Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Dare You

A book club gathering, a talk to give, two classes to teach, a theater program to edit--oh, but it's coming up on that time of year when surely I have no time to write. I mean, I can't do everything, can I?
When I get in this frame of mind, I’m reminded of a time when our family was visiting my mother in that foreign country, southern California. I say foreign, because while the weather was sunny and warm during the daytime, the “natives” had decided-- since it was technically almost winter-- that they must be bundled up in sweaters and parkas. And since noone in their right mind would swim in the winter, the management of my mother’s condominium had turned the heat off in the pool.
However, we are a family of swimmers. My four children insisted we at least go down and sit in the always-heated “cajuzzi”, at least gaze at the 50-degree pool. But, you can only sit in a hot tub for a few minutes without feeling like a steamed fish. I soon got out to get towels and call it a day. My eldest son followed. But, rather than grab a towel, he ran over to that freezing pool and jumped in.
“What are you doing,” I shrieked, looking to the fence for the life-saving equipment.
“Come on in, Mom, “ he called. “It feels good."
Who was he kidding? How could swimming in melted ice feel good?
“I dare you,” he taunted.
"It will be miserable," I rubbed my shoulders, wanting to ignore this dare. But, I took a few tentative steps towards the ice bath. I jumped in.
It was.
Freezing.
Skin-prickling.
Miserable.
“You have to keep swimming,” he coached.
I did. And I enjoyed so much, he had to coax me out of that ice bath as well. My skin was so cold that the jacuzzi water burned.
Ever since that experience, the ropes around my heart have loosened. My son had been right. After the initial shock, that freezing water I’d so feared felt wonderful. Why had I waited so long to jump in?
That ice-cold water knocked down boundaries I’d created over the years—and not just regarding “the proper” temperature for swimming. When my children were babies, I set up a writing goal of 200 words/day..an arbitrary beginning that soon became The Law. The Law was the pinnacle of achievement. Rather than pushing harder as my babies became children--and I had more free time-- I forgave myself when I didn’t make my daily goal. I mean, geez, I'd think, comforted by the sound of the Golden Oldie playing in my head: you know the song--"I can't do everything."
These days, when I catch myself humming that tune , I remember my trip to that foreign land.
I remember my son, saying, “I dare you.”
I remember that ice bath waking my soul.
And, most of the time I remember to stand up and jump right in.

**Plot Consultant Martha Alderson has set up an inspirational blog on writing. http://www.plotwhisperer.blogspot.com.

**Author and humorist, Lynn Walker, has set up a blogspot on easy recipes. http://www.queenofthecastlerecipes.blogspot.com

8 comments:

Lynn said...

This is a great post, Jana. We're glad you're "jumping right in" because your fans are eagerly awaiting the sequel to My Half of the Sky. Your 200-word-a-day goal reminds me of two quotes I have posted on the bulletin board above my computer:

"A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules." Anthony Trollope

and "A page a day is a book a year . . ." Richard Rhodes, from book How to Write

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Thanks, Lynn. It's words of encouragement like yours that spur me towards the dark, icy waters.:)
I love your quotes. I'll have to add the one by Trollope to those I I have on my desktop...
"You get your power from the first step. It's exhilarating. After that, everything falls into place." Ed Gilette
And
"The artist is nothing without gift. But the gift is nothing without work." (Emile Zola)

Lynn said...

Great quotes, Jana. I'm going to add the Emile Zola one to my bulletin board.

Here's another one; I have to paraphrase becuase I can't find it right now. Something like "Work and hope. But never hope more than you work." Beryl Markham

And a current favorite: "Keep on churning till the butter comes." Roy Blount Jr. :)

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Dear Lynn,
I like those. I'm tempted to share the one about butter with my youngest. See if she even can imagine what that means or if she'd say, "Why not just go to Safeway instead?"

beckylevine said...

See, this is what the RE pool feels like to me! :)

I know what you mean--I've always tried to be so gentle, easy with myself. The Can't Do it All thing is such a safety net. But, lately, it definitely feels like too big a net--I'm trying to find the holes to push through.

I know you can do it.

