Saturday, April 25, 2009

Like most writers, odd but not original

“This will either make me sound completely odd, or terribly interesting,” I wrote as a comment on Nathan Bransford blog answering the question, 'You Tell Me: Where Do You Write?'

“I love the hospital,” I chattered. “The new tower they built hosts state of art wi-fi, a three-sided glass fireplace, a tumbling rock fountain right outside soaring 100 ft high windows, comfortable chairs, plugs in the floor, and if you’re a clod, free coffee from the surgery waiting room, or if more civic minded an espresso bar. I hope this wins me a prize! I would love to say, I got an award for being the most peculiar…”

I've never wanted to be normal, normal is boring. Now, I’ve discovered I'm not even weird, at least two of the 441+ commenters write in cemeteries.

My comment, short of clever, good voice and humor—and there were some dandies: closet writers, those burrowed in basement corners, Ulysses orchestrating scantily-clad Hegelians—only served to shout, I WANT ATTENTION. Why, oh why, do I continue to embarrass myself on an AGENT'S blog?

In the heat of the moment while crafting that careless tidbit, I did consider Bransford's fans might offer interesting fodder, and I chose the comment forwarding option. THAT was a mistake. Made my gmail crash. Several times. I obviously can’t handle the onslaught of a Nathan-Bransford-stampede, and gads, sometimes I wish I were both talented and brave, instead of merely fearless. I’m rethinking all online presence strategy. Let me repeat that, and say it like I mean it, “I'M RETHINKING ALL ONLINE PRESENCE STRATEGY.” This is where I pretend.

Before I slink off into anonymity, I'd like to give a go at compiling the data, and for the briefest moment, this moment, I would like to bask in the comfort of belonging, and mirror our shared places.

Places I write (and edit) in common with commenters on Nathan Bransford's blog:
  • At home
  • Bookstore
  • Butt in chair
  • Classroom (writing class, duh)
  • Closet, with the best description and quote coming from Eric Rohr, “Because, really, if you're going to write in a closet, best to do it like you mean it.”
  • Cracks of the day
  • During meetings
  • In bed
  • In my head, but nothing like Laurel
  • In the setting
  • In my sleep
  • In the shower
  • Into handheld recorder
  • In church
  • Kitchen table or counter
  • Library
  • Lunch break at work (and work was generously supplied--hello? Does your boss read?)
  • Middle of a family gathering
  • Office with French doors, aka den, study
  • On a long walk
  • Orthodontist, or in any number of places waiting for kids
  • Outside on the grass, in a park, on the porch
  • Places that serve coffee
  • Places that serve food
  • Places that serve free wi-fi
  • Places with pen and paper, when laptop or desktop not within reach
  • Room with a view, any room without a view
  • Vehicle parked
  • Vehicle moving
Are writers in control of said moving vehicles?
No comment.

Writing places I do not have in common with Nathan Bransford blog commenters:
  • 1929 bungalow in the middle of Kansas
  • 1959 Airstream trailer using a 1924 Underwood (thought my 23' Gulfstream would be original, but Chuck H I'll match you Underwood for Underwood)
  • 36' sailboat
  • Art studio
  • Bathroom wall
  • Business class, first class cabin, or any other seat in an airplane, haven't flown'll come to me
  • Canning room
  • Cemetery
  • Conservatory in a suburb of Edinburgh near the zoo
  • Dark confines of a prison as a correctional officer
  • Dealership during the night shift
  • Deck (my deck is attached to back of house with no access from house or yard, kinda floats out there, used to have a door from the garage, but that was partially reduced by kicking out the bedroom, and really, that's a REMODELING story for a future post, and then there's the deck I want to build off the den, but that requires taking a window out, sawing through the brick to fit in a slider....requiring not only a skilled laborer, but an iron constitution on my part to venture into any future remodeling projects)
  • Dining room (all eight chairs on top of my table, I’ll explain future post. Haha, you really think I will, don't you?)
  • Etherpad
  • Family room, play room (I try not to go downstairs)
  • Gym (?! Sure, I've heard of those)
  • Hotel room in Saigon (unless you count Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong)
  • In front of TV (have 'em, don't watch 'em)
  • Living room floor, sofa, recliner, comfy chair, or coffee table (living room forbidden zone)
  • Living room of terminally ill patient, living room of best friend--may or may not be home
  • Looking at bamboo, or other numerous land or seascapes
  • Near any power plug
  • Old barn
  • Places with cats, homes without dogs
  • Pub, tavern, or noisy crowded biker bar (are there quiet biker bars?)
  • Streetcar
  • Train
  • Vacation house
  • While getting a pedicure
  • Writing studios at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis
  • Zee-zus, who's going to admit they write on the potty? Carey_Corp and Ceadrick, of course. Or at the bowling alley like kaseee? Come on, you know who you are.

What no one mentioned:
  • Dark alleys
  • And speaking of dark places, my latest discovery, a far corner of the warehouse vicinity of the commercial printing press, but admittedly, Jared's correctional facility thrumps all dark zones.
Other influences...
Jury's still out for me on this one, but PurpleClover had some provocative thoughts on why music should be tuned out, “Silence makes you work harder at evoking an emotion.”

