caught a glimpse of the door slamming behind whoever it was wrestling Tomasz down the stairs, shouting at him in their ludicrous, broken Mandarin.  Mrs. Liu’s shrill yelling added to the din.  Above it all, Tomasz had resorted to his mother tongue of Polish to curse them, their mothers, and their country, in one long, unbroken stream.
            Marjorie pressed her forehead against the door.  Her throat closed tight and hot tears burned beneath her eyelids.   She saw a constellation of blood droplets on the floor and a few smears on the doorknob where Tomasz had struggled.  His cries were growing fainter.  Tomasz and his captors were probably just reaching the street.
            The apartment had no windows with a street view, so Marjorie bolted downstairs, right past the slack-jawed Mrs. Liu, her hair permed into a stiff helmet of silvery wires.  Outside the city air was hot and heavy with moisture, like a panting dog ‘s breath.  A military Jeep was rumbling down the narrow alley and into oncoming traffic.  It made a right turn at the end of the road and ducked out of sight.


Friday, July 8, 2011

The Illusion of "Being Settled"

Taken this morning by a campus photographer
I kept telling myself I would post again when I was settled, that I would write some point.  I've been back in the United States for three weeks, and I've spent two of them working in Connecticut, at my home university.  The company that hired me is running a camp designed for international students who want to get into top colleges.  They sit through hours of SAT classes, TOEFL classes, and sessions with admissions coaches.  With the little free time they have, they're playing ball with the counselors.  I'm a TOEFL instructor.  I enjoy it.  My schedule is flexible, and I have a lot of free time. 

The kids and counselors are off to New York City and won't be back until later tonight.  The halls are deliciously quiet (except for the infant daughter of the IT director, who has recently discovered her own voice). I checked out a book out of the library twenty-four hours ago and I'm already halfway through it.  I have time to read! (Madness, I tell you!)  I can talk to my friends and family on the phone!  Food is everywhere!  I have one roommate now, instead of three.  The bathrooms sparkle from cleanliness.  The Mac computer that my company gave me actually runs properly.  Taiwan seems very far away from me.   Every moment is electric or automated, and my body sighs from relief as I feed it carbs, carbs, and more carbs.  Cheerios are wonderful.

And yet there's a persistent strangeness.  Masking irritation at a comment about Chinese culture I don't agree with.  Acquaintances give me expressions of woeful incomprehension: you were abroad for a whole year?  Friends who are delighted to see me: are you in New York? (No, sadly.)  We've got to catch up! (Yes, as soon as I finish my nap and get through another to-do list).

But these adjustments are mere pebbles in comparison to the mountain shaking off a layer of dust and inching to the forefront of my head: when are you going to start writing again, missy?

There's tonight, and there's Sunday.  But I've got to buckle down and get back to this soon.  My characters are lunging toward me with such a fierce clarity I can't ignore them for much longer.

How is it already July?  It was April just a few months ago, and I was twelve hours ahead surrounded by green mountains and humidity as dense as lead.

How've you all been?

Monday, June 20, 2011

50 Followers and a Breif Update

Hi guys,

I'm currently writing this from the Narita airport in Tokyo waiting for my flight home which is in about two hours. I spent the last ten days gloriously unconnected to the internet while I vacationed in Hong Kong with my mom, who came all the way from America to see me.  It was a restorative and much needed break.  The food is delicious, and I nearly induced myself into a food coma stuffing myself with dim sum almost every day.  We took a brief trip over to Macau, an island full of casinos, to eat Portuguese food and visit an incredible art museum.  And now, it's time to say goodbye to Asia...for now.  I'll be coming right back in August for a conference in Beijing.  But that's later.   I'm so thrilled to be going back to the United States.  Traveling is great, but there's no place like home.

Also:  I have fifty whole followers now!  Thank you all, you lovely people!  Tell me--what should I (by which I mean we) do to celebrate?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things I Have Learned (While Abroad)

I was going to make a list, you know, of "things I have learned".  I would have been not unlike a fifth-grader at the end of a school year standing in the front of the classroom, with droplets of sweat clinging to the back of her neck while staring at piece of paper veined with thin blue lines and covered in smudges.  Her classmates would be squirming in their seats anxious to tear down the hallways and into the sunshine that beckons through the dirt-streaked windows.

But this is not fifth grade, is it?

