January and February Wrap-Up (Plus future writerly plans)

I haven’t really been doing wrap-up posts, but I realized how much I’ve randomly gotten done/decided this year already. So I figured I’d talk about the books I’ve read, the shows I’ve watched, and plans for 2017!

Here we go!

Things I’ve done and future Plans for 2017

My critique group and I started a writing blog called Writer’s Block Party.

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It was born because we realized that most of our group chat conversations were us dissecting craft issues and books we loved. And we wanted to share our weirdness with the world. We’re also lucky to have a few industry insiders (agent assistants and publishing assistants) in the group. And of course our amazing CP’s who are debuting this year! (Shout out to Foody and Axie!)

I finished a giant round of revisions for GUMIHO and started drafting a new WiP (that I am currently calling Dragon of Joseon). Here’s an inspiration collage/novel aesthetic for DoJ:

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I have decided the main conferences I am going to as well. I am a HUGE lover of conferences because they allow my writer side and fan side to collide in a giant Super Saiyan fusion form!

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BookExpo and BookCon which will be in New York from May 31 – June 4. It’s going to be a return to my old stomping grounds of New York and I am so excited to see old friends and new. I’ll be Claribel Ortega‘s shadow for as long as she’ll have me.

American Library Association Annual Conference (ALA) which will be June 22-27 in Chicago. It’s an easy one for me to go to since I live in Chicago. I am also very excited since my Critique Group is coming (we’re going to celebrate our love for each other by going to Hamilton as well!)

Finally, I am going to Seoul! I always knew I was going (It’s my grandmother-할머니-88th birthday, which is a big deal in Korea as 8 is an auspicious number). But, my cousins, Axie and Christine, said they’d come with me! So we are going to have a million adventures! AND I am going to try to vlog it! So subscribe to my YouTube for those updates coming to you in late April/early May! (Here are preview pics from my trip to Seoul last year)

Books Read

Don’t want to be too proud of myself but I’ve read 18 books in the last two months. This is by far the fastest and most consistently I’ve read books in a long time. I think that once I started writing I spent a lot of my “story” time on my own MS’s. So, I’m really stoked that I got back into my reading rhythm this year! And I’m also lucky that I loved every book I’ve read so far!

Fantasy and Sci-Fi

I read Handmaid’s Tale because I was told it was eerily prophetic for current times and I have to be honest and say I’m a tad worried. It really did feel like some of the ideals that the dystopian society were based on are things that I’ve heard some more extreme parties saying these days. But that might just mean Margaret Atwood was a great observer of humanity. Either way, the book is worth a read, just steel yourself!

Monstress was my present to myself when I finished revisions and it was amazing! It has such creativity and a creepiness that I can never achieve myself so I always appreciate it in other stories. Also, the art is gorgeous.

I finally finished the Winner’s Trilogy with The Winner’s Kiss. Gotta be honest, I wanted more kissing! But I was very satisfied with this trilogy end.

I read the Star-Touched Queen to prepare for A Crown of Wishes coming out this year. And I’m so happy I did. The story was gorgeously written and immersed me in a new world. I really enjoyed the characters (my favorite was Kamala)

Furthermore was a very fun read! I told my CP I wanted to read more MG this year so she suggested Furthermore as our first unofficial MG book club book and I am so grateful she did. The voice in that book was the best! It was so imaginative and fun and I really enjoyed Alice as a main character. I hope that Tahereh Mafi writes a sequel because the worlds were so enjoyable!

Huntress is a prequel type book in the same world as Malinda Lo’s Ash. I haven’t read Ash yet, but after reading Huntress I really want to. It was such a wonderful world built around Chinese mythology and the strong lead characters made me inspired and excited to read more of Lo’s writing.

Historical Fiction

Outrun the Moon was so well done! I loved the characters and really despaired with them as they struggled in their daily lives even before the earthquake happened. I wanted so much for them to find a connection with each other because I do feel like some of the girls were a bit lost. After the disaster hit there was a lot of chaos and coming together and it’s where the main character, Mercy Wong, really shone. She was an amazing girl to follow through a whole story.

