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“How to Be a Bawse” by Lilly Singh

I admire you, Lilly Singh. You walk your name, Superwoman, well. You truly know How to Be a Bawse. As a direct result of reading your book I know 100% my life will be, is, different going forward. You spoke to me in the form of a picture book for adults. (Not that kind of adult.) I didn’t even know that’s what I needed to light a fire under my butt. I am not aware of everything you do, but I do know you do a lot and you got there by doing a lot. And you are one of the few out there who knows every human being has the capability to be a bawse, but not every human being is willing to put in the work to be a bawse. To fix this problem, you wrote a book, knowing full well that to some, reading a book from start to finish can be intimidating.

I’m sorry it took depression to get you to eventually become the kickass woman you are today, but I’m glad it made you appreciate colors in a whole new light. Your book cover is eye-catching to say the least and every single picture in the book grabbed my attention as well. Your 50 short chapters about 2-3 pages each divided the book up in parts that made it a breeze to get through, absolutely perfect for the A.D.D. mind. It is a book that avid readers can most certainly enjoy, but also one where if someone was not into reading, they would find it easy to follow and get through and not feel like reading is a chore. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if your book turned non-readers into avid readers.

Your comedic personality shines through and I am so glad you can back up every single truth bomb with an example or story from one of your many life experiences. You are without a doubt a funny motivational speaker as well. Every single chapter is relatable in some way and there is a lesson to be learned within each chapter. You cover just about every aspect of life from how to think to how to feel to how to talk to your parents to how to set deadlines to how to learn and grow from a break-up to how to drink water to how to be a good friend to how to invest in yourself to how to hustle harder. I mean I could go on and on, but you leave no stone unturned. Best of all, you do all this efficiently.

To top it all off, you give God the glory for all your success. You remind everyone that no matter what they believe in, even if it wasn’t God, there is something out there bigger than them that can give and can taketh away. I admire you, Lilly Singh. Like a Shakespearean sonnet. You are not only a bawse and show exactly how you got there, but you GET IT. Zoop!

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“Circe” by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller is my new favorite author. She makes me want to take a Classics class. I don’t even know what that class is officially called, but anything that has to do with Greek gods and I am in. From Circe I have learned the Greek gods are more like humans than we can imagine, but things like kindness and friendship is not something they are familiar with. And I hate to say this, but I think I have more in common with Circe than I’d like to admit because of who she is and what happens to her.

Getting exiled to an island due to transforming your sister into a six-headed monster is not my idea of a good time, but as a crazy writer introvert, I can relate to her life on the island in a weird way. Ever since my pre-teens I have dreamed of being on an island with no rules and being able to bring anyone on it as I like and if I had a boyfriend, do anything with him that I wanted and anything he wanted. Circe may be considered a witch, but there must be something therapeutic in working on her potions and spells and using different herbs and such like I find in writing or reading. She fell in love with the wrong man at the beginning of her journey and that caused her to not desire a commitment. I can understand that.

When men came to her island to rape her, she started turning all of them into what they are: pigs. While I cannot relate to that, I can understand why she would want to do that. In a world where women were devalued and not in control of anything, Circe was able to take control of her own life on her island and even find peace in being alone. She knew in her exile that she must still find a way to make things right with Scylla, her sister she turned into a monster, which is why she went in the end to find her. Things did not turn out the way she wanted, but she found the understanding she craved in Telemachus, Penelope’s son with Odysseus.

I admire Circe for her strength and independence. She may not do everything right, but she knew how to make the best of every situation throughout all her wild adventures. She also didn’t get everything she wanted, but she did get the understanding she desperately needed in the end. Isn’t that all we are ever asking for?

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“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller

I know why Madeline Miller won the Orange Prize for Fiction for her debut novel, The Song of Achilles. She took a ten-year risk to write about characters from an ancient Greek epic poem from the point of view of the underdog. She put together sentences like these ones: “His fingers touched the strings, and all my thoughts were displaced. The sound was pure and sweet as water, bright as lemons. It was like no music I had ever heard before. It had warmth as a fire does, a texture and weight like polished ivory. It buoyed and soothed at once. A few hairs slipped forward to hang over his eyes as he played. They were fine as lyre strings themselves, and shone.” (p. 34, The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller) She paints a picture of the perfect man who does not exist in real life, but makes every girl (and man) drool over him to be real anyway. She describes a world where gods and humans coexist, fighting over land and honor, the stuff of Kings working toward expanding their Kingdoms. She is a woman, yet is able to describe the admiration and appreciation of beauty in a man from the point of view of a man so realistically there is beauty in that that comes to life, jumping off the page into the life of the reader. Before this book I had no idea there were so many ways to describe a beautiful man or the intensity of the wrath of a goddess, feeling the doom as if Thetis were there in the room with me.

