Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Books Make Great Gifts

Yesterday was a wonderful event at the Los Gatos Public Library. I talked about my books along with seven other local authors, including poets, memoir writers, romance writers. It was a a fun bunch. One dear woman stopped by and bought a handful of Blossoms and Bayonets for Christmas gifts. "Books make great gifts", said she. Amen.

This Saturday from 9-5 and Sunday from 9-4 I'll be signing books at the Loma Prieta Craft Fair at 23800 Summit Road. It's a fun event with local craftspeople selling all kinds of interesting gifts--jewelry, handmade soap, wood carvings, gourd carvings. And Books. Stop by.

Also, Diane Lynch, a dear supporter of both my books who happens to be a fellow Chicagoan, has an interesting book blog. She most recently interviewed me about writing. Take a look.

Just a reminder that there are still 10 days left to enter to win a 1st Edition Hard Copy of My Half of the Sky at Don't miss out.








Thursday, November 28, 2013

Honored to Be On Same Shelf With Amy Tan

Among the many things I'm grateful for, I want to acknowledge you, my reader. I started out on this novel-writing path eighteen years ago, tentative, frightened, only imagining in my wildest dreams that my stories would be more than white computer pages read by my critique group and sympathetic friends and family. Part of my dream came true when Komenar Publishing and Redwood Publishing took a chance on an unknown author like me. But just because the stories came out in books doesn't mean that they’ll suddenly leap into everyone's reading pile. From published books to top of the reading pile is a giant step that involves you. So, thank you for opening the covers and saying, "Hmm. Let me see what these books are about."
You make my dreams come true. 
Recent Review on Amazon:
LOVED IT -5 STARS  I was well into an Amy Tan novel (my favorite author ever) when I started My Half of the Sky. I put the Tan novel aside to read Sky through to the end. The author drew my in to "village" life in China (in cities 10 times the size of mine), and the thoughts and feelings of a young woman in love in a world where family obligations are priority.(cvance)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Signing Dec 3rd at Los Gatos Public Library

Next Tuesday, Los Gatos Public Library is hosting its first annual Local Author Day. Eight of us will discuss fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. It will be a fun morning  (and a great chance to stock up on gifts for the holidays.) Come participate.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chinese in America Talk by Iris Chang

I belong to a Chinese Historical society. They just sent me this link to a talk Iris Chang gave in 2003 about Chinese in America. She said that the Chinese story is not one of rags to riches but of cycles. One day the Chinese are the heroes, the next they are the villains, depending on the mood of the day. Her talk is full of fascinating information.

Friday, November 15, 2013

One Child Policy Relaxed

The one-child policy started in 1979 in an effort to increase the wealth of China (as there would be less mouths to feed) has at long-last been deemed no longer effective. With an increasingly aging population, and not as many children coming up behind, the government decided that it's time to allow more youth. Those parents who are only children are now allowed two.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

USC US-China Institute Film and Event

Last night I took my daughter to a showing of the Independent film Girl Rising, about the importance of education for females, and how girls in nine different countries across the globe struggle for this sometimes unattainable goal. The only problem? The film didn't rise to the screen. We several hundred (mostly) females sat captivated as an Intel commercial ran again. And again. And again. After the tenth time, when all of us started chanting the lines together, the film was pronounced not working. Would we like to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs instead? This seemed ironic. (Only in this instance we were the females not being given access to the education.)

Some events happening today and tomorrow (and archived) at the USC US-China Institute:

11/13 4-5:30: End of an Era. (movie)This is one episode in "Assignment China," a multi-part documentary film series on the history of American correspondents in China. The lead reporter is Mike Chinoy, a Senior Fellow at the US-China Institute, former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief and Senior Asia Correspondent. The film features interviews with journalists who covered China during those years.

11/14 4-5:30 Protecting the Vulnerable with speaker Guo Jianmei. Ms. Guo, one of China's preeminent public interest lawyers, has fought for women's rights in China for more than 17 years. Drawing on her many years of experience as both a lawyer and a pioneer of Chinese non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Ms. Guo will outline recent political developments within China. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Great Writing Advice from Man Booker Prize Winner Eleanor Catton

I went hiking with my neighbor today, a middle school science teacher. I asked what her plans were for the day.
"Grading a thousand blue books," she said a frown.
As we walked, she thought of all the other things she would rather be doing--including cleaning the fish tank.
I had to laugh. Sounded just like a writer in full procrastination mode.
Then I heard an interview with this year's Man Booker prize-winning author, Eleanor Catton.
She said, "If you don't have fun with your writing, how can you expect your readers to enjoy?"
Just that idea--that it's fun, that it should be fun--puts a whole new spin on the fearsome blinking cursor. Throws cleaning the fish tank back to the bottom of the list...where it should be.