The truth is I can't articulate exactly what it is I've learned in my time here.  I've done all those stereotypical things that people "do" when they are abroad: strengthened my language skills, made new friends, pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, etc, etc.  But there has been more to my experience than these things.  There were definitely times when I was so overwhelmed I felt I couldn't adjust anymore, and I didn't feel like I needed to.  I observed that some of my fellow exchange students got stuck in ruts: the going to clubs four times a week rut; the buying cheap shit rut; the I-hate-Taiwan-rut. (full disclosure: I was stuck in all of those ruts at one point or another this year.  Mom--I never went out four nights a week.)  It was extremely painful to leave those ruts, but when I did, I always learned more about myself and the world became a richer place.  And I will always be grateful for finding the courage to leave former, less than beautiful versions of myself behind.  It meant saying goodbye to ways of thinking, people, and habits that were no longer in my best interest.  But the people I have met, the new opinions I have adopted and the new things I am doing are fulfilling beyond my wildest expectations.  This year, while it had its ups and downs, was a gift.

 I am grateful for who I have become and the people who have accompanied me thus far.  If you're reading this blog, then that means you.  Thank you for coming along with me on this journey.  I look forward to the many places we'll go together.


P. S.  I can change!  I can take a picture with Hello Kitty paraphernalia and not puke.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

That's it!

I'm officially done.  Like with EVERYTHING.  All that's left is to pack and say goodbye.


So I'm feeling a little like this:

Also, the show this clip is from (The West Wing)  is THE BEST SHOW EVER and you all should totes watch.

I'll post a longer entry about What I Have Learned tomorrow.


Monday, June 6, 2011


I just found out this evening I was selected to be an American delegate for a ten-day conference in Beijing, China in August.  According to the website, the program gathers American and Chinese college students and creates and environment where we can discuss the future of the two countries.

I am so excited.

So even though my days in Taiwan are almost over, I'm not done traveling.

First, off to Hong Kong!

(Here's hoping I can get it together to post some pictures)

See you all Thursday!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wrapping Up (Taiwanese Tuesday)

I'm leaving in eleven days. First to Hong Kong, then back home for a week, then up to my home college for my summer job.

It doesn't feel real.  Not at all.  The butterflies in my stomach are scant fluttering their wings.

Summer has most definitely arrived: Taiwan's humid stickiness has returned and the temperatures are soaring again, but I'm much more used to it this time around.  I didn't think that that was possible--getting used to 90-degree, 65 percent humidity weather--but I suppose you can get used to a lot.

I've learned so much on this journey, but I think the most important lesson has been learning to love my messy and incomplete self.  I have a much clearer picture on what I want to accomplish my last year in college and in graduate school, and that was worth all of the discomfort and pain.

Time to finish my research paper, do my job training...and keep writing.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tangentially Related to the WIP

King of Nowhere

            I was born and raised in St. George, an economically depressed town of about thirty thousand people five miles southeast of Ithaca.  My father was raised by Polish immigrants in Australia; my mother’s parents came over from Sicily during Prohibition.  My parents met at a mixer not long after my father came over with his family.  My father was taken with my mother’s dark hair, smooth olive skin and tiny, sparrow-like frame.  They married six months after they graduated from high school.  Early on, my parents more or less accepted their fate of childlessness (a car accident when my mother was a little girl was to blame) so my arrival as their late in life son duly shocked both of them.
            For years I never knew what my father did for a living.  I knew he worked nights: whenever I came home from school I was never allowed to make a lot of noise because he was asleep in the upstairs bedroom, and he went to work right after dinner.  When I was leaving for school in the mornings I would see him coming up the walkway.  He appeared in an instant, materializing out of the morning fog that draped around the houses on our street and piled up in the alleys like weightless cotton.  This optical illusion, combined with the mystery of his job, solidified my awe and terror of him.  I never thought he saw me those mornings because his head was bent in intense concentration, but he always reached out to touch me on the shoulder before sitting down to the breakfast my mother laid out for him.  It was our silent ritual.
I made the mistake of asking my father what he did at work when I was about eleven years old.
His eyes, normally reptilian in their passivity, flicked over at me, annoyed.  He snorted.
            “What difference does it make?” he asked.  “My name is Bill.  I’m your father.  I keep the lights on.  That’s all you need to know.”
            I never asked him again.
            I eventually did find out what kept him out all those nights.  When I was fifteen, a bunch of my friends and I decided to “borrow” a car and take a joyride downtown.  The plan was to get into a bar.  How we were supposed to accomplish this, I don’t know— our master plan of four pimple-faced teenagers with no fake IDs showing up at a bar was destined for failure: but, of course, that night we were invincible kings of nowhere.
We stopped in front of a strip club, and debated whether or not we wanted to go in.  One of the members of the group (I won’t say who it was) wanted to go home, but didn’t want to risk his friends calling him a pussy.  The unfortunate schmuck was called upon to get out of the car and ask how much the cover charge was.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Work in Progress Tab

This week I decided to stop hiding my ideas under a bushel, so I posted the subject of my work in progress on my blog.  The reason?  Accountability.  This is my second attempt writing an actual book, and while I have been legitimately busy trying to get credit for classes, I don't want to give up on my idea.  I don't know where it will lead.  I have no idea if I'll even finish the damn thing.  But that Work in Progress tab is going to serve as a reminder that I am writing a book, and I've finally been able to condense what it is I'm writing about into two (somewhat) succinct paragraphs.

