Month: April 2012

Don’t ask about the pineapple

Yo: I’m giving away 2 copies of TWENTY-SOMEWHERE on That Hapa Chick’s blog as part of the “All Things Asian” celebration. It’s an honor to join in the festivities, and the interview was a lot of fun. It includes 2 pictures of me as a kid, with bonus embarrassing hat!

Andy and I spent this past weekend back in Pittsburgh. It’s where we went to college, where we met, where we fell in love. The city is a beautiful mix of brick, metal, and glass — of old and new — of buildings short and tall, all standing shoulder to shoulder, dotting the hillsides. Nearly a dozen bridges lace back and forth across the river, and on a clear night, the downtown lights shine like fireflies.

(Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pictures of the skyline, so you’ll have to take my word on all this.)

It was nice to visit again, after so many years. But also weird. The trip stirred up a lot of feelings and memories, both good and not-so. I’m not even sure how to put it all into words… so for now, I’ll use photos and focus on the good.

The food — Pamela’s, Primanti Bros, Fuel & Fuddle, Coca Cafe

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The fun — Penguins playoff game, the Toonseum

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The fabulous — two of my dearest friends getting married to each other

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Writerly Wednesday

Right about now, I am lying perfectly still in a tiny chamber, listening to muzak while being resonated with magnets. Or something. I don’t really know how it works, but my doctor ordered an MRI to check out my knee. I still can’t fully straighten or bend it, but after two weeks of RICE — rest, ice, compression, elevation — I can finally “walk” in a way that looks normal. Well, mostly normal. As long as I’m going slow.

(Yeah, I do know how pathetic that sounds. That’s why I’m getting the MRI.)

While I spend my morning bored and claustrophobic at the hospital, why don’t you enjoy these lovely links? They’ve been sitting in my Drafts folder for a while. I keep thinking I’ll write full posts about them, but then it never happens. Oops…

“Literary vs. Commercial Fiction” by S.E. Sinkhorn

Some stories are pretty clearly commercial, but still contain great character development. However, developed characters don’t make a story character-driven. Likewise, a functional plot does not necessarily make a story plot-driven. It’s all about the point of the story. Is the point to tell a tale, or learn something about a character or the human condition? Neither is superior to the other and both have their place in literature.

“Do You Know What Business You’re In?” by Rachelle Gardner

Analysts seem to agree that Kodak operated as if they perceived themselves as being in the film business, long after film had been pushed out of the way in favor of digital. … In fact, Kodak was really in the business of “moments.” The Kodak Moment. Had they embraced this larger truth, they would have been asking themselves “How can we continue to help people capture and share their Kodak moments?” But instead they were asking “How can we get people to continue printing out their photos using our products?”

Publishers, agents and authors need to start from this very important truth: We are not in the “book” business. We are in the business of storytelling.

As we figure out ways to move into the future, we will only be successful if we stay focused on remembering exactly what our business is.

“Experimenting With Serials For Fun and Profit” by Jane Friedman (via Shari)

Bring up the topic of serials in the writing community (either online or off), and it doesn’t take long for someone to invoke the success of Charles Dickens. But does a strategy that surged in popularity during the Victorian Era still have relevance to today’s writers and readers?

Both new and established authors are finding the answer is a resounding yes, and point to a growing demand for serial work, in part due to a burgeoning number of e-readers and new distribution methods for the form.

Not all serials are alike, however. While you can find many practitioners of the traditional serial that Dickens was known for — writing installments on deadline and taking audience feedback into consideration — authors are also slicing and dicing a complete work into segments as a marketing tool.

“Feedback from readers has solidified my feeling against this practice. Books as a unit or package of media work well in the long form, and readers by and large want to immerse themselves in the experience of reading long form.” Coker says this applies to full-length novels divided into chunks after completion, or works in progress.

As you may remember, I originally wrote Twenty-Somewhere as a weekly serial here on the blog. When Amazon opened up their epublishing platform, I decided to see if people would pay to read 20SW on their Kindles. They did, but they made it clear (through reviews, reader forums, and eventually sales) that they would prefer to have it all in one chunk as opposed to having to buy the episodes separately.

So while I do think serial fiction has a place, and a future, I’m not sure the correct mechanisms are in place. I would love to see someone experiment with a subscription model, where a reader pays by the episode, but is not responsible for checking back for new episodes all time. Maybe a notice is automatically delivered to their e-reader, and then they either approve or reject the download.


As I said, there was a bit of overflow in my Reading Reflections on THE PARIS WIFE. Too many great lines, too many thoughts. I couldn’t get it all down in that first post, so here’s a bit more.

An artist given to sexual excess was almost a cliché, but no one seemed to mind. As long as you were making something good or interesting or sensational, you could have as many lovers as you wanted and ruin them all. What was really unacceptable were bourgeois values, wanting something small and staid and predictable, like one true love, or a child. (145)

Ah, the artist as bohemian. (Borderline heathen.) Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll. That’s what we’re supposed to be, right? Wild. As if morals, or other “strappings of society,” would dampen our creativity.

I don’t think that stereotype is as strong today as it used to be, but it isn’t completely eradicated. My own mother tells me that I’m too square (lol) and worries that this limits me, that it’s hindering my path to success. I’m never sure exactly what to say to that, except that I think it’s ridiculous.

Creativity is not about being “wild.” It’s about imagination, observation, distillation. And artistry is about pushing creativity to its max. It’s dedication, discipline, mastery.

