Posted on December 13, 2016
It’s kind of crazy that both my brother and I published our first books this year. Like me, John took Creative Writing classes at the University of Toronto’s School for Continuing Studies. We even studied with some of the same instructors like Dennis Bock. The networking opportunities that came with being in our classes eventually led us to get our books published.
According to the National Reading Campaign’s review of Dark Side, the Young Adult (YA) novel “grips readers with its intensity, packing each page with relatable teen issues.” Emerson, the protagonist in Dark Side, is overwhelmed with family pressures and parental expectations. John, who works at Nexus Youth Services, explores themes that include domestic violence and teen suicide.
I really enjoyed reading the book because it spoke to so many issues and concerns that today’s teens deal with. As a teacher, I can see how young readers would connect with the characters and the challenges they face. John ends the book with an author’s note encouraging readers to seek help if they are feeling in any way overwhelmed by school or issues related to family and friends. Dark Side is available in bookstores and on Amazon. It was released by Lorimer Books, a Canadian publishing company, in August 2016.
Posted on December 3, 2016
Choosing to complete my MFA studies in Creative Writing at National University in San Diego, California, was one of the best things I did to develop as an author. The following is an excerpt from a reflection paper I wrote for a course. A special thanks to Professor Bryan Hurt, my thesis adviser, and Professor Frank Montesonti, Academic Program Director, for their guidance and support throughout my studies.
I want to be less worried about making mistakes and have more fun with the writing process. While reading fiction gives me great pleasure and satisfaction, writing fiction is too often filled with insecurities, sometimes crossing the line into dread and despair. I know from having written about this in one of my courses that many of my insecurities as a writer stem from past experiences as a former ESL student struggling to learn English, and some racial assumptions I faced (and continue to face) as an ethnic minority.
But I want to move beyond the negative spaces that occupy the writer in me. What I want to focus on as I move forward is this: Each of my courses has provided me with the opportunity to consider aesthetics in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. It is one thing to delve into writing, where pouring words onto paper is like throwing paint against a graffiti covered wall. It is another process entirely to consider creating art as one writes; to consider writing a poem using the abecedarian form and to experiment with constrained writing to see where it takes me. The desire to create art in prose commits me to take more risks, to play with form, style, and structure as I explore the possibilities around me using language and the written word.
My goals in writing poems, literary fiction, and creative nonfiction are to inspire, provoke, and challenge the reader at some level. Earlier this year, my debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, was published. The entire process of writing that book and getting it onto bookshelves took nine years. I began writing Harmony’s Story, my second novel and thesis project, through National University. Set in 1924 before Korea became a divided nation, it is a story inspired by my great-great grandmother, Boon, and loosely based on her experiences.
Having written a novel already does not make writing this second one easier. I feel though that I have a greater understanding of what it takes to write one. Writing gives me a voice. My MFA studies have challenged and motivated me to refine that voice and the messages I want to deliver.
Focusing on my professional growth as a writer will help quiet the inner voice that is intensely personal and continues to struggle at some level with sharing my writing with others. However, unlike the first step I took as a writer years ago, today I am mindful of the process of creating art and appreciative of how I have changed and will continue to evolve as an author. I remain committed to my writing and moving forward with it.
Posted on October 21, 2012
It’s been five years since I joined the 11th Floor Writers. Of all the benefits that I have reaped over the years, the following three are the most significant.
The circle has kept me a disciplined writer.
Because we have regular meetings, the circle has kept me motivated to write. We push each other as necessary to keep everyone working on something. The whole purpose of being in the group is to write and receive feedback. We work to move each other forward.
The circle has helped me better understand my writing strengths and needs.
Getting feedback is absolutely critical as a writer. Members point out discrepancies, and make recommendations to strengthen the submitted pieces of writing. My writing skills have also further developed by critically examining the works of other writers and trying to provide meaningful and constructive feedback.
Because we meet face-to-face, friendships have formed over the years.
Friendships with other writers have become especially important to me as I evolve in this craft. Fellow writers who believe in each other and encourage each other to forge ahead is critical when we become unmotivated or uninspired to write.
Five years ago, I submitted a raw first chapter to the circle. It was a humbling experience. Over the course of several years, I have worked through an entire novel manuscript. In June 2012, this manuscript won The Marina Nemat Award, a writing award from the University of Toronto. I attribute much of my growth as a writer to the ongoing support and guidance I get by being a member of a strong and inspired writing circle.
[This entry also appears on the 11th Floor Writers’ blog. Click here.]
Posted on September 1, 2012
I got the idea to start a blog after taking a creative writing course entitled, “Building an Audience” with Terry Fallis at the University of Toronto’s School for Continuing Studies. Terry is the author of The Best Laid Plans (Canada Reads 2011 winner) and The High Road. He made blogging seem like the easiest thing to do in the world. A quick look at his site suggests that he really enjoys doing so.
I’m still learning how to navigate my way around the blogging universe. I’ve appreciated the visitors who have let me know that they’ve been here so that I can check out their blogs. I’ve found some really neat ones as a result and still have a few that I’m excited to check out.
Any advice/suggestions from fellow bloggers who write for a living or simply enjoy doing so would be greatly appreciated. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. Thanks!