Saturday, December 31, 2011

Courage for 2012

I hope that 2012 gives you courage:

-the courage to fail
-the courage to let go of those who disappoint you
-the courage to remodel and restart projects
-the courage to write
-the courage to keep going
-the courage to give others a chance
-the courage to love and be vulnerable

**2011 was saturated with the highest of highs and lowest of lows (I suppose that's how these bundles of time tend to be). I ended my first novel and some long standing friendships. I felt the uplifting current of true love, of a man who makes me want to be more than I thought I could be. I met giving people who are always willing to help. I traveled to northwest Africa and places in my mind I never thought existed. I formed concrete ideas about what kind of doctor, writer, and humanitarian I hope to be someday. I accepted this transitional, uncertain place I'm often in (it may simply be a part of me).

With each year, we add colors to ourselves, and I hope all of you get the happiness and success you deserve in 2012!


Thursday, December 29, 2011


In light of everyone sharing their resolutions for 2012, I wanted to share some quotes I found on pinterest (if you click on them, they'll be easier to read).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

what's on your reading list?

I just finished reading and raving over Alex Cavanaugh's CassaStar (it's delightful!); now it's on to Talli Roland's Build A Man! I'm so lucky to have blogging friends who write novels.

Other items on my current reading list:

-The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg White Clayton
-Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
-The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

What's on your reading list?

Friday, December 23, 2011

on falling in love

Do you remember the first time you fell in love---with someone, something?

I've done a lot of looking back over this break and realized that I've used that phrase often throughout my life, unaware of how fluid it is.

When I was younger, I was that little girl who always had a book. My parents tried to make me play outside with the other "normal" kids but I found solace in characters. I didn't know it at the time but my lifelong romance with words had already begun. The current remained---throughout my diary entries, position as high school newspaper editor, and swelling book collection---but I didn't realize that it all stemmed from the same love.

When my relationship ended with my first "boyfriend", (I put that in quotes because we had the say-hi-in-between-middle-school-classes kind of relationship), I thought I was in love because of the pain I felt. Now I know that I mistook youthful pangs of failure for love. Truthfully, I mistook a lot of things---jealousy, insecurity, friendship--- for romantic love in the years that followed. It's only since I've been with Samir that I know love; not just the process of climbing into or out of it but swaying with it. Love is something that now augments every facet of my life, something that I fit into, something that makes things easier and despite its irrationality, still makes so much sense.

So I suppose that for some situations, love can be there all along while during others, it can be a destination and journey rolled in one.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

yes, another Audrey post

I've written about my love for Audrey before. The other night, I saw her in the movie Funny Face. In this role, she was bookish, vulnerable, and flawed. My sister and I became lost in the romantic musical and I was reminded of why I'll always love these movies. They are as charming as they are innocent, as whimsical as they are wholesome. I can't think of a movie today that compares to any of the ones from this decade.

As my sister said, "They just don't make 'em like they used to."

Monday, December 19, 2011


Do you ever find yourself oscillating between two extremes? Fear and confidence? Apathy and love?

Last week, thanks to finals, all I could do was live at school, study, and eat unhealthy food. Since I've been home, all I can do is sleep, watch television, and eat unhealthy food.
Perhaps I need these days of "nothing" to recover from my days saturated with "somethings." I think I make the mistake of piling too much on my plate and then allowing it all to drown me.

I'm realizing it boils down to one flaw: I suck at doing nothing. It's an art form that I need to cultivate. When I'm in front of the television, I feel like I should be writing. When I'm perusing blogs, I feel like I should be studying. There's always something.

Stress, like beauty, might be in the eye of the beholder. Learning how to say no, not caring as much about what other people are going to say, and devoting myself to causes I believe in can all help me live in that space between extremes. A space I can make a home in.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Query Letter Tips

1. Don't start with a generic question, like "What would you do if everything you believed in disappeared?"

2. Research the agencies before hand. Most of them have websites and will specifically list what they are and are not looking for. It also helps to include how you found them and what other books of theirs caught your interest.