Yet despite all the love and beauty between one man and another, as well as eventually between a man and his best woman friend, Briseis, Miller manages to portray the barbarity of the war. Women are taken as prizes and bed-slaves. Virgin daughters are sacrificed to appease the anger of the gods. Skulls crack open when one man kills another. Here is where hubris is introduced for the first time and henceforth all tragedies moving forward includes an element of excessive pride, or “arrogance that scrapes the stars, for violence and towering rage as ugly as the gods.” (p.295, The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller) I could not have defined that word any better. Nobody could appreciate Achilles better than Patroclus could and for this Patroclus deserved his own admirer in the form of Briseis. This is the beginning of good triumphing over evil and love conquering all. This is also where dying in a war is more honorable for a prince than dying for any other reason. This is where gender roles are explored for the first time and experiencing ramifications of disobeying the Greek gods. The whole novel is a song in itself, singing of the depth of true love and the amount of blood a man will shed to protect those who he truly cares about, men and women alike. Not too shabby for an underdog like Patroclus.

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“Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis

Dear Rachel Hollis,

Thank you. You don’t know me, but thank you for reminding me that sometimes watching TV is bailing on myself. Thank you for sharing your love story; I have learned how to identify toxic people in my life and successfully walk away from them. I have never felt so empowered in all my life. Thank you for that strength I didn’t even know I had in me. Thank you for sharing your pregnant story; I have learned that all you need to do during that time is make sure you take care of the baby and then yourself. If I ever get pregnant, I will keep that in mind. Thank you for teaching me that my goals don’t have expiration dates. I love that even though it took you years to buy your very first Louis Vuitton bag, you were able to imagine your dream in such intricate detail so early on that it became a reality one day. I’m sorry you went through so much trauma losing your brother to suicide, but thank you for sharing the story to remind me that trauma does not define my life. Thank you for talking to me like I’m one of your girl friends and believing in me even though you don’t know me. Thank you for not being afraid to talk about God, yet being considerate of those who are a different faith than you. I admire you for that. Thank you for not sugar-coating any of your stories and literally letting me see the good, the bad, and the ugly of what happened to you as a mom, as a marathon-runner, as a teen, as an entrepreneur, and as a writer. I know you wear even more hats than that, but truly, you are amazing just the way you are and I hope you stay that way. Thank you for sharing that part of eating every Oreo in sight and the other part of drinking all the wine. You are so honest, raw, and real. My favorite type of book to read is the novel and while your book was not a novel, I read it like it was the kind of novel I can’t put down. You don’t know me, but I love you as my sister in Christ. You don’t know me, but I think you do.

Love,

Me

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a hodgepodge epiphany

I can’t remember if I’ve ever been inside a Hobby Lobby before today, but I did go inside one today, possibly for the first time ever. Wow. Seriously, wow.

I never knew the extent of craft projects a person could work on. It’s not just yarn and fabric either. There’s baking and planners and Christmas decorations and Marvel art and signs for everything. Each section you are likely to find a book with ideas for designs or projects or recipes or whatever and it got me thinking. No matter what you are interested in, there are a million things to learn about it or try. If it’s baking, there are a million designs and recipes you can try. If it’s knitting, there are a million projects you can work on to create just the thing you need or just the perfect gift for a friend or family member. If it’s books, there are a million and one books to read. If it’s math, there are a million and one problems to solve. If it’s engineering, there are a million and one cars you could design. You get the idea.

Each person could spend their whole life reading all the books or baking all the recipes or designing all the cars or solving all the math problems and they still wouldn’t get through all of them. So should we spend our whole lives on one thing hoping somehow we get through all a million and one or should we try to spend part of our lives working on 250,000 of one thing, another part of lives working on 250,000 of another thing and so on until we get through a million and one of a hodgepodge of things?

