Almost Published... with a Baby

The Adventures of an Aspiring Author and New Mom

Welcome to my website!

So, I have taken the first steps to becoming a published author . . . my own author website! Join me on my journey as I work to take the “Almost” out of my title.

Five Principles the Left and Right Must Agree On Right Now to Preserve our Democracy

Note: This isn’t about writing, but given the recent election, I found it hard to focus on my novel for a couple of weeks, during which I wrote this article. I also posted it on Medium.

The results of the presidential election were shocking and scary—and Republicans should be as alarmed as Democrats. Donald Trump openly campaigned as a tyrant, suggesting we violate Constitution and international humanitarian laws, claiming he alone can solve complex problems, slandering entire groups of people, and threatening to jail his political opponents.
Now that he’s won with a narrow minority of the popular vote and has made an unusually nice acceptance speech, many on the left and right say we should give him a “chance to lead.” While his inauguration may be inevitable, we cannot wait to send a clear message about the limits of his power. The left and right don’t agree on much these days, but it’s imperative that people across the spectrum come together to protect five basic principles of our democracy:

1) Defend the Constitution
Trump has proposed many unconstitutional policies during his campaign, among them a religious requirement for immigrants, threats to jail his political opponents and sue media outlets that speak out against him, and support for racial profiling and “stop and frisk” searches. Those of us who believe in the Constitution need to deliver a united message that, as President, he must respect the Constitution and Rule of Law at all times.

2) Practice prudent foreign policy and uphold international laws
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the worst case scenario of a Trump presidency would be nuclear war that kills hundreds of millions of people. Trump has an infamous temper and has spoken lightly about using nuclear weapons during his campaign. Now that he stands to be Commander in Chief, we need to speak together to say we will not tolerate reckless statements about weapons of mass destruction.

Trump has made many other rash foreign policy statements, including the suggestions that we rethink NATO, steal Iraq’s oil, force Mexico to pay for a wall it doesn’t want, and kill the family members of terrorists. Whether these statements show a willful ignorance of the lessons of history and international laws or a conscious decision to break them, they cannot be allowed to become reality. The left and right, along with military leaders, must make it clear to Trump that the only way to put “America first” is to pursue a foreign policy that is thoughtful, measured, and legal.

3) Show respect for Americans of all ethnicities, religions, and genders
Trump has tried—and to an extent succeeded—in further dividing our country along racial and ethnic lines. He has demonized non-whites, especially Latinos, blamed immigrants for criminal and economic problems they did not cause, and promoted harmful stereotypes about Muslims. This divide-and-conquer strategy is commonly employed by tyrants and should be deeply disturbing by those who love freedom. Unfortunately, there is a large group of Americans who now feel empowered to express and act upon their racist and sexist views. I believe, however, that there is a larger group on the left and the right (including some reluctant Trump voters) who find these views abhorrent. Everyone who believes that diversity is an American strength needs to speak up and let Trump know we will fight his divisive rhetoric and work to bring people together.

4) Use evidence and verifiable facts to shape policy decisions
While all politicians spin and exaggerate the truth, Trump’s campaign relied on pure fiction to a dangerous extent. Some of the most basic tenants of his campaign go against all evidence: refugees are likely to be terrorists and criminals, climate change is a Chinese hoax, the government “knows who the criminals are” but is simply choosing not to do anything about it…
Trump’s “solutions” to our country’s real problems are based on a combination of misinformation and magic. When asked how to balance the budget while also cutting taxes and initiating massive infrastructure projects, he answered that once he becomes President the economy will suddenly grow so dramatically that—poof—no more budget deficit! His “secret plan” to defeat ISIS is so secret that not even he knows it. And his climate change plan is to ignore it, because he claims science is a Chinese hoax.

Clearly, some people would rather believe the lies they want to hear than unpleasant truths. But reasonable minds on the left and right need to band together to send a clear message to Trump: Fiction may have gotten you elected, but facts must shape our policies.

