Sunday, December 27, 2009

Not Smarter than a Fifth Grader

We have this game in our house based on the tv show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? The game tests your knowledge of history, geography, science and math. It's fun if you can get past the obnoxiously repetitive game show music... and the fact that when you fail to answer a question you have to say out loud, "I am not smarter than a fifth grader."
Now, whenever we do something nonsensical, we automatically say these magic words. This whole week my brain has been echoing with them.
It all had to do with my ingenious plan for New Year's gifts. I've been scanning old photos, and I thought friends and relatives would enjoy the fruits of my monotonous labor. So I went out and bought colorful CDs, spent hours selecting meaningful pictures for each friend, and mailed them to parts all over the globe. I even made some for my husband to mail. Being the quality control manager that he is, though, he checked each of his CDs before heading off to the post office.
"Are these the CDs you put the pictures on," he asked. "Because all these are blank."
Turns out I'd done everything except the final step--pushing the "burn files" option. Turns out I'd spent hours fiddling with photos, writing sweet little notes, and traipsing to the post office to mail off discs down a blank memory lane.
I know. I know. I am not smarter than a fifth grader. (But I'm more persistent than one.)
Do you have any "fifth grade" moments to share?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Attention New Writers

The city of Milpitas opened a new high-tech library earlier this year, which I had the honor of helping open. They have a literary luncheon each year, and I was invited to talk about My Half of the Sky during one. They have a fine Rotary Club which often features writers. And , yes, I got to be one of those. The city of Milpitas is always doing wonderful things for writers. (In fact, I often tell my husband that should we ever think of moving....)
Most recently, Milpitas Arts is hosting a short story contest for new writers, which not only offers an opportunity for recognition in the local paper but a $1,000 cash prize. The deadline is Feb 1, 2010 for 2,000 words or less. The category is open-ended.
So grab your laptops and join the fun.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Take a Moment To Breathe

In our house, we say that Halloween signals the beginning of the end. At least that's how it feels. There are end-of-the-year shows and parties and fairs. Guests and shopping. Gift exchanges and letters. It's a downhill slide that goes way too fast.
Still, on your way down, grab hold of a branch or two. Stop yourself. Take a few minutes to yourself--to write, to read, to breathe.

Books of the Week: Love in Translation by Wendy Tokunaga took me back through the streets of Tokyo--high tech signs blinking and ringing next to the sweet-potato seller calling out, the juxtaposition of old and new all wrapped up in cuteness, the strict adherence to a code of unspoken rules. The story is humorous and well-told, and I could identify with the young woman, Celeste, who was unsure of what she wanted to do or how she fit in to this foreign world.
I devoured every page, and walked away feeling as if a dear old friend had come to visit.
In An Uncharted Country by Cliff Garstang is a series of short stories, from that of a young man who attempts to sell off antiques--but has no idea how-- to that of a young couple adopting their first child from China. The characters are rich and the detail so real you feel as if you've been plopped into the middle of all these crises.

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