This Thursday, Fridays, Saturday I'll be part of an authors' table at The Holiday Boutique.
Where: 5038 Hyland Ave, San Jose (St. Phillip's Church)
When: November 14th and 15th from 9-6, November 16th from 9-4.
There will be a variety of handcrafted items. Stop by and see us!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

New Book Giveaway

Yesterday was a wonderful time at Martin Luther King Jr Library. Hundreds of people gathered throughout the afternoon to talk books and listen to the various authors talk about books. Some great fun.
On another fun note, Goodreads is running a giveaway of My Half of the Sky. It's a great book for the holidays...






Friday, November 1, 2013

Dealing with Rejection the Zen Way

Some rejections are easier than others--but it never feels good. One anecdote that helps me is the story of two monks. These monks were walking by a river and spotted a woman on the other side, obviously trying to get across. She held her skirt up, was putting her feet in the water tentatively. She looked across the river with fear in her eyes. Wise Monk walked through the water, picked her up, and brought her across. She thanked him and went on her way.
At the end of the day, Young Monk  said, "I can't believe you touched that woman. That's against the tenets of our practice."
Wise Monk said, "I only held her in my arms for a few minutes to help her across the river. You've obviously been holding her in your heart ever since. Which is worse?"
So when those rejections come (and they will) remember to be like the Wise Monk. Just hold them in your hands for a few minutes and then let them go.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

USC to talk of how US-China see each other

When living in Asia, I often felt loud, arrogant, not quite dressed. At the same time, I viewed my neighbors as shy, only willing to admit an ability under extreme duress, and always dressed like they'd just stepped from an important board meeting. (I remember one Chinese friend who even wore his suit and dress shoes with us on a fishing boat to Malaysia.)
This week USC US-China Institute will be discussing how China and the U.S. view each other. If you're in the area, it should be a fascinating conference. If not, you can download the videos afterwards.
This week is also your chance to win a free copy of Blossoms and Bayonets. If you haven't signed up at Goodreads, do so today. There are only twelve hours left.
Finally, don't forget to stop by the Martin Luther King Library on Saturday to get your fun fill of books, books, books. I'll also have special bookmarks crafted by Madame Paper Cutter.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

When Writing that Application, Write to Your Friend

I was recently asked to comment on responses to an application. The answers were stilted. The descriptions drowning in words like 'exciting,' 'adventurous,' 'go-getter.' Yawn. What made this so difficult to read was that I knew the person, an amazing woman of many talents.
The advice I suggested (and which I must remind myself about everyday) is
Don't just tell this stuff, show it.
Imagine that computer screen is your best friend--share your stories to him/her.
Remember that even a best friend will lose interest if you're just connecting impressive-sounding words together.
This should be fun.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Great Portal for Unique Tidbits on China

I'm always on the lookout for places talking about China. One great spot is the USC-China Institute. Visit their website and click on the videos underneath a speech that interests you. Learn about the garbage city of Wenan that American exports helped create. Or Government control over television. Or Chinese research into bright people's DNA. The site is a great resource.

On another happy note, a Goodread's Member Nona Mock Wyman today wrote the following about Blossoms and Bayonets:
"I was apprehensive about reading Blossoms & Bayonets, because my interest was not about war. But once I started the book I could not stop. The author's unique style describing the emotions of each character in their own separate chapter seeps into you and becomes a part of you! 
As an author, I had questions in my 1st book, Chopstick Childhood about war. These questions were unexpectedly answered ~ educating me decades later!
Definitely a 'Goodread' for everyone. (5 stars)"

If you don't have your copy yet, enter to win a free one.