5) Promote civility while upholding the right to peacefully protest
Trump’s vulgar and mean-spirited rhetoric, while sometimes entertaining, has served to further divide the country. Some of his opponents have responded with vulgarities of their own, which are understandable and possibly appropriate in the context of a comedy show or a venting Facebook post. As a long-term strategy, however, trying to out-mean Trump is counterproductive and nearly impossible. The best response for our elected officials and community leaders is to insist on civility. We can and should protest injustice, debate the issues, and even engage in peaceful civil disobedience when necessary, but we must refuse to turn disagreements into a middle-school-level bullying contest.

Promoting these five ideals may seem difficult when our President-elect has just broken all of them. But I believe that, between those who vehemently opposed Trump, those who reluctantly supported him but were troubled by his campaign, and those who supported third party candidates or didn’t vote, we have a majority who still believe in these basic tenants of a functioning democracy.

If we can promote these five principles, we will have the best case scenario for a Trump presidency: four years of a President that half the country hates, followed by a chance to make things right again in the midterm and the next presidential election. That is how democracy should work. But if we don’t band together to support these five ideals, in four years we may not have a democracy to defend.

This is What Happens When a Writer Listens to Too Many Children’s Songs

I just got a flash fiction piece published on the Akashic website as part of their Terrible Twosdays series. Check it out here!

How to Finish Your Novel without Ignoring Your Baby

The week before my baby’s due date, after I had finally wrapped up my work obligations, cleaned the soon-to-be nursery, and inflated my birth ball, I sat down and spent several hours attending to my other “baby,” my first novel. Though I was already experiencing what I now realize were early labor pains, I was determined to complete a hefty round of revisions before the baby was born. If this baby is two weeks late, I thought to myself, and I somehow write polished prose really really fast, then I might, possibly finish this draft…or at least half of this draft?

My first contraction interrupted my thoughts.

I love my little girl and wouldn’t give up being a mother for anything, not even a best-seller. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that having a baby doesn’t mean the end of my writing dreams. Though I had to stretch out my timeline, I managed to complete a fairly final draft of my novel during my baby’s first year.

What advice would I give other aspiring parent-novelists? The one sentence summary would be this: Your novel must be the “next thing” on your list.

A parent’s first three priorities are pretty much set:

1) Family, including spouse/partner and child(ren)

2) Self-care, including eating, showering and—if you’re lucky–sleep and exercise

3) Paying the bills (I was going to call this “financial security,” but that might be too much to ask for in an expensive city like Los Angeles.) If you are already lucky enough to make money writing, then congratulations! But if you’re like me, you need to bring in some income from other sources.

Some people understandably have a hard time managing this list alone. If you’re lucky enough to have time for anything else, though, you are probably only going to get to #4, and possibly #5. If writing a novel doesn’t come until 6 or 7, then you might not want it enough to actually do it. And that’s fine; just about anything else is more likely to make you rich and famous. But if your novel just won’t leave you alone, then you have to give it priority, above tasks like doing the laundry and developing ab muscles like this lady’s. (What’s my excuse? I’m writing a novel!)

Let’s take the classic advice “write while the baby is sleeping.” The problem is, when the baby finally goes down for a nap or bedtime, there will be at least twenty other things on your list: Take a shower, drink coffee, pick up the papers the baby has scattered across the living room floor, eat a snack, wash the dishes, cook dinner, call your mother, check your email, do some stomach crunches… These are all important and worthwhile, but if “write” is the thing you do when you’re finished with everything else, you will not write a word before the baby is once again screaming for your attention. When I really want to write, as soon as I put my toddler in her crib I step across the papers on the floor, ignore the dishes in the sink, turn off my phone and close my email, flip open my computer, and write. (Actually, I usually get a snack first, but I’m an active mother, I need a snack!)

I’m not saying you should always ignore the dishes or never exercise. After all, family and self-care both come before writing on my list, and dishes are harder to wash after the food has dried onto them. But if writing is a priority in your life, you need to make time for it. To do this, let the people in your life know, through your words and actions, that writing is important to you. And once you’ve set your goals, don’t hesitate to get help. If your partner, relatives, and/or neighbors are willing to watch the baby for a few hours while you write, let them! And if you have the means, consider hiring a nanny or babysitter.

