I’m sorry this blog has been deader than dead but 2018 has been challenging and I’ve found myself overly occupied at times. Yet with everything going on, I did have time to lose myself in great movies, books, and tv, so as a cheerful way to wrap up 2018 (and to please usher in the new year), I want to share with you some of the things that have brought me joy this year.
What I’ve Been Reading
I made a new local writing buddy this year, and she was kind enough to turn me on to Laini Taylor. I know, I know, I’ve been meaning to read her stuff for years, but at my friend’s urging I finally picked up Strange the Dreamer and it blew my mind!
Here I am meeting Laini at the Red Balloon Bookshop and also Laini’s signature.
She was so nice in person and lovely to listen to, especially when she talked about her writing process. One thing that stuck with me was when she described writing Strange the Dreamer, she said it felt like driving cross-country with the emergency brake on. Lately, I’ve been feeling that way too when it comes to my own writing so hearing her say this resonated and gave me courage to keep going.
Another favorite this year was Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik--also a YA Fantasy. Novik's style is so fantastic, it made me want to cry at times because it was just so darn good. I know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other writers (and I try not to), but honestly, this was one of the best YA books I’ve read in a long time. It was magical, like a fairy-tale come to life. I normally don't read a lot of YA fantasy but this year it seems I got sucked under its spell.
What I’ve Been Watching
This was a great year for Asian rep and I absolutely adored Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I've Loved Before, which is available on Netflix.
I also got completely hooked on Killing Eve with Sandra Oh. I tuned in after reading an interview on how Oh was confused about who the producers wanted her to play i.e. she didn't think it would be the lead but the inevitable doctor or receptionist role. Oh is terrific in this series, and it was an amazing moment seeing her with her mom at the Emmy's dressed in a traditional hanbok.
Even though it was technically released in 2017, this was the year I watched Thor: Ragnarok again. And again. And again. I'm not normally a hardcore superhero fan, but this movie was just so freaking awesome. I love Taika Waititi's style and you can clearly see it in Ragnarok. If you haven't seen his earlier movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, you should.
But I wanted to mention Ragnarok because of this one specific moment near the end of the film. I don't know what the academic term for this would be, but it is the moment when the hero becomes all that he/she can be and all that we hoped he/she could be. You can see what I'm talking about here in this clip when Cate Blanchett's character, Hela, asks Thor: what were you the god of again? Tessa Thompson's character has a nice moment in there too near the end. Anyway, I love these moments and try to incorporate them into my own stories if I can.
In terms of television, I've been watching (and loving) all the usuals: Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, Westworld, Stranger Things, Handmaid's Tale. I wanted to call out a few that might not be on everyone's radar, like AMC's The Terror.
This series had everything I love. Historical? Check. Unusual setting? Check. Survival story? Check. Isolation? Cannibalism? The terrible darkness that dwells within us all? Check, check, check! It was terrific, and Jared Harris was amazing. And now I hear there might be a Season 2? Not sure what that will be about, but count me in.
Another series worth mentioning is The Last Kingdom, available on Netflix. I admit I was skeptical when I first started watching this because how many times have we seen shows like these with cheesy costumes and dialogue, and, even worse, too many shaky-camera mystical dream sequences? Well, fear not. This series does it right. And Alexander Dreymon as the lead character, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, is a hero worth following.
What I’ve Been Writing
I don't want to talk too much about what I'm working on now only that I am working on something new. Actually two things that are new, and I'm excited to explore both of them. One thing I did want to share is Lisa Cron's Story Genius. This craft book on writing opened a lot of doors for me this year and helped get me unstuck when I ran into those inevitable brick walls. I know it's different for every writer, and even though something may resonate with you, it might not resonate with your friend, but I think Story Genius is worth checking out if you are looking for a new craft book. It's not about the three-act structure etc., but more about how to delve into character and connect with them on a deeper level, something that I believe is crucial (and sometimes infuriatingly difficult) to do as a writer.
Lately, I've been struggling a bit with confidence, something I'm sure most writers grapple with at one time or another. In that vein, I wanted to share my two favorite inspirational posts that have been going around social media this year. First up is this Ask Polly article: ‘I Can’t Stop Comparing Myself to More Successful Writers!’ from The Cut. It's worth the read, even for just the last line: 'SAVOR THIS MOTHERFUCKING DAY.' I've been going around the house boldly proclaiming this at odd times, much to the distress of my husband and