  Goodreads Book Giveaway

This is the last week of the drawing.
If you can't wait, get yours at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nov 2nd Satisfy Your Literary Cravings at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Library Author Fair

I'm one of thirty Bay Area authors who will be at the upcoming Author Fair held at the Martin Luther King Jr Library on Nov 2nd from 1-4pm. Authors will not only be autographing books, but also talking about their work. From memoir to non-fiction, poetry to literary fiction--you'll find books to satisfy every reader. Look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Japan Just Apologize

When I was sixteen, some friends of my parents who lived in Kobe, Japan, invited me to spend the year with them and go to school. I remember being nervous about navigating my way on foot from the train station to the school, thrilled with all the quaint shops and corner vending machines, and super busy adjusting to a new country, new language, new friends, new family. The last thing I was thinking about was reporting to the local police station within a month of my arrival. So I didn't.  31 days later, a police officer showed up at the door. Why hadn't I reported my presence?  "Well, here I am," didn't amuse the officer.
I had to go to the official downtown immigration office and explain in writing why I'd neglected this important duty. I gave the officer at the desk my letter which included the above laundry list of reasons. He looked at the sheet and shook his head. Handed me back the paper. "I don't need to know your excuses. You just need to apologize." I returned home and re-wrote the letter with just the words, "I'm sorry." I was forgiven.
Japan would do well to take its own advice. (Or at least this one officer's advice.) In the meantime, perhaps we all could nudge them a bit to do so.
Toronto ALPHA  (Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII) has joined the Korean Council for Women in the 100 Million Signatures for Grandmas campaign which is seeking support in asking Japan to just apologize. Please take a minute and add your signature.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Just Put One Word in Front of the Other To Get that College App Out

It's college apps season in our house. How does one explain a lifetime in 1500 words or less? A unique quality in 500 words? Each time I ask about the C-word, my son cringes. "You're stressing me out."
I understand how he feels. I really do. My life is one never-ending application.
Through the years I've made a list of things I remind other writers, things I try to remember myself, things that might be helpful in finishing those applications:
1) Know that that there will ALWAYS be other things you need to do. While they seem of vital importance now, you will remember them as unnecessary distractions.
2) No matter how hard you sit and watch that flashing cursor, nothing is going to emerge magically onto the paper until you start typing.
3) Know that you CAN tell your story. It's inside you (perhaps not always burning to get out.) But it's there.
4) Know that those first words, no matter how well thought out, will either be deleted or moved around. So just start typing.
Put one word in front of the other.
Soon you'll be walking out the door...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blossom and Bayonets Book Giveaway!

The month of October Goodreads will be giving away copies of Blossoms and Bayonets. 
Click for your chance to win!



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pacific Grove Library Hosts Amazing Book Event

Last Thursday, Friends of Pacific Grove Library invited me to talk. There was a great crowd of fifty or so, all very interesting and interested people. Gerry Low-Sabado came all the way from Fremont...and took these photos.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gerry Low-Sabado brings Chinese History in Pacific Grove Alive

The other day I attended my friend's award ceremony. Deepka Lalwani is one of those women who does everything--and does it well. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski gave her the Asian-Pacific Islanders Award for her contributions to the Milpitas Community, especially her creation of the non-profit Indian Business and Professional Women.  IBPW supports women in their entrepreneurial endeavors and is a great networking place for the community.

As I turned to leave this lovely ceremony, a woman smiled at me-- "You look familiar."
It turned out this woman was planning to come to hear my talk at the Pacific Grove Library this Thursday and had just printed out the information and my picture. We were both amazed at the coincidence and traded stories.

Hers is fascinating.
Gerry Low-Sabado is a fifth-generation Chinese woman. Her great grandmother lived in Point Lobos...and there's a picture of her in the cabin on the property even today. Gerry has done a lot of research on Chinese in the area, gives an annual walk of remembrance through the help of numerous organizations in Monterey and Pacific Grove, and has created a video which details some of her family's story. She helps us all remember this forgotten history.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Blossoms and Bayonets Now In Paperback

Just held the real thing last week. It's such a thrill.
The book is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Please check it out. Or, if you've already read the book, please leave a review.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Diebenkorn's Advice on Art and...well...Writing

