Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Search & Rescue of Ideas

Last week I did a search and rescue of a backpack...
"You better take daddy," my son (the owner of the pack) said. "And a flashlight. And a ladder."
I drew the line at the ladder. I wasn't planning on scaling any 8ft fences...although the school where we headed was surrounded by them.
My son has been traveling all over the Bay Area this year with his soccer team, because some joker in a pick-up did donuts on our school field. Last week, we went to a huge, well-locked school in the city. (For the game we accessed the soccer field by sneaking through the gym where a volleyball game was in session.). In the excitement of a hard-fought win, my son forgot his backpack.
When my husband and I arrived in the dark,we were in luck. That gym was still open (some poor kids were still playing volleyball at 9:30pm) and we snuck through to the field. As soon as we exited the gym, though, CLICK, the doors locked behind us.
We searched over every blade of grass. No backpack.
“Let’s go,“ I suggested, heading back towards the gym. I hoped that there would be some straggling volleyball enthusiasts who would answer our frantic knock.
“We came all the way out here,“ my husband said. “Let’s just look a bit more.”
I followed--not with much hope. We walked through the basketball courts, the playground, past several more locked entrances, by several classrooms. No backpack. We continued to a huge entrance, obviously locked, the whole time laughing about how this security was unbelievable. Perhaps we should have brought that ladder.
Just as we reached the gate, a car pulled up. My first thought was that unlike our school where derelicts do donuts, this school probably had cameras. Surely police had been alerted to two suspicious trespassers.
A young woman emerged from her car. But instead of barraging us with questions, she unlocked the gate.
“I’m just here to pick up some work I forgot,” she said, as if WE deserved an explanation.
‘That was amazing,” my husband said when we were walking, free at last, back to our car.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “All that security. It felt like a prison.”
“Not that,” he said. “When we needed to get out, a woman came out of nowhere to the exact gate where we stood.”
The search and rescue of the backpack reminded me of the search and rescue of writing ideas. I’m often struck by how when I’m totally lost about where to go next in my story, the answer comes. It’s not necessarily inspiration. I still have to check every blade of grass, walk through playgrounds and basketball courts, and reach the point of exhaustion (or pass it). But the gatekeeper eventually appears to set me free.
What's your experience?

Books of the Week:
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
This took a while to get going, as it's an unusual voice. You feel like you're attending a one-man show, as the character describes the setting, what the other characters are doing, etc. The story is of a Pakistani Princeton graduate who is offered a top position in the New York business world. Then 9/11 happens, and this perfect world he's been invited to join reveals cracks...too many of them. It's a fascinating story. Once you get started, it becomes an all-night read.

Raise Rules For Women by Jill Ferguson and Laura C Browne.
I'm ashamed at how fearful I was to read this book--it's been on my shelf for months--as if the contents would reveal that I really wasn't that strong and modern. Rather than shaming me (although at times I cringed,) the pointers offered gave me insight and information I can carry about getting the monetary validation I deserve. A helpful read.

4 comments:

beckylevine said...

It's kind of the whole Kevin Costner thing--if you build the story, the ideas will come. Or AN idea. Usually. :)

That first book reminds me of The Life of Pi--that same sense of being with one person, alone (which you kind of are!) and still having an incredible story.

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

It blows my mind everytime, though. The magic of it.

I never did make it through Life of Pi--I was feeling a little too lonely out there in the water:)--but now that you've given it an amazing review, I'll have to try again.

Lynn said...

That second book sounds like a good one, especially for those of us who write and who tend to get used to being paid pennies. Thanks for the recommendation.

Anonymous said...

please come home
ill teach you all you need to know
the things i cant teach you
is the knowledge we will pray for
how we forgive
how we forget
please come home
the safest place to rest
please come home
i dont care if you make a mess




an unfinished road is still travelable
the unseen stress should be manageable
even to the young man who hasnt learned a thing
the disguise and the lies continue the same
one hand behind my back just acting contemporary
attainable sanity sought thru spiritual sanctuary
grasp the wire from the tallest tree thats climbable
burned to crisp and the offer is still available
arrive at home on time
and every thing will be fine
i return again to the matter at hand
dont go gettin in the game with no helment understand
the grasping of your dreams isnt worth the price
stand up to pride and fear of acting on honest advice


a child in the womb with minimal sight to obtain
responsibe for stress forcing a cloud to make rain
A strain of strange plagues no one has suffered from
evading major disaster and still remaining cumbersome

