Month: April 2011

My humble contribution to Japan

I don’t recall when exactly, whether it was before or after we arrived in the Galapagos, but I remember asking Andy how weird he thought it would be if something major happened while we were on vacation. Like Americans who were abroad during September 11th. How disconnected and helpless they must have felt. How clueless we would be without phone or email.

After a quick discussion, I’m sure neither of us gave it much thought — until the early morning hours of our fifth day. Andy woke me up saying, “There’s been a massive earthquake in Japan, and now we’re under a tsunami warning.”

The National Park Service forbid anyone from going ashore and evacuated everyone already on land to higher grounds. Our entire day of activities was canceled, and we moved out to deep, open waters to wait out The Wave. For hours we were glued to the ship’s staticky TV, trying to translate reports from Japanese to Spanish to English. But understanding didn’t require words. The images were devastating, and getting worse every minute. Eventually we changed the station, left the room, tried to think about something else.

Since then, Japan has been hit with two more earthquakes, not to mention all the aftershocks, flooding, nuclear troubles, and more. Thousands are dead; thousands more homeless, penniless, starving. The only thing more amazing than the destruction they have suffered is the outpouring of support they have received.

In December, with the help of readers and friends who spread the word, TWENTY-SOMEWHERE and “The Eraser” raised over $100 worth of proceeds for the It Gets Better Foundation. Now in April, I’m donating all proceeds to the Red Cross relief efforts for Japan. Hopefully we can raise as much if not more.

(Note: The stories have nothing to do with Japan, but as of right now they’re the only revenue stream I’ve got.)

My absolute favorite thing about the online writing community is their generosity. Whether helping to critique a query letter, or just reaching out to offer support during a difficult time, I’ve been astounded by how caring everyone is. So I’d also like to recognize a few other fundraising efforts for Japan, all of which have root in the writing community.

Current (as of this posting):

  • Pirene’s Fountain is planning to sponsor an anthology of poems, flash fiction, essays, etc. about what is going on in Japan. Interested submitters can make a statement, show love and support, speak about Japan’s importance to the world, its culture, loss, recovery, whatever they wish. Paste in body of email to pirenepublisher (at), along with an idea for a title and brief bio. Deadline: November 1, 2011. Any/all proceeds will go toward relief efforts.
  • KidLit4Japan is a children’s and YA literature auction to benefit the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. This is the final week!!
  • The 2:46 Quakebook project started with a tweet. Now it’s a rich collection of essays, artwork and photographs submitted by indivdiuals around the world, including people who endured the disaster and journalists who covered it. Sales from their cover poster alone have reached over $15,000. The book is available on Amazon.
  • Added 4/19: Author Barbara G. Tarn is giving 100% of her earnings on Barb & Masayo’s Stories to the Japanese illustrator she collaborated with.
  • Added 4/19: Stories for Sendai is accepting submissions for their anthology to benefit Japan. They are looking for works that show the strength of the human spirit. Deadline is May 15th.

Closed (as of this posting):

Les wrote a lovely post on Japan and listed some more relief efforts there. So did Amanda. I’m sure there are many more writers and bloggers who want to help — and please, if you know of any or are doing so yourself, let me know! I would be happy to add to the list.

My humble contribution pales in comparison to some of these efforts, but I believe that every bit counts. I’m sure the people of Japan do, as well.

Introducing my crit partners and "We Heart YA"

“I guess we’ve all left marks on each other’s stories. Sometimes bruises when we’re being whipped into shape, but what’s life without a few big black ‘X’s? Anyhow, I’m really glad to be part of this group. I can’t wait to see where we all end up.”

My crit partner Stephanie said that in an email back in January, and it really stuck with me. The ways I have been shaped by my writing buddies. The marks I leave on them. The potential we have. The places we are going.

I have 3 local crit partners, and 2 we-know-each-other-in-real-life-but-don’t-live-nearby crit partners. Let me go chronologically.

I met John (or Ding, as I more commonly call him) through my first boyfriend. They were best friends. Somewhere along the way, I lost the one and gained the other. Now Ding is pursuing law school, but reading and writing have always been his passions. He sends me snippets of whatever he’s working on (usually a different story every week, haha) and offers me valuable feedback on mine. And a boy’s perspective!