When My Name Was Keoko has a bit of personal meaning to me. My grandmother lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea and she does not like to speak of it much. It was strange to imagine her in Keoko’s shoes. It was a story of two siblings fighting to retain their identity while a ruling government sought to strip them of it. But I loved the theme of resilience and honor that was woven throughout.

Contemporary YA

I really should have read Shiny Broken Pieces earlier because I adored Tiny Pretty Things. That being said, it might be good that I took a bit of time so my heart could heal from the first book. It’s so well written from different persepctives of girls who are competing to be the best in a ballet academy. And my heart just broke for each of them. Honestly, the breakout character for me was Bette, I did not expect to care for her as much as I did.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was exactly what I expected, a fun story about two teens feeling a bit lost and finding themselves during one night of adventure.

I am convinced that Adam Silvera gains his power from reader tears. More Happy Than Not is exactly what you might expect from the title (so good job naming this book!). It was a very powerful exploration of mental health and identity and I would definitely recommend it (but have tissues ready).

You guys. You Guys! Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe will forever mark my heart. It is such a great book. It stays with you looong after you finish it. I cannot recommend this wonderful book enough. It has so much heart and such wonderful relationships. Everyone deserves a friend like Dante.

Romance

My cousin got me really into Lisa Kleypas. She writes really fun regency romances and I devoured them in one sitting. I finished her Wallflowers series really quickly. (I read the first book Secrets of a Summer Night in 2016)

Non-Fiction

Each non-fiction book I read gave me completely different feels. I liked Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? because it gave me a laugh during a time I was feeling pretty down. (Though there were many scenes with the Obamas and that made me very depressingly nostalgic)

But the big stand outs were for sure Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala. Noah’s book about growing up in South Africa as the son of a black woman and a white man was very eye-opening. And there were a lot of parallels for some political issues we’re currently facing today in America. It really resonated with me as a reader and it was told with such charm and humor that I was sped through it. (Also, not going to lie, I have a pretty big crush on Trevor Noah). I Am Malala is an important book about learning, bravery, family, love. I didn’t realize I’d gotten the young readers version, so I’m definitely going to get the other version of the book and read that as well. Even if you don’t read I Am Malala (though everyone should), definitely listen to her UN speech. It was powerful and so well spoken.

Shows I’ve watched (Let’s be honest, these are all K-Dramas)

My fave drama so far is Goblin/Dokkaebi (도깨비). It was just amazing. But it also kind of wrecked me in the end. I had a few hang-ups on some weird creative choices (like the age of the main girl). But I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was actually team Dokkaebi-Reaper. BROMANCE! Just look!

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Also you know I love a drama if I make GIFs for it:

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I just finished watching Hwarang (화랑), which was a very fun historical drama set in the Silla Kingdom. It has political intrigue in a way that didn’t bore me to bits (that is such an accomplishment because many historical dramas are only interesting to me during the relationship parts). I also loved the romance in this one. I wish there was more time spent on the friendships (bromance!). But I was very satisfied with this show, partly because of all the eye candy!

It actually gave me my newest love, Park Hyung Sik:

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Which is why I also watched the 2014 weekend drama What Happens to My Family (가족끼리 왜 이래)

This drama actually gave me a lot of feelings and I’m not quite over them yet. But I loved the family dynamics and the love lines and the comedy and the drama of it all. I’m just really emotional so I can’t express myself well about this drama yet.

Finding Hope & Inspiration through Community

Sometimes, when you’re writing you lose sight of things. And sometimes, it’s easy to forget what you’re writing for. I know that I write for myself, for my story, for my heart. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I write so others can read my stories and find something to love too.

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This is when community helps me find my perspective. I love seeing people get excited about stories and books. It’s great to see people that I’ve always respected and cheered for getting book deals and debuting. This year alone, I have multiple friends and CP’s debuting and I am so excited I can barely contain it at times. I think it’s alright to find your happiness where you can. And taking some time away from your own work to be happy for others is not only nice, but I think it’s key to keeping your perspective on the publishing world. If we can’t find like-minded people and form these connections, writing and publishing will feel like a very lonely place. Especially since the writing itself is a solitary activity.