please come home
ill teach you all you need to know
the things i cant teach you
is the knowledge we will pray for
how we forgive
how we forget
please come home
the safest place to rest
please come home
i dont care if you make a mess


why thats elementary my dear wundabred

despite polite control of cold soul seeking death
dirty patrols with no evidence get put to the test
2 paths correctly traveled all connect differently
less chances to inspire honest futures specificly
trees provide relief in shade wise with innocence
early recess free lunch hard cider for the biggest kids
chillin on the monkey bars sporting a suede vest
acheived major success without cheating on tests
red rubber balls always being bounced around
kickball games in wild wind lost balls are never found
prepare everyday to be picked next to the last
winning is great so just come late from class

lunch time !!! daddy's favorite
(music solo)




paste cut and color silly patterns in art
multiply the darkest parts of a divided simple heart
design a guidinglight thru skepticism of history
measure mercury shock with invisible magnet field mystery
study the game the same old way
discover how new roads are paved
passing passionate thoughts through unscaled grades
behave and be brave please come home safe


im shooting set shots
while chilling at the rest stop
i just wanna jam live
im supposed feel fine
about every dj telling me
they're already on the grind
saying nothing at all
insisting i wont ball
every top models breasts
is as fake as the next
while familiar streets are ripped 1 block at a time
lazy eyed rhymers deliver stolen ammo and wine
my universal TV remote clicks continuosly
Dr stinky zoo's stank breath stills into whiskey
his spine is bent from playin video games
permanence of mind bent towards flames
dominant discoveries
disco club recovery
lost in the past with
all the time i need in this world of haste
marathon runner jogging at the fastest pace
the fattest butts in your face
juke box joints and food seasoned to taste


screaming at the aquariums glow
because the life is for show
meet the invisible man who does the upkeep
mr invincible poet boy begging for the barkeep


A storm that splits the town
to slow the flames down
the coverage requires inner desires
to rise again like the tides that aspire
a notion that remains intact
almost lost in the earths crack
amazing new discoveries
rediscovered special sauce
38 thousand ways to avoid the poisoned well
whats the use of a soul to sell
with a mind abused
another road unused

the gloves are off once and for all
and for one last breath
flying towards our suns deepest depth
All planets remain insync perceptionably
striving to revolve consistently
scratching the surface of the lottery ticket
that never ends and tempts me to finish
so i can spend the winnings
before i even cash it in
i recognize the clerk and change my desicion
supplies and storage seem secondary to demonstration
passionately preventing the actualization
mildly pacified from within i begin again

please come home
the safest place to rest
please come home
i dont care if you make a mess
please come home
ill teach you all you need to know
the things i cant teach you
is the knowledge we pray for
how to forgive
how to forget
please come home
your place at dinner is set


the smell of the pacific ocean
unspecified devotion
jazz band jams and slow flights in the van



from the sectional
i reach lazily for my special
and find that its missing
the wild wind whispering nonsense
trying to concentrate and contemplate
the difference between guidence and gibbersh


my phone rings loudly
conversing with hungry monks
message box empty
irritation and hate aplenty
simply put my hopes in check
unfiltered smoke from a heart thats empty
except for the unseen spec


spending change on the strangers
that are my regulars
expecting nothing less than a free lunch
or a look out! for the bullets that miss
please pass the unspiked punch
remain adamant when you realize your hunch
the passage of 3 wise men
determined to complete delivery by 10
the evil smile remedy
screams for a sequel before fall
silent films projected thru a disco ball
the silver screen experience
precious stone unearthed unexpectedly
minimal hysteria escaping the blizzard unrelieved
all the credit stolen no esteem to achieve
please reveal the truth thats already existing


all was lost while leaning over a lake deck
the piercing sound of a motorcycle
unable to slow with a brake check
headlights ahead of me uninticing
the pistol was aimed at me
so i held on tightly
i might have lived a little while
had i let go gently
only one true love left
the unbeknownst step

please come home
the safest place to rest
please come home
i dont care if you make a mess
please come home
ill teach you all you need to know
the things i cant teach you
is the knowledge we pray for
how to forgive
how to forget
please come home
your place at dinner is set


Rob McBurney Jr.
Kansas City, MO
I googled Mcburney and found your blog
you share quite a bit of inspiring information
this song is a third or forth draft
and just a few nights ago i was finally able to write the
chorus
i totally identified with your blog on idea search and rescue
thought i might share a little
Thank you and all the best wishes to you and yours
sincerely,
Robert L McBurney Jr.

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