Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Importance of Group When The Power Goes Out

The mountains were chaos last week. We got 10" of rain in twelve hours. Trees fell. Power lines fell. Everything went dark. PG&E kept saying, "Tomorrow, you'll get power back." After the third day of listening to that refrain, I made up a ditty in memory of Annie: "Tomorrow, Tomorrow, you might get power Tomorrow. If not, the sun shines anyway."
By the weekend, when we still had no power, we decided to move our "campsite" to a real park. New Brighton State Beach. We were a big group of families and friends. My second son asked if he could bike down the Demonstration Forest Path (a 30 mile ride) and meet us there. I said sure, but he needed to include all his friends. One of those friends was not a biker. According to his mom, he had loved biking but had taken a really bad spill. That had been the end of his short biking career. She asked if I could give the boy a ride. When he came down to our house, though, all the other boys were getting ready to leave. "You coming with us?" they asked. "Come on. It will be fun." That boy looked at the group of enthusiastic faces and he got on his bike and rode that 30 mile ride. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. About the power of positive support, the power of a group.
One such group for writers is the California Writer's Club which now has 18 branches throughout the state. (I had the pleasure of speaking at Southbay's publishing panel last week.) I've been a member of the group since we moved to the US ten years ago, and I'm sure I wouldn't be published if it wasn't for their feedback, networking and encouragement (especially when my power was out.)
Upcoming Events: November 4, 11:30, The Loma Prieta Club, Skyland Church, Los Gatos. I'll be discussing My Half of the Sky.
Book of the Week: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This story is about a man who loses everything and his struggle to get back what he can. Garth Stein and I both appeared at NCIBA when My Half of the Sky and his first book came out. (How Evan Broke His Head and other Secrets). While I enjoyed that first book, I wasn't eager to read his second, only because I'd heard it was from the viewpoint of a dog. A dog? But then my neighbor, a fellow writer, who has never failed me on book suggestions yet, said "You gotta read this." She was right.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Remember the Little Things

"Success generally doesn't happen overnight, and it can seem to be limited to a tiny percentage of those who compete." --Lenny Wiersna, Cal State University, Fullerton

Wiersna wasn't talking about authors, but swimmers. My eldest son is a swimmer, and gets lots of magazines related to the subject. Most of them are fluff (some are a retailers version of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.) So I don't pay much attention. But this morning, I happened to sit down in front of one of the magazines, and this article popped out at me.
Wiersna writes about how swimmers, after losing a race, tend to lose the next and the next because they are mentally defeated. He suggests that swimmers keep an "I Know" list. "I know I'm fit. I know I have a strong kick. I know I'm fast on turns, etc."
I suggest a similar writer's list. ("I know I'm good at dialogue. I know this subject better than anyone. I know I'm good enough to have _______") It's a small thing to do, but when those rejections come in or you start feeling defeated by the business of publishing, that shot of self-confidence might be just what you need to move forward again.
Some quotes I keep with my I Know list:
The longest journey starts with the first step--Chinese saying
I don't write books. I write pages--Dan Fante, Author
What are your favorite inspirational quotes?

Upcoming Events:
October 13, 6pm, I'll be participating in a panel discussion on publishing at the Sunnyvale Municipal Golf Course just off Maude near the 237 with CWC Southbay
October 19, 12:15pm. I'll be discussing the history and benefits of a leaf: tea at the Milpitas Rotary Club, Embassy Suites, 901 E Calveras.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Not Planning to Fall

"Where there's passion, there's no fear." --Ancient Chinese Saying.
Last week's blog about the sorry state of book buying prompted one writer to e-mail me, saying he felt so depressed he was tempted to throw his query letters away.
No, no, no.
I was reminded of the above ancient saying, as well as a camping trip our family took to Big Sur a few years back. Big Sur is unique in that during the spring rushing rapids run through the middle of the park. And if you can climb your way across and up the river, you are rewarded with a lovely gorge.
One spring, my eldest son insisted on leading his sister and her friend on a different path across the river to the gorge. They crossed a rickety log perched over the rushing rapids. There appeared no way for them to reach the other side, barring jumping in the freezing water or climbing up the sheer face of a rock wall. I expected him to return across the rickety log and follow us on our easier route. He instead climbed up that sheer rock face.
He made it across the rock wall, and helped his older sister and her friend. I took a deep breath, gushing with gratitude. Then I stepped forward and--kerplunk-- fell right into the rapids.
“What were you thinking?” I asked my son when we had all made it back to the campsite. “What if you'd fallen? What would you have done?”
“But, Mom,” he looked at me, my hair still wet from the cold river. “I wasn't planning to fall.”

I often think of that episode. It reminds me to keep a positive attitude despite the overwhelming odds. So, take out those query letters. Follow your passion. Climb that wall.

Good Books: 31 Hours By Masha Hamilton. My all-time favorite book of Hamilton's is the The Camel Bookmobile, about an idealistic young American out to better the world by bringing books to remote areas of Kenya. She hardly thinks she'll get anything but warm enthusiasm, and is shocked that some people--the elders--would actually oppose her. It's a funny and fun book.
31 Hours is not funny, but is no less compelling a read. The story revolves around a young Caucasian American who, after a visit to Pakistan, has decided the best meaning he could give his life would be to shake the slothful, greedy Americans awake in a suicide bombing.
Upcoming Events:
October 13, 6pm, I'll be participating in a panel discussion on publishing at the Sunnyvale Municipal Golf Course just off Maude near the 237 with CWC Southbay
October 19, 12:15pm. I'll be discussing the history and benefits of a leaf: tea at the Milpitas Rotary Club, Embassy Suites, 901 E Calveras.

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