I live for the moments that my CPs share pieces of their work, or an aesthetic collage, or an initial outline of a new idea. These are the times when I can sit back and be in awe of the people I’m lucky  enough to call friends. And I can be inspired by the talent around me. I’ve heard a lot of advice that says when you form a critique group you should find people who are more talented than you, and I’m pretty smug about the fact that I’ve accomplished that.

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My Critique Group is as cool as f(x). Well, I think so at least…

It helps to give us moments of hope when we feel like all we’ve been doing is drafting and revising, drafting and revising. It’s wonderful to see a story that we used to read as CPs go from draft to final MS to sold to book. The thrill of that journey is enough to inspire us to keep going with our own work so one day we can see a book cover made from scratch for the stories we’ve created.

I also think it’s important to still be a fan. Everyone I talk to about their writing journey usually says something along the lines of “I’ve always loved stories and reading.” And I think that’s so key! Being a fan means that we can appreciate the craft and creativity that goes into the field we’ve chosen. We can still be in awe of the beauty and talent that goes into crafting a story. We can have hero authors that (if we’re lucky) we might meet one day (and maybe cry on. NO YOU CRIED ON LAINI TAYLOR).

And, I also believe that writing is not ONLY about the writing. It’s about living a life worth inspiring a story. It’s about reading other stories to get motivation and inspiration. And it’s about knowing what books are out there right now being devoured and loved by the very audiences we’re writing for.

I have this analogy I make about my creativity where I call it a bank. I have a certain amount of words saved up that I’ve collected as I read or watch other stories. And when I write too long without reading I spend all of my words. There are legit moments where I feel so burned out that I cannot form coherent sentences anymore and it feels like I’ve used up all the words in my word bank and I need to fill it again. I hate when these moments happen, but at least I know that I can just go to my TBR and I can be inspired from the very first sentence I read.

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I find joy in almost every part of publishing (reading, writing, revising, meeting other writers). Seeing a CP or friend find success helps because it shows us that good stories can find a home and that talent is appreciated. Taking a moment to bask in the glory of your talented friends can warm some of the cold nights spent revising your MS for the umpteenth time. And it also helps to live vicariously through them as their stories find their audiences. I believe these communities are key to creating a sustainability in this industry so we don’t burn out or lose sight of why we’re doing this all in the first place.

The Diversity Conversation (pt 1)

I’ve watched the conversation around diversity change over the past few years when it comes to literature and YA/kidlit in particular. I took interest for obvious reasons, I am a writer of color who wants to write about my own experiences and heritage. However, even as a POC I was not prepared for some of the hard lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. And I came to realize that it’s because I didn’t have the foundation for it yet. I had to build that first before I could enter the harder conversations and really understand what they were about (let alone partake in them! Which, I still don’t do that often because I am still learning).

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I’m going to make an analogy for this post with the hopes that I can shed light on my own journey and perhaps help at least one person understand how much time it takes to even begin to understand this ongoing conversation we call “diversity.” So, I’m going to compare the conversation about diversity to school courses.

When I was a senior I took a class that beat the snot out of my brain, Biochemistry. I was so wrung dry after a semester of it that I dreamed about it (or, more accurately, I had nightmares about it). However, I still got a very respectable B+ in that course. I know that the only reason I got that grade was because I’d prepared myself for it. I took a year of intro biology, a year of intro chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, plus labs for all of these classes.

My coworker was talking about her classes the other day and said that she was required to take biochemistry but half of the class hadn’t taken intro biology yet. I was floored at how that’s even possible. How could you understand the very complex subjects of biochemistry without taking the intro class first? It just didn’t seem logical! (unsurprisingly most of those students dropped the class)

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The reason I’m telling these strange school anecdotes is to say that I think people should learn the basics before they can join the more advanced classes.

If you look at conversations about diversity in the same way, you should learn the basics in the 101 courses about inequality, systemic/institutional racism, systemic misogyny, internalized sexism, systemic ableism, and how cis/het/straight is presented as the “norm” in our society.

Then you need to take the 201 courses to understand how those concepts affect big picture defacto treatment of marginalized AND microaggressions that happen daily.

After all of those foundational courses, it’s possible to join the advanced courses which are the ongoing conversations about why X book is problematic or Y movie is appropriative or Z author’s Twitter feed is insensitive to the very audience they write for.