What do you do to hold yourself accountable to your works in progress?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Research Project (Taiwanese Tuesday)

Or, what I've been worried about for the last six months.

I came to Taiwan with the intention of researching about seventeenth-century Chinese eunuchs in hopes of using that research for a creative thesis.

It didn't work out, mainly because I couldn't find a professor to work with me.

The resident director of my program is Buddhist, and knows pretty much Every Living Buddhist in The World.  I'm sure she's met the Dalai Lama at one point.  In December I accompanied her on a translation retreat run by an international Buddhist women's association.  It was a very cold but enlightening weekend.  The ladies I met were of all ages and walks of life, and had taken refuge in Buddhism for different reasons.  I participated in workshops where mostly Chinese was spoken, and got to know them over the course of

Because of her connections and my limited options, I decided refocus my project.  I love languages (not linguistics--yuck).  I was intrigued by something my resident director had said: when the Buddhist sutras were translated from Sanskrit to Chinese, the translators had to come up with about 100,000 new idioms to convey the ideas the sutras were proposing.  The concepts did not exist in Chinese, and so the language itself had to change in order to allow a new religion to take place in a different culture.

My project is seeing if Taiwanese students under 25 still use these centuries-old idioms today.

I'm in the last stages of drafting a questionnaire that I will be using to ask Taiwanese students around my campus.  I already did some interviews and ran into some preliminary glitches, so it's back to the drawing board.

And no.  This questionnaire does not include all 100,000 of the idioms.  That would be overdoing it just a hair.

See you Thursday.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Honesty and Doubt

Since the rapture didn't happen, it means we all have to get back to our responsibilities and commitments.  I'm actually kind of happy about that.  I'm in the middle of a lot of interesting things, and if the world had ended, I wouldn't have been able to go to Hong Kong to see my mom.

Time to be honest about some things, I think.

I haven't been completely happy here.

That's a bit of an understatement.

I really hated it here for a long time.

It's no one's fault.  I'm not blaming my program, the friends I've made, or even Taiwan.  But this experience for a long time was none of what I was expecting.  I complained pretty extensively to my mother and close friends and left it at that.  I had work to do, classes to go to, and projects that needed to be completed on time.  Making deadlines has historically been difficult for me, and when I leave here, I leave.  That's it.

So, I figured if I didn't have anything positive to say, then say nothing at all.  I beat myself up about not posting because not everyone gets to travel, so I didn't have the luxury of being unhappy.

This is not to say that I spent every moment of my time in abject misery.  There were moments where I found satisfaction, and I sucked those moments dry to find the strength to keep going.  And I threw myself into my research here: working with my advisor, refining my topic, working on my proposal, and steeling myself not to give up.  I could have.  The temptation was there; there were a lot inconveniences and obstacles, not the least of which was that I couldn't take books out of the library, and I needed a bibliography.  So I needed to get creative.

And then, like magic, everything came together for me.  The end is in sight, all I have to do is complete my research, take a final, write a couple of papers, complete my online job training, and I'm on my way.

Life is glorious.  Living often isn't.  But the unromantic moments (or days, or weeks, or even longer) help us enjoy those romantic moment when they hit us over the head.

I'll talk more about my research project on Tuesday.  Enjoy not being raptured.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I'm Back!

I'm almost there!  Three more weeks and I'll be done with my year abroad.  Man.  I feel like I just got here.

It's been a tough year.  That's why I haven't been posting as regularly as I should.  I got hit with a lot of things that needed careful monitoring, and I felt bad that I dropped out of the challenge.  It really came down to setting priorities.  I was really getting ahead of myself with this novel and I needed to refocus myself so that I can graduate from college first.  It'll happen.  I just finalized my research project this week and I heard back from my home university that I should get credit for it.  My departure day from Taiwan is June 11, right around the corner.  I'm meeting my mom in Hong Kong and we'll be vacationing there for ten days.  Then it's back home for a week, and then my summer job.

My novel is on hold, but I've thought about it a lot and will continue it at some point in the future.  First things first.

I've learned so much about myself, and I'm so grateful for all of you who read this.

More later.  Promise.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Love Yourself A Little

Hi!  Marjorie from Upwards Over the Mountain here, back from a much needed break.

