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."

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