Loved Jannette Johnson's ineedalaptopineedalaptopineedalaptop...” a helpful writing mantra. And Jill Lynn's poetic rendition of, “In a small town, in my small home, in a small room, on a small desk.” Had to read Yunaleska's twice, 'asus?' Okay, sure.

And just wondering...

Any correlation, you know, cause and affect operating here, when Kat Mayo reported... “I USED to write at work, when I still had a job.”

And for my final attempt to claim my 'peculiar prize,' I submit proof of my medical center writing adventures.
Water feature and lobby.

Pictured above, dear friends, is the girl who led me to this gorgeous retreat. Only she and I came in through another entrance, as pictured below, and I wrote all about it here..."Really, my kid's fine. Me? Well, I'm a mom." Seriously, if I could re-write that piece I would. Articulate, coherent, comprehensible? Cough. Check it out. It was a confusing, frightening morning.

My daughter went BLIND.

I went insane.

I think I captured THAT quite well.

Oh, and from their web-site the medical center states, "[redacted] is providing wireless connectivity in this facility as a public service." Which, actually, would include me, as in legally, it's okay, and that picture at the top of the post is the view from my wide bottom chair. Man, they must have been planning for some heavy weights when they purchased these. Zee-zus!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kicking it with the mayor

Amusing how life imitates art. In the second book of the Pearl Series (currently manuscript), Kerri Ann informs Lee she’s flying from Fresno to Vancouver for the mayor’s campaign kickoff. In real life it unfolded tonight and I trounced through the crowd to make sure I captured cool pictures for the blog. Yes, I’m perfectly capable of embarrassing myself in any social venue. Just give me a camera and two hundred toes standing too close together.


Falling over three people to get a good shot.


Got it.

Confession: life not really imitating anything here. So, let me try that again. “Amazing how life imitates existence. Here’s some amusing art with life.” (Note white blob next to mayoral candidate).

That’s right, I didn’t fly up from California, more like lead-footed-it over from library, swooped in just as the speeches drummed the crowd for support, and not that inspiring, even so plenty of time for a donation envelope to be stuffed in my hand, and wasn’t that the point, and one piece of crusty, cream-cheesed bread dotted with mushrooms. Haute cuisine is not my thing. Chicken and jo-jo’s, cheese smacked between white bread, bowl of rice with butter, umm budder. We really go for the good stuff at our house.

BTW, I bypassed the wine. Not that much of an imbiber when one glass lulls me into thinking it’s nap time, but I did grab a cup of joe to make sure I’d be able to stay up past bedtime and finish the bloggggggggggggg. Goll. Lee. Hope I get to sleep tonight. Excuse me, I’m getting that wine.


For a fine campaign speech...

insure everyone else is boring.

I’m kidding!

Okay, I’m not.

Highest ranking guest award goes to Mike Gregoire, the governor’s husband. Custom suit, carefully tanned, smart, snappy remarks, and heartfelt greeting from the Guvnah. Yes, our state is steered by a woman. Watch out world. Oh, right, you already heard us coming, we were that fifth state to give women the right to vote. We’re celebrating that next year, 100th anniversary and all.

Least interesting guest award goes to my neighbor Bob, prez of the community college. I can visit with him any old time. I just NEVER see him in the neighborhood. Worse, I think I tailgated him home. I truly wish I was more polite.

Interesting how ‘Pollard’ on fire fighter posse shirts makes me think of pollen and color combo makes me think of bees…

Also in attendance, a half dozen guests I dined with exactly one week ago with Kweisi Mfume (read here). I need to widen my circle, half these people are old, like twice my age. Oh, haha, that old thing, she’s me! And this wine sucks. It’s left over from my birthday. Now, that was fun. (No, it wasn’t).

Politics. Can’t see myself ever running for office, but then again, no one’s chasing me for anything but my vote, and furthermore, I think mayor’s position only pays $25k a year. That’s almost forced community service.

Therefore, to wrap this up I’d like to make a toast with the last remnants of the Pinot Gris. Cheers to those who serve, who dodge the daily bullets of criticism from all corners, who navigate hyper-vigilant reporters hovering, hoping you’ll say something stupid, to people who plunk down cash so good people can afford to run for office and starve on local politician pay. To friends who support friends.

Yes, Royce, my friend, I’m voting for you. And as soon as I finish this wine I’m pounding that sign into the yard, or better yet, I’ll get Bob to do it. He probably knows how to handle himself around a hammer. Right now I think the most I should handle is nap.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'll never vote for you again

I had dinner last Wednesday with five-term Congressman Kweisi Mfume, he was part of the Washington State University Annual Public Affairs Lecture Series. I work in the media. I get some perks. Mfume (pronounced Em-FU-Me) advised us not to merely rant among ourselves about what is wrong with our government, after all ours is a representative form of government, if we criticize aren’t we merely criticizing ourselves? He urged us to write our elected officials and state, ‘I will not vote for you again, unless you address and fix [insert your issue].’

I could have cheered. I am sick of everyone’s politics, the complaints, the jibes at the ‘haves’ vs. ‘the haves not,’ the waves of protest on waste, the gripes on misuse of power, the hoards of raised fists and angry red faces. I assume you vote, if not, why? If you haven’t communicated with your elected official, somebody who could actually do something, why are you tossing your gripes at me? Really, we’ve both got better things to do.