I see people jumping into conversations on social media or at a house party to explain why they don’t understand why such-and-such is a big deal. And I can completely understand why they don’t get it. It’s because they don’t have a foundation built up yet. They don’t know the long and hard history of how we got here as a diverse country/society. It’s because they haven’t learned the basics of why this all matters. The issue is that when you take biochemistry without taking biology 101, the only one that suffers is you. When you try to push your way into conversations about diversity without understanding, you’re hurting other people. This is where my analogy ends and the real talk begins.

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We need to stop being so naive to think we already have all the tools to talk about the problems with society just because we live in it. The world is not perfect, we know that much. However, why the world isn’t perfect is up for debate. The thing that isn’t up for debate: other people’s pain. If someone says they’re hurt, that’s it. You believe them.

For me personally, I joined the YA community when I was still learning about my own identity and coming to terms with the idea of writing myself onto the page. I still defaulted to what society told me was the “norm.” I made my MC’s white because I didn’t know if YA audiences would relate to POC MC’s. I also did not know enough about other marginalized communities to speak about their issues. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to communities I’m not a member of, so I still sit back and listen to those kind enough to speak out about it (for free! Seriously, emotional labor is labor and many people do it for free).

On top of that, POC/marginalized can be biased too. Being a racial minority does not stop a person from being ableist or heteronormative, etc. I had to unlearn many off-hand statements I used in every day conversation because I didn’t realize that it was perpetuating an ableist norm. I also had to unlearn some phrases that were cruel to other POC and Native groups. I grew up in the United States, which means I was raised watching TV shows that told me white was normal; and men married women; and boys played with cars and girls played with dolls. My parents NEVER told me that was normal, but society did. And I had to decide for myself if that’s what I would believe or not.

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video source: Unboxing Ableism

We all have to unpack our biases. And we all need to understand the basic foundation of why these conversations are important. Until then, it’s fine to be quiet and listen. There is no need to be active in the conversation all the time. Sometimes it’s enough to just learn. That’s actually why so many marginalized voices speak out, to help people understand.

I don’t mean to scare anyone away from joining an earnest conversation. But it is on you as the “learner” to understand that your need to learn does not supersede another person’s pain. So asking a marginalized person on Twitter to teach you about their life’s history of marginalization in a 15 minute conversation over 140 characters is probably not the place to start your learning. We are in the age of the amazing internet and google is an awesome thing. And once you’ve created your foundation then you can dip your toe into smaller conversations (perhaps start off in a closed community among friends who are willing to explain the harder things. That’s what I did)

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I’d be happy to answer questions if anyone has them and if I don’t have the answers I’ll say that too. After all, I’m still learning as well.

Here are resources to learn from before entering the diversity conversation:

We Need Diverse Books

Writing in the Margins

American Indians in Children’s Literature

Disability in kidlit

Gay YA

Reading While White

Writing With Color

Minorities in Publishing

Diversity in YA

I also have a Twitter list of Diverse writers (it is in NO way comprehensive, but feel free to follow any and all of them!)

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For even more links and resources go here: The Diversity Conversation pt2: Resources and Links

Twitter Basics and How I Use Them

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Hello friends, I’ve been thinking about writing a Twitter 101 post for awhile. Not only because I think Twitter is ah-maz-ing, but because I know Twitter can be confusing as all heck! It’s like when you see your grandma posting random questions on your Facebook feed and you realize she thinks Facebook is Google. And you laugh and think “Oh, Grandma.” Well, that’s us when we don’t know how to use Twitter.

So, here we go!

(Please note that a lot of these points are my own opinions and based on how I personally use Twitter, but I offer this as a general guide to be adjusted for your personal use)

Okay, now for real, here we go!

1. Hashtags

Hashtags are a fun way to reach a broader audience. Many people will search a known hashtag to see what people’s opinions are on it. So be aware of which ones you’re using and why. Big ones for writing/reading are:

#amwriting, #amreading, #amrevising — just what they sound like, any random thought or advice for people who are writing, reading, or revising. Also, just to update on your personal writing/reading/revising status.