3. Work on making a good hook (or intro sentence). Get a fresh set of eyes to look over it. Work on it again. That first sentence is often the most difficult.

4. Study jacket flaps of novels you enjoy to see how they hooked you in a few hundred words or less. Using specific descriptions helps. For example, I initially described my protagonists's life as "strict" and "planned". When I took that out and instead mentioned her "compulsive list making", it made for a tighter sentence.

5. Don't include secondary characters and plotlines! Only your protagonist should be saving the day.

6. Include the word count and specific genre.

P.S. I'll be resuming regular writing and non-writing posts tomorrow! Sorry I was absent the past week. Finals and other projects kept me caffeinated and cranky.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

If I Knew Then What I Know Now Part 3....

Today, I'm a quarter century old. So, since I can officially say that I am at the right age for a quarter life crisis, I thought it'd be fun to reflect and do another "if I knew then" post. Here it goes:

1. Sift through old diary entries. Take that scared girl who writes them and push her away from herself, so she can become who she needs to be.

2. When striking up a conversation, ask more about the person and speak less about yourself. Everyone appreciates it when someone takes interest in them.

3. The things that your mother pushes you for might have more to do with her than you. They're always in your best interest.

4. Stop comparing any part of your life to anyone else's. We really are on different paths and that's the whole point.

5. It's great to do well in school but don't let it define you. Be careful about the actions that define you.

6. Don't stay in a relationship because it's good enough. Sometimes there's nothing more lonely than good enough.

7. Make tiny changes for a big difference. Wake up a few minutes earlier. Eat whole grains. Walk.

8. Your emotions, the very things that will allow you to connect with others, may often become hindrances if you aren't careful. Remember that it won't help you to be too sensitive.

9. Everyone has the right to their own opinion. Everyone is allowed to love or hate you.

10. Don't give up because things don't work out. You'll spend years studying to be a doctor so why would becoming a writer be any different? There's always space for improvement and sometimes, rejections are there to tell you that.

P.S. Talli Roland's novel, Build A Man, is launching today! Congrats, Talli! I'm so excited to read and review :)


Picture from here

As much as I admire the elegance and pearl-wearing grace of Audrey and Jackie O, I also have a soft spot for women like Cleopatra. The kind who may sometimes be a bit too much, who have confidence evaporating from their pores, and are bold enough to be disliked. The kind who reshape the world with their disposition.

Monday, November 28, 2011

If I knew then what I know now Part 2...

Given the chance, what would you tell your old self?
Here are some things that crossed my mind this week...

Value the people in your life but make peace with cutting certain people out. It's not a friendship if it's draining. Toxicity is contagious.

2. Lists are important but the things that need to get done will get done. Don't obsess about things that don't deserve your obsession.

3. Hiding behind loose, baggy clothing doesn't make you look more intelligent. It shows that you aren't valuing yourself. There's a difference between comfort and complacency.

4. It's okay to enjoy every piece of chocolate from a bag of Doves. Don't allow them to pave a guilty road.

5. Drink a lot of water and eat fiber each day. And find the best moisturize for your skin.

6. Be careful with judgment. It will disappear when you're in terrible predicaments.

7. Sometimes going further away from the people you love---family, friends---will bring you closer to them. Everyone needs space to prosper.

8. You'll never regret traveling to an unfamiliar corner of the world alone. Take many solitary bus rides through foreign countries.

9. Cultivate a taste for good food and wine. Your body will thank you for it.

10. Remember it's okay to act your age. You'll waste a lot of time looking forward and planning.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

writers can excite us in many ways

Have you ever wondered what makes something great? How does a piece of work compel us to call it "amazing" or "okay" or "worthy"? Well, I've learned that it can't be whittled down to a single trait. Over this break, I've lost myself in a book by Nicole Krauss: The History of Love. For anyone who hasn't read her work and is looking for a new author, she is worth checking out. While I was happily anti social and curled up on a chubby armchair, I asked myself what made her novel compelling and how other authors can do that for their works.