I seldom reveal my party of choice, and although I have friends who have run for political office, I have declined to fully participate in their campaigns. The only kick-off I will attend this year is for the mayor. Personal debt. When my nine-year-old daughter learned that by logistics of her birth, (she was born in Asia), she could never be president, she decided, quite rightly, that she should be mayor. Now, that is the kind of kid I want to raise, one who adjusts direction based on available options. No complaints. I’ve seen her face many anthills, sit down and cry, and thought I would go mad. This was progress. I called the mayor and asked if he’d offer her political advice. He did. Stopped the wheels of city government to encourage a child. My child. That earns special favors in my world.

I reflected on my daughter when Mfume challenged, “Whites and Caucasians, I hope you will understand the indignities when we, who are not, are treated with disrespect. And those of you who are of African-American descent, get beyond blame and get beyond excuses and once again start doing for ourselves.” Yes, daughter, I will help however I can to provide resources, but you must do for yourself. “The time is now for a diligent, united effort. We will do better to mark the change month by month, season by season, and be part of the change,” Mfume said, and challenged us for better understanding collectively, with expectations adjusted for that which we know will not change overnight.

“Obama’s America is really ours,” he stated. “The issue of race and skin color still exists in American and abroad. Less than 10% of legislators are of Latino, Hispanic, Black or Asian descent. Women less than 22%.” I’m slightly uncomfortable quoting stats without research to back it up and did a gander around the internet to see if I could confirm. According to redOrbit, “Latino political power hasn't yet caught up to the population's growing numbers.” How can Latinos, Hispanics Blacks and Asians say they have a representative form of government? It’s simple. They vote. And when all else fails, they run for office. I could spend hours searching further, but I did find this on women from the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Women hold 24.3 percent of legislative seats in the 50 states, a ratio that has increased by less than 4 percentage points over the past fifteen years.” That’s close enough for me to include his quote, and pinches familiarly close to the static state of my income, but like I said I work in the media, we are severely challenged at the moment.

Mfume’s lecture "Race, Class and Economic Recovery in Obama's America," brought him around to talking about money, “Economically, after years of congress acquiescence to ‘Robin Hood in reverse’ the have not’s have less. We fund schools where students are promoted based on age, size, and athletic ability, where drugs more available than textbooks.” I won’t accept that. I won’t. I witnessed a drug exchange right outside the school doors, a car swooping in, a hand through the window, a shuffle, and a quick escape. I pulled back into parking, marched into the school, tracked down the vice-principal and sent him off to review recorded tapes. We have got to stop, even when we’re busy, and do something, even if we think it won’t help. Guaranteed doing nothing changes nothing.

“The salient issue facing us is clear,” Mfume trumpeted, “We are America. We created our America. We get out of this hole the same way we got in, one shovel at a time.” Admittedly, Mfume was not the most charismatic speaker, he spent the first fifteen minutes warming the audience up with toastmaster jokes, then wandered around some very good points, and in retrospect, I think if I was in a hole I wouldn’t want a shovel to get out, I’d be looking for a ladder, a rope with a person strong enough to pull me out, or smart enough to get that ladder, whichever comes to mind first, I’m not picky.

“We’ve seen an economic collapse that we have never seen before. We are doing the right things by shoring up financial institutions. This support was done to prevent the total collapse of institutions with enormous economic exposure for everyone. This was the right thing to do, good first step to restore confidence in the global market.” Institutions run by white guys, in an America created by white guys, who have their lifestyles and retirements at risk--and by association all of ours--messed everything up. Hell, how did they pull me down into their hole? Right. Where was MY letter to my congressman, my representative, mayor, or editorial page of the local newspaper? All in my head.

“The best social program is a job, but a job is not enough.” Here, here! I have never wanted a job, always desired a career, something to build my reputation on, a role in business in our society to perform with pride. “Full employment was never the goal,” Mfume reminded. “After all, slavery was full employment. The goal is full development, not a trash heap of people inside a crumbling infra-structure where entrepreneurial pursuits stagnate. Generations before never accepted things the way they were. Why would we?”

“Racism and sexism is pronounced. It’s cost our society years and talent. Your assets put you in a different category, the right assets we think about you differently.” That theme is what one of the characters in my book is all about. Jae-Chun Lee is driven to succeed in America, not for the money, but for the respect. His wife Kerri Ann tells us:

I paused in the middle of the office and listened to Fats Waller shuffle through Your Feets too Big. Lee glanced at me on his way to the copy machine and caught me staring at my shoes: non-descript, cheap, college leftovers.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“This guy keeps singing, ‘I hate you ‘cause your feets too big.’ I can think of a lot of things you’d dislike somebody for, but not the size of their feet.” I thought that would make him chuckle, contagious jazz humor and all, but it didn’t. “Lee, do people treat you differently because you’re Asian?”


“I’m sorry.”

“Money helps.” (A Single Pearl, Chapter 7)

How long does it take an immigrant to figure out that money buys respect? Not long. How long does it take the poor? Even less. In this scene Kerri Ann's father has died and she explains her reluctance to share her childhood with Lee.

“Why didn’t you want me to come?” he spoke into the night.

The child from nothing, tumbled through rocks not richness, blown to dust under the biggest sky on earth. No one’s vision of promise. “You’d want a tour,” I began slowly. “What would I show you?” A tear trickled down my cheek christening my disgrace. “We were so poor. I was the bottom of the social ladder. My circumstances made me very…unattractive.” I wiped the tear away, evidence of adolescent anguish. “I didn’t want you to see me—like that.” (A Single Pearl, Chapter 8).