Like poetry, I don't always understand art. My artist friends help me to interpret bold lines and depth of feeling. Or they try to. Recently, a friend took me and my nieces from China to the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. While others oohed and ahhed with wonder, and my guide for the day bubbled with enthusiasm, my nieces--one of whom is an amazing artist--giggled. What was THAT supposed to be? Was this really painted by an adult? I had to agree with them, and was comforted that I wasn't alone in my lack of appreciation (even if my company consisted of teenagers.)
Still, while I couldn't relate to the end product, I found a connection in Diebenkkorn's notes to himself on beginning a painting. I felt he could have been talking about beginning a story....
1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.
2. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities, but consider them absolutely expendable.
3. Mistakes...can move you from your present position.
4. Tolerate chaos.
richard diebenkorn

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Toys for Trash

We import over 400 billion dollars worth of toys and goods from China each year. That's pretty well known. What is less talked about is that our biggest export to China is our trash. Imagine...
Reminds me of a scene I witnessed on the outskirts of Shanghai last year...

If you're in the neighborhood, you might stop in to hear what USC History Professor Joshua Goldstein has to say about recycling in China. 
Date: 9/12/2013
Place: Leavey Library, Leavey Auditorium, USC, Los Angeles, CA
Time: 4-5:30
Cost: Free 

Friday, September 6, 2013

September 26th Pacific Grove Public Library Speaking Engagement

This past summer was full of the unexpected. Among the highlights were several international visitors who spent a month with us--my two nieces from China and a French high school student. While I feared having them at the same time would be a disaster, it turned out that the mix of cultures was a bonus. There was no us versus them regarding eating, fashion, habits. It was us versus them and them which serves as a wonderful dilution. There was no 'dominant' language (i.e. English), so the goal just became communicating in any form possible. Charades worked well.
Our French friend was not fazed by much--well, except our eating...which was so early and where were the appetizers and the cheeses after dinner? He was a great fan of REALLY hardcore rap. I kept thinking that it was a case of him not understanding the lyrics. In fact, I hoped that was the case, as even MY teenagers would come to me, saying, "I can't take that music anymore." It was too funny.
Our Chinese nieces had visited before, but they had been toddlers at the time. They were struck by many things--the self checkout, the escalator that takes your shopping cart to the next floor, the variety of hair colors...and tattoos. We had fun.
In the meantime, some great book things happened. Blossoms and Bayonets came out in paperback form. Additionally, I was invited to speak at the Pacific Grove Library on September 26th at 7:30. While the flyer below focuses on My Half of the Sky, I'll be speaking about both books. I'll have both books for sale. So,if you're in the area, please come by.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amazing Review of Blossoms and Bayonets

I was alerted to this recent review of Blossoms and Bayonets by Anna Sun Choi and just have to share:
"This story hits close to home, as the granddaughter of one of the characters this fiction was loosely based on. I never knew my ancestor's story and with each page, began to restore a family history that has been lost for so many years. Reading Blossoms and Bayonets was like putting together a delightful puzzle of mystery, heartbreak, and love that deepens with every chapter, until the final pages, where I emotionally was brought to tears in absorbing a history that few have ever known."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Photos from LiYaShi

This is a picture taken in my husband's village--and not by Li Ya Shi. But if you're interested in seeing amazing photos of China, follow Li.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Redwood Writers: Five Story Killers

Actually there are more than five. But five is manageable. Five is a good jumping-off place to find the other myriad of prose poisons. If you're interested, come join my talk, sponsored by Redwood Writers, on
Flamingo Hotel
2777 Fourth Street
Santa Rosa, CA
Sunday May 19 3-5pm

Monday, May 6, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Don't Miss Panel on Publishing, May 8th

Wednesday, May 8th at 6:30, I'm participating in a Panel on Publishing at Southbay Writer's Club. We will discuss the different paths to publication, from traditional houses to self-publishing. It should be a lively and informative event. So, if you have time, stop on by....
Harry's Hofbrau
390 Saratoga Ave
San Jose, CA

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today's Chinese Bicycle

In the village, my brother-in-law offered us the use of his brand new moped.
"Do you have helmets?" I asked.
"I didn't have time to get those," he grinned. "The store was closing."
I cringed.
The next day, he returned home with two helmets.
As my husband put his on, the strap broke.
"Don't worry," my brother-in-law said, "Just return it. They'll give you a new one."
Wow. What trust in this "little" village. One person can buy something, another one return it for a replacement, all with no receipt.
We drove into town with our protective head gear. There was not just one shop, though. There was moped shop after shop after shop.
"The moped is today's bicycle," my husband said. "In fact, I think I paid more for a bicycle."
When we found the right shop, the man looked at the helmet, nodded, and returned, not with a new helmet, but with a new flimsy plastic piece to be fitted on the strap. I guess the image of meandering slowly down the street on a bike extended to the use and construction of helmets as well.