#amquerying — I made this one separate because I believe it’s to be used a bit differently. You can definitely share advice and random thoughts about querying with it. But I wouldn’t recommend posting too many tweets about your querying status as it is a very subjective and personal journey in many ways. I do think it’s a great hashtag to give words of encouragement and advice to others who are querying or about to query.

#TBR — To Be Read. I think that says enough.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks and #WNDB — This was started in reply to a need for more diverse books and is a great movement. Go to WeNeedDiverseBooks.org for more about WNDB.

#ownvoices — this is for use about books written about marginalized characters written by authors with those same marginalizations. It’s important to note that it’s not just writing about a character that shares experiences with you (e.g. if your character is at space camp and you went to space camp, that is not ownvoices). It’s specifically to address sensitive experiences with marginalization and how that affects a person and telling those personal stories (e.g. if the character is a black teenager dealing with #BLM and the author is a black woman dealing with #BLM)

#MSWL — Manuscript Wishlist was created by an agent to help writers see what kinds of stories agents and editors would love to see in their submission piles. (Note: It is not for pitching, that should only be done during designated Twitter pitch dates on the proper pitch hashtags, see below)

#MuseMon, #2bittues, #1linewed — Amazing tags where you can share quick blurbs of your writing

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Claribel (@claribel_ortega) is the creator of #MuseMon. And you should all follow Erin and Janella, too. They’re all awesome writers and people.

And sometimes online pitch conferences use a specific hashtag (NOTE: These are to be used on the scheduled day of the event and not before or after if you are pitching)

#DVPit, #pitmad, #SFFpit, #Adpit, #kidpit, #PBpitch

I even use a hashtag for my sister’s puppy and I’m not sorry! #luckythedog

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2. @-ing people and replying to people

If you reply to someone’s tweet, it’ll automatically start your tweet with @personstwittername

If you reply to a tweet that has other people tagged in it, your reply will automatically tag ALL of them. So be aware if you only want to reply to the original poster, you have to delete those extra twitter handles.

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If you start your Tweet with an @ handle in order to tag another person, it won’t show up in your main feed. It’ll only be in the tab that says “Tweets & Replies” in your profile. I hear this might change soon, but for now, if you want to @ someone and want it to show up in your main feed, then add a convenient period “.” before the tag. That way Twitter will think it’s a normal Tweet.

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3. Threads

Sometimes you’ll see a tweet that sounds like half an idea and that’s because it is! It’s part of what we call a “thread,” tweets that are linked as “replies” to each other that form a fuller thought than can be expressed in 140 characters. People will often number them to show they’re part of a bigger thread:

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A lot of people just number 1. 2. 3. 4. and so on, because it’s simpler
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This is my favorite way because the / after the number implies the thought continues. And once you get to the end you just add that closing number (in this thread it’s 7) to show that’s the end of your thought.

Sometimes people don’t number them, which does make it harder to follow the full thought, but if you click on any tweet it shows all the replies made to that tweet:

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4. Quote Tweeting

It can be used to boost a previous tweet:

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It can be used to show support for a thought or post (it makes it easier to provide the link to a thread of tweets so the reader can click on the original tweet and read the whole thread):

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Some people quote tweet as a more public way of replying to a thought, or to add their own thoughts on top of the original Tweet.

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IMPORTANT TO NOTE: When you quote tweet someone to add your personal opinion, think of it like you’re highlighting your reply to them. It shows up more prominently in feeds. It includes your reply and the original tweet to show why you’re reacting the way you are. This is important to be aware of if you’re replying with your opinion on someone else’s opinion, especially if it’s to disagree with them. This is exponentially important to be aware of if you’re commenting on a marginalized person’s comment on something they find personally harmful. If you do this, it is the Twitter equivalent of going “Well, actually…”

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Be aware that if you replying as if you’re trying to “correct” someone’s opinion when you are NOT part of the community affected, it comes off as condescending. It is hard to convey tone in text or Twitter. So, if this is a sensitive subject then take a beat and think through whether this opinion needs to be blasted to all of Twitter.