Mfume is right, we waste a lot of talent and throw away productive years because of how we view the poor, view women, and view people of color, but I say worse than that, it is how we force them to see themselves.

“Classism, perpetuates the divisions we’ve been fighting against since this nation was created. It’s deep and prevailing, but benign acceptance of sexism may even be badder than that." Yeah, he said badder. "Sexism, as a sublet of race and classism remains more dominant in almost every part of our country. Surveys showed Americans were more apt to vote for a black man than a white woman, even though both equally qualified. There are those of us who know better, and we’ve got to engage conversations. My brothers, we still have some issues when it comes to woman. Locker room talk. We’ve got to address it. We’ve got a responsibility now as men to address it.” For someone who's felt the sting of that dehumanizing commarderie chatter I can only agree.

“The enemy of truth is the myth, because it is pervasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the conclusion of others, hold fast to the comfort and not the discomfort of truth. Slavery was allowed to exist for 200 years, legally. During Red Summer more lynchings occurred than any other year. Human cargo was denied safe harbor when America sent Jewish men and women back to Hitler. Japanese Americans were locked up behind bars by our Amercia, because we thought they’d forget their loyalty to their new homes. Islamics were deemed to be a threat to the nation that they loved after 911. We have spawned an ugly alien nation instead of producing harmony.

“Truth in its purest form is not a polite tap on the shoulder. True education is a debt you will never be able to repay. I refuse to stand mute when opportunities are denied. I urge you to not stand mute either. You’re afraid to try anymore? We still have a shining powerful dream of change, given by shining powerful God, don’t be told to wait for tomorrow, or the next generation, or the next election. Now is the time and today is the day.”

I'm never going to get real excited about politics, but you and I can do this -- tell our elected officials why we will not vote for them again. We can Support full development of our talent pool. If you’re a man that means curb derogatory talk about women. Don’t underwrite something that will harm those who you love most, your wife, your daughter, your sister, your niece, because it will. If you allow it today, it will touch her tomorrow. Guaranteed. If you're a woman, live in a manner that demonstrates possibilities. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and find resources for your children. Ask for what they need, ask for what you need.

Allow what is unique within all of us to emerge and excel, yup, make room for my daughter in city hall. Let's not waste anymore years or deny ourselves the best America ever because we disqualify based on the outside without seeing the truth, that color, sex or money does not define the person, nor does it define my child.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Celebrities who've met ME! 7.0

To commemorate the release of Breaking Up is Hard to Do, the second book in the beloved Miracle Girls series and the subsequent FREE party, I'm celebrating by sharing a brief high school adventure featuring my best friend, a politician, arguably the third most powerful in state history, later 'de-officed' for...let's say misconduct, a boy band, and an obligatory reference to beer.

The world is full of interesting people. Some of the best have met ME


Bob Packwood
Bob Packwood tracked me down at a political rally. My best friend in high school, Carol Wright, heard there would be cute guys at this event, complete with a boy band, and we went for it. We waited so long for Packwood to arrive that when he finally did show it was 100% anti-climatic for us.

Kids swarmed The Suit and The Second Carol and I hung on the fringes until pushed forward. He answered questions from students who really cared about politics. I had no idea what they clamored about and stifled a yawn. Packwood turned and directed his piercing blues at me and waited expectantly for me to say something, maybe ask a deep question, something well thought out. Yes, there was something I wanted to know.

"Hi, um, when's the band going to play?" I asked, ecstatic to speak with someone who could actually force the band to begin.

He stared at me momentarily, like unbelievably, blank stare and moved to the next kid. Carol and I ditched the event. Another successful high-school outing...that and that along-the-river kegger we went to that the cops broke up.

For those interested in the Senator's issues, here's the background, or better yet, read something fun, how about Breaking Up is Hard to Do by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Celebrities who've met ME! 3.0

—The world is full of interesting people. Some of the best have met me—


Richard Burton stumbled on me while on a movie set in Vienna, Austria. After class I strolled back from the university and noticed frantic activity in front of a popular cafe, thought it intriguing, hurried to my dorm and returned with my camera intent on capturing this new adventure.

People. Gads, acres of people, staff, actors, extras in period costumes, cameras, lights, cords snaking through every open space. I inched my way forward, trying not to be recognized, reluctant to be mobbed.

The crowd grew, mingled, then tensed, impatient to get any actor's attention, eventually wandered off. The actors, of course, held cool demeanors and performed brilliantly. I pulled my camera to my eye and pulled it away in shock.

To insure I noticed him, Richard Burton had positioned himself directly in front of me. He sat in a chair, chatted to his neighbor, and laughed and in an effort to hide his nervousness in my presence. The ultimate talent, he knew enough to stay out of my way and remain focused on his work. I snapped a few shots to commemorate his professionalism.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

How an Asian runs his business: focused

Reading a book out loud twelve minutes at a time equals a year in the life of an editing author. We're at Chapter 10 (out of thirty, give or take a prologue, an epilogue). Lee fires one of his young brokers, it’s as bad as any expected. He has high standards and he’s not nice when an employee doesn’t measure up. Kerri Ann, of course, believes it has something to do a brief exchange she had with the young man at the office during Lee's Saturday training.

