Posted on December 31, 2016
I thought writing a novel was difficult. Since the publication of Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety in spring of 2016, I’ve discovered selling books and getting them out into the world is even harder. And, there are so many more people involved!
I wrote but did not share my writing with others for years. Then I took a Creative Writing class and shared stories with my instructors and classmates. I can’t begin to express how important this proved to be. I not only learned to be a better writer, but the networking led to the publishing of my debut novel and opportunities to speak and read at different conferences and events including the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) in Los Angeles.
Also born out of my Creative Writing classes was my writing circle, the 11th Floor Writers. Since 2007, it is my core critique group and writing support. We hold each other accountable and provide opportunities to collaborate and provide constructive, meaningful feedback of our work.
When I signed with my publisher, my writing world expanded to include members from editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales teams. I’ve been tremendously fortunate to work with an outstanding team. I adore my editor, Phyllis Bruce, and everyone at Simon & Schuster Canada. Jackie, my agent, not only helped me navigate through a 17-page contract, but she is my sounding board and go-to person for everything from book ideas to questions I have about the industry.
Thanks to my publishing team and agent, I was invited to some of Canada’s biggest literary festivals and events this year. There, I got to connect with not only readers but fellow writers. I asked them questions about their writing lives and the writing process which proved to be invaluable information for a debut author.
I’ve also been fortunate to meet with some wonderful booksellers. What a pleasure to chat and share conversations with them! Book critics and everyone who reviewed and wrote about me and the novel helped promote its visibility, for which I’m grateful. I had the chance to be interviewed on radio, TV, and in person at several events including ones held through the public libraries. All these opportunities were wonderful places to connect and share with readers.
Readers. It all comes back to them. I am deeply appreciative that people have taken the time to read my novel. Connecting with them either in person or via social media has been a wonderful and immensely gratifying experience.
Finally, I remain grateful to my family and friends who keep me grounded because it has been quite the roller coaster ride so far! I’m especially thankful to my awesome daughter, Claire, the one person I wanted most to share stories with.
Posted on December 10, 2016
It’s only after I had my daughter, who is half-Irish and half-Korean, that I came to understand how our cultural heritage informs our personal identity. In my attempt to help my daughter understand her Korean background, I developed a stronger pride in my Korean heritage. Despite enjoying Korean food and many aspects of the culture, I have always felt excluded because of my weak communications skills in Korean. I also came to realize that until I could read and write in Korean, I would be missing out on Korean literature, which may never be translated into English.
I signed up for a beginner-level Korean language course offered through the Korean Education Centre here in Toronto. To my surprise, most of my classmates were not even Korean! When asked why they had signed up for the class, several shared that they had a deep love for Korean food, K-pop, and K-dramas. Some lived in North York, which has become another Koreatown, and wanted to be able to read store signs and restaurant menus in Korean and in English. My heart skipped to learn that one young lady had a two-hour commute in order to attend! Her commitment inspired me to study hard. We were also lucky to have a passionate teacher who engaged us with her enthusiasm.
Despite being Korean and having spent my first seven years in Korea, I find learning the language quite challenging. Korean is complicated by the use of honorifics that requires one to speak “up” or “down” to a person depending on that individual’s age and/or status. As well, sentences are constructed differently. In English, we use the “subject + verb + object” order, but in Korean it is “subject + object + verb”, so the sentence “I ate an orange” would be “I an orange ate.” Then there’s the complex use of particles that we don’t have in English.
And all this is in a beginner’s class!
My long term goal is one day to be able to write an essay or even a story in Korean. I’ve avoided learning Korean for over four decades, believing that I’d never need it. Now, I understand just how vital the language is for me to feel connected to my heritage.
Posted on December 9, 2016
Few people know that my novel started out as a collection of poems that were written in the early ’90s. I wove them into the first draft of Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety. My editor advised me to remove them and avoid mixing poetry with prose. After focusing on novel writing for so long, I find myself wanting to go back and write poems.
Some articles to share:
Posted on December 8, 2016
I had a great visit with a grade 12 Writer’s Craft class today. One of the things we talked about was author names and character names. In the post entitled, “Yu-Rhee Versus Mary: Does the Name Matter?” I reflected on how my characters were impacted upon being forced to take “Canadian-friendly” names by the school board.
How Canadians can be more inclusive of diverse names (CBC article)
Posted on December 6, 2016
I’ve been thinking a lot about my early years as an ESL student and remembered something I wrote a while back for The Litter I See Project. Canadian writers are given a picture of litter and asked to write a response inspired by the debris. All of this is done to support Frontier College and their work to promote literacy.
I got an image of a broken record as my prompt. That led me to write about how listening to Billy Joel back in the late 1970s helped me learn English. Click here to read more.
Some of my favourite Billy Joel songs (in no particular order):
A Matter of Trust
Falling of the Rain
Everybody Has a Dream
I’ve Loved These Days
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
This Is The Time To Remember
An Innocent Man
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
Summer Highland Falls
The Ballad of Billy the Kid
I Go to Extremes
Where’s the Orchestra
Posted on December 4, 2016
My interview with Fabricio Correa in The GNU Journal includes questions about the writing process and authors who influenced me. I also share that I am hoping to use my novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, as a resource to talk about sensitive issues like domestic violence, negative mental health, and racial tension. Click here to read the full interview.
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 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 29, 2013
In a letter to a friend, Abraham Lincoln wrote about his visit to Louisville, Kentucky in 1841. He was sitting on the waterfront (where I took this photo) and saw enslaved African-Americans on their way to New Orleans. He was deeply disturbed by what he saw and wrote: “That sight was a continual torment to me…” I was recently in Louisville and was intrigued by the city’s rich history. Kentucky was a border state during the American Civil War, and Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to it. Slavery continued to be legal in Kentucky until 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, was ratified. Today, the city of Louisville is a beautiful and culturally rich state. It was chosen as Lonely Planet’s top US tourist destination for 2013.
More on my visit to Louisville.