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Half of the Sky Available at Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco

The Chinese Culture Center located in the heart of San Francisco, is an organization that was established in 1965 to preserve and protect Chinese culture. They have classes and lectures and dances. They have art exhibits and a cute book store (which currently sells My Half of the Sky). Interestingly enough they are located inside the Hilton Hotel. So next time you're at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco, stop by, check out this place, and pick up a copy of My Half of the Sky.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some Things in China Not So Modern

While the infrastructure in China--the roads, the bullet train, the high-rises--was impressive and far more advanced than the U.S, I was often hit by things that felt very old (a la 1950s). Smoking was one. Everywhere we went people smoked. In taxis, restaurants, elevators, rehabilitation rooms. Everywhere we went, people passed out cigarettes as an offering.
Once, to escape the smoke of a group of my husband's friends, I ventured toward greenery--a line of trees, a river. On the steps leading to the river, I spotted this cigarette package. "Smoking when pregnant harms your baby."
"Well,that seems like a step in the right direction," I thought.
But, as it was written in English, I guessed this package had not been sold in China. Singapore, perhaps? But then that was another problem....garbage strewn about from everyone.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Night and Day in Shanghai

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking about My Half of the Sky at the Loma Prieta Women's Book Club. It was a lively discussion of women, many of whom had come from and traveled to many parts of the world--Japan, Costa Rica, the Amazon, Finland, and of course, China. They agreed that LiHui's story--about where to reconcile tradition with modern times--was universal.
One woman asked if I'd noticed much change in China over the past 27 years. I could only think of  pictures: one that I took when I first got off the boat in Shanghai in 1986....
And one that I took last week ...

Like Night and Day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Camping in Shanghai

While in Shanghai we visited Shanghai Jiaotung University for my husband's reunion. During the day, we were part of the masses flocking to this alma mater. It felt as if everyone on the planet had returned. There were tour buses and police directing traffic and current students waving signs and television crews capturing the moment.
At night a small group of us went 'camping.' One of the classmates apologized in advance for the harsh conditions we would be facing. I imagined sleeping on the ground in a tent.
We drove an hour outside of Shanghai to a small area which reminded me of a suburban block of houses in America, except for the  highway on one side, the muddy river on the other, and the sound of a rock-crushing factory as constant background noise. Our 'tent' was a house with 8 bedrooms, a karaoke machine, mahjong tiles. Our 'campfire' was a separate building which served more food than I've ever seen on one table. (I stopped counting at 18 dishes). Oh, the rugged camping life in Shanghai:)

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Half of Sky #26 in Kindle Store

I want to grab this moment of happiness and share. My Half of the Sky is now #26 in their Kindle store. So nice.

Boston Top News in China

I apologize for not posting stuff from China. Blogspot is not an allowed site. Many Chinese predict that this kind of censorship will not last long. As it is now, people find ways of circumventing the censors (and my husband's company laptop has a special 'zone' that allows him to use whatever site he wants.) I didn't have a chance this time to use that zone.
Despite censorship of individual news items going out, news coming in was fast. On Tuesday (Monday night U.S. time) I was at the market in my husband's village of Fuqin. It's an open-air market with people selling items out in front of what are basically their homes. Each seller also had a television set and every television was tuned to news about the bombing in Boston.

First reports in China were that there were no runners from Shanghai present, and that the suspected bombers were "dark people." We now know that while the bombers were certainly dark people, they were light-skinned, and one of the spectators killed was from China. This memorial was set up Tuesday at the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of ChinaFotopress)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

China's 30 Million Extra Men

According to the latest issue of US-China People's Friendship Review, China now has 30 million more men than women. This is the result of the combination of modern technology (ultrasound) and the ancient tradition for a preference for males. And now, well, it's chaos. What does one do with all those men? Men that would fill up a country like Singapore six times over. Isn't it  time to change our traditions? Please.

I'll be travelling to the land of men next week for my husband's 30th college reunion, as well as a family visit. I'll try to post pictures.