There’s some mayhem at the house when she wakes in the middle of the night and doesn’t realize a couple of cousins are still hanging out, and she wanders into his dark den with a t-shirt that doesn’t quite cover, well, her behind. It all leads to argument and a slight to Lee’s Korean culture, not nice, but embarrassment sends down strange roads. And that’s not the end of the arguments.

“He didn’t hear me come in. The overhead was off, but the den's desk lamp illuminated the white paper he held. I positioned my thumb and forefinger in an ‘O’ and snapped the paper to break his concentration. He startled, looked over at the hemline of my tee not even hitting the tops of my legs. His mouth opened, but no sound came out. I’d never had that reaction before and thought this might be interesting. I decided to give him the rest of the view. I slithered my bare butt up on his desk, started to cozy my feet over his thighs, rolled my arms in the bottom of the tee and began to pull it off.” (A Single Pearl, Chapter 10).

I had little straggly things to fix in this chapter, bit of massaging to get it ‘right,’ keep the characters true. All better now. Here’s how my writing partners logged in…

Lisa: +good description of firing day with Lee; +great office scene with Lee and Kerri Ann; -she is very forgiving if she’s has a big blowout and then goes to the office scene; -‘you’re not coming out here like that, he asked’ seemed more like a statement. Why does she have to wear hanbok? Chap 11: ‘chains of rules with no jewels, don’t understand what that means (?).

Melanie: +your job is to hostess; ++love this scene; -lips practically petrified doesn’t fit; + of course they had to honk; + trembling into nervous apologies; + name tag announcing secretary; + description of office; + ‘who sold house?’like her reaction; + hate JOHN, what a rat.

Pam: +‘death march to the door,’ + I like this part - again! + My, KA is getting spunky! ‘Freckles…followed.’ I’m getting a kick out of the way John belittles KA. +My, KA is getting spunky! +“Freckles…followed.” I’m getting a kick out of the way John belittles KA.

Peggy: +Love Kerri Ann’s defiance and that she stood firm in how she felt; + the receipt J; + the scene with uncle and cousin wonderful details with the t-shirt; + ‘freedom from the hanbok;’ Lee’s response to her the next AM (exhibitionist comment) Does she need to use John’s name so much? Can you replace his name with him/his/he? +‘like acid over his big desk,’ ‘placid lake,’ nice similes.

Edits: I hate re-reading the scenes with John, he can be almost evil. That said, I overwrite him and have to edit half the scene whenever he and KA tussle. He has a side, we just don’t know it…YET!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Betty "Freebird" Brown

To be Texan acceptable, Representative-Betty-Brown-style, The First Carol hereby adopts her Betty Brown Approved Name:

Betty "Freebird" Brown
(Try the Betty Brown Name Generator, today!)

If you're wondering what all this means, get the grievous scoop on Angry Asian Man, or watch the blow by blow on Youtube. State Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell discusses Voter ID bill and suggests, rather than her having to learn Chinese, "It would behoove you and 'your' citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily..." Gads.

If you're so inclined, sign the petition asking Texas Rep Brown to apologize and urge the Texas legislature to OPPOSE the voter ID bill then throw that Texan into the well after Tikki Tikki Tembo, and Texas style 'drive friendly' away.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hurt follows her home

Editing on the book continues. The funeral finalizes Kerri Ann's old life but sadness seeps into her new. Feedback from the critique group helped crystallize fine points of the manuscript.
The hurt dredged up in Montana followed me home. I tumbled through emotions I didn’t want to touch, my dad had had my phone number, must have known I was married and never called.


In California Lee’s family didn’t call, not a word—not that they would, I didn’t speak Korean—but not even a card rattled through my hollow heart. I drifted in depression, slept a lot. Lee tried to coax me out, find the old Kerri Ann. “When you’re ready to talk, I want to listen,” he sprinkled through his conversations, but I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to sleep.
(A Single Pearl, Chapter 9).
Icons: plus sign ‘+’ to denote good, minus ‘-’ not, and a ‘?’ for obvious.

Lisa: +hurt dredged up followed me home; +seaweed soup every b-day! -‘nice’ shirt, how did he smell? What music did they dance to? +Pride lake; why is she doing these building maps, why interest to her?

Melanie: why was she so depressed? +box with mom in it; ++ gag-ables; +good picture of two women fighting over picture; ‘Guess who’s pregnant?’ I want to see his response; +interesting about the map; +real estate license.

Pam: +all things mom had touched; -confused about ‘things from my childhood,’ expected it to be a doll, maybe things I remember from my childhood? +Love your ‘gag-ables,’ +Lee is getting better! I’m glad he is ‘struggling to say something, a new side to him. Okay, now I don’t like him again, you’re keeping us on a roller coaster. I really like that she is being pro-active about her education.

Edits: KA makes a map, I re-organized it so she maps the buildings Lee owns first; the mapping thing will pop up again in Part 2 so it needs to flow with character development. I felt ecstatic to hear Pam say she rode on a roller coaster in regards to liking/not liking Lee. He’s not an easy man and less easy to understand. As soon as you think you’ve got him figured out a new aspect of his character emerges. There’ll be more of that.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

When will we honor all our children?

