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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Hard TimesThis morning, I read a poem by Barbara Crooker titled “Ordinary Life.” It is one of many beautiful poems in Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times.

Here’s an excerpt. The entire poem can be found on The Writer’s Almanac website.

This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch’s little scraps.

I think this poem touched me because of the “ordinariness” of my life these days. I’m not used to my life feeling ordinary.

My days are usually filled with a flurry of activities. Now, most of my time is filled with “nothing happening,” and my strange discomfort with the relative quiet makes me think I need to retrain myself for “ordinary.”

Each night, in my last prayer of the day, I include a statement of gratitude “for all of my blessings.” The thing is, I don’t often specify what my blessings were for that day.

Last night, I decided to get specific. Here’s what I was thankful for:

  • paintbrushesA friend who suggested I sing at the top of my lungs, no matter how I sounded. She told me to “talk” to my mom, warn her that I’d sound silly, but that was okay.
  • The feeling of freedom I felt as I painted an abstract on a table striped by sunlight coming through the blinds.
  • The scent of steak on the grill, and the taste of it later.
  • That male-female relationships have come so far since the Mad Men days, as we watched Don Draper and his cronies belittle the women in their lives.
  • Laughing so hard I cried as Steve and I shared a story together just before bed.

It was just another ordinary day, when nothing much happened. Perhaps that in itself is something for which I should be grateful.

Here's that abstract piece. I call it "Freedom."

Here’s that abstract piece. I call it “Freedom.”

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Over the Hill? Not!

A funny thing happened while I was working on the sequel to The Red Kimono today. I am writing a scene where Nobu receives a letter from Papa. The date of the scene is May 16, 1958.

What I started to write was that Nobu notices Papa’s writing has become hard to read–wobbly due to Papa’s advancing age. I’d imagined Papa so frail and old that writing a letter might be a challenge.

Then, I thought I’d better verify his age to keep the sequel consistent with The Red KimonoFortunately, while writing The Red Kimono, I had created a spreadsheet that helped me keep track of all of the major characters’ ages throughout the manuscript.

Unfortunately, it took me forever to find the spreadsheet, since I’ve moved twice and used four different computers since creating it. Thank goodness for external hard drives, backing up and the search function. (Do you know how many different folders I have that are labeled “The Red Kimono?” Too many to count!)

But at last I found it, and here it is:

Broken Dreams Spreadsheet

So what’s so funny? Poor old Papa–who I’d imagined could hardly write a letter–is only 55-years old! That’s two years younger than I am! Seems I’m going to have to re-write this scene. Nobu is going to have to be thinking something else as he opens the letter.

On the other hand, if Papa is so old he can hardly write a letter, maybe at 57, I have another excuse for writer’s block! :)


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My Visit with The Literary Ladies

Thank you, Camille Faye, for inviting me to be a guest on The Literary Ladies, a blog great content by several authors. Camille (AKA Spirit Lady on The Literary Ladies,) is the author of Voodoo Butterfly.

Here’s an excerpt from my guest blog. Please read the full post HERE.

cc2How often do you stare at a blank screen, pulling your hair out, gritting your teeth as you curse your muse? Maybe you’ve even crossed over into guzzling coffee (or martinis?) because you can’t figure out what to write next?

It used to happen far too often with me. Then, one day, rather than trying to figure out the story myself, I began to ask my characters to help me, to tell me their secrets, their stories. Granted, to a non-writer, talking to my characters may sound a little crazy. But if you’re a writer, I hope the techniques I’ve developed over the years will help you discover stories through your characters.

In my new book, Creative Characterization, I list six different methods and eight associated exercises to help writers develop characters who will tell secrets and stories that will keep readers turning the pages to discover more.

Today, I’ll talk about two of methods. I’ve used both many times, and each time, I’ve learned something about the character or plot that I didn’t know before. (NOTE: Be sure to take at least 15 minutes to do the exercises. The longer you take, the more you’ll learn.)

Click HERE to go to The Literary Ladies‘ blog to read the full post with a description of the two methods. (There are six methods in my new book, Creative Characterization, now available in both print and Kindle on Amazon!)

Creative Characterization (Paperback, $8.95 on Amazon)

Creative Characterization (Kindle, $3.99 on Amazon)

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IMG_6568Today was a sunny day. A glorious, sunny, blue-skied day. So, after weeks of gray skies and rain, I decided to take a walk. As I stepped outside into the cool air–so completely unusual for Dallas at the end of May–I thought about how much more I appreciate the sunshine after so much rain. I should never take a sunny day for granted, but, of course, I do.

Perhaps because I’m a writer, I often look at things in a metaphorical sense. And, perhaps because I’ve felt this strange and unusual sadness lately, as I walked today, I compared happiness to sunshine and sadness to rain.

As the rain makes us appreciate sunshine, does sadness make us appreciate happiness?

I’m rarely sad, so I’ve thought a lot about why I feel this way now–my life is good and I feel very blessed in so many ways. So why would I be sad?

I’m pretty sure it has to do with the losses in my life over the last several months. Well, heck. It’s actually been over the last two and a half years:

  • The end of my second marriage
  • The loss of my two beloved dogs
  • Moving three times
  • The distance between dear friends
  • The deaths of my mom, my uncle and a good friend within six weeks

The thing is, this is the first consistent period of time in the last few years where there’s been enough peace and quiet to feel and contemplate these losses.

It will pass, just as the rain has passed.

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