Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thoughts, mostly obvious, occasionally profound, and sometimes disconcerting

As I promised in an earlier post, I will jot down some of the thoughts and questions that have been swirling around in my mind, and the conclusions i have chosen to arrive at. Many of them are so obvious that it embarrasses me to have to put them down, but knowing they are available to anyone who has any interest to read, keeps me a little bit more accountable than if they existed only in my mind.

Conclusion #1
Some things in life can be controlled, others cannot

"Well, duh!?"

I hear ya.

But the complication comes with not knowing which things are in which category. Eat healthy you say? All right then, let's buy us lots of fresh veggies and fruits. But then do I know if pesticides have been sprayed on those beautiful green leaves, and whether the brightly colored oranges have been picked when they were light green and kept so long that there is hardly any vitamin C left?

Exercise to lose weight, you say? Sure thing. Pull on the sneakers and strap on the willpower. But as you decrease food intake and increase energy output, your metabolic rate starts to do through a complicated series of events to compensate.

Write well and learn the publishing process and maximize your chances of getting published? You fill in the blanks.

So the only way to live based on this conclusion is: approach every task as if I have full control but think about outcome with the understanding that I actually have none.

And try to convince my emotions that it is just fine.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thank you, Laurel for this award:

Rules: Answer the following questions with single word answers then pass this along to 5 other bloggers.

Your Cell Phone? Old

Your Hair? Straight

Your Mother? Charming

Your Father? Quiet

Your Favorite Food?
Your Dream Last Night? Forgotten

Your Favorite Drink? Coffee

Your Dream/Goal? Author

What Room Are You In? Untidy

Your Hobby? Cooking

Your Fear? Blindspot

Where Do You See Yourself In Six Years? Calmer

Where Were You Last Night? Home

Something That You Aren't? Daring

Muffins? Blueberry
Wish List Item? iPad

Where Did You Grow Up? Malaysia

Last Thing You Did? Ate
What Are You Wearing? Jeans

Your TV? Unwatched

Your Pets? Deceased

Friends? Super
Your Life? Blessed

Your Mood? Upbeat

Missing Someone? Friend

Vehicle? Vue

Something You Aren't Wearing? Perfume

Your Favorite Store? None
Your Favorite Color? Soothing

When Was The Last Time You Laughed? Bedtime

Last Time You Cried? Children
Your Best Friend? Husband

One Place You Go To Over And Over Again? Grocery

Facebook? Manageable Favorite Place To Eat? Patricia's

I pass this award to
Courtney Reese
Megan Rebekah
Tricia (I'll be doing your list next!)

Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My tribute to Salinger

Just checked out Frank Portman's King Dork, in which The Catcher In The Rye plays a huge role in the plot, from what I understand.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

iPad, what else?

Dreamy, easily persuaded, excited-about-new-possibilities Yat-Yee:

I drool.

Practical, stingy, cynical, waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop Yat-Yee:

Let those crazy early-adopters find out all the flaws and work out the kinks.

Always-with-the-questions Yat Yee:

Why is the iBook application so late in the demo and so short? And couldn't they just have something cool for the bookworm without having to appease the gamers and the music video maniacs?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Grab-A-Line Monday

IN last week's GALM, Nandini shared a line from Mare's War, written by my writing group's facilitator, Tanita Davis. Mare's War had just been announced as a Coretta King Honor book, in addition to the other accolades. Here is the line Nandini chose:

Now, this is a women's army, she tells Miss Ida. She's gonna be working with women to free up a man for the fight. It's her duty, she says. Well, sir, Miss Ida sure pitched a fit, said no daughter of hers was going to join no women's army like she ain't got no breeding

My line this week is thanks to Nandini as well, who brought a wonderful line from Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett a few weeks back, which of course means I would read it. I started a few days ago and am enjoying it tremendously so far. Here is an example of the low-key wit of the book:

...Tiffany retorted, feling annoyed. "Witches have animals they can talk to, called familiars. Like your toad here."

"I'm not familiar," said a voice from among the paper flowers, "I'm just slightly presumptuous."

