Posted on August 4, 2015
The guidelines we use to run our writing circle, The 11th Floor Writers, have been added to its website. I can’t believe that we’ve gone eight years. It helps that we follow a set routine: we meet the second Saturday of every month at the same venue, we rotate chairs, and everyone adheres to guideline expectations.
I’m currently working on my second novel, and continue to be grateful for the support and constructive feedback I get from this group.
Some online resources worth checking out:
A Workshop Guide for Creative Writing
A great place to start. The guide asks a series of questions we should be considering as we critique others’ work.
Tips for Revising Creative Nonfiction
The tips also apply for fiction writing.
15 Tips for Successful Writing Groups
A comprehensive guide with lots of useful suggestions and tips.
Posted on July 10, 2015
Thanks to Darcy Morgan for creating this awesome logo for me. She embedded my initials (aykc) into parts of the paper swan (e.g., “A” makes up the beak, “Y” the neck).
I chose the paper swan because it captures the spirit of my protagonist, Mary, who is the “ugly duckling” that transforms into a swan. My novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety (formerly entitled Cornered), will be released on May 3, 2016.
Posted on March 20, 2015
I was finally able to thank Allyson Latta in person when I met up with her last month. She was a guest speaker at a Markham high school where she spoke to students about her work as a freelance editor. I was fortunate enough to work with Allyson on my first book which will be released early next year.
Allyson has worked with many prominent Canadian writers including two of my favourites, Marina Nemat and Lawrence Hill. Her website, full of guest posts, interviews, and all things that might interest any writer, is definitely worth checking out. Allyson also teaches memoir writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.
Thanks to a quiet March Break, I was able to finish reading a couple of books. One novel I would highly recommend is Michael Crummey’s Sweetland. After visiting Newfoundland a few years ago and falling in love with that province, I couldn’t resist reading this book. Set in a remote island community, our protagonist Moses Sweetland, fakes his own death and stays behind after everyone else relocates.
For more information:
Michael Crummey’s Sweetland is like a song of mourning – a review by The Globe and Mail
Michael Crummey: How I wrote Sweetland – Canada Writes
Posted on November 3, 2014
I met up with David Adams Richards this weekend at the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) in Toronto. He was my mentor at The Humber School for Writers.
David is one of the most accomplished writers in Canada. I still can’t believe that I was lucky enough to work with him. At all times, he encouraged me to persevere. We completed the first draft of my novel in only thirty weeks!
David’s new book, Crimes Against My Brother, was released earlier this year (Doubleday Canada).
Posted on January 21, 2013
I love books where I feel connected with the main character, or when the character is someone whom I admire and want to root for. I recently saw Les Miserables again. Jean Valjean is an example of a character I both admire and feel tremendous sympathy for – a character almost impossible for me to forget.
There are several books and online resources that offer great advice, tips, and suggestions on how to create complex and compelling characters. One book title I’d like to pass along is Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters. It’s definitely worth checking out. Schmidt looks at several archetypes, both heroic and villainous, to explore character traits and behaviours. Her examples of memorable characters from books, movies, and T.V. are especially helpful in shaping our understanding of classic archetypes.
Also worth checking out:
Posted on December 31, 2012
One of the things I wanted to do during this holiday break was catch up on my reading. I have far more books than I could possibly get through in one calendar year. I keep buying them, intending to read them later. I also get a lot of books as gifts.
Of the books I did get to this year, Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negros, was my favourite. It was published in 2007, and I wish I had gotten to it sooner! Hill’s protagonist, Aminata Diallo, who was abducted as a child from her village in West Africa and sold into slavery, continues to haunt me. The story had such an effect on me that I couldn’t pick up another book for two weeks.
I also thought Ins Choi’s play, Kim’s Convenience, was brilliant. The story hit close to home. Both Ins and I, although we have never met, immigrated to Canada in1975, and had families that worked in variety stores in downtown Toronto. I wrote about this play in an earlier blog.
Now that it is 2013, there are several lists of ‘the best books of 2012’ published everywhere. Here are a few to check out.
Posted on December 29, 2012
“Don’t talk about it; write.” – Bradbury, 1976
I recently read a list of writers who passed away in 2012. Donald J. Sobol, writer of the Encyclopedia Brown series, passed away in July. Leroy, aka Encyclopedia Brown, is a boy detective who used his intelligence to solve neighbourhood mysteries. Some of my fondest childhood memories in Canada include going to the public library where I could escape into books – lots of them. Encyclopedia Brown was a favourite because solving whatever mystery that was thrown at both Encyclopedia and the reader, left me feeling both satisfied and smart.