There’s no reason that I can’t forge that path in a quiet way. In fact, some might argue that the stability of my life allows me the freedom to explore my writing without fear.

(Of course, some would argue that fear is an incredibly motivating force…)

Also, I wish people would stop knocking normal. Not everyone can be “special,” not everyone can “change the world.” Maybe if more of us would teach our kids that being good and ordinary is just as worthy as any other path in life, we’d have a happier, better world.

“I’m trying to keep it alive,” he said. “To stay with the action, and not try to put in what I’m feeling about it. Not think about myself at all, but what really happened. That’s where the real emotion is.” (162)

Upon a suggestion from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway cuts most of the opening of THE SUN ALSO RISES, which consisted largely of backstory for the main characters. Starting with backstory was apparently the common practice in novels at the time. But instead, Hemingway decides to jump right in with the action, and to strip out the narrative reflection, and to employ sparse, direct prose. All practices that are considered paramount in contemporary writing.

Throughout THE PARIS WIFE, I was fascinated by the evolution of Hemingway as a writer. This quote/anecdote gave me a glimpse into not just his evolution, but the evolution of storytelling as we know it.

I wonder what changes we are seeing — what changes we are making — right now. Young Adult literature as a genre, I think. First person present tense narration as the standard? Closer straddling of the literary-commercial line? What trends are here to stay, versus just marking a place in time? Which authors will have the impact of Hemingway, or Fitzgerald, or Salinger?

That we’ll probably never know the answers to those questions is both beauty and tragedy. It’s for the next generation of readers and writers to uncover.

Story, message, and chemistry: my (spoiler-free) thoughts on the Hunger Games movie

(Because the world totally needs another post about this…)

What did I think about the Hunger Games movie?

I loved it.

It wasn’t perfect, but I loved it.

(Especially Seneca Crane and his spectacular beard.)

For a fuller overview of my thoughts and feelings about the movie, check out Ingrid’s post on We Heart YA. There are jokes and pictures and really, really good observations. I give it all a big fat DITTO. Especially the numbered points at the end.

Ingrid closes her post with a very good question: How does this movie hold up for viewers who didn’t read the books?

Well, it just so happens that I went to see the movie with one such viewer: Andy. His thoughts and questions afterward were very telling, because they revealed how many blanks I had filled in without even realizing, how many little details retained significance for me but told him nothing. Don’t get me wrong: he enjoyed the movie. Just nowhere near on the same level that I did.

Story vs. message

I think the “problem” (though I hesitate to call it that) was that story was prioritized over message. To be clear: I think that was the right choice. It’s just that there were so many elements that had to be included — both to satisfy fans and to make the plot coherent — that with a “mere” 2 hours and 22 minutes, the deeper levels of meaning got relegated to the background. The menacing control exercised by the Capitol. The support for Katniss spreading among the districts. The avoxes. The uprising. These things were all shown, briefly, but without Katniss’s narration, and with so many other details competing for attention, it’s hard to comprehend their full weight.

You end up seeing the breadth of the story perfectly, but only glimpsing hints of the depth.

Also, the first two books use the arena as a metaphor for war (while the third book depicts war more literally, which I’m sure the third and/or fourth movies will do as well). But this film didn’t push the Hunger Games that far. Instead it focused on the idea of entertainment vs. ethics, and a society so concerned with its own pleasures that it becomes oblivious to the cost. An important message, to be sure, but it didn’t ring as true without the in-depth worldbuilding of the books.


The other problem with the film (IMO) was chemistry. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were both excellent in their roles — individually. But together? Not so much. The Girl on Fire and the Boy with the Bread produced, at best, a lukewarm dinner roll.

(Also, Josh with blond hair doesn’t hold a candle to Josh with dark hair.)

The cave scene in particular was so fraught with tender confusion and emotion — in the book. But in the movie, it felt rushed, almost stilted. Now, a caveat: I think for Katniss, that interaction WAS awkward and a bit forced. So maybe, maybe, that’s how Jennifer and Josh were playing it. And maybe that means they’ll heat up as the series goes along.

In the meantime, Jennifer’s chemistry with Liam Hemsworth was smoking like a seventh grade science experiment. And I’m not even on Team Gale…

But seriously, I loved it

Okay, put down the bows and arrows; leash up your muttations; and please, please, don’t send Tracker Jackers after me. I’ll say it again: I LOVED THE MOVIE. I even went through 3 whole tissues (versus 1.5 tissues for The Vow, for example). I just didn’t think it was perfect.

But then again, how could anything so beloved, so monumental in my imagination, possibly be lived up to?

It couldn’t. So I guess I’ll just have to read the book again. :)

Photoshop fun

Since Facebook is forcing this Timeline phooey on all of us, I had to design a cover image for my page. I wanted something simple and visual, but still personalized and relevant. I hope/think I came up with something good…


As time goes on — and I get published, and eventually have multiple books out (?!) — I can update the bottom shelf with my covers, and move the other books/spines up.

(Also, yes, that’s Andy’s book. I’ll be blogging about its new cover soon-ish.)

And then, because Photoshop can be addictive…


Okay, actually it’s just that I love this line from Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger.” The design is pretty simple/clean, because that’s the way I like my desktop wallpapers. I was thinking I could do a whole series of these — with inspirational or writing-related quotes — to satisfy my occasional design itch. But I dunno, we’ll see. There are probably better ways to spend my time, lol.

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