Remember, Remember to Give Thanks in November

First off, how many here feel personally victimized by November?

Yup. It was a hard month. Not just for me, but for the many, many people who were affected post-election. Like so many others, I had a difficult time processing and writing because to me it felt like, in Hamilton terms, the world turned upside down. And not in a good way, but in the way that feels like all of what’s surrounding you has become so topsy-turvy that you hardly recognize the home you’ve been living in for your entire life.

At heart, I’m a happy, positive, and optimistic person—and November really challenged that side of me, the one that strives to always find the silver-linings that help me accept and process the hardest of times. But even though it was challenging, I’m happy to report that as we welcome in December, November never beat us. Though we were struck hard, we got back up with a fury. We continue to fight, even as we still heal.

I just wanted to write that all out first because it’s been weighing heavily on my mind for a while, and it would be a flat-out lie in my heart to gloss over November and say it was amazing. Some parts were (like family! Food! Thanksgiving! Becoming a godmother! Writing!), but there was a dark cloud hanging over it that could not be ignored. To push it aside would be to push aside your pain and the pain of so many others, when in reality, I confront pain because it pushes me to act. Grief over a hard loss pushed me to bring a story to life, just like an intense bout of hopelessness has now pushed me to keep working on the story that I wish can bring hope to others.

From all the artists and writers I follow, it’s been uplifting to see such amazing responses of encouragement, solidarity, and above all, creating important and powerful stories in this time of need. I’ve definitely been taking to heart the inspiration that’s risen from these times, and I’m hearing loud and clear the call for more diverse books and voices. It’s prompted me to tackle my revisions with a vengeance, and the work I’ve put down feels stronger than ever with an emotional heartbeat that just keeps pounding louder and louder.

Though lots of emotional head space in November was occupied by everything above, there were also so many positive highlights. I’m now an official fairy godmother to my BEAUTIFUL nephew, saw lots of my family, had tons of puppy therapy with Master Skywalker, aaaaaaand ate all the food during Thanksgiving.

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GODSON, I am your crazy fairy godmother

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THE TURKEYS HAVE THEIR REVENGE: In which a flock of turkeys aggressively invaded the front lawn on Thanksgiving morning

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Master Skywalker’s “please let me cuddle on the couch” pouty face

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Dat Thanksgiving spread

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Thank you snapchat for giving me the ability to make a fried turkey terrified

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Our other turkey baby ❤ (who we definitely did not eat)

Along with cool family and food shenanigans, more updates and good news were what kept my spirits up during November. First off, MY PITCH WARS MENTEE HAS AN AGENT!!!!!!!!!!!!

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-2-03-50-pmI am so, so, SOOOOO proud of Judy. It was an honor to co-mentor her in Pitch Wars with Axie, and nothing has made me happier than to see her rise like a star from our slush pile four months ago to becoming an agented writer this week. She rocked the agent round, and it’s been nothing but constant cheerleading and hip-hip-hooraying for all the awesomeness that Pitch Wars has brought. Oh Judy. If you’re reading this, sorry for gushing so hard BUT I CAN’T HELP MYSELF. You’re an amazing storyteller with such a great heart, and I can’t WAIT to see you take the publishing world by storm….and also to get my copy of HUNGRY GHOSTS in hardcover soon in the future ❤

Mentoring a writer has been one of the biggest highlights for me this year. To help other writers on their journey is so rewarding, but finding life-long friends makes the mentee-mentor experience even greater. With that said, because I just can’t get enough, I’m part of ANOTHER mentoring program called Author Mentor Match, spearheaded by the lovely Alexa Donne and Heather Kaczynski!

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It’s a new program that’s just launched this year, and the submission period opened recently enough that you can STILL submit if you have a polished MS ready and are interested in a mentor to help you brave the next steps of the publishing journey! Deadline to submit by is December 6th, and there are SO many fantastic authors and agented writers who are offering to mentor (whaddup Axie, Kat, Katy, and Mara) so you really can’t go wrong  😉 For insights on my mentoring style, check out my profile where I basically am just begging for friendship and fun!!

All in all, November was tough, but toward the end when Thanksgiving hit, you can’t help but also reflect on the things that bring you light and that you’re grateful for. I’m so thankful for all the opportunities this year has presented, for the friends who always keep me sane and inspired, for the new people who’ve come into my life and have helped me grow, for the family that’s always supported and believed in me, and last but not least, for writing—for the stamina to keep at it, the endurance to push through the frustrating times, and the passion to love every single second of it.

Guess Who’s Back/Remembered To Blog

Hello world, I’M STILL ALIVE. For some reason, it escaped me that I hadn’t updated my blog in 3 MONTHS which is seriously a problem. Like . . . where was I? WHERE WAS I?????

