Friday, May 27, 2011

Surely even Kipling expected us to take a water break

My eldest daughter sent me three e-mails this week. All one line, no frills updates. She wasn't coming home, as she wanted to take summer school classes; she wanted me to edit a donation-request letter for her Medical Brigades trip to Honduras; her wisdom teeth were bothering her. I had heard about all these activities (minus the wisdom teeth), but hadn't realized just what a pile it had become. I picked up the phone to find out how she was doing. She said she felt stressed--thus the short e-mails. I listened to her schedule which was jammed, every unforgiving minute full of sixty seconds worth of distance run, until January of 2012 and understood why. I had the urge to grab onto her, make her look back a moment from whence she'd come before moving on, make her take a water break. Surely even Kipling intended us all to do that.
Talking with her inspired me to take my own advice. This time of year is always stressful. It's the end of the school year--my children are already celebrating with beach days and pajama days. I'm still trying to force out another chapter--some days even another paragraph would be welcome. After talking with my daughter, I got on the computer, not just to stare at the cursor on my current chapter, but to look back at all the projects I've done over the year (and okay, I looked back even further.) I got lost remembering the fun of that project, the inspiration for that, the multitude of tasks I'd forgotten I'd accomplished. I haven't felt so de-stressed in weeks. You should try it.
Book of the Week: Bossypants by Tina Fey. Tina Fey has a witty stream-of-consciousness style that makes you feel like you're sitting against the bleachers with your best buddy. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. If looking back isn't your thing, this is a good 'water break.' I'd do both.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Imperfect Action

This past weekend, I got to be a part of the National League of American PEN women's presentation, awarding generous scholarships to women in art, music, letters. I told the Race Story (as it's come to be known in our family.) How my daughter once joined the track team and was invited to this big meet where she could join any event she dared. We all went to watch, lugging babies and babydom to what felt like the other side of the country. (It was really just a half hour away.) But we couldn't see my daughter. Which race was she participating in? We finally spotted her sitting in the middle of the field chatting with friends. When I went to find out why she wasn't running any of races, she mumbled,
"I don't want to. What if I lose?"
"Just run the race, Love. Run the race."
Her raw fear feels true to me everyday--it's so much easier to sit on the field (whether you have finals coming, a concert, a book project, whatever) then to stand up and give the project in your heart your damndest and fail.
I still congratulate these young National Pen women scholarship applicants for running the race. For winning.
Along this theme, fellow author Jane Parks-McKay pointed me to a great video: Artist Michele Theberge talks about how to move forward when your mind is giving you a thousand reasons why not to work on your project : I don't know how to start it. I don't have all the research. I don't have all the materials. Who will be interested? She calls it Imperfect Action and says, "Just take one step. Action begets action." A great reminder. (
Book of the Week: Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown . The book's construction was fascinating, told from the we-POV of the sisters. It was as if these three sisters were one body telling this story. For that alone, I think it is worth the read. That and the lovely turns of phrase. The plot? Uh--well, that kind of fell off the table....

***As a side note: If you know of any young (I know we're all young, but in this case highschool and college age young) female artists, musicians, writers, who are live in the Bay Area, point them in the direction of the National Pen Women. The scholarship info for next year should be up on the website in a couple of months.

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