If you are fortunate enough to have someone else assist with childcare, I suggest you leave the house to write. Even when she’s with my loving husband, I find her it nearly impossible to ignore my daughter’s plaintive cries when she wants my attention, and she always wants my attention when I’m trying to write!

Of course, as someone who is still striving towards her dreams of publication, I know that all of this is easier said than done. There have been many times in my life when, for various reasons, my writing has been put on the back-burner. If it’s not the right time in your life to make writing a top priority, you may want to simply find ways to keep the writing spark alive. I think it would be difficult to finish and revise a novel by writing for fifteen minutes a few times per week, but that may be enough to keep your skills in practice until you have more time to hone your craft.

Unlike your human babies, your novel will not reach a new milestone or grab a sharp knife that you were sure was out of her arm’s reach when you look away for a split second. It will just sit there unfinished, patiently waiting until you are once again able to make it the next thing on your list.

For any other writing mommies (or daddies) other there: What advice would you give about how to find time to write without ignoring your child(ren)? Post a comment! I’m always open to new ideas.

Does Anyone Care About my Author Blog? A blog post about blogging (very meta, I know)

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted a new blog entry in over a year. Actually, you probably didn’t notice, because why would anyone check this blog if I don’t even care enough to update it? Despite what it may seem like from this website, I have actually been writing quite a bit over the past year, I just haven’t been blogging about it. My question is: Does that matter?

I established this author website almost two years ago, after speaking to some other not-yet-unpublished authors at a potluck hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society. One of them told me that she had recently garnered the interest of an agent who wanted to represent her. What had the agent asked her? Not to see the first few chapters of her book, but rather how many people read her blog and how many followers she had on Twitter. When she answered several hundred each, the agent expressed interest. Other people sitting at the table around me began sharing their own stories of how they were promoting themselves through Twitter, Facebook, and their author websites. So I opened a Twitter account on my phone right there at the table, a Twitter account that I have posted to about one time. Later that year, I built this author website so I could start “building my platform.” It kind of makes sense—if publishers and agents already know I have a following, they will be more confident that people will buy my novel(s). On the other hand, if was really that brilliant at marketing myself, I would just go ahead and self-publish. Plus, I wasn’t really sure what to publish on my “author blog,” while I had plenty of ideas for my novels and short stories.

After New Year’s 2016, I decided that one of my resolutions would be to do more with this website. I still wasn’t sure if anyone was interested in my musings on writing and motherhood and life, but how would I really know if I didn’t try to update this site regularly? After all, my husband (whom I love dearly) has watched videos on YouTube of people talking about what might possibly be in the next Star Wars movie. These people don’t seem to have any insider knowledge, nor fancy special effects, yet their videos still seem to get a lot of hits. So I sat down to write a blog, and once again found myself uninspired. Instead of writing something, I began to research how much author blogs matter. The answer? Either very little, a whole lot, or everything in between, depending on who you ask. Some authors, like self-published bestseller Hugh Howey, blog regularly and have used the Internet to build a large following. John Green doesn’t exactly seem to blog, but he is all over the Internet and social media (personally, I love Crash Course videos), which has surely increased his book sales. Others, like Suzanne Collins, have plenty of people writing about them but don’t seem to create much online content themselves.

As I was reading about the varying degrees that my author website may or may not matter at this point in my writing career, a simple yet profound idea dawned on me—if I am not into my author blog, how can I expect anyone else to be excited by it? I didn’t let the daunting odds of becoming a bestselling novelist convince me not to write my first novel because I was really into that novel. And now I’m getting really into my second novel, despite all the hours of writing and revisions it will require before it is ready to submit. I believed in my work first, and hopefully at some point in the not-too-distant future other people will read it. Those people who make videos about what might be in the next Star Wars video are probably really into Star Wars and also enjoy make videos. Their passion came first, their followers came second.

There is, however, a big benefit I could get from writing online articles—the nearly immediate gratification of publication. Novels can take years, but I can write and publish an article in a couple of weeks or even days. And I do sometimes have ideas for articles, just not enough to update my blog on a weekly basis, especially when I don’t know if anyone besides my mother will read it.

