Monday, May 18, 2009

The Process of Writing

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at We and Our Neighbor Clubhouse . The clubhouse, built in 1910 to deal with issues affecting the community, is about to celebrate their centennial birthday and is busy renovating. The two hostesses were very apologetic about the looks of the place. Would I mind speaking in the Dining Room?

This wasn't just any old dining room, though. A quarter of the room was once walled off and used as the first branch of the Santa Clara Free Library system. It was so cool to stand there surrounded by the energy of books from years past. As several people came up to me after the talk saying they were inspired to go home and write, perhaps they felt the same energy. We discussed the Process of Writing:

1) Writing is a Never-Ending Process: The quote "Each time I strive for perfection, I realize it's a moving target," can be applied to the writing process. Each time I think I'm done, someone--editor, friend, critique group--points out an area that needs fixing and I realize there's more that I can do. As one writer pointed out, there comes a point when you just must stop.

2) Writing is ever-changing: What works for one story may not be the best method for the next story. Don't be afraid to experiment. A story doesn't always need to start on page one.

3) Writing requires a routine: I need to figure out a schedule and stick with it, so as not to be pulled away from the project--to check e-mail or take the dog on a walk or clean a spot in the rug. Regular journal writing is a trick I use to slide into "the real writing" of the day. Once I get going writing about the events of the previous day, it's not so hard to switch gears just a bit and keep typing.

What thoughts and additons do you have?

Book of the Week: The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts centers around a wheelchair-bound Vietnam Vet who owns a restaurant in a lily-white area of Nebraska. It's not a thriving business--opening only when the first customer arrives--until an American Indian woman shows up needing a job, then a Vietnamese immigrant fix-it man arrives. The themes that stood out were racism, religionism, fear of others. It's a fun--and funny--read.

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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

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