What caught you this week?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I talk about when I talk about my attitude for the new year

I started writing this post on the first day of the new year and the new decade. Sitting in a quiet and empty house after two weeks of family festivities, I found myself with the desire to set up resolutions as well as a reluctance. Visits to other blogs and casual conversations showed me that I was not alone. The aversion to making resolutions is due in large part to how often they cannot be kept. Yet something about a passing of a time pauses us, causing us to reflect, and urges us to do something about what the introspection reveals.

So I thought, and wrote, and deleted, and wondered, and thought more, then read some blogs, and wondered more.

Now here I am, toward the end of January, and still have not corralled my thoughts into a meaningful whole. What is a writer to do?

Read, of course.

My brother-in-law loaned me a book by
novelist Haruki Murakami: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running when he visited over the holidays. (Here's an interesting interview at The Salon.) Murakami, an avid runner who runs at least a marathon a year, recorded his thoughts on running in this book. Being a novelist as well, he's included his experiences on writing as well.

Having been as far away from a runner as a person with healthy legs can be, I would not have picked up this book. Yet it is here that I found a passage that helped me deal with my dilemma.

Here he is, talking about how he started with this book:
It's been some ten years since I first had the idea of a book about running, but the years went by with me trying out one approach after another, never actually settling down to write it. Running is sort of a vague theme to begin with, and I found it hard to figure out exactly what I should say about it.
At a certain point, though, I decided that I should just write honestly about what I think and feel about running and stick to my own style.
One thing I noticed was that writing honestly about running and writing honestly about myself are nearly the same thing.

No need to strive for pithy sayings that capture universal truths; no need to shed light on Life; no need to encompass everything I feel. Just write honestly.

Over the next few weeks, i will be posting thoughts about my 2009 and hopes about 2010, maybe throw in a few more Murakami quotes and see where I end up. I hope you'll chime in and let me know how your year is going.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yay for Tanita and Mare's War

The ALA awards have been announced, and Mare's War, written by Tanita Davis is an honor Coretta Scott King Award book. Congrats and confetti all around! And you should read her reaction to finding out HER book is being honored.


(That was a lot of fun to do!)

This came on the heels of another prestigious nomination, for an NCAAP Image Award.
Majorly awesome, Tanita!

More confetti is called for!


Grab-A-Line Monday

I found out about a new blog this past week, The Daily Kidlit Quote. Go check them out. (incidentally, one of the first quotes I read from the blog from the same work that Nandini shared over here, Haroun and Sea Stories.)

Here is something from Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It brought over by Tricia:
...something was yellow. I remembered yellow as the color of the sun. I'd seen the sun last July. It hurt to look straight at it, and it hurt to look at this new burst of yellow. It wasn't the sun. I laughed at myself for thinking it might be. It was a sheet of paper dancing in the crosswinds down the street. But it was yellow. I had to have it.

Nandini brought Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan ...
The problem with hard shiny floors that are not made of mud is that dust from the streets,from all the dung of donkeys and horses and animals in the alleyways--the same dust that clogs the air--ends up settling on those nice shiny floors, and they need to be swept and mopped every single day.

a. fortis came over this a quote from Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger:
Molly's way more into my "Eastern" heritage than I am. It's not as if I'm not into's just that it was never really into me.

The gesture described here in Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann took my breath away momentarily:
She opened a limp, resigned palm, and stared at it as if to say that she had disappeared from herself and all she had left was this starnge hand she was holding out in the air.
It reminded me of another hand gesture from another person who's lost and hurting from Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos:
"I came to him like a pilgrim," the young woman siad, and held out her hands, palms up, like she was waiting to be given something: a stack of books, a platter of sweet potatoes, an armful of clean, folded linens.
What caught you this week?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My favorite books in 2009, Part 2

Here is the second installment of the list of books I enjoyed the most in 2009. And thanks for your comments to yesterday's post. Keep 'em coming.

Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Of the dozens and dozens of books that take place in a school, this one manages to stand out. A big part of the reason is that his humor is pitch-perfect. No indication of trying to hard or straining for cheap laughs. The humor is ingrained into the voice.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Every single book I'd read of this author--Speak, Catalyst, Prom--I've enjoyed. A lot. But this one has moved beyond even those high standards. There were many moments I had to put the book down because not only did she, the author, seemed to have completely gone into the head and heart of the narrator, who's battling her eating disorder and the death of her friend, she got me there as well.

Percy Jackson and The Olympians series by Rick Riordan
The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins
Some series start off with a bang but cannot sustain the momentum the first book has set. These two start off with a bang all right, and kept the great stuff coming. Love. Them. Had to hide The Last Olympian from the 9-year old Percy fan aka my book-inhaler daughter, so I could read it before she did. I know, that's stooping quite low, but you know, I had to make sure there wasn't anything in the book that was inappropriate for her....okay, lame.

When I grow up, I want to be Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, or Laurie Halse Anderson.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My favorite books in 2009, Part 1

Here are the books I enjoyed the most last year, in no particular order:
(I've linked to reviews I've written for a few for them, in case you're interested.)

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I am slightly ambivalent when reading a book that comes with a prestigious award (the Pulitzer in this case) or some other form of expectations. On the one hand, I know that it has convinced quite a few people of its merits, on the other hand, I have higher hopes, whether I realize it or not. And a few of these highly recommended books have disappointed.

But not this one. It is not a novel in the regular sense, but rather a series of stories that are interconnected (which has become more of a norm these days: Let The Great World Spin, another book that bedazzled me recently is written in this structure) around the character of Olive Kitteridge. She is not exactly the most easily lovable character, but over the course of the book, not only has she become a more sympathetic person, so have many other characters and events.

Not a flashy book, but an excellent one, with startling revelations about people and attitudes in the most unexpected moments.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Yet another book that came with such high expectations I was almost afraid to read it. But like Hunger Games, It continued to grab me, and refused to let me grow numb to the horror of the premise nor how close to home it hits, with the juxtaposition of extravagant luxuries and stark cruelty, all wrapped within a smooth cocoon presented by the twisted minds of spin doctors.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
In contrast, I picked up this book without knowing anything about it and while I was slightly thrown off by how the genre seemed to have changed toward the end, I still loved it. The main thing that struck me was how every single person, even the boy who punched and the man who kicked and the boy and girls who shunned were treated with understanding and compassion. There is no villain, only people.

The Likeness by Tana French
I was in a bit of a conundrum when I started reading this book. My Work-In-Progress, a Young Adult novel that deals with grief and guilt (such happy topics!) was stuck. I had started writing it over a year ago and had to stop to concentrate on revising my Middle Grade novel that I was submitting. When I returned to it, I realize my tone/voice for the new chapters has changed. As I oscillated between writing new scenes and revising old ones, it got confusing and eventually I couldn't write nor revise. I didn't know how to approach the story, how distant or close it would be. And I gave up momentarily out of indecision.

Reading this book, for some reason, got my writing juices going again, and in writing, I slowly came to a tone/voice that I could trust in.

If I were to describe why I enjoyed reading this book, I'd say it's the combination of the great plot (although the premise requires a bit of belief-suspension), superb character exploration, and evocative writing.

The Maze of Bones, Books 1 of the 39 clues by Rick Riordan

Next installment: tomorrow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An update

Those of you who've come by recently (thank you so much for visiting and leaving comments; I love hearing from you) must have noticed I am now blogging more regularly. Since I've received so many good wishes when I first told you of my husband's diagnosis, I feel I should let you know what's going on in that part of my life.

Big news: treatments are OVER. Six+ months of chemo and surgery and related complications are finally behind us. He is now going to be observed regularly. The first set of scans seem good. So it's upward and onward from here.

We are learning how to live normal lives again, meaning lives that don't revolve around schedules for doctor visits/hospital stays/blood work/medicine/temp-taking. It's remarkable how tricky that can be!

During my hiatus from the blog, I've been thinking about how blogging fits into my life. It would be great if I had a succinct and profound point to make right now, but I don't. I do have some ideas though and hope to share them with you.