Then, I came across the resolution to my blogging dilemma in this article about author blogs: Instead of trying to direct people to my own website, I should try writing articles for other websites. Websites that already have a following and are probably looking for content, content that could be vetted and edited and published within weeks instead of the months or years it can take to complete and finish a novel. So that leads to my new plan: Look for well-read websites that could use content and are looking for submissions, write something that could fit what they need, and then link to it on this author website (which I might as well keep, since I already created it). I’m going to aim to submit something at least once a month, which will still leave ample time to write my new novel.

How well will my new plan work? If anyone is actually reading this, you can check my author blog to find out. Go ahead and leave a comment so I know somebody is paying attention.

Observations on Being a New Mom

Observations on Being a New Mom

 Sleepy Ziva

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog, but I have a good excuse: I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on November 22! I feel very lucky to have had a smooth labor and a healthy baby.

My last post, in July, was about how I really wanted to finish my novel and have it agent-ready before my baby was born. I did end up hiring a professional editor and he had a lot more suggestions than I expected, which together amounted to another rewrite. The bad news is that, though I wrote a lot of the newest version before I have birth, I didn’t finish it. The good news is that my writing didn’t completely stop now that I have a baby. It has certainly slowed down, as it’s harder to find time to write, but I’ve been able to take advantage of some of her nap times and the times when my husband is home to get a little writing done.

Most of my life, however, has been taken up with baby concerns, which is why the rest of this blog is about being a new parent. No real advice here, just some observations:

There seem to be two camps when it comes to opinions about new babies: The “So Precious, Enjoy Every Minute” camp, and the “OMG, This is So Hard I Can’t Wait Until This Stage is Over” camp. After reading several articles from both sides, because they are both all over the Internet, it seems like some people just like the helpless little baby stage and some people just don’t (no judgment, every parent has different strengths). Also, some babies are just harder than others. So far, my husband and I are closer to the first camp, as we both agree that the enjoyable parts of having a baby outweigh the hard parts. I think it’s partly because our baby is usually pleasant and is sleeping well, for now (kina hora!). That said…

“Enjoy every minute” is ridiculous advice. I don’t even enjoy every minute of Disneyland, and its entire purpose is enjoyment. That kind of hyperbole is probably what has spurred all those “sometimes you’ll hate your baby and that’s okay” posts I’ve been seeing on Facebook. Do I enjoy most of the time I spend with my baby? Sure. Did I enjoy those minutes at 6am when I had been up cluster feeding her since midnight and I was exhausted and my nipples were sore and she was still wide awake and wanted to eat AGAIN? No. Do I enjoy seeing her smile and dressing her up in adorable baby clothes? Of course! But do I enjoy scrubbing poop explosions off her adorable baby clothes? Of course not! Which brings me to my next point… Continue reading

Is my due date my deadline?

As my Web site title implies, “Almost Published” does not mean published. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even mean that my novel is finished, though I am at the point where I need outside editing and feedback to make it good enough so I would want it to be published, let alone good enough for someone else to want to publish. I’m considering paying for professional help (for the book, not for me), but the practical side of me hesitates at spending more than a small portion of my savings on an unpublished book that has no guarantee of making me money. The more imaginative side of me says that finishing my novel is part of my dream, and I am on a deadline.

Why am I on a deadline? Not because I have an agent, or a publisher, or even a somewhat arbitrary date set by the folks at Nanowrimo, but because I have a due date: November 28. If all goes as planned, my husband and I will have our first child sometime around the end of November or beginning of December. We are both very excited about this new stage in our lives, but I also predict that it will put my writing progress on hold for at least a few years.

baby-reading Continue reading

Jamaica Trip, Part II: The Land of Contradictions

Now that it’s been almost a month since I got back from Jamaica, it’s about time that I complete a blog post telling about the second part of my trip. After leaving the Calabash Festival, Matt and I spent some time in two parts of the island: Portland, IMHO the most beautiful parish, and Kingston, certainly not the most beautiful part but the place where I know the most people.