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Thanks, Becky. We all can.:)
You're right the Redwood Estates pool is a tad on the cold side.
By the way, got any good quotes to share?

Martha Alderson said...

Another great post, Jana. And thanks so much for the link to my blog!!! what a thrill.

I just read the email from Book Group Expo and saw your book, name, and the recipe you're sharing. Yummm

I knew you were going to participate, and you must have been so happy to see yourself highlighted like that!!! Congratulations!

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Yes, it's definitely a thrill. I'm looking forward to a fascinating salon with Zoe Ferraris who lived in the Middle East and wrote a novel centering on the culture, John Nathan-- who lived in Japan during the 60s, and David Corbett-- who wrote a frightening book about El Salvador. It should be fun. Hope to see you there.

What People Are Saying About My Half of the Sky

My Half of the Sky was the BookSense Pick for August 2006 as well as a Forbes Book Club Pick.

"McBurney-Lin tells a wonderfully entertaining story with the traditional coming-of-age theme (which is experienced universally)...weaving in the cultural challenges of growing up in China's rapidly changing social system."
Mary Warpeha, co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Friendship Association
March 2010


"The novel ...includes many of the tales and the folk ways of the people living in the rural areas of South China, still followed provincially. The story takes place in current China, but could relate the dilemma of any young woman in rural China through the ages."
Kitty Trescott, National Board of the Midwest Region of US-China Friendship Association. March 2010

"A lot is expected of a young Chinese girl. My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin is the story of Li Hui, a young girl who has just achieved marriageable age. She seeks to make the most of herself, but the expectations all around her make it difficult, as her parents seek to use her as pawn to their advantage, she is faced with what she believes to be true love. She must balance career, romance, and family, all to somehow make everyone happy, a tough endeavor indeed. An engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, "My Half of the Sky" is a poignant tale of the modern Chinese woman, and recommended for community library collections.
--Midwest Book Review November, 2008

“It is a rare women’s novel that sensitively describes the life of a young educated woman in modern-day China in its full complexity, without resorting to unnecessary sentimentalism. Jana’s deep knowledge of the realities of life in China and Singapore makes the reading extra rewarding. In fact, with every new page the novel gets harder to put down and you find yourself gobbling it up before you know it. Finally, the author has given a voice to the Li Hui in all of us, as we struggle for the golden middle between tradition and the modern momentum of our world.”
Isabella Sluzek
Friends of the Museum Book Review 2008
Singapore

You'll be rooting all the way for Li Hui as she struggles, ahead of the curve, to be her own woman in an emerging, modern China. Jana McBurney-Lin's My half of the Sky is a beautiful, witty, touching debut novel.
Thomas B. Sawyer
Head Writer TV Series "Murder, She Wrote,"
Author - The Sixteenth Man


A complex and mesmerizingly original tale of a young Chinese woman caught between the modern world and the pull of her ancient culture. McBurney-Lin’s intimate portrait of China sparks with insights and is peopled with characters so rich and alive, they seem to breathe on the page. Dazzling and unforgettable.
Caroline Leavitt,
Author - Girls in Trouble

McBurney-Lin's debut novel is a gift. Li Hui is a memorable heroine, a young woman torn between her heart and her culture.Her daunting journey is a trip into China's complicated soul, and a deeply moving exploration of love, honor, duty, and loss." Frank Baldwin, Author - Balling the Jack


My Half of the Sky is a wonderfully-crafted story that was obviously written with a piece of McBurney-Lin's heart. A masterpiece."
Lee Lofland, Author - Howdunit: Police Procedure and Investigation


My Half of the Sky heralds the arrival of a fantastic new storyteller. With artistry and precision, Jana McBurney-Lin's clear-eyed prose takes the reader on a new journey into a past world that speaks to a modern sensibility, a modern world, a modern woman. This is a book to be treasured.
Emily Rapp, Author - The Poster Child


Through vivid descriptions of sights and smells, Jana McBurney-Lin's My Half of the Sky is a haunting, emotional journey of what it means to be an honorable female in modern China. Jill Ferguson, Author - Sometimes Art Can't Save You