For those who are decisive, pick one thing. For those who are indecisive, be a journalist. That’s my two cents.  

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That Gnat

I spat out a gnat the other day after I came home from running outside and I caught another one in my eye. After I cleaned myself up and thought about how repulsive I felt, I thought back to that time when the Fam went down to Ocean City, MD and my eight-years-old curiosity got me entangled in a rip current of sorts. Whatever it’s called, I stood with my feet in the sand and watched as the water slowly pulled me further in. Then it pulled me all the way in, tossed me around in every which way until it finally spat me out like that gnat. I ended up swallowing a lot of bugs and when I got out, Grandma’s chuckling face greeted me. I didn’t understand it back then, thinking that she was laughing at me, but I bet it was amusing for her to watch her granddaughter tossed around in the water like a piece of tumbleweed. (And I don’t mean this in a sarcastic way at all. When I really think of the look on my grandmother’s face, it wasn’t laughing at me. She was enjoying herself seeing how much fun I was having.) Not to mention she couldn’t stop herself from laughing, trying to figure out how she was going to explain that one to my mother. Mom was there, mind you, but she just missed me getting sucked in by the water and was letting Grandma watch me for a few minutes. Years later I was retelling what happened that moment to Mom and she just laughed and explained Grandma’s reaction to me.

It’s funny, you know. That feeling you get when you do something that isn’t pleasant, yet it reminds you of something else that happened to you that’s similar, but in a pleasant way. It’s like pulling out a white rabbit memory from a black top hat. You completely forgot you had this memory. You were holding onto it for just the right moment, like when the whole world shuts down and the only thing safe you do outside without a face mask on is go running by yourself because at least it keeps your lungs strong, just in case. That’s this feeling. It’s called That Gnat.

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writer’s procrastination

My e-mail is cleaned up and I still don’t know what to write about. I go upstairs to moisturize my skin and I come back down to a blank page. My heart is racing from the double shot of espresso I had earlier in the morning and I still don’t know how to get scribbling. I’ve opened up my packages from Amazon finally, after waiting a couple of days due to THE virus, and still, nothing. I go back upstairs to brush and floss my teeth, but when I come back down it’s still nada on the screen. I watch an episode of one of my favorite TV shows and then come back and not a single letter materializes on my Word document. I go do the dishes and then look out the window for a little bit. A fly has attached itself on the glass and while it stares out into space, I scratch the glass with my finger. The fly rubs its front legs together like a scheming person. Oh how I wish I could scheme some words onto the page. I walk away again, this time accidentally bruising my knee and wondering if bruising my knee could ever happen on purpose. I mean, I suppose if I’m a parkour expert or something, but I imagine I wouldn’t pull any stunt to bruise myself on purpose, right? Nope, there’s no logical reason why getting a bruise would ever not be on accident, just like there’s no logical reason why I can’t seem to find the words to fill this page. As I am nursing my knee on the couch, I stare at a painting on the wall. It is one my parents had bought from my art teacher from a long time ago. My mom didn’t really like it, but I did because it had a butterfly in it, so she reluctantly got it. It was the beginning of me fighting for my right to be heard. If only this page could hear me in my time of need and spill some words out. Nothing. My eyes shift over to my bed. I yawn and really want my head to make friends with the pillow. My eyes agree. I think they are tired of looking at a lot of nothing, so my brain agrees as well. I remove my butt from the chair. I think I’m good to work on this writer’s block tomorrow…

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thinking outside the gular pouch

I was watching a video the other day of an egret eating a mouse when I came across several more of a crow trying to catch a duckling and a pelican with a duckling trying desperately to escape from its gular pouch. Then I saw some videos of geese fighting with swans, whether for territorial reasons or protecting their young or both, who really knows? After watching several of these, a thought occurred to me: Why can’t all birds just get along? Do they really have to eat each other? Do they really have to bully each other’s young to make a point that the lake belongs to them? It would be like if we had different species of human and some people ate other species of people. Can you imagine that?

People are people are people are people. But what if there were teeny tiny ones living in the grass and really big ones living in the mountains? We could eat the ones in the grass, but we would be eaten by the ones in the mountains. I don’t know if I would like a world like that. So how do we get all the birds to get along?