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Accurate portrayal of me overreacting, source

Oh yeah, I was off doing things—LIKE BECOMING AN AUNT!!!!! I won’t go into all the details of how I officially earned that title (because that entire hectic night/day in August is now more like a sleep-deprived blur in my head), but rest assured, I have the most beautiful, wide-eyed nephew who will be victim to ALL of my storytelling and funny face-making. And humming. I remember holding him one morning, trying to ease him away from one of his crying spells, and started humming the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song which actually calmed him down enormously. Needless to say, this kid and I are already getting along just GREAT.

Also, I was off being a Pitch Wars mentor with my very favorite co-boo Axie Oh! For the longest time, we labored over our wish list (especially choosing those snaps and gifs. Man, that was a trial), just hoping we would cover enough ground to spark interest in some hopeful mentees—and we ended up with a gloriously full slush inbox that simply floored us during the submission period. Words cannot express how grateful we were to read and receive all those entries, and I’m not even joking when I say the talent out there is RIDICULOUS.

me during PW, source

It killed us that we could pick only one, but Team Rocket ended up with our dream Meowth mentee Judy Lin, whose YA horror blew us away. I think the best thing about the choosing process was that Axie and I certainly didn’t expect it would fall into our inboxes just based on our wishlist . . . but we were SO glad it did. Now, I completely understand when agents says “I want something I didn’t know I was looking for” because that was Judy’s MS for us. It’s a FABULOUS horror story told in a voice as funny and spunky as Veronica Mars, takes place on Taiwan during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, incorporates the most chilling Chinese ghost stories, features the cutest romance EVER, and has the most drool-inducing descriptions of food I’ve ever read. Seriously. Once this novel is unleashed upon the world, I dare you not to be aggressively hangry by the end of every chapter.

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No joke. SO hangry. (source)

And then along with Pitch Wars, there was the Boston Teen Author Festival in September! I was SUPER stoked for this because not only was it wonderful being a part of all the year-long, behind-the-scenes organizing as an official BTAF team member for the first year (!), but it was also amazing seeing my true loves, Maddy and Akshaya, as well as seeing the loveliest of friends both old and new. Of course, it was a crazy hectic day that resulted in many a blister, but was ultimately SO rewarding just to be a part of an exciting celebration of YA, readers, and writers. Reunions seriously can’t get any better than that.

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Trying to look legit

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Whoa this book buying line

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WHOA the book signing lines

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I can’t even remember WHAT this drink was, only that it was so necessary post-fest

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All the agent sis/Team Thao love!

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The LOVELIEST group of writers to ever take over Daedalus

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Post-fest recharge/writing retreat in the Cape

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Blood orange mimosas are heaven’s tears

And soooooo, along with other short family trips in between that would probably bore everyone on here to tears, this has been where my head is at. And then of course, there’s revisions—which in itself has been a wild adventure all on its own! But rather than ending on the nitty-gritty of that note, I’m offering up an inspirational image instead. Because I’m sappy.

While at the Cape, I took the best walk ever just around the neighborhood to explore the beachy areas surrounding us. Nothing clears your head more than smelling the sea, feeling the wind whisper through your hair with the sun still warming your skin. I remember sitting on a rock, observing the tiniest crabs crawling stealthily beneath the sand. And then as the breeze picked up, I looked up at the sea streaming along the shore to see a lone, small seagull swimming against the water’s current.

All the birds had flapped away once the wind blew, but not this one. This one kept paddling in the opposite direction of where the water flowed, making it harder on itself. I kept wondering, why don’t you just leave like the rest? Or even, why don’t you just relax and let the water take you? Why resist and throw so much energy against a current working against you?

But the more I stared at this bird still going against wherever the wind blew as if to spite it, the more my questioning reflection became an epiphany. I felt like this bird. And I knew I’d seen so many people I admire be this bird as well, pushing against something that seems unconquerable and resisting the urge to let it define your course. You set your own course, despite what others do or what the wind says. And if you can maintain that sense of self-direction no matter how hard the breeze tries to throw you the other way, then that is wonderful.

Of course, the seagull probably had NO idea I was pretty much stalking its progress with all of these crazy, spiritual, bird-lady thoughts. If it noticed me, it didn’t scatter like most birds usually do. Instead, it eventually gained dominion over the majority of the stream because it didn’t fly away. It stayed, it kept going. It became quite a sight to behold, because the boldest birds don’t always have to fly to be seen. Sometimes all it takes to be acknowledged is just maintaining your own course, tireless and fearless.

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