5. Some often used abbreviations and hashtags:

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

FF: Follow Friday

IMHO: In My Honest Opinion

IMO: In My Opinion

TBH: To Be Honest

RT: retweet

LRT: Last Retweet (this is to refer to the last thing the person retweeted)

IRL: In Real Life

(some are just abbreviations to save character space, they’re pretty self-explanatory if you just think it through. e.g. b4 = before, bc = because, some1 = someone, ppl = people)

6. Parting Thoughts on Twitter “etiquette”

Twitter is a great equalizer. We can tweet at celebs we love and people we’ve never met before in real life. However, it’s also public. This means your conversations are blasted for all to see and it makes your “opinions” more magnified since it is in front of an audience. Before you tweet something, think to yourself, “Would I say this in front of a panel of people at a book conference?” Or “Would I announce this at a crowded party where I don’t know everyone?”

If the answer is no, then think about why that is. Is it because you’re not sure of your stance on the subject? Is it because you don’t really know a lot about that particular topic you’re just saying your opinion based on your limited experience? Is it because your comment is reactionary instead of thoughtful?

If so, don’t tweet it.

So often, people reply to tweets and threads as if they’re having a personal debate in their friend’s living room, but they’re not. They’re having an internet fight for all to see. And since Twitter gives limited space for more complex thoughts, it can be misconstrued VERY quickly.

If you’re a writer/author/creative and you are using Twitter as a platform to gain readers and network with industry people, then be willing to back up anything you say on Twitter.

There are authors that say political and sensitive things on Twitter and they’re amazing. Why? Because they truly believe in what they’re saying and will defend it even if it’s an in-person conversation, a panel at a conference, or on Twitter. That conviction is important when you’re taking a stand on Twitter. These aren’t opinions they made in a day or a week. They’re opinions that have been carefully thought out (taking into account others who might be affected by them) and are meant to better the conversation and community. I assume most people reading this are in kidlit/YA/MG, so I think it’s important to point out that our intended audiences are kids and teens. That adds a layer of responsibility about what we stand for both in our books and in our public personas.

If you stand for nothing, what’ll you fall for?

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Usually at this time of the year, I’d do a year-end blog post about my favorite things that I’ve read and watched and listened to. I might still do one of those, but I can’t ignore that this year wasn’t business as usual for me.

As 2016 draws to a close, it feels like you can’t go anywhere or read anything without politics coming up these days. At first, I was worried that this would be off-putting for many, then I realized that ignoring the problems in our world might be what brought us here. So, I’m facing it. I’m not going to talk about politics with every blog post, but I won’t shy away from it either.

It’s like the line from Hamilton, “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”*

After looking into the quote, I think it is meant to ask what you’ll die for, but I always thought it had a bit of another meaning (probably because of the quote it’s based on*). If you don’t stand for anything or have any convictions, will you just be a follower listening to the loudest voice at the time? Will you fall for anything? I don’t want to just follow the crowd to the “safest” place I can find. I want to create safe spaces. I want the whole world to be safe for everyone.

Many people are happy 2016 is coming to a close, but I see 2017 as an even bigger battle. I think it’s a worthwhile battle and perhaps 2016 prepared us and pointed us in the right direction. However, now we need to follow through and fight for what we stand for.

And that brings me to another Hamilton quote, “Let’s take a stand with the stamina God has granted us.”

While I’m healthy and able, I want to take a stand for what I believe in.

I believe that my identity is not something to be hidden but something to be proud of now more than ever. I believe that there are more good people in this world than bad. I believe that fear has won for now, but it won’t win forever. I believe that hope is stronger than the fear that has driven us here. I believe in #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #ownvoices. I believe that my story matters even if only to a few. I believe in equality and I believe that in order to build a foundation for equality  we must first look for equity.

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* This line was inspired by the quote, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” It’s often been attributed to Alexander Hamilton, though I’ve found no concrete proof of its origin.

The fear and thrill of writing #ownvoices

I want to write an honest post about something that has always worried me and probably will always worry me as I keep writing about my heritage. It’s a special kind of imposter syndrome, the fear that I am appropriating my own culture for my art.

 

There are so many conversations about #ownvoices and #ownyourown. There are so many people saying meaningful and important things. Sometimes I try to chime in, but I always feel like others say it better, so signal boosting has been my main activity.

The way I see the world is a bit of a hybrid. I’ve spoken to many POC Americans who admit to feeling like they live in-between. Between the world of their parents/ancestors and the world they were born into. We are American but we have a qualifier in front. We are Something(-)American.