With an engaging plot

Literary fiction is known for "slower" plots than its commercial counterpart, but as my blogging friend Margo once aptly put it, literary fiction packs in a lot of "micro tension". In The History of Love, the plot jumps around in time and the protagonist also shifts; however, what there isn't in continuous page turning events there is in mental conflict and mystery.

With gorgeous, gossamer words

"He learned to live with the truth. Not to accept it, but to live with it. It was like living with an elephant. His room was tiny, and every morning he had to squeeze around the truth just to get to the bathroom. To reach the armoire to get a pair of underpants he had to crawl under the truth, praying it wouldn't choose that moment to sit on his face. At night, when he closed his eyes, he felt it looming above him. ”

With characters who are easy to empathize with

Leo, the main character, has experienced a lot of loss when it comes to his family.We may not live in the same time period as him but all of us can relate to the feelings of love, hope, and heartbreak.

Friday, November 25, 2011

belated gratitude list

Modern Family marathons with my modern and conservative family
Men's styled button downs
All of the unread books waiting to be picked up
Grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches
Shopping bags being stacked in the backseat, wrinkled with possibility
Sheets warm from the dryer
Warmth of cinnamon
The New York Times homepage
Black Friday madness
Giant mugs
Fluffy socks
My rebellious sister and introspective brother; my driven father and vivacious mother
The spices of chai and peppermint as they hit my tongue
Confusion's ability to guide me in surprising directions
The hazy intersections between writing and medicine; intimacy and independence

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the importance of being selfish

"Yes" isn't just a single syllable. It's a slippery slope, an unquenchable hunger. This past year, one thing I've been able to do is say no more often. It's been a challenge in many ways. For once, I have to explain myself. "Oh, you can't do it? Why? You always can." I understand. I've built the space for these expectations and am now filling it with an "I can't" instead of what it's used to. But I've realized that time is too easily depleted and that each of us is entitled to our own piece of it. When "yes" comes in the way of adequate sleep and sanity, it's time for a shift.
So while I am thankful for so many things---great family, friends, and food---today, I'll place my gratitude on the power of "no."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writing the beginning of the end

Since I posted about the elements of the beginning, I thought I'd include a nice list of what should be in the "dark moment" or that crucial part before the ending.
by Alicia Rasley

The 5 Ds of the Dark Moment:

Dilemma-- the situation has disintegrated around the protagonist, and all seems lost.

Desperation-- the protagonist flails about, considering the most extreme escapes from the dilemma.

Despair-- the protagonist surrenders to despair, certain that there is no way out.

Deconstruction-- in the calm that follows despair, the protagonist begins to analyze the situation, deconstructing needs, values, and options.

Decision-- the protagonist decides what can be discarded, and what's most essential to be kept, and determines a course to achieve that.

Inspiration in pictures


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What should happen in the beginning?

November means that the blogging world is hushed. Too hushed for those of us who aren't doing NaNoWriMo. But since I'm sure so many of you are working on your white, crisp starts, I thought I'd include a list of components for the beginning of a novel. (I got this from Charlotte Dillon's website).
I've read sites that recommend the "beginning" to occupy the first 25% of your book.

Starts on the brink of change.

Introduces the protagonist and provides a glimpse of his/her character, goal, and conflict.

Sets up the world of the book.

Shows "before" of the world and the protagonist, what they're like before the story events.

Hints at backstory, or at least indicates there is some relevant backstory.

Initiates the situation of the story.

Shows the inciting incident that starts the plot.

Sets up the major story questions (external, internal, interactional) and probably poses the external story question.

Initiates the external conflict.

Hints at the internal conflict.

Shows the start point of the central relationship.

Ends with the inevitability of change.

Monday, October 31, 2011

just a thought on patience

It's important to be patient when you know something's ahead and it's just a matter of time. But what about with those uncertain things? I think they may test patience in an entirely different way because we don't always know what we're even being patient for. A rejection? A setback? A necessary restart?

Think about it: you send a query or an invitation of any kind. You feel it work through the wires of cyberspace as it lodges itself into the home of another. But what control is there beyond that? You know where you're sending it but do you really know where it'll go?