New Website: Riding the e-book wave, a new website called Libboo has books which you can 'buzz' about, meaning recommend. It offers you a chance to find out about and share books. If you have a chance, please stop by, see what's there, and  (if you feel so inclined) buzz about My Half of the Sky. Thanks.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Save the World By Watching

Our community has been in an  uproar lately. Are our schools as competitive as they need to be? Are our teachers doing the best they can? How will our children ever succeed in this world without a proper middle school education?
A video from a friend put that all in perspective....
No education for girls from the year 2009.
No hope of government-funded education for girls in the foreseeable future.
However, we can all help (not by donating) but by spending three minutes watching this video. It's a few minutes that will stay with you for a long time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Benefits of Being a Tea Master.

My son recently read of a study on the benefits of drinking tea and immediately forwarded it to me (the Starbucks Queen) but not my husband, saying, "Dad's already a tea master." According to experts in the US, drinking three cups of tea a day could help you maintain your mental faculties. They attribute this to the chemical ingredient theanine found in Ceylon tea. So drink up.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Year of the Snake

We've been back twice to China for the new year. Each time the firecrackers went off from dawn until midnight. Explosions came from all around. The air was so smoky you could hardly see five feet in front of you. 
The story behind firecrackers on Chinese New Year is a wonderful symbolic tale I think of often.
According to a legend which I've adapted just a tad, there once lived a dragon. He came out of his cave once a year, forced his way through the village gates and stole a child in his thick, hairy hands--like a guest picking up a toothpick.
The villagers were terrified of this dragon.
The village priest suggested building the village walls higher. The dragon stomped over them as if they were wooden blocks.
The priest suggested an all-night bonfire. The dragon not only was unafraid, the fire lit the way for it to steal more children.
The priest suggested creating a fake dragon to scare it off.  The dragon just laughed, and when he laughed he breathed fire, burning down many of the houses, stealing all the children from within.
The priest was at a loss. He decided, rather than have the dragon come into the village, he would put one child outside each year. That would ensure the safety of the houses and the remaining villagers. That year the priest chose a little girl. She stood outside in the cold, wanting to go back inside the village gates, wanting to be with her family, to play firecrackers with her brothers. She stuffed her hands in her pockets for warmth and discovered a few leftover firecrackers.  
Suddenly, the earth shook. The dragon. As the dragon approached, she lit one of the firecrackers to remind herself one last time of her brothers. Kaboom.  The dragon jumped back on his haunches. She lit another. Kaboom. His scales turned bright yellow. She realized he was afraid of this little noise, and she lit all the firecrackers she had. Kaboom. Kaboom. The dragon turned and ran away, never to be seen again.
I love this story, because we all have dragons: Dragons who say you can't accomplish this or try that, dragons who breathe their intimidating fires, dragons who make you afraid to follow your heart. Imagine the sound of firecrackers-- Kaboom. Kaboom. Kaboom--and stand tall. Happy New Year.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Ultimate Cliche

I got a fun gig as a "Writer in Residence" for our middle school. The middle schoolers have that that raw emotion that's just dying for a way to get out, and it's fun to help them build a channel that is uniquely theirs. I've worked with kids before--younger ones. They're often still worried about following convention, fearful of breaking out on their own. In fact, I remember one particular child. She was a third-grader. We were working one-on-one to develop a story idea. She sat at my table, but she fidgeted. She did not say a word.
"What ideas are floating in your head?" I finally asked.
"Nothing," she said.
"Everyone has something in there." I said.
"Well, is it important to start at the beginning of the story?" she asked
"No, no."I said, sitting on the edge of my seat. "You can start anywhere."
"At the end?" she asked.
"The end is a great place to start." I lifted my pencil, poised to write something down.
"I've got something," she said.
"Great, great." I bubbled with excitement. "What is it?"
"The End."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Signing in Sonoma

When I drove up to Sonoma on Saturday, the Friends of the Library, interesting patrons, even the sun  greeted me for two library discussions about My Half of the Sky and Blossoms and Bayonets. What I love about these events is meeting the people: a man whose family escaped China when Japan/China were fighting, a woman who lived in Kyushu after WWII and remembers South Koreans fleeing to this recent-enemy territory, a woman who worked in the US Embassy in China and fears for the future of our two countries. ("The US would never want to be #2"). It was a rich, rewarding afternoon. Thank you, Sonoma County Friends of the Library.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Signing in Sonoma