I know I kind of just vanished for a minute there without explanation.  Trust me, I had a lot of things going on, not the least of which was that I was very sick.  When your body gives out the way mine did, that's a sign you need to scale back from life and re-evaluate where you're spending your energy.  I'm in the home stretch of my time abroad.  I have eight weeks before I get on a plane and leave this lush island behind.  Sometimes when we get close to the end of a journey we can doubt ourselves.  This past week I was suddenly unsure about so many things.  Do I really want to be a "big time" blogger with a horde of followers?  How is being a writer going to factor into a career?  What classes do I want to take next semester?  What path should I take after I graduate?

I don't have a concrete answer to any of these questions.  I've scratched my carefully thought through battle plans for the next few weeks.  I'm just going to focus on doing what I love for the rest of the time here.  And I love blogging.

No matter what phase of life you are in, I encourage you to love yourself a little.  You might be surprised at the results.

Here's an acapella cover of one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands, Counting Crows.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dogs

Afternoon naptime

These are just two of the many stray dogs that hang around my campus.  They bark a lot at night and follow you if you're eating something, which is really annoying.  When they crowd around me, I stand very still and pretend that I'm Cesar Milan.  After a while, they understand that I'm not going to feed them and go bother someone else.  I met the person who feeds them a few months ago, a lady in her forties with a tanned, weathered face and a broad smile.

"They're not good dogs," she said, scowling at the strays who wagged their tails.  "They don't listen to me."

I know they look cute in the picture, but they're kind of a pain to deal with in real life.  Still, I included them in this blog series, because, like it or not, they are a part of my life here, and they do pretty much run the University. 

I think I'm all caught up now.  See you tomorrow!

C is for Colds and Chinese Medicine

Taiwanese cough medicine.  It looked and tasted like dirt--but it worked

I took a couple of days off blogging because I was on the tail end of a Taiwanese Cold: Deluxe Edition, featuring chills, fatigue, sore throat, and compromised breathing (I have a bit of asthma).  I had no voice for three days.  I'm much better now.

On the second day of the cold one of my intrepid Taiwanese classmates named Maggie accompanied me to a local clinic.  After the doctor listened to me breathe through a stethoscope, he explained that my asthma was aggravated by my cold.  Lots of people have been getting sick because it's been warm during the day and cold at night, and the humidity is as high as always.

I got a special nebulizer treatment while Maggie pounded my back.  Man, Taiwanese girls have so much strength in their hands it's not even funny.  The mucus in my lungs didn't stand a chance.

The kindly doctor came over to check on me.  "Is okay for you?"  He asked, in English.

I nodded.  The doctor told me I could come back to get the nebulizer treatment whenever I needed it; it was free.

I spent the next few days holed up in my room watching Disney movies, sleeping, drinking tea and taking meds.  I went to class but didn't talk much.  Today I sound just about normal.  I'm going to karaoke in a few minutes.  We'll see how that goes.

Whew!  Glad that bit's over with.  Now I can get back to my life.

B is for Butterflies and Brunches

Took this on a walk near my university.

Eggs Benedict at my favorite diner in Taipei

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for ARC

Image forthcoming.  Need to charge my camera battery.

Today I picked up my Alien Resident Certificate (ARC), the identification card that goes with my resident visa, from the immigration office.  This is a replacement ARC; I lost my original and had to reapply for it.  Ugh.

This visa thing has been a mess from November.  I originally got a three-months visitor visa that was extended to six months, with a February expiration date.  But when I applied for my Resident Visa, it turned out that the visa processing office in New York had given me the wrong visa type.  They had given me a visa for exchange students, but I'm not here on exchange; I'm here with a program.  My resident director threatened the people at the consulate in Taiwan to use her political connections because she was so exasperated with the entire procedure.  I asked her how screaming at a service person fit in to her Buddhist way of life.  She replied that the Buddha appears to people in the forms most needed to "wake people up", so if yelling was what it took, then so be it.  (She's kind of my hero.)

But then I lost my ARC a couple of weeks ago.  It didn't even came home with me.

I'm kind of an absentminded person, so things easily slip my mind.  I'm going to try to use this experience to be more careful with my stuff.  Because going back and forth to process these loose ends of my visa have been a huge hassle, and I'm glad it's all over.

Happy April Fool's!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writer-Blogger Thursdays: Why I Will Never Make Fun Of Nicholas Sparks Again

I've made up my mind to never make fun of a commercially successful author for as long as I live.  Barring the exception of their showing up at my house in a Barney costume and yodeling, I'm not gonna do it.  Even if their writing sucks.  Even if it really sucks.

Why?  Because they've earned their success.  They really have.