Sometimes it's a blessing to hand over control, to know when to surrender and relish your limits. Sometimes the universe is demanding that you exchange the fear of uncertainty with the strength of patience.

If there's one thing my early twenties has shown me so far, it's that I often have trouble exhibiting certain virtues when they are the most necessary.

Monday, October 24, 2011

questions that helped during revisions

Revisions are the equivalent of a long run for me. The difficult part is doing it. The results afterward? So worth it! Then comes the itch; you know, the one that keeps it on your mind, convinces you that there's always improvement to make. It's an addictive tug of endorphins, a back and forth pendulum for the perfectionist.

I decided to look at other novels in depth to help my own revisions. (I studied three books out of my genre and three within.) Here are some of the things that I jotted down:

1. We've read that each chapter should contribute to the plot but from what I read, that isn't enough. And how about those books where we have skipped through the sagging middles just so they end already?
The main questions I asked (and answered yes to, when reading good books) was:
If I skip this chapter, will I miss an event that happened to the character? Will I be confused later on in the book because something crucial occurred here and only here? Can I write in a single sentence what this event was in each chapter?

2. Laura, my amazing critique partner, helped me understand the importance of tension. I had to do a lot of reading and revising to understand what that truly meant. These questions have helped me so far:

The character has choices to make. What will she lose if she goes for A over B? In other words, what is at stake for her?
Are there hints to secrets or unexplained plots that make me want to keep going?
Does the reader feel pressure and conflict pushing the character in a certain direction? Is there a push and pull (even if it's all internal)?

3. Last is the crucial element of change. Even if the world of the character stays the same, there has to be something that changed. Otherwise, what's the point of the novel?
For this, I looked at the first two and last two chapters of the books.
Are the characters in the same relationships?
Did the change come as a steady progression throughout the novel or did the ending seemed rushed and eager to tie up any loose knots?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

just to share...

"I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls"
-Audrey Hepburn

Also for your viewing pleasure,

-An article about how some writers got their starts and the role New York played:

-"Art is making truth out of lies":
a video using digital magic to make a lovely point

Monday, October 10, 2011

Using a love for books and words as decoration

In my new apartment, I wanted to incorporate my love for words, books, writing, etc. in a way that added to the decoration without being overwhelming.

Typewriter keys in a picture frame (until I get a real one someday!)

Gah, sorry for the glare! The New Yorker magazine has some gorgeous and meaningful covers (check out this one in memory of Steve Jobs). I found a Jane Austen cover that matched the rest of my apartment and blew it up to 8 X 10.

I found these gorgeous candles at Target and paired them with black candlesticks from Michaels. The picture is from my last plane ride leaving New York City. I tinted it pink to match the other splashes of color in my living room (my color scheme is black, white, and pink).

Blurry picture but hopefully you can see that I used a thin stack as a support for a photo. It looks wonderful if you happen to have books that are in the same color palette!

During my next break, I hope to sew a quote on a pillow cover or two and frame a Sylvia Plath poem.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

what's in your workspace?

I love learning about what keeps people motivated. Over the years, one correlation I've picked up is that between the clutter in my desk and mind. That happens a lot in writing: a bleeding between life and the product. In a matter of seconds, my motivation can go from steadfast to paper thin, able to disappear with a strong enough gust of wind.
Here are some things that keep it intact:

Chocolate-no explanation necessay
Post Its- for list fanatics everywhere
Sharpie pens-they won't bleed through! they write well!
Note cards- I love using different colors to jot down details about characters, scenes, etc.

Starbucks coaster- Two years ago, I saw a man making these in the West Village. The weather had an impending coldness to it, as though it was telling me things were about to change.
I picked the coaster up as a promise to finish every writing endeavor I started. It's more a symbol than anything else. Of course, it's faithfully endured the weight of many cups of coffee!

What helps you get to work?

P.S. That fat book in the back is Jeff Herman's Guide to Publishing. It has listings of agents and publishers. I highly recommend it to anyone in the query stage!