I was going to re-start my blogging with some of these ideas or thoughts about the new year, but what with all the news and contests, I have chosen to delay those posts. I will get to them, soon, and I hope to see you back.

Tomorrow: my favorite books of 2009.

Different ways to help

Here is an eyewitness account from Haiti. This comes from an email I got from the American Red Cross Society last night.
Matthew Marek, who runs the Red Cross office in Haiti, relayed the following details to the office in the US using Skype,

some neighborhoods are completely flat. major individual home damage. no telephone

i’ve seen untreatable issues. bones broken and exposed. lacerations of all kinds

medical attention is needed all throughout the capital. people are scared and gathered in the streets

there is really no place to go in many of these neighborhoods

the dust from the collapse is still lingering in the air.

Around the litosphere-- Beth, Karen, Paper Tigers, Nathan Bransford--are ideas for how we can help. Among the organizations suggested are World Vision, Bethany Christian Services, Doctors Without Borders, IBBY Fund for Children in Crisis. Here are two more suggestions: American Red Cross and Compassion International.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kirkus, aka Lazarus?

Kirkus is alive again,
according to PW.

Blame it on age, or the holidays, or the sunny skies

Silly me, didn't post my line in my GALM post yesterday. Here it is:

She did everything small as if it was extraordinary and necessary.

from LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN by Collum McCann

Yes, I am still reading this book, and savoring it.

Drop me a line here or at yesterday's post.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Grab-A-Line Monday

Happy Monday! I hope those of you who made resolutions are still happy with them. I am a little behind on my old-year/new-year transition. When I have sorted my thoughts out, hopefully still within the month of January, I will post them here.

Onto our regular programming of GALM, or Grab-A-Line Monday.

What is Grab-A Line Monday?
It is a weekly occurrence here at my blog, where I post a line--or two or however many it takes to capture a thought--that I've read that has stayed with me. I invite my readers to do the same. There are so many books that we'll never get to read everything that interests us. Such a shame. This is my small attempt to find writing that we shouldn't, but may otherwise, miss.

These quotes don't have to all be profound. Simple and light-hearted are great as well. I hope you find some passages that made you think and feel, or intrigue you enough that you'd want to read the book from which the passages originate.

Here are the quotes last last week's GALM:

MG Higgins shared from THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly.

...I crept downstairs and went out onto the front porch very early before the daily avalanche of my brothers could crack open the peace of the morning.

Nandini offered this from The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex.

It was Moving Day, and everybody was crazy. You remember. It was chaos; people running around with armfuls of heirloom china and photo albums, carrying food and water, carrying their dogs and kids because they forgot that their dogs and kids could carry themselves. Crazy.

I thought I should also mentioned that Nandini's contribution from the week before struck a chord with Beth, who posted her wonderful thoughts about writing fearsome for kids. I am re-posting the poem from Salman Rushdie, who dedicated to his son while in hiding during the fallout from Satanic Verses. The acrostic spells ZAFAR, his son's name.
Z emble, Zenda, Xanadu:
A ll our dream-worlds may come true.
F airy lands are fearsome too.
A s I wander far from view
R ead, and bring me home to you.
What caught you this week?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Books and more books

Here I am, still reading Best Of lists and trying to determine which ones I'd like to read, and The Millions are complicating things by looking forward to the books with buzz in the new year!

From my very cursory glance at their list, I am already thinking about John Banville's The Infinities (because I finished The Sea a couple of months ago and still think about it from time to time), Adam Haslett's You Are Not A Stranger Here (no, this is not new but his novel, Union Atlantic is coming out and it's pushing YANASH to close to the top of my list), and Sonya Chung's Long For This World (because I finally accept that my ethnicity/culture plays a big role in my writing and I am curious about how other authors view their cultures.)

Which are the books you plan to read this year? Any of the ones on the list by The Millions strikes you as interesting?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winners! Winners everywhere!

Winners of the Genre Wars run by the Literary Lab are announced. (Isn't the cover of the anthology gorgeous?) Don't forget to vote for the organization that will receive proceeds from the anthology.

