Posted on December 5, 2016
My family and I immigrated to Canada in 1975. I was seven years old. Because I didn’t speak any English and our family was very poor, my brothers and I were bullied very badly in school. A little boy who lived in my neighbourhood used to enjoy taunting me more than anyone. One day after he had hit me with a wrench, he accused me of starting the fight. Because I spoke so little English, I couldn’t defend myself. Worse, I had no idea what the adults who separated us were yelling at me, but I understood by their tone and body language that they thought I was at fault. I learned very early in life how important language was and the power it possessed. Later, I learned how important choosing the right words were for creating understanding. One of the things I used to hate doing most as a child was translating for my parents. Unlike myself, who had the opportunity to develop my language skills in school, my parents’ English remained poor. I remember being in a hospital emergency room and having to translate for my mother, describing the pain she felt in her stomach. I hated seeing my mother, who was a teacher back in Korea, so vulnerable and unable to help herself. All my combined experiences shaped my determination to learn English, a language I have since fallen in love with and come to appreciate for its endless beauty.
I wrote my book largely to share my family’s immigrant story with my daughter who has no idea just how difficult things were for me and my parents when we first came to Canada. Writing has been a wonderful way for me to work through personal pain and challenges. Writing the book has given me many personal insights and helped me appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices my parents made. As a teacher, I encourage my students to write – about their feelings, their hopes and dreams, as well as to explore their thoughts. Research has shown that writing is an excellent way to deal with some forms of depression and anxiety, and certainly something I encourage my students to do as a guidance counsellor. Also, we’re constantly telling our children to read but it’s important they know why. Yes, reading exposes us to new ideas and promotes creative and critical thinking, but it also makes us better writers. We build vocabulary which makes us better communicators and without consciously trying, we often start writing in the same styles as what we read. This is called modelling, and why it is important that we read content that is well written whether it is fiction or nonfiction like newspapers and magazines.
Reading actually makes us smarter. As parents and guardians, we can help our children by showing them that we read. It doesn’t have to be in English and it doesn’t have to be for long periods of time. As a child, seeing my mother read despite having so little time for herself taught me how much she valued it. I’m grateful to her for that. It’s something I want to pass along to my daughter and to my students.
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 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 March 19, 2015
Local farmers were out selling fresh maple syrup at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. The place was packed with people, mostly families out enjoying a sunny March Break day. Located 1.5 hours west of Toronto, this is the largest year-round farmers’ market in Canada.
Along with some wonderful ready-to-eat foods like perogies, souvlaki, and apple fritters, you can find everything from handmade quilts to used vinyl records. I spent quite a bit of time perusing used books, finally getting the following copies to take home:
Posted on January 22, 2014
Posted on October 27, 2013
The following stories are housed in Joyce Carol Oates’ book entitled Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers. You can read them online by clicking on the story titles.
“Aren’t You Happy For Me?” by Richard Bausch
An excellent example of how a story can be constructed using mainly dialogue. How would you react if your 22-year-old daughter phoned one day and said that she was engaged to a 63-year-old man?
“That Evening Sun” by William Faulkner
Written in 1931, this is a dark and disturbing story about a white family’s reaction to the fears of their black servant, Nancy.
“In the American Society” by Gish Jen
Told from the point of view of a Chinese-American girl, this story looks at a family’s attempt to assimilate into American culture and sheds light on the immigrant experience.
“Father’s Last Escape” by Bruno Schulz
If you’re a fan of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, you’ll appreciate this story. In this story, the father turns into a crab which the mother later cooks for dinner.
“Borges and I” by Jorge Luis Borges
A short autobiographical work that looks at the private versus the personal self. It ends with the line, “I do not know which of us has written this page.”