Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Celebrate What Is...and Fly High

For weeks,I've been struggling over a particular scene in my story. The dialogue's fun, but not necessary. The attitudes of the characters don't feel right. The action is not all that it can be. Fueling this struggle is the thought that I haven't been able to race ahead on schedule and turn in pages to my co-author for review. It's been days and days of writing misery.
Until yesterday, when I started a new practice: Moments of Gratitude. This practice was inspired in part by the talented writer and therapist, Beth Proudfoot, who wrote an amazing speech on filling your cup. It was also inspired by David Khorram, author of World Peace, a Blind Wife, and Gecko Tails.David, an eye surgeon who turned down offers awaiting him in America's leading medical centers to live and make a difference on Saipan, compiled the editorials he'd written for the local newspaper.
He has more to talk about than eyes, though. He shares stories about life: life on the island (communication mishaps, island celebrations, fireworks horrors) and life which can apply to us all. His vignettes about gratitude, acceptance, encouragement and change were funny, uplifting and inspirational.
I was so inspired that I tried an exercise he practices with his children: moments of gratitude. The purpose of this is to spend a few moments being grateful for all that is (rather than is not). In our case it went something like this:
"What are you guys feeling grateful for this morning?" I opened the car door.
"Shotgun!" My daughter, raced to the passenger seat, jumped in and slammed her door.
"I wanted to sit in the front." My son harumphed his way into the back. "How come she always gets the front? Can you turn on the radio?"
"No." I forged ahead. "Let's be quiet. Just for a moment. Let's think of things we feel grateful for."
"I can't think of anything," My daughter said. "Can I have a friend over after school?"
"Oh, there must be something." I urged.
"I don't know." My daughter sighed. "I feel grateful for music."
"So do I," My son agreed. "Now can you turn the radio on?"
Needless to say, it wasn't the uplifting outpouring of souls I envisioned. But the two siblings--always in rivalry--found a point of agreement. That's a start....for which I was grateful.
Just as uplifting was my moment at the end of my writing day. Rather than focusing on what I hadn't done--I'm still way behind my self-imposed schedule--I celebrated what was. I finished three pages of that scene, I told myself. I finished them! I finished them!
I felt higher than a kite.

4 comments:

beckylevine said...

Yay, Jana! It can be so easy to get frustrated and discouraged, especially when we try to look too far ahead. Living in the moment, being grateful for what the day brings is tough, but very, very necessary, I think. :)

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Thanks, Becky. I think it gets harder and harder in this instant-download, microwave, fast-food environment. Why can't my story emerge just as fast?:)

hidong36 said...

Dear Jana, when my thinking gets stuck and frustration sets in, I go to the piano in my livingroom, and vocalize. do rei me fa sol la ti do...do ti ra sol fa me rei do. Up and down. Up and down. I let my heart dictate the tone of my voice. It seems to loosen up my thinking muscle.
TRY IT and YOU'LL END UP LAUGHING.

P.S. This is my second message. Apparently my first one didn't go thru.

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Chai,
I'll have to give that a try.:) Thanks.
Jana

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.
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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."
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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