I used to think that all mainstream audiences were manipulated by a Jabba the Hut-like mastermind who paid  talentless hacks ghastly sums of money to churn out fodder for the masses, inoculating them against the works of gifted writers trying to make their way in the world.  I believed that only way to be successful was to write about sparkly vampires in high school and their angsty girlfriends.  Or be Stephen King.

Then I took a peek at Nicholas Sparks' website.  In case you haven't heard of him, many people with good taste  in books accuse him of writing the same book over and over.  I loved to use his name as a punchline for every joke I made about bad writers.

Until two days ago.

I looked at his Writing Advice section and found what he had to say made a lot of sense.  His writing advice didn't differ that much from the advice of other writers whose works I enjoy.  (Read a lot, write a lot, learn the industry, be professional, etc., etc.)  And you know what?  He's found what works for him and he sticks with it.  He's got an audience who loves his books.

But, as I learned from reading about his personal journey, he worked very hard.

The question of his talent, while debated in some literary circles, is negligible at this point. He worked his butt off, paid his dues, and now he's enjoying the rewards.  I can't begrudge him his success.

I've been worrying if I am inherently good enough to pull off being a writer.  There are voices in my head screaming that what I'm writing is garbage, because I compare myself to others.  This past weekend I was tempted to curl up in a ball and give up on my work in progress.  Especially after such a tiring weekend at the spa.

But I didn't give up.  Instead, I pounded out 2,500 words.  Because I am a writer, and this is what I do.  Writing is a calling, but it's also a job.  I get to do it, no matter if I think I'm good enough or not.  There are plenty of immensely talented artists out there, and they miss out on opportunities to be more successful because they're hanging around complaining about how the movie/writing/art industry is corrupted beyond salvation.  While they're moaning that no one will appreciate their work, another artist who may not be as good will land a multimillion dollar after toiling in obscurity for years.

Don't be the whining artist.  The world needs your creation, not your complaining.

And don't stop making art, no matter how bad you think it is.

If you are true to yourself, and write that book sitting inside you, and revise like a super ninja on steroids, then the universe will break itself open for you one day, because fortune favors the hardworking and the fearless.

Also, you can't give up, no matter how many people slam doors in your face.  Just in case you were wondering if I forgot about to mention that part.  I didn't.

Happy Thursday!

P. S.  A-Z challenge starts tomorrow!  Who's excited?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Taiwanese Tuesday: A Weekend in Wulai

On Saturday I went with my host mother to Wu Lai, a place in the mountains that had a hot spring resort.  I got to sleep, eat, and use the hot spring for free, a pretty nice deal.  My host mother was every bit as embarrassing and hovering and caring as a mother can be.  She stuffed me full of food, introduced me to all of her friends, and took me to see some beautiful scenery in Wu Lai.  I was amazed at how natural the landscape was just half an hour from Taipei.

The hot spring portion of my weekend was quite an experience.  I had been to a hot spring hotel before that was very discreet: an attendant filled a tub of water in a bathroom, and there was an anteroom where you could change before and after soaking.  This hot spring had none of that.  I stripped down and went into a public area butt naked with a whole bunch of Taiwanese ladies I didn't know with my host mother and all of her friends.

You might be thinking the hot spring was unsanitary.  Nope!  The place was spotless; it was a real spa, not a public pool, so they could afford to pay staff to clean.  Clients showered before and after soaking.  I soaked for a while in hot water, dried off in a sauna, and let a giant nozzle pummel lukewarm water on my back.  My host mother and I rubbed wet salt on each others' backs and went inside what looked like a reverse sauna.  It had transparent walls but was full of hot fog.  I sat and let the salt melt on my skin, then my host mother doused me off with a cold shower nozzle.  I shrieked because I wasn't prepared for the cold.  The ladies chuckled at my reaction.

The spa had no windows, allowing steam to flow freely from under the roof.  Except for the reverse sauna, I wore my glasses the whole time.

There was an outdoor portion of the spa that had two pools: one very hot and one ice cold.  How hot was the hot pool?  SCALDING.

"Good Lord!" I cried in Mandarin as I lowered myself into it.  "It's too hot. I can't take it!"

"Don't force yourself," one of my host mother's friends said.  "Sit on the edge until you get used to it."

I did as she advised, then followed my host mother back and forth between the hot and cold pools.  My toes crackled as though a current of electricity was flowing through me.

"You're very brave," the ladies murmured as I went back and forth between pools.

I took a break from the extremely hot and cold water after a while and went to look at the river tumbling over the rocks and the steam billowing out of the spa.  A few robed ladies rested on deck chairs next to me.  The river was an opaque emerald color.  Lush green mountains shrouded in mist towered over me.  I tried to make the moment last as long as possible.

