Journal

It’s been hard to let the last year go when this year has gotten off to a bit of a rough start (and an ear infection). 2017 was a year of in between projects rather than finished things, but sometimes you have to plant seeds instead of gathering up flowers.

In 2018 I want to put some of the editing lessons I learned into practice. I want to get this current manuscript into better shape before sending it out to beta readers, and maybe find a CP as well. My goal is is to take my time, but keep my eye on some of the more interesting dates later in the year like pitch wars and #dvpit. I was out for both in 2017, because my writing timeline was off. I will to get this book submission ready. I’m halfway through a major structural rewrite, but there’s still a lot of work ahead. And I already know the book I want to write after this one is done, and the book I want to write after that. I think I’ve got a flexible plan for at least the next three years.

In 2017 I read 65 books, a majority by diverse authors. I want to keep this up, and writing reviews as I go (some here, some on other sites).

I will continue to find opportunities to help. I need to be aware of my impact on those around me, and try to be more compassionate. I’ll figure out what I can do whether it involves money or time. This includes saving emotional energy by not getting involved in online fights, and putting more into lifting other people up. I’m fairly sure most people are being bombarded by the bad news so I’d like to spread more squee! Produce more joy! Amplify opportunities! I’m not going to talk about this much here, because there are some things that are better when you just do them rather than talk about them.

Most of all, I need to take more time for myself. I spent most of December trapped at home, and with cabin fever sinking its teeth in, it became pretty clear how having just an hour to myself could make a difference to my mood. Time without obligations, to do with as I wish, even if it’s just choosing cleaning the toilet without interruption. The key is “I choose it” rather than “I had to do it”. That little verb change seems to make all the difference to my mental health and happiness. I’m an introvert, but my kiddo’s an extrovert who revels in constant attention. I need to find a better balance of alone time. It’s been rough getting childcare, so we’ve been winging it as best we can. It will be rough again at certain points this year, but somehow I have to find a way to get in some downtime. If I can find time to write, then I need to find a way to make some for myself too.

Things I’ve learned:

  • Books your child loves will probably not last till adulthood except by some miracle, so don’t be precious about the physical object. Let them enjoy those books, tooth and all. The stories will stick.
  • When you’re feeling hopeless, do something to help someone else’s spirit or well being. Give a compliment. Make book art. Donate blood. Help someone feel less alone. It won’t fix everything, but it can help lighten your soul for a little while.

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Journal

December isn’t quite done, but it’s sliding closer to tine for cookie comas and out of town visitors so I’m going to do this a tiny bit early.

Writing:

Got nothing to report this month. I’ve been on and off work to cover for childcare since the grandparents are away, so it’s been crazy around our house. In November I made it 36k into the rewrite of the Beasty book so that’s nearly halfway. Looking forward to January when I can dive back into it.

Rethinking:

I never was a fan of Cinderella growing up. I wanted to be Robin Hood (the fox), and shoot arrows, and climb trees, and have dangerous adventures, not Cinderella stuck doing housework and pining for a prince.

Now that I’ve got a toddler, both the animated Disney Cinderella (1950) and live action Cinderella (2015) are on repeat at our house. It’s strange coming back to familiar stories as an adult. There are so many things I never noticed about the story before.

In the animated version, Cinderella wakes up from a good dream singing “A dream is a wish your heart makes…” but she doesn’t tell anyone what she wants, even when they try to find out. She keeps her dreams close to her heart. I always assumed she was waiting for her prince to come, but that was not Cinderella (Snow White sings that one). The prince isn’t even in the movie for more than five minutes. All Cinderella  wanted was to have a break from the drudgery, and to go to a ball with her family. Up until this point she still thinks of of her stepmother and sisters as family and hopes that by doing as they ask they will love her. After this point, she realizes that they only think of her as a servant. And this is why she’s devastated (It’s a theme that the remake hammers in a little more explicitly).

And perhaps, like Superman, I thought Cinderella was boring, because she was always good and kind. But now I see that as her triumph. She was strong enough to survive losing both her parents, and an abusive stepmother, without letting it destroy the dreamer she was. “Have courage, be kind.” is the refrain from the remake. Now I know that when the world is cruel, being kind requires more courage than shooting an arrow. I’ve finally grown up enough to appreciate this.

I think a lot of people misunderstand kindness. Being kind doesn’t mean being polite, a push over, or a martyr. It doesn’t mean speaking softly, but thinking about the well being of other people before you act.

Related: A Twitter thread about kindness.  And a badly paraphrased quote from the Dali Lama “Help others if you can, but if you can’t then at least try to do no harm.”

Reading:

    • The Reader by Tracy Chee
    • Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
    • The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
    • Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
    • The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
    • Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
    • An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

And I hope you have a good holiday season. Sending hugs and <3’s into the universe for you. May 2018 be a good year for us all. See you in the new year!

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Book Thoughts

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Julie C. Dao
Young Adult Fiction
Penguin
October 10, 2017
384

I love a good villain story, and this is an Asian inspired retelling of how Snow White's evil queen came to be. Xifeng has a destiny written in the cards, but it's up to her whether she wants to chase power or love, and how much she's willing to sacrifice for what she wants.

The story is beautifully written, but like most fairy tales it has a dark underbelly: Xifeng's abusive home and manipulative mother. Xifeng's fear of being controlled. The silken perils of the Emperor's court. I admired how Xifeng's choices sometimes felt inconsequential, but every small choice propelled her along one of her two possible destinies.

The book reminded me of the Chinese historical dramas I watched growing up, rife with beauty and court intrigue. And it also brought up some complicated feelings from my own life, about Asian culture and family expectations, about worth, about what constitutes beauty. I'm still mulling it over - and I believe that's the function of all good stories. It connects somehow, and makes you think.

Xifeng's story reminds me how easy it would be to be the villain. Just one choice could change the path we walk forever. Or maybe, some of us are already the villain in other people's tales...

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