Finalists of the The Secret Year Teen Diary Contest Extravaganza run by the somehow-not- blurry-eyed-from-reading-almost-700-entries Nathan Bransford. And yes, more voting: for the winner from among the chosen finalists.

Congrats, all!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

National Ambassador of Young People's Literature

Thank you, those of you who commented yesterday and told me you hadn't known of such a position either; made me feel better.

Davin, you had a question about what this ambassador does. From the official site, the stated goal is for the ambassador to
"raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature."

As far as I can tell, the ambassador makes appearances: at schools and libraries to meet with children and people who work with children. The other type of appearances, such as those as the White House, are to promote the idea to the public. Makes sense, I suppose, since an ambassador is someone who builds bridges and forge relationships.

Anyone else out there who cares to add to this?

I will try to follow the new ambassador's activities more closely now that I know of such a position and see if I can help promote it from my little corner.

On an aside, I am slightly baffled as to how someone like me, who is interested in children's lit, who tries to find out news events and other happenings related to children's lit, could have been in the dark for two years. Am I not plugged in enough? (The thought of getting any more plugged in is already causing discomfort) Or maybe this is too new a position?


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Ambassador

Katherine Paterson is named the next National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, succeeding Jon Scieszka, who is the first person who held that post. The post of children’s ambassador was created by the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council, and the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature.

I have to confess, until a few weeks ago when I started reading about Jon Scieszka about to finish his term as the inaugural ambassador that I realized such a post existed. *shame faced* How could I not have known about this fabulous position? Well, Time to rectify my ignorance by keeping my ears out for the new ambassador's activities over the next couple of years.

Yet another contest by an agent

This one by Nathan Bransford, wearer of Doc Martens and flannel shirts and agent of
Jennifer Hubbard whose YA THE SECRET YEAR is debuting.

Title of contest:

THE SECRET YEAR Teen Diary Contest Extravaganza!!

(Note exclamation points!!)

  • angst
  • teenage angst
  • expressed teenage angst
  • write a 500 word diary or journal entry as a teen
  • Leave in comment section of blog post, do not email
  • angst

The GRAND PRIZE ULTIMATE WINNER of the THE SECRET YEAR Teen Diary Writing Contest Extravaganza will win:

- A signed copy of THE SECRET YEAR (pending winner's proximity to the US of A)
- Their choice of a query critique, partial critique, or 10 minute phone conversation/consultation/dish session
- The pride of knowing OMG you are like the greatest writer for teens ever.

Runners up will receive a signed THE SECRET YEAR bookmark (pending finalists' proximity to USA), plus a query critique and/or other agreed-upon prize.


Contest at Kidlit. com

Mary Kole, an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency is running a contest from now till the end of the month. The deets:
  • 1st 500 words
  • Middle grade and young adult novel openings, no early chapter books or picture books
  • Novel must be completed
  • prizes: critiques

Monday, January 4, 2010

Grab-A-Line Monday

What usually happens during holiday festivities, especially with family around? Tons of food, talks till late, bouts of nostalgic recounting of events (in as many version as there are people), and the blurring together of days till Mondays feel like Saturdays and Tuesdays are indistinguishable from Fridays.

That's why I missed last week's GALM.

But here it is again, the first installment of the new year. And since this is a new year (not quite a new decade yet: that event begins in 2011 I'm told,) when there is much reflection and planning, I thought I'd throw this in:

The overexamined life, Claire, it's not worth living.

--Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCann

These are the lines from the last two weeks:

Tricia shared the short opening line from Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves. The voice is a teen-age boy who finds himself able to move between other dimensions.

Once I got lost in my own house.

Nandini took something quite different, the dedication of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Salman Rushdie wrote it for his son while in hiding during the fallout from Satanic Verses. The acrostic spells ZAFAR, his son's name.
Z emble, Zenda, Xanadu:
A ll our dream-worlds may come true.
F airy lands are fearsome too.
A s I wander far from view
R ead, and bring me home to you.
What caught you this week?