Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pick up the Brush

When I returned from China, my to-do list was still waiting. (For some reason, I'd hoped it had disappeared like many of the other things during our trip--swimsuit, backpack, camera.) One of the things I'd promised myself was that I'd stain our decks.

Oh, gosh, but I didn't want to do that.

Power-washing the decks is great. Rolling stain on the bottom planks is easy. But the meticulous staining of each piece of wood on the railing is a (sometimes futile) exercise in sanity-control.

There are hundreds of those pieces. No, I didn't count. My shoulders felt the constant up and down, up and down, up and down.

Once I got started, however--and it took some real mental persuasion to get started--I found myself in a rhythm. I could do this. I could finish. Besides, it looked good.

Each day, I made a goal for myself. Each day I tried to beat that goal. By the time I was done (hallelujah!) I didn't even mind going over parts I'd missed. (For of course my engineer husband managed to find parts I'd missed.)

This chore took me back to writing. It's so easy to say, "I'll start on that project tomorrow." Then tomorrow comes and the last thing in the world one wants to do is actually sit down and type out the beginning of what seems like an endless project. It's not necessarily messy, but it's painful and frightening. However once you get into the rhythm, you can start to see a form--hey, this might even be worthwhile--and you see the end in sight. You don't even mind going over parts that your friends, critique-group members, editors think need more work. So, pick up the brush.

**For inspiration, amazing editor Becky Levine will be doing a teleseminar on Professional Memoir Writing this Friday. Be sure to join in.

4 comments:

Suzanne Pershing said...

I picked up your book when it first came out. In fact, I met you at an American Bookseller's Association conference and had you sign it - to my Chinese friend who was about to embarc on an ancester trip to her homeland. I kept thinking about the book and purchased it this year, then talked my book club into reading it. We will be discussing "My Half of the Sky" at the end of this month. I can hardly wait. Thank you for giving us an amazing subject in Li Hui and her stories.

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Thank you, Suzanne. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed reading about Li Hui, and you're book group will be discussing My Half of the Sky. Would you be interested in having me join the discussion? If so, please e-mail me--jmcburneylin@msn.com.

beckylevine said...

See, I'd go for the painting, because I could put on my MP3s and wouldn't have the noise of the power washer. But then again, it would be a LOT to look ahead at. Yes, just like the writing. :)

Thanks for the link, Jana. Glad to have you home!

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Good point--but the power washer is...powerful. Who needs an MP3 when you can stand there and shout, "I'm gonna wash that stain right off of my deck. I'm gonna wash..":)
Here's to painting....all kinds.

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