But, I chose to write a book about my culture as a Korean girl. And I also chose to write a book ONLY about being Korean (aka, not about being Korean American). So, I had to accept a few things about myself and my book.

1) I am Korean but I was not raised there, so I still see my heritage through a version of an American POV.

2) My parents picked what Korean ideals to raise us with so I lived their version of Korean culture.

3) I learned new things about my roots as an adult, but those aren’t as deeply ingrained in me as what I was raised with.

How I try to keep learning in my writing and in my identity

I am Korean 100% by genetics and blood, but I am a Korean American by upbringing. That means that I need to own what I know and fill in what I don’t with diligent research (just like any other writer).

The book I wrote is my heritage and my culture. But I knew being a Korean girl and being a person of color does not give me carte blanche to write whatever I want. I went to a semester abroad in Korea and visited many times as a child, but that doesn’t mean I instinctively know what I’m talking about when I write a contemporary Korean story. So, I went to Korea (multiple times) and I asked Korean people to clarify things as I wrote it. I asked Korean beta readers to read it. I asked my grandmother questions, my aunts, my cousin, my Korean language teacher. I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t just coasting on my bloodline to assume that I was getting it right.

I believe that we need to own our heritage in our writing. I also think we need to know our limitations and be sure that when we present our stories we are always doing due diligence.

I am proud and excited about this book I’ve created. But I am always learning and that excites me. I never want to stop learning. When we stop learning life can get pretty boring. And I refuse to live a boring life.
That’s why I’m a writer.

As a final note, someone recently shared THIS ARTICLE called “The Year in Hyphenates.” It’s a very honest and insightful article about what it’s like to be raised Asian American/Canadian and the in-between identity that is often created. I gotta be honest, I actually teared up reading it because it resonated so deeply with my own struggles as an Asian American. Often times I felt not Korean enough and not American enough at the same time. And I know that these struggles have bled over into my creative identity. I want to say this to any POC/Native/marginalized creators of #ownvoices reading this post. You are NOT responsible for representing your whole community. You can only tell YOUR story fully and honestly. As long as you love your story and feel like you’re representing YOUR experience well in your #ownvoices, then I’m sure you’re doing a wonderful job.

Keep dreaming! Keep creating!

NaNoWriMo-Mo(nday) Week 2: Keep going, keep fighting, keep hoping

NaNoWriMo-Mo(nday) Week 1: Prep and getting started

I considered not posting at all this week. I’m not going to lie. I’m really sad and scared. I think everyone I know and love is really sad. And I think it’s really easy to fold into yourself during moments like this.

I’ve lost people I love to illnesses that took them too early. And the way I felt this past week was so similar to how I felt then. I felt like I was in mourning. It’s frightening to lose your sense of security. And though, as a female POC, I’ve felt unsafe at times, I’ve never been so viscerally scared for my safety or the safety of others. I also know that there are some in this country who have always lived fearing for their safety and that of their loved ones and that just makes this all worse because when will we learn?

But, after talking to people I love and respect, I realize that I have something now that I didn’t have when I was in mourning before. This time around, I still have everything and everyone I had before and I can fight to keep them safe and happy and hopeful. And in order to do that, I have to be hopeful too.

So, I did the only thing that ever helped me cope in the past, I wrote. Hopefully, everyone is finding something that can help them cope as well.

Here are some pieces of hope shared with me this week. My wish is they might be helpful to others as well:

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quote-my-experience-in-iraq-made-me-realize-and-during-the-recovery-that-i-could-have-died-and-i-just-tammy-duckworth-53453
Tammy Duckworth was elected to Congress in IL
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John Legend’s Love Me Now Music Video

Because I promised myself I’d be accountable this NaNoWriMo. I’ll do a quick run-down of my week of writing.

Here are my stats so far:

Words written (overall total) – 14,294

Words written (week 2 total) – 3,407

Words written (average per day for week 2) – 486

Most productive day – Sunday (1,104words)

Least productive day – Wednesday (0 words)

I hope that people can find something that helps them smile in the coming days, weeks, months. My hope is that perhaps I can do something in my own way to help people smile.