Thursday, January 12, 2012

Climbing the Mountain

Over the holidays, we went on our annual trip to Lake Tahoe. There was absolutely no snow, other than that manufactured by the resorts, which was fine by me as my idea of a good time is driving on dry pavement, not bundling up, and hiking around the lake with the dogs.
While the kids snowboarded on icy patches, my husband and I decided to hike to the top of the bare mountain. It didn't look hard--surely we'd be back down in time to meet the kids for lunch. We looked for a path and, not immediately seeing one, just bulldozed our way through a patch of bushes, over a bunch of rocks.
It got rockier and rockier. The top seemed further and further away. Whereas my husband was surely a mountain goat in some past life and jumped from rock to rock, I was brought to my bottom as I held precariously onto one wobbly rock after another. I kept thinking, "Was this supposed to be fun?"
I decided I'd rather hike on flat pavement and went back down the mountain. A few joggers ran past and I asked, "Is there a trail nearby?" There was--just down the road. Oh, the beauty. A nicely carved trail, a direction to follow.
I was reminded of the writing journey. How it seems so easy--to just write a book--and I bulldoze through, getting hung up on rocks and scratched by branches, landing on my butt more times than I can count--and wishing to be like a mountain goat. While there is no "trail," I've found several markers helpful:
1)The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide by Becky Levine. She writes about the importance of critique groups, how to find one, how to critique. My critique group is my major lifeline, pulling me back when I wander off -or can't even find--the trail.
2)The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson. She takes the nitty gritty words and forces the author to look at the big picture. What is the plot? How does it evolve? It's a great help for people (like me) who bulldoze ahead and get stuck on a pile of rocks.
3)Occasional amazing teachers, like David Corbett. He is the author of numerous adventure stories, including Do They Know I'm Running? Done for a Dime, Blood of Paradise, and The Devil's Redhead. He'll be teaching a class Arcs & Acts at Book Passage in Corte Madera, Saturday, February 4, 10:00 am-4:00 pm and Sunday, February 5, 10:00 am-3:00 pm. See details
4)Good books. The book of the week is Deep Down True by Juliette Fay, the story of a middle-aged mother who tries to pull her family and herself together in the wake of a divorce from her husband who left her for a young Chinese immigrant. I enjoyed Fays's first book--Shelter Me--better. However, as in that book, I loved Fay's voice. I would read anything by this author.

1 comment:

Becky Levine said...

Thank you, Jana. I think the group does this for all of us--thank goodness!

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.
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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.
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Head Writer TV Series "Murder, She Wrote,"
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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

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