I Write Because…

This week, I’m featured on the Tumblr blog, Asians Doing Everything. I’m honored to be included with many others who have been featured, and who fit the description:

ASIANS DOING EVERYTHINGAsians Doing Everything recognizes and celebrates the work being done by Asians and Pacific Islanders around the world. We transcend the roles often given to us by popular media; we’re not just doctors, sidekicks, and nail salon owners…although we are those too. We pursue an infinite variety of jobs. But we are also passionate about things not connected to a paycheck. This blog seeks to uncover how we operate as striking, multifaceted, and global movers and shakers within our communities and economies.

Summarizing why I write was a good exercise. In writing, speaking and even my art, I try to foster understanding of “the other side,” regardless of whether that “side” is a different race or culture, (as in The Red Kimono), a different religion, sexual orientation, class, political affiliation…whatever the difference.

As I mentioned in my bio, my parents were from different cultures, religions and political backgrounds. Throughout my life, I’ve experienced both prejudice and acceptance, so I know the hurt of being shunned for who I am, as well as the joy of being accepted.

Today, my friend, Ryder Finnegan, invited her Facebook friends to “Write one true sentence.” After a week of commenting, tweeting, debating and generally trying to open up communications via social media about a protest over a kimono, here’s my one true sentence:

Social media is both beneficial AND detrimental to opening the lines of communication.

In my successes and failures to communicate via Twitter and Facebook, I’ve found the number of characters/words is directly proportional to the quality of understanding.

In the closing sentence of my Asians Doing Everything bio, I summarize:

My hope in both speaking and writing is to help others see things from another’s perspective.

So, I decided to step back from the kimono debate on social media. Too many sound bytes, too much vitriol, too much straying from the topic, too little back and forth discussion, too many straying directions. Most of all, too much DISTRACTION and too little UNDERSTANDING.

My time and my words are much better spent writing my stories.

I’d love to read your comments on:

  • Why do you write?
  • Does time spent on social media compliment the reasons you write?
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Outrage Over a Red Kimono?

Originally posted on THE RED KIMONO:

I’ve been following a discussion on Facebook about the outrage over an event called “Kimono Wednesdays” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the more I read about it, the more infuriated I get.


Through the month of July, the museum invited guests to try on a replica of the kimono that appears in Claude Monet’s 1876 painting titled “La Japonaise.” They were also invited to have pictures taken. Some people were offended and considered the event racist. (See Angry Asian Man’s post, “Get Your Geisha On at the Museum of Fine Arts.“)

Here’s a Facebook comment that appeared on MFA’s Facebook page about the event:

This is honestly one of the most vilely racist things I’ve ever seen. White folks wanting to play dress up and feel Japanese? Please, don’t. Japan isn’t your mystical fantasy playground for you to go galavanting around in…

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A Multi-dimensional Atticus?

WatchmanWhen I first heard that Atticus Finch was a racist in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, I thought, “What? No way will I read the book then. I don’t care how anticipated its release.”

I likened finding out this man I had on a pedestal had somehow turned racist to learning my own father is racist. It can’t be. There’s no way could a man of such honor and courage could turn racist in his later years.

Add to that the review I heard by Charles Shields on CNN yesterday:

“The book has no literary merit.”
~~Charles Shields
Author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee

So came my second “What?” How could a book by Pulitzer Prize winner, Harper Lee, have no literary merit? In 1999, respondents to a LIBRARY JOURNAL poll judged Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird the “best novel of the century.” How is it possible its sequel (actually written first) have no literary merit?

So, though I hate the thought of one of my favorite characters of all time making a suicidal leap off his pedestal, how can I possibly not read Go Set a Watchman? As an author, I want to know two things:

  1. How does an author manage to take Atticus  from a character so well-respected he was voted “Greatest Hero in American Film” by the American Film Institute in 2003, to being a racist only 20 years later in Go Set a Watchman? Maybe it’s that the editor for To Kill a Mockingbird, Tay Hohoffsignificantly changed Atticus from what Ms. Lee intended during the two and a half year re-write. No well-developed character is either all good or all bad, but this seems an extreme leap and in my humble opinion, requires a lot of backstory on what might cause such a chasm in values. I want to know that backstory.
  2. How is it possible To Kill a Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize and reviewers say Go Set a Watchman has “no literary merit.” Again, perhaps the answer lies in Tay Hohoff’s skill as an editor. See the following links for other reviews:

New York Times: “…Go Set a Watchman sporadically generates the literary force that has buoyed To Kill a Mockingbird for over half a century…”

NPR: “Harper Lee’s Watchman is a Mess that Makes Us Reconsider a Masterpiece.”

Amazon is filled with both positive and negative reviews, but one comment may answer my questions above:

The short version of this review is: if nothing else, Go Set A Watchman, especially when compared to the brilliance of To Kill A Mockingbird, is a testament to the power of a good editor.~~RosieDee753

If it’s true that much of Atticus Finch was molded by Harper Lee’s editor, perhaps my resolution to my disappointment about Atticus Finch’s racism will be to consider him as two separate characters, written by two separate authors. I will choose to remember him as he was portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird.

But if this character change is all it’s been written up to be, if Go Set a Watchman’s Atticus has truly become a racist, I have to ask myself the same thing Randall Kennedy of the New York Times asked:

Would it have been better for this earlier novel to have remained unpublished?

Though I’m going to try to keep an open mind as I read the book, I have two reasons I think the answer may be “yes:”

  1. With all the race issues we continue to deal with today, the last thing we needed was for one of our heroes to be taken away.
  2. It’s sad to think the much-anticipated Go Set a Watchman will for many, tarnish the glow of a novel and character that touched millions of lives over the last half century.\

Will you read Go Set a Watchman? What are your thoughts?

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Creative Characterization

Of all the workshops I present, my favorites are those centered around character development. There’s nothing better than seeing an author’s eyes widen when their “aha” moment arrives and they discover something new about their characters.

For me, characterization is one of the most important elements of fiction, because everything is seen through the eyes of the character. If we want our readers to keep turning the pages, those characters must be multi-dimensional–with conflicts and secrets waiting to be discovered.

cc2Creative Characterization is a workbook I wrote that provides six different methods and associated exercises used in my workshops:

  • Interviewing
  • Describe a painting or photo
  • Write letters
  • Write a scene from a different point of view
  • Access your character’s “inner child”
  • Access your character’s internalization

Creative Characterization is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

If you’re interested in one of my workshops, please contact me HERE for more information.

Have fun getting to know your characters. I’d love to hear about your “aha” moments!

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Floating Home–Finalist, Little Tokyo Historical Society

Originally posted on THE RED KIMONO:

Earlier this year, I entered “Floating Home” into the Little Tokyo Historical Society Short Story Contest. I was excited to learn that it was a finalist in the contest where the main requirements were that the story incorporate Little Tokyo and be less than 2,500 words.

Prior to entering, I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot about the history of Little Tokyo, (located near Los Angeles,) since my mother and her family were living in northern California at the time they were relocated to internment camps in Tule Lake and Topaz. But the area has a fascinating multicultural history. Following is a synopsis of the book, Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo:

Little TokyoIn 1884, a Japanese sailor named Hamanosuke Shigeta made his way to the eastern section of downtown Los Angeles and opened Little Tokyo’s first business, an American-style cafe. By the early 20th century, this neighborhood on the banks of…

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