After we soaked we had dinner.  My host mother is a part of the Taiwan branch of the Girl Scouts, and last weekend was their retreat in the mountains.  They had a full program that evening, including dancing, karaoke, and an auction.  Like a good sport, I sang a karaoke song with my host mother.  Warning: if you ever go to Asia, be prepared: karaoke is a staple of social life here.  I don't care how much you hate it (and I do--almost as much as Hello Kitty).  Make everyone happy and sing at least one song.

The next day my host mother and I got up early and walked around the tourist area of Wulai full of shops selling aboriginal-themed souvenirs.  It was raining pretty heavily, so it wasn't as fun as it could have been, but I got to see the waterfall up close.  That was pretty cool.

All in all, it was a eye-opening (and exhausting) weekend.  I learned to be less self-conscious about my body.  Athough my body certainly isn't perfect (legs aren't shaved, carrying more weight that I would like, etc, etc.) no one's else's body was perfect either.  99.9% of all of people there jiggled at least a little.

Who's ready for pictures?  ME!  I AM!

No, I don't have any pictures from inside the spa.  Obviously.

So the deal is that Taiwan has a lot of mountains.  Like this one.

Me and my host mother.  She was intense but awesome.

I don't know what kind of fish this is, but I've had it a lot in Taiwanese restaurants and it's good.

Flamenco dancers!  The woman on the far left had a 'tude, which made her performance HILARIOUS.

Cool-ass waterfall!  The wires are for cable cars that go all the way up the mountain.
I got to get closer to it on Sunday.

Whee!  Sadly, I did not get to ride the cable car.

A street in the tourist section in Wulai.

See you Thursday!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Writer-Blogger Thursdays: Cliche or Plot Twist?

I got this from Deirdra:

Thank you so much!

Secondly, I have something to ask you guys.

My work in progress is about a young man who becomes the sole caretaker of his infant niece.  He faces a lot of obstacles, not the least of which is keeping his sister's unsavory associates (she's dating a drug dealer) off of his doorstep.

Recently I've been focusing a lot more on the sister's character development, and I've come up with a good reason for the sister and niece to suddenly disappear.

Is a kidnapping/disappearance of the baby girl a good plot twist, or just a cliche?

What are your thoughts?

DISCLAIMER: No baby girls, real or imagined, will be harmed in the writing of this novel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

5 Minutes Left--Taiwanese Tuesday

I almost missed the deadline!  Phew.

It just occurred to me yesterday that I am going home it two and a half months.  My subconscious is blissfully unaware that I am not going to be here forever.  I haven't told it yet.  No need to traumatize it at this point.

Went to the Red Cross last night with my "host mother" a lovely Taiwanese woman who I will be staying with this weekend.  I believe going to the hot springs is on the agenda.  I spoke Chinese the entire time, and my head didn't hurt.  I made some mistakes, but I can understand about 85-90% of everyday conversation and respond appropriately.  Oh, language proficiency.  How lovely you are!

And now, class!  (It's noon my time.)

See you Thursday.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Writer-Blogger Saturdays

I've signed up for this:

and if you haven't already, you should, too.  They've already got more than 500 bloggers and are still going strong.  Official start date: April Fool's Day.  The idea is to post every day except Sundays for the month of April, for a total of 26 posts.  Every day you are expected to post something relevant to the alphabet, so on day one post something related to A, on day two B, etc., etc.,

The challenges have already begun; this week, the participants were challenged to write a press release promoting ourselves and the A-Z challenge.  I didn't do it.  I didn't think that I could, or that a newspaper would be remotely interested in my blog.

But someone got published.  Someone wrote a press released and got published in a local newspaper.  And it was a good press release, too.

I realized that not everyone was talking themselves out of their potential.

I'm making a lot of decisions this week that I'm not at liberty to discuss in a lot of detail here, but suffice it to say I'm no longer allowing circumstances to dictate what I can and cannot do, including feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.  Ever since I was a little girl my elders inundated me with the message: "Never give up on your dreams!  You do anything you set your mind to do!  You are a special little star twinkling in your own universe!"

I thought these people were at best misinformed optimists, and at worst willful half-wits.

Trust me, there are times in everyone's life when your dreams seem out of reach.  You get laid off.  Your mom gets sick.  Your childhood memories are riddled with craters of loneliness where there should have been love and support.  Your spouse/significant other/boss/friend is undermining you.  You're broke.

But as the saying goes, "Everything works out it the end.  If it hasn't worked out, then it's not the end yet."

Just because someone is out there being successful, doesn't mean you can't be successful too.