Erin and I knew each other in college, where we both studied Creative Writing and even had a few classes together, but we were peripheral friends at best. Then a year or so after graduation, I emailed her about something, she emailed me back, and we hit it off. Now I consider her a close friend, and a role model. Last year she snagged a fantastic agent, and her Young Adult fantasy novel is currently on submission to editors.

The local gals are Sarah, Steph, and Ingrid. We broke off from a larger group of writers here in Cincinnati, since we were all writing Young Adult novels. Now we meet every week to share our new pages, eat goat cheese and chocolate, and go off on tangents.

Sarah and I both have our own blogs (check out her post about our writing group, “Peter Pan Club”) but Steph and Ingrid do not. Or rather, did not. Until now.

We Heart YA is a new group blog that intends to celebrate Young Adult literature. The four of us will talk about what we’re reading, what we’re writing, and whatever else we think about the YA world. If you’re interested in that, please hop on over. (We’re also on Facebook and Twitter.) To launch our project, we’re giving away 3 YA books!

So that’s the crew. Well, there are a lot of other people who have contributed to who I am as a writer — who continue to contribute. A good number of y’all, I hope you know. But these are the 5 who have to endure my first draft crap, lol. Someday everyone will know their names, read their books, and see their movies. For now, though, I figured they deserved at least my recognition.


Some days I just feel lazy. I don’t want to do laundry, I don’t want to vacuum, and I don’t want to wash the dishes. I don’t even want to blog. (Just kidding! Well, usually.) But these are things that need to get done, so putting them off doesn’t accomplish anything except a backlog of chores that are suddenly much more daunting than they would have been if I’d just given each one the 15 minutes they needed.

(Okay, blogging takes longer than 15 minutes. But you get the point.)

Laziness applies to writing, too. And that’s been on my mind lately. In several books, I have read about characters with “olive colored skin” or “skin so black it was blue.” I have never seen such people in my life — have you? — but I read those phrases so often that I almost forget they’re not real.

Olives, for reference (image found via Google)

Last night my crit partner Stephanie pointed out that I had committed a similar error. I wrote a scene in which my main character was crying but didn’t know it. Stephanie said, “Have you ever cried without knowing it? How could you not know?”

I put up a weak protest, but I knew she was right. I mean, when I cry, I CRY. And even before the tears come out, I get that sharp stinging in my nose, and my whole face tightens with emotion. Not exactly the kinds of things you can not notice.

So why had I written that? Because I was being lazy. It’s been done so many times in so many books that it has become a sort of shortcut, a signal for the reader to feel a certain way.

After some emotional distance (and a good night’s sleep) I know I need to rework that scene. I can’t be lazy. I won’t. Because my characters and my story deserve better than that. Just like my clothes, my carpet, my dishes, and my blog do.

More importantly, I actually feel good when I’m not lazy, when I get things done, when I weave words in my own original way. So, next time you catching me trying to put things off or take the easy way out, please call me on it. Remind me that I’m only cheating myself of the satisfaction I get from working hard. And if I still don’t listen, I give you permission to pinch me until my skin turns so black it’s blue, or olive colored, or whatever.

Home alone

So it’s a Friday night and I’m home alone, hunched over my computer, with Sex and the City reruns on in the background. Glamorous writing life, no?

In fairness, Andy’s out of town. On weekends we’d normally do stuff together. Or at least be boring together.

But don’t worry, I’ve always been fine with just myself for company. Perhaps the result of growing up as an only child? For better or worse, I don’t exactly know the meaning of “bored.” My imagination has always kept me entertained. Whether I was cutting out dolls from paper samples at my parents’ office, or scribbling stories in a composition notebook, I have always been spinning stories.

Now, that’s what I do all day every day. In the morning when I walk my dog, in the afternoons sitting at my desk, and even lately at night, when I’m trying to fall asleep. (Dear brain, where is your Off button?) I have to admit that I’m loving it — and that’s no April Fool’s joke.

But my streak of intense productivity didn’t last all week, or at least, not in the form of 2000+ words per day. But part of moving forward with a story is, inevitably, realizing what you got wrong before. So I spent some time this week working out logistics, doodling maps, running through different scenarios. It’s not as satisfying as putting words on the page, but just as important.

I’m not sure what the “point” of this post is. Maybe that’s the point: there isn’t some great revelation or amazing anecdote to be had every single day. Sometimes life is just “boring.” But those boring days are the investment. Eventually you get to cash in. Eventually you just might hit the jackpot.

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