A tradition of favoring boys over girls, and China’s strict family planning policies have turned the sale of stolen children into a thriving business. The New York Times reports this is happening in China’s Pearl River Delta. The infant boys, nabbed in major industrial towns, are sent to rural areas. Driven by fear: who will take care of me in my old age, driven by pride: without a son how can I hold my head up, the children frequently end up with farm families desperate for male heirs.

Advocates say it is difficult at best to calculate exactly how many children are stolen. The Chinese government reports 2500 cases, but that includes women and children. Child advocates estimate more than 100,000, State Department estimates are 10-20,000. Which is correct? One Chinese man compiled a list of 2000 names of parents with missing children all from one city.

An informal, illegal network runs the child trafficking. Poor farmers know who to contact, and they do, paying $3-4000 for a male child. Multiply that by the estimates.

Officials have to be aware this is going on, but you wouldn't know it because they acknowledge it. Their response is almost an encouragement, and if not that blatant, then turning a blind eye. A family, whose three-month-old son died, was advised by their family planning official, "Just buy another one."

Officials look the other way, close ranks, and very few at the place of abduction intervene. At the other end, where the children reappear, officials are fairly indifferent. They don't have resources to track down the perpetrators or to cross provinces. The victims are largely 'migrant' workers, those who come from other provinces, and are less of a concern in the large manufacturing towns where there are a million 'migrant' workers.

The kidnapping sites are busy, crowded places, where people don't necessarily know each other. At end of day, when tired, working parents are less vigilant and the children merely a few feet away, they are grabbed and hurled into a car. Gone. Forever.

When the parents contact the police, they are told wait 24 hours, but those are the crucial 24 hours. Often, when parents return the next day, they are told too much time has elapsed, not much we can do.

A family who purchased a child, complained when caught, they didn't know the child was stolen, the man who sold them the child said it was his own son, that he had more than one, his wife was ill and in hospital. They should have known, there were signs, child spoke a different dialect, didn't like their food, but they were desperate for a son, borrowed money from everyone in their village to complete the sale. The boy was there for about a year until police broke up the trafficking ring. The seller's confession sent the police to the village. This boy and three others from that village were sent back to their homes.

If the neighbors are doing it, why not join in?

Because it's wrong.

I've spoken many times of the goodness of a government that allows willing parents to legally adopt their country's children. They could hide their problems, let the little ones languish without love. I cannot fathom they allow their sons to be stolen. I am speechless. But not without thought. Today, I award the Shameful Award to those could help and do not help.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why Korean? Solving the equation, but please, let's do it with their shirts off

(Yes, it will all make sense in the end, but this starts out kind of serious).

I stood in an elevator in a hotel in China. A couple got in, Chinese, and gave me a sharp once over. The woman had her arm through the man’s. Her fingers opened and closed clutching at his nice suit, her dress elegant, nicely cut on her slender frame.

“Why you want adopt China baby?” she asked, and pointed at my baby’s eyes, then her own, attempting to direct my attention to the differences in the shape, crescent vs round. “Baby’s eyes different,” she stated as if of utmost importance.

“But they’re both the same color,” I replied, flashed my big browns and smiled as if that answered everything. What the hell did I care? My child is my child. Hair, eye, skin color? What difference does that make? None to me. Weighty subject to at least two people in China. Did they think we were stealing their children? Should we cry at home childless while babies languished in orphanages? Not in my world.

At home a college friend stopped by with his son, birth child, adored, but no more than mine. We’d met at a private college, both musicians, I’d had a crush on him back then, but nothing came of it except good friends. That evening we shared stories about becoming parents, how it changed things, how it made things matter, how close our children were in age.

“Maybe our kids will grow up and get married,” I started to say, and stopped. Tim was blond, Lutheran, and from the Midwest. What if he didn’t want his grandchildren to reflect Asia? I didn’t want to hear him clear his throat and say: Yeah. Cough. Sure. I left my thought unsaid, uncertain of his response.

Before traveling to China I’d taken a language class, wanted to be able to say hello, thank you, and more rice please. I managed hello. Ni hau. I attended informational events sponsored by the adoption agency, Saturdays, evenings, even and all day event from the Northwest China Center. A woman spoke. I learned that during my lifetime it was illegal for Asians to own homes in certain neighborhoods in Oregon’s largest city, Portland. Are you kidding? Not at all. A little girl, born in America with Asian eyes, held her daddy’s hand as he knocked on every door in the neighborhood and begged the surrounding neighbors to sign a statement allowing them to buy a house they could well afford, they had cash. Knocked me over. Her message: it wasn't that long ago...prejudice still exists.

A young man spoke. He came from Korea, his parents were of German descent. He was caught between two cultures and wanted to figure life out. Every time he asked his mother about his adoption she cried. His message: talk.

Another adoptee spoke, he’d been a camp counselor for adopted kids. The teenage boys lamented, “Girls don’t like me because I’m adopted.” He answered, “Girls don’t like you because you’re mean.” His message: adoption is not the root of all problems.

My mom stopped by the house everyday after work the first month I was home, sat in a green overstuffed chair, held my baby and cooed, and I contemplated how it must have felt when she held me as a baby. It felt like love. A mother’s love. Now a grandmother’s love. My dad stood in front of the Presbyterian congregation, cuddled my child and proudly introduced his first grandchild. I beamed. The lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder and admonished, “You think she’s a doll.” No church lady. I think she is my child, the most beautiful baby ever born. If I could have had children I would have had her. I couldn’t, so someone else had her for me, (thank you, lord). You think she is a doll.