If you know you're supposed to do something, and you know it on so many levels not even Christopher Nolan could make a movie about it;

If your Golgi apparatuses are telling you you're a writer, and your mitochondria are telling you not to give up;

If your electrons are so burger flipping excited they can't sit still at the prospect of you going after what you're passionate about;

If space rocks have spelled out your destiny in the heavens;

If the writing on the wall, your palm reader, your pastor, your rabbi, your Buddhist monk, have confirmed that you're on the right path;

Then you can't give up.

You can't.

You.  Cannot.  Give.  Up.

You and your dreams are all you've got.

Don't let anyone talk you out of what you know you're supposed to do.  Don't let your bank account dictate your actions.  Don't let your fears and you past define your present course.  Yes, it's scary.  Life is often uncertain.  But you're not doing this alone.  We're all blogging and writing and dreaming and trying together.

You are mighty!  Now go and write mighty works made of mighty words.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Taiwanese Wednesday

This week has been hectic so far.  Someone seems to have pressed the fast-forward button on my life.  I'm starting research on a project I really like; I love my new Chinese teacher and classmates; new followers on this blog are trickling in; I got a summer job; my novel's trajectory is clear.  Even though I lost my Alien Resident Certificate last week after waiting for weeks to pick it up, reapplying for it has not been terribly strenuous, as my increased language skills have made life here much smoother.  All of these things, by the way, have happened within a few days of each other.

So I've been feeling a little like this:
This was taken after attempts to wake me failed.  My classmates are interesting people.

But, most of all, this place is finally starting to feel like home.

After almost seven months of culture shock, disillusionment, homesickness, loneliness, boredom, and frustration, suddenly Taiwan has become familiar to me.

And when I mean suddenly, I mean a couple weeks ago I was dragging myself up the mountain to go to class.  I bemoaned that Chinese was impossible.  I fantasized about having my bedroom back and seeing friends and family.

Now I'm running around trying to organize the last three months of my life, and it looks like I'll have just enough time to get everything done.  I'm even considering getting a research grant to come back here after I graduate.  I'm doing research in Chinese and I can read most of the characters.  All the suffering is paying off.

I'm cycling between exhaustion and contentment, and I'm grateful and honored to have you all along for the ride.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Technical Difficulties

I planned to write a blog post today complete with pictures, but then busy and tired stepped in.  And a nasty cold rain decided to blow raspberries all over campus, making any decent photography impossible.

Taiwanese Tuesday will happen tomorrow.  Promise.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Word About Japan

A few of you have been asking me if I've heard about the earthquake in Japan.  (Also, thanks to those of you who've asked if I'm okay.)  I'm on this side of the world, and I'm twelve hours ahead of most of you who read this, so, yes, I have.  I've steered clear of the news this weekend because I knew it was bad, and I didn't want to focus on how bad it was.  I was in New York on 9/11, and people talking about how unthinkable it was that someone would fly planes into buildings didn't help any: nor did repeated news clips of the Towers buckling underneath plumes of smoke.  You know what helped?  People who sent their thoughts and prayers our way and found ways to actually help.  For a few brief moments, the city came together in a spirit of mutual solidarity that transcended any religious sect or political agenda.  Then the media stuck its big nose in it and we got back to our paranoid bickering.

Japan's got it way worse right now.  So instead of watching the news on the Internet and getting sucked into the morbid voyeurism, donate.  And send your thoughts and prayers.  I don't care if you're an agnostic, atheist (I won't tell if you won't), Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Christian, or Sikh.  This is not about religion; this is about the people of Japan.  They need our help.  As much as you can spare.  Sending a little unselfish love in their direction, no matter what color, class, or creed you are is the least we can do as human beings living together in a world that can go bananas at a moment's notice.

Which brings me to another reason I'm not watching the news: the media is generally not good at representing the massive amounts of love that emerges when a disaster strikes.  For every news story about the mother who can't find her children, there are many, many more about someone who sacrificed his life for someone he/she didn't know, or someone who against all odds survived beneath the rubble while volunteers dug him/her out.  There are volunteers on the ground right now, and more on their way.  Some of their stories of courage and selflessness will pop up here and there; others won't.  But it's important to remember that while the damage seems colossal--and it is--we can either focus on how much has been lost, or we can pitch in with the ones who are actually fixing this mess.

Let's stop talking about the problem and be a part of the solution.  For Japan's sake, and for ourselves.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writer-Blogger Thursdays

Okay, so first things first:

As I've already thanked and linked my awarders, I have to say seven things about myself and award other bloggers.  So, without further ado:

1. I'm an only child.  Either because of or as a result of this, I learned to make friends with adults than with people my own age.  It's something I'm still learning how to do.  If you consider yourself a good friend of mine, it's very likely you have at least five years on me.