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feeling like a real writer at YALLSTAYHOME a.k.a. YALLWest

I have not felt more at home than I did this past weekend during YALLSTAYHOME. It is normally called YALLWest and would have taken place at Santa Monica, but due to the coronavirus, it became YALLSTAYHOME in the format of several consecutive Zoom meetings. Attendees could pick and register for the specific meeting they wanted to attend and registration could include entering to win some of the fun book giveaways if so desired. YALLWest is the sister festival to YALLFest and both festivals are celebrations of the reading and writing world, with a focus on YA authors. I registered for as many panels I was interested in, but due to my schedule, I was not able to attend all the ones I registered for. However, cross my fingers that because I registered, later I will get a link to each recorded session. Hoping for the best here, guys!

Anyway, the whole festival ran from Friday, April 24 – Sunday, April 26 and here are the panels I registered for: Fierce Friday: Create Your Own Fantasy Story, I Read YA@Home, Opening Ceremony + Keynote, Creativity in the Time of Corona, Modern Magic Worldbuilding, This American Experience, PM Keynote with Brandon Sanderson, YALLSTAYHOME Smackdown, Suckage is Part of Writing, Remember High School?, and Writing Empathy. There were so many others as well that I did not register for just because I did not have room in my schedule! There were so many authors there including Marie Lu, Julie Buxbaum, Leah Johnson, Marisa Kanter, Bill Konigsberg, Alex London, Samuel Miller, Zan Romanoff, Tara Sim, Angie Thomas, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, and F.C. Yee.

I have got to say, I want to read all of their books!! And…I felt like Belle when she opens her eyes for the first time inside Beast’s library. With each panel I learned all about each author’s background and writing journey and in the case of Brandon Sanderson, got to meet his pet macaw as well. With each panel I learned the struggle is real during this pandemic. Many authors feel that it is harder to write staying inside all the time. I learned stuff like you can build a world based off of your main character’s needs and it’s important to write your truth and teens go to novels as a form of escape, some making more friends with the characters in the books than in real life and there is a now a lot more representation from Asian authors to Muslim authors to queer authors to biracial authors. A lot of times someone becomes an author because they weren’t reading books with their race or culture represented, so they became the first to write that representation. That is awesome!

It was also awesome to finally experience the Smackdown. I had read about it beforehand and I really looked forward to it. The Smackdown did not disappoint: Dumbledope and Snape Dog were there for starters, and it kicked off with a Cards Against Humanity type of game and I only just learned how to play this game a couple months ago, pre-coronavirus and a Harry Potter version, no less. Let me tell you there is nothing more LOL than this game. There was another segment a lot like MTV Cribs and then a Pet Roast and finally a dance party at the end. Once coronavirus is over this festival is definitely on my top ten list of places want to go to for real.

Finally, noticing there are a lot more Asian authors out there now made me feel comforted and happy and giddy. I seriously could not stop smiling. Then I noticed how welcoming and inviting and safe these panels were. It didn’t matter what someone’s background was, everyone was open to listening to everyone’s stories and where they came from and how they got into writing. I realized writing = life. There’s going to be racism, suicide, queer life, privileged life, and everything else in between in stories and everyone accepts this as is. Many of the authors mentioned inspiration can come from anywhere and even talked about how writing can get so hard sometimes you end up playing a video game instead of writing sometimes. I could not agree more. I love how relatable each of the panels were and I truly felt right at home. I left the festival with a feeling I’ve known all along and just needed a little reminder: This, reading and writing and talking about reading and writing until the cows come home, is the community I belong in.

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NaNoWriMo results

This year I won NaNoWriMo two days early on November 28th. I’ve had a lot going on since then, so sorry I have not updated about it since winning. On the left is the shirt I got myself as soon as I won and a few days later I treated myself to a shake from Chick-fil-A. I can’t remember what exactly it was called, but it was a chocolate chip peppermint flavor. The name doesn’t matter. That shake was good and Chick-fil-A makes good shakes in general.

This was only my third time participating. I’ve won it twice so far. The first I completed a first draft of an entire novel. Last time I finished roughly ~14,000 words. This time I won, but I don’t have a complete first draft. What I’ve found to work really well is an outline before starting. That’s what I did the first time around. The second time around I decided to dive in with no sense of direction. This time around I didn’t have an outline, but I had an idea of where I wanted my story to go. I think the results show the outline works the best if you want a completed novel by the end of the challenge.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? How did it go?