Saturday January 26th, please come join me:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prime Minister Says There Was a Massacre in Nanking

Recently Japan's Prime Minister Abe has been waffling on the subject of the Nanking Massacre which took place during WWII in China, and even on the topic of sex slaves conscripted by the Japanese army. He's hemmed and hawed, and it made me wonder how anyone like that made it to power. (I can't see a German Chancellor being allowed to make such a doubt about the holocaust and stay in power---or perhaps even in the country.) I was tempted to send PM Abe a copy of Blossoms and Bayonets to fill the obvious gaps in his knowledge of history. I don't have to. Today Former Prime Minister Hatoyama visited Nanking...apologized for the atrocities, planted a gingko tree (a symbol of hope and  peace) at a memorial site, and said, "I will be back again." One small step for humankind.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Twitter Forces Truth

The US Embassy in Beijing began monitoring air quality two years ago, much to the dismay of the Chinese government. Through tweets, the Embassy would update whomever wanted to know. Last July this came to a head when the Chinese government said it was offensive.
"What if we monitored US air quality at our embassies in America?" the Chinese officials asked.
"Go ahead," came the response.
Unable to convince the Americans to stop watching--and more importantly, reporting on--their air, the Chinese government is now fighting to be the first to report. The truth. (Or at least closer to the truth than before.)

This past weekend the particles of yuck in the air surpassed 700 micrograms (20 is considered safe according to WHO).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Not A Terrorist --Really

When we visited Canada, we were welcomed with open arms into the country at the crossing between Washington and Vancouver. Why are you here? How long are you staying? Have a great trip. I can't say enough about the beauty of the land...or the hospitality of the Canadians.
Our return was another story.
At the border, I got in what was called a Nexus Lane. It was closest to the Duty Free shop where we stopped so my son could use the restroom, predicting with great clairvoyance that we might get stuck waiting for a half an hour.
Or More.
The Nexus lane, as it turned out, was a fast lane--like FastTrak--on the highway. Who knew? At least FastTrak sounds like what it is. (I thought Nexus was the name of the Duty Free Store.)
I didn't think it was a big deal. I mean at the end of the lane was a border policeman. But this man went through the roof. I had violated the rules and was subject to a fine of up to $500, did I know that? I said I had no idea. He didn't want any of my "excuses." I should have known better. He was writing me a ticket right then and there. He fastened that ticket to my windshield like he'd just bagged a carload of terrorists and sent us all off to  "the building."
I felt miserable. Had there really been signs? Why had I ignored them?
Then again, it was a mistake for goodness sakes. I hadn't done anything with bad intent, no matter what the man outside thought. There was no reason go beat myself up.
I did anyway.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. How could I have been so stupid? To the tune of $500.
The building was like every immigration building I've been in, full of foreign-sounding people and disgruntled officers. Except for one. The man who took our "case" seemed nonplussed that we were even there, chitter chattering about what souvenirs we had bought and where we lived. Didn't we have a border crossing near us? He gave us our passports and sent us on our way.
Perhaps he'd want to trade places with the bulldog outside. Although next time I'll know. No Nexus Lane.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Impromptu Book Signing in Whistler, Canada

Over the holidays, our family drove to Whistler, Canada (to see an old friend from Tokyo days, to play in the snow.)  Carol Shore, the hostess of our lovely Bed and Breakfast  is an avid reader/art collector. She and her neighbor Valerie, another B&B owner, took it upon themselves to arrange a book gathering. I was awestruck. I still am.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's not in the Achievement; It's in the Goal-Setting

I've been asking those close to me about New Year's Resolutions and surprised by the number of people who say, "I don't make resolutions. Too much pressure." This past holiday, while driving to Canada with the family, I had a small discovery about goal-setting. I noticed that when we were in a town with no plan, we all became nervous, unhappy. However, as soon as someone threw out an idea--Let's go to the Taco place--the atmosphere turned to one of anticipation. In this instance, the taco place was closed. But we were in an eating area. We easily found someplace suitable. This goal-setting/failure/revision of plan happened over and over. It made me realize that it's not the achievement of a particular goal that is important. It's the setting of the goals that makes the difference. So, go ahead, tell me your goals for 2013.

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