I learned that kids in daycare ask what they think. “THAT your mom?” Yup.

I learned that adults don’t. “Is she the mom?” they whispered to daycare workers. I smiled and laughed. I could no longer distinguish their sons. Blond? they all looked the same to me.

I learned that the public includes idiots. A waitress greeted us out on girls night and clucked over my daughter, and fished, “Is her father tall?”

“We don’t know, she’s adopted.”

“How could anyone throw something so beautiful away?” she fussed.

No one threw her away, I wanted to shout. Someone couldn’t keep her and made a plan to provide another family for her. Have you heard of the 40’s and 50’s in America when unmarried, pregnant girls were sent away to convents, and had babies who were snatched from them without discussion? Don’t ever think nothing bad has happened in Caucasian culture, if you can call that culture. You have social security. China does not. The government will take care of you. Who will take care of the aging Chinese workers? Only their sons. And don’t ever say my child was thrown away, ever, ever, ever.

Speaking of sons. There are boys now in my daughter’s life. And boys’ parents, their moms. “That’s nice you like that cute girl Kai, but…”

But what?

Listen lady, you need to fall in love with an Asian man. You need to read books where women just like you (Caucasian) fall in love with sexy Asians. You need to watch films where Asians and Caucasian’s hold hands, kiss, get excited, get married, have children. After all, they do in real life. Why don’t they in the entertainment media? You need to watch YouTube’s “Hot Asian Guys,” you need to WANT to make-out with one of these men. Yes, you need a little Asian lust. If you can believe you'd want one, you can believe your son would want to marry one. Because, believe me, my daughter is NOT marrying an Asian. (I'll explain later).

Thus started my mission. A book. A cross-cultural couple. The man is Asian, didn’t matter which flavor, just had to be Asian, handsome and hot, someone those gals would drool over. If he were Chinese, my daughter would think the book had something to do with her and she would hate it, hate me. And of course it’s ‘for’ her, but I have to pretend. Okay, not Chinese. What? Couldn’t be Japanese, I have a Jap friend who told me once that Japanese believe the Chinese are stupid. I’ll NEVER get that out of my head, and besides, it made me mad. What’s next? Vietnamese. Gads, that guy mows my lawn, yeah, for real, he showed up on our doorstep when we moved in and I’ve watched his business grow, he's got a whole crew, very polite, but he’s too short. I’ll never get him out of my head.

Korean? Hmm.

I need a visual to wrap my thoughts around the character who is emerging on little pieces of paper, notes fluttering over my desk, receipts wadded up in the bottom of my bag with bits of dialogue. If I'm going to do this I need to get organized, get it on computer where it can evolve some semblance of order.

At the computer I search for images of Korean men. Whoops, turn that safe filter on! Whew, okay scan the faces for a handsome guy. Here’s one: Yul Kwon. I don’t watch TV. Really, I don’t. Survivor? Okay. Whatever. It’s just that, wow, he looks GOOD, and *pant* GREAT without a shirt. (See picture at top). That’s the guy. Okay, that's settled, Korean protagonist.

What the hell do I know about Koreans? Absolutely nothing. Well, guess what else pops up when you search for Korean men? That’s right, Ask a Korean. I did. He was kind, encouraging, helpful, and intelligent. Now that's my kind of guy! He kept the inspiration wheels greased, and now, I really like Korean guys (don’t worry, I’m old enough to be his mother, or at least a way, WAY older sister).