The organizer of the Calabash Festival was kind enough to give us a ride back to Kingston with a van full of authors and musicians, which provided for good conversation and relative comfort. For the 3 ½ hour ride from Kingston to Port Antonio (the capital of Portland parish), however, Matt (my husband) and I got to take the country bus. I thought it would be good for Matt to get a little taste of the Peace Corps experience, but Matt did not find the Peace Corps experience as charming and character-building as I did.

Though the details differ, many RPCVs share similar stories about public transportation in the developing world— the goal is to fit as many people as possible onto the vehicle with little regard for their comfort. Matt and I actually weren’t that bad off (despite what he might think) because we both got our own seats on the bus and our suitcases were stored in front of us instead of on our laps like I had feared. Plus, Jamaicans only put people on their buses, unlike some countries that transport chicken and livestock in the same vehicles as people. And Jamaican buses don’t put people on the roof. Still, it was both impressive and frightening to see how many people they fit on that bus. At one point, when I thought they had already fit the last person who could possibly fit onto the bus, it pulled over to pick up not one, but three school girls. They got the school girls crammed inside because the “conductor” of the bus (he hustles people onto the bus and collects the fares) left the door open and hung out of it while it wove around sharp curves on the windy mountain road. One guy we met at our hotel told us that he once was on a bus where they passed a kid in through the window because he couldn’t fit through the door. After about half an hour of the hot, crowded ride, Matt had experienced enough Peace Corps life for his liking. Too bad we still had three hours left . . .

When we finally got to our resort, though, it was worth it. We stayed at a place called Great Huts in Boston Beach, which combines African-style architecture with tourist-caliber amenities. We were in the Almond Tree House, which is really built around a tree. I met the owner and founder of the resort, a doctor from New York, at the synagogue in Kingston when I was the Peace Corps and he let me stay there twice during my Peace Corps term for free while it was still under construction, once when my parents visited. It’s much more built up now and has several new features, including a swimming pool on the side of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Of course, it was no longer free, but they did give us a nice discount as returning guests.

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Inspiration from the Source– Calabash Festival in Jamaica

I’m writing today from Treasure Beach, Jamaica, home of the Calabash Literary Festival. Calabash, the largest literary festival in the Caribbean, is very dear to my heart. When I served here in the Peace Corps, from 2002-2004, I had the privilege of being in the Calabash writer’s workshop under the instruction of Jamaica’s top-selling author, Colin Channer. This year was my first time at the festival since 2004, and it still has its magic.

Treasure Beach Continue reading

Why Every Fiction Writer Writes Fantasy

The act of sitting down to write, day after day, then painstakingly revising what one has written, often starts with a fantasy. There are many variations on this fantasy, but I surmise that many writers share a similar fantasy to my own: I write and revise my novel. It is AMAZING, right up there with the great American classics. I easily find an agent, who easily finds a publisher, who quickly puts my novel into print and sends it out to libraries and bookstores across America. People around the country read my book. My agent helps sell the movie rights for a nice price, and it gets made into a good movie that doesn’t violate the integrity of the book. It gets translated into several languages and people around the world read my book. When I take my next airplane ride (as part of my book tour), the person sitting next to me (in first class) is reading my book. After my book readings, people line up to get me to sign their books. And then I sit down to write my next novel.

Of course, the logical part of my mind has talked to enough authors, ranging from aspiring to moderately successful, to know the brutal reality that I most likely face as a writer. Continue reading

Building My Author Website with a Pre-Publication Budget

Since I am working with the budget of an unpublished author, I decided to build my own website. Fortunately, it was not as difficult as I feared (though there are some things that I’m still trying to figure out). This page, called “How to Build the Ultimate Author Website in 1 Hour,” from a group called Out:think was very helpful, though it did take me more than an hour. I found that much of the process was quick and easy, but sometimes I would get stuck on a seemingly small problem that would take me half an hour to solve in itself. The trick, I discovered, is to first figure out the correct terminology for what I wanted, then find a Youtube video with screen shots to show me how to do it. I found Youtube to be much more helpful than simply reading about how to solve my problems. For example, here is one helpful video that shows many aspects of WordPress website creation:

How To Make a WordPress Website – AMAZING! by Tyler Moore Continue reading

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