Another children’s favourite, Maurice Sendak, who wrote Where the Wild Things Are, passed away in May.
I was first introduced to Ray Bradbury’s work in high school. Fahrenheit 451 continues to be on many English class reading lists. His short stories also remain popular. Surprisingly, I only found out recently that there’s a prequel or rather a companion to Fahrenheit entitled, A Pleasure to Burn. Bradbury passed away in June.
For a list of writers who passed away this past year, click here.
For more Ray Bradbury quotes, click here.
Posted on December 28, 2012
Years ago, as a way to gain greater confidence speaking in front of an audience, I signed up for a series of singing workshops. I recently found the notes I took during the workshops. The following was written after my first class.
The lights were too bright, and right away my body tensed up sensing the reality of the situation. I was on stage!
I had prepared for this. I tried to take a deep breath but my throat closed up. I was shaking. I was so busy trying to conceal my nervousness that I didn’t notice that the music had begun. I opened my mouth and looked in front of me, and just as quickly, dropped my eyes. I started singing.
I desperately wanted to look up but knew no words would come out if I did. So I did the only thing I could: I sang to the floor. It felt safe as long as I pretended that I was not on stage with strangers’ eyes resting on me. I hid behind my hair, kept purposely long for that reason. I could hear my own voice echoing softly in the air and to my surprise, liked the sound. It allowed me to get through to the end.
The reaction of my classmates was encouraging. Suddenly, the room felt cozy.
The first exercise that Art, the instructor, assigned me was to make eye contact with each person in the room. Easier said than done. I reminded myself that I had already sung the song once and no one had asked me to leave. I drew strength from the energy I picked up in the room.
It was a challenge made easier by the warmth and support of my classmates who, with their smiles and silent encouragement helped me get through the song again. It felt great! What I learned most from this exercise was that it was actually EASIER to perform in front of a crowd if I made eye contact because I got a response from the people in front of me; an acknowledgement that they were listening. Suddenly performing was made an exchange between me as the performer and them, as the audience. It wasn’t about me on stage doing everything.
The last exercise was called Copycat. Not only did I have to make eye contact with my classmates, I had to mirror whatever movements they made. This was tricky at first because singing suddenly entailed focusing on the audience and not the song. I found myself doing everything from running my fingers through my hair to sticking out my tongue in the middle of the song! By the end, I realized I was so busy following the audience’s movement that I forgot to be nervous on stage! It was amazing. And this was only my first class.
To read more, click here.
Posted on December 18, 2012
My first memory of Christmas is back in South Korea. I must have been five or six when I found a green-beaded necklace under my pillow. I remember that the first thing I did was look at it under the blanket to see if it glowed. It didn’t. Still, it was the most precious gift I had ever received. When I asked my mother where it had come from, she told that Santa-harabahji (Grandpa Santa) had left it for me.
Although we dutifully gave presents to all of our elementary school teachers for Christmas once we immigrated to Toronto, we didn’t have a tree. My mother made all the gifts we took to school – knitted hats and scarves.
By 1991, I was working part-time and had money for the first time. I decided that year I would give my family our first ever Christmas tree. I spent over a thousand dollars, spread over three different credit cards, on a tree and gold music-themed decorations. My parents didn’t object and even seemed to admire the seven-foot evergreen that I plopped in the living room by the TV. My brothers referred to it as the “Buddha Tree.” I didn’t tell any of them how much I had spent.
The beauty of growing up in a Canadian Buddhist household was that we were open to celebrating and acknowledging other faiths. As children, we decorated and looked for Easter eggs, learned the rules to play the dreidel game during Hanukkah, and ate rice-cake and dumpling soup on lunar New Year’s Day. Being in Canada, surrounded by people of so many different ethnicities and cultures, it wasn’t about religion. It was about having a reason to celebrate and have fun; a reason to be together and be happy.
Posted on December 12, 2012
My 13-year-old daughter had never expressed an interest in learning the Korean language until “Gangnam Style” by Psy, the Korean rapper, gained worldwide popularity. In her eyes, it was suddenly “cool to be Korean”.
Her question to me: how come you never learned Korean?
When we first came to Canada, my parents’ biggest obsession was for their children to learn English. We were even encouraged to speak it at home. I never stopped to think that we were sacrificing the Korean language in the process, especially because back then, all I wanted was to lose whatever was Korean about me. I was in grade three when it hit me that I could lose my Asian last name by marrying someone white one day.
I keep thinking that it’s too late for me to learn to become completely fluent in Korean. Maybe. Maybe not. It would be wonderful to have access to Korean literature as it was written instead of in translation. The Korean language is beautiful and there are some phrases and expressions that don’t exist in English.
Worth checking out: