Monday, January 18, 2010

Just keep digging

Last weekend I attended my first swap meet. I'd never heard of such a thing. The idea is for people to bring their gently used treasures for whomever wishes to take them. People set up their goods on a table and then are free to roam about and search for treasure. On first glance, I was struck by the number of items people had saved: old candy boxes, a random pile of magazines, a bag filled with mismatched socks.
"Mom, we already have those," my son said.
If I'd just been a casual consumer, I might have left with a ho-hum feeling about the event. But I stayed all afternoon as part of the D.C. Dawgz, a parent/child fundraising team raising money so their children can participate in the 8th grade school trip to Washington, D. C. Each hotdog customer came with a story of treasures found. One young man, whose girlfriend had just moved in with him and had lost one of the books in her Harry Potter collection, came out with that exact edition in hand. Another couple came out elated to have found a steam cleaner for their floors. Another plopped a plastic hotdog on our table as a donation. When pressed, the plastic dog would call out "Hotdogs, Hotdogs. Ketchup, mustard, relish. Get your fixin's here."
I was reminded of writing and of the little fish in Nemo who sings, 'Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming." Only in this case, it was "Just keep digging. Just keep digging." Often the best dialogue, the nuggets of a story are crowded by mismatched socks. You need to stick around all day long, culling the treasure out of your story.
Book of the Week: Oh, but I had fun this past week. Not only did I get some great ideas from readers, but I ran into one of my Book Gurus at the Swap Meet. She always has a good book for me. "This is a light read," she said, picking up a book from one of the tables.
Wild Designs by Katie Fforde is the story of a divorced mother of three teens who has just lost her job. She's been contemplating a career change (from school secretary to garden designer), and thinks this might be her time. On the downside of this whole plan, though, is the fact that the greenhouse she's been using to house her plants has just been bought up by a handsome man and his young girlfriend. I felt as if I were watching a British sitcom--the dialogue is witty, the story is fun.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you are enjoying the recommendation!

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