So, that’s a snippet of the history behind the book. The protagonist Jae-Chun Lee is his complete self now, totally his own person, he’s not Yul Kwan, Daniel Dae Kim, Daniel Henney, or…
Ahn Jae Wook, Ahn So Hee, Bae Doona, Bae Yong Joon, Bae Su-bin, Baek Sung Hyun, Baek Yoon-sik, Bong Tae-gyu, Chae Jung Ahn, Choi Jeong-yoon, Choi Ji Woo, Choi Min-sik, Choi Si Won, Choo Sang Mi, Choi Kang-hee, Dennis Joseph O'Neil, Eric Mun, Gam Wu-seong, Ha Ji-Won, Haha , Han Chae Young, Han Ga In, Han Ji Min, Han Ji-Hye, Han Hyo Joo, Harisu, Hong Seok-Cheon, Hwang Jang-Lee, Hyun Bin, Han Ye, Jang Geun Suk, Jang Ja-yeon, Jang Jin-young, Jang Nara, Jang So Hee, Jeon Do-yeon, Ji Hyun Woo, Ji Sung, Jo Han Seon, Jo Hyun Jae, Jo Insung, Jo Yeon-Woo, Jo Yoon-hee, Joo Hyun, Joo Ji Hoon, Jun Ji-hyun, Jung Eui-Chul, Jung Da-bin, Kang Eun Bi, Kang Dong-won, Kang Ji Hwan, Kang Jung Hwa, Kang Se Jung, Kang Sung Yun, Kang Ta, Kang Hye-jeong, Kim Ah-jung, Kim Bum, Kim Dong Wan, Kim Hee-sun, Kim Hye Su, Kim Hyo Jin, Kim Hyun-ju, Kim Jae Won, Kim Jeong Hoon, Kim Ji-hoo, Kim Ji-soo, Kim Joo-hyuk, Kim Jung-Eun, Kim Kyu Ri, Kim Mu-saeng, Kim Ok-bin, Kim Rae Won, Kim Ri-na, Kim Sa Rang, Kim Su-ro, Kim Sun Ah, Kim Sung-soo, Kim Tae Hee, Ko Ah-seong, Ko Joo-yeon, Ko So-young, Koo Hye-sun, Kwon Sang-woo, Lee Ah Hyun, Lee Beom-soo, Lee Bo-yeong, Lee Byung Hun, Lee Cheong Ah, Lee Da Hae, Lee Dong Gun, Lee Dong Wook, Lee Eon Jeong, Lee Eun-ju, Lee Ha Na, Lee Hee Jung, Lee Hwi Hyang, Lee Hye Young, Lee Hyori, Lee In Hye, Lee Ji-ah, Lee Jin, Lee Jun Ki, Lee Jung Hyun, Lee Jung-jae, Lee Mi Sook, Lee Mi-yeon, Lee Na-young, Lee Sabi, Lee Se Eun, Lee Seung Yun, Lee Si-yeon, Lee So Yeon, Lee Soo Kyung, Lee Tae Ran, Lee Wan, Lee Ki woo, Lee Yeon Hee, Lee Yo Won, Lee Yoo Jin, Lee Yoo Ri, Lee Yoon Ji, Lee Yoon Mi, Lee Young Hoon, Lee Young Ae, Lim Chang-jung, Lim Eun-kyeong, Moon Geun Young, Myung Se Bin, Na Moon Hee, Nah Eun Kyeong, Nam Sang Mi, Oh Ji Ho, Oh Joo Eun, Oh San Ha, Oh Seung Hyun, Oh Yoon-Ah, Oh Yun Soo, Ok Ji Young, Pak Chae-rim, Park Eun-hye, Park Hae-il, Park Han-byul, Park Hee Bon, Park Hee Jin, Park Ji Yoon, Park Jin Hee, Park Jung Soo, Park Min Ji, Park Choong-Jae, Park Sang-min, Park Shin-hye, Park Shin Yang, Park Si Yeon, Park Sol-mi, Park Sun Young, Park Tam Hee, Park Ye Ji, Park Yong Ha, Rain (Jeong Ji-hoon), Ryu Deok-hwan, Ryu Shi-won, Se7en, Seo Do Young, Seo Ji-hye, Seo Min Jung, Seo Yeong, Shim Eun Ha, Shim Hye Jin, Shin Ae, Shin Ae Ra, Shin Dong Wook, Shin Ha Kyun, Shin Hye Sung, Shin Hyun Jun, Shin Ji Soo, Shin Min Ah, Shin Sung Woo, Shin Yi, So Ji Sup, So Yi Hyun, Soh Yoo Jin, Son Chang Min, Son Tae Young, Son Ye Jin, Song Hye Kyo, Song Il Gook, Song Ji-hyo, Song Seung Hun, Song Sun Mi, Song Yun Ah, Soo Ae, Suh Ji Hee, Suh Ji Suk, Suh Ji Young, Sung Hyun Ah, Sung Si Kyung, Sung Yu Ri, Uhm Ji-won, Uhm Jung Hwa, Won Bin, Xiah, Yang Geum Suk, Yang Mi Kyung, Yeo Woon Kye, Yoo Chae-yeong, Yoo Gun, Yoo Ho Jung, Yoo In Young, Yoo Ji-tae, Yoo Sun, Yoon Chan, Yoon Eun Hye, Yoon Hae Young, Yoon Ji Hye, Yoon Jung Hee, Yoon Mi So, Yoon Se Ah, Yoon So Yi, Yoon Son Ha, Yoon Ye Hee, Yoon Yeo Jung, Yoon Yoo Sun, Yum Jung Ah.
Yes, America, there is another world out there! And I have loved looking at it.

And here is where I reveal my prejudice: would I want my daughter marrying one of the above men? Hahaha. Nope. Just a regular guy, with a regular job, who will love my daughter, be a faithful husband and a good father. Find one of those in the entertainment industry. Now, if any of the above want to call me and chat about a role in that future movie, please, by all means. My desk is even clean now.

Thank you Yul for your inspiration, you can put your shirt back on, but you don't HAVE to. Thank you Ask-A-Korean for your encouragement. I will be eternally grateful. And AAK, I fully intend to have you read the manuscript and alert me to any missteps. I'll let you keep your shirt on, I swear.

And here's an unedited snippet from the epilogue:
"Speaking of children, I’ve been watching my little boy, Jin-Bae, oh lord, he is going to be a heart throb, I can see it already, and I’m not just a mom bragging about her kid, no really, he’s going to be even more good looking than his father, if that is even possible. One of these days, my son is going to knock on your door to take your daughter out. Believe me, it’ll happen and that’s just the beginning. And when you and I stand, with our arms around each other, because the most blessed event has just happened, and peer in the crib of our grandbaby, what are you going to see? Are you going to try and erase the Asian from that baby’s face, or are you going to behold that child the way I do, and simply see love? A baby made of precious love." A Single Pearl.


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