2. I still like Avril Lavigne.

3. I'm messy, in both a figurative and literal sense.

4.  I am the queen of one-woman dance parties.

5. I have an obsessive habit of pacing that began when I was about eleven.  I try to channel it in a healthy way by walking on the track.  Somehow circles soothe me.

6. I do not know how to drive.  (I'm from a large city where cars are a waste of time and money.  Not my fault.)

7. I'm on a lifelong quest to find the perfect slice of pizza.  If you know any pizza places that are any good where you are, let me know.

Ten Bloggers who are Stylish:
Missing Link in Writing
The Serial Killer Files
Surrounded by Books
Cacy Duncan
An Alleged Author
iggi and gabbi
Mia Hayson
Nothing Cannot Happen Today
The Blogger Formerly Known As
My First Book

Secondly:  Writing Stuff.
So I mentioned before I'm working on a longer piece of fiction.  Last weekend I had a bit of a breakthrough.  I wrote an opening that felt different that anything I've written before.  It felt alive.  Charged.  I gave it to my mom to read, and instead of her usual, "I love to see you writing!" reaction (which she always does, no matter how awful or angst-filled), she wrote back she had to take a nap after she read it and that I had her attention from the start.  My mom has a way of being objective with both criticism and praise, and I trust her judgement when I ask her advice.  I also knew in my gut that I was onto something.  Something good.

What changed?

Stakes.  I raised them.

A lot.

Like, we're talking T-Bone.

I think my initial premise was interesting, but I was missing motivation in too many places.  I kept running into a wall--why would my protagonist choose to investigate the roots of his deceased father?  Closure?  I guess...but closure's really subjective.

I'm writing a piece about a dysfunctional family, and I placed the dead father in the center of it, which didn't really work. I then wrote a character sketch of the sister in relation to the father, which I liked better.

And then it hit me.

Put the protagonist in the center.


After that, the stakes kind of raised themselves.

And now ENTIRE direction of my novel has changed. Roughly 6,000 words are going to be cut; I'm starting over.

But it wasn't a waste of time.  If I hadn't written those 6,000 words, I probably never would have hit this sudden point of clarity.

I've been stewing over the love interest this week, and a JUICY DELICIOUS plot point has dropped into my lap.  I can't wait to spend this weekend reconfiguring this novel and watching these characters, who are each at the end of their respective ropes, make one last mad dash for sanity, normalcy, and--if they dare hope--love.

Happy Weekend and Happy Writing!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why I Don't Do More Extracurricular Activities

I'm already embarrassed enough that my three-hour nap prevented me from picking up my Alien Resident Certificate (ID card that goes with my resident visa) and returning a loan to my program director.  I don't need the added guilt of forgetting about your club and making your shiny hopeful face crumble into a crestfallen visage of despair at my lack of commitment.  I really don't.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Taiwanese Tuesday: What American Culture and American Media Taught me about China/Taiwan

1. Chinese has a completely different alphabet than English, which means the Chinese are not American, which makes them...foreign.  Even if you're living in their country and they outnumber you six billion to one.  They're still foreign.
2. China and Taiwan are totally the same place.
3. Yes, I have in fact read that Time/Forbes/Newsweek article that says the Chinese are going to take over the world one day.  IT'S ALREADY HAPPENING.  HIDE YOUR CHILDREN AND STOCK UP ON AMERICA.  IT'S OUR ONLY HOPE.
4.  There is only one reason why Chinese children are so good at math: they are little dormant robots awaiting the instructions of The Supreme Master Chairman Mao to destroy America.  I'm brushing up on my Chinapocalypse vocabulary.
5.  If you use your fingers to pull up your eyelids, you will not only succeed in blending in, you will have mastered how Taiwanese greet each other.
6. The only reason why an American girl would ever want to learn Chinese is to get a Chinese boyfriend.
7. All of the American expats in China and Taiwan know each other.  It's not just a Facebook group; we're all totes besties in real life.
8. Tiger Moms eat their young.  With chopsticks.
9. All Chinese people secretly want to be Americans.  If they're staring at you, it's because they're trying to learn how to be Americans.  It's not because you don't fit in or are screaming in English for a taco.
10. You can see Kim Jung-Il's house from The Great Wall.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

So Apparently I Can Post Pictures on This Thing

My descriptive powers are no match for the beauty of Hualien, so here you go!  Enjoy.
Look at that blue!

A really scary awesome bridge you had to get a government permit to go on because of the risks.
This was why we could go on a trail for only half an hour at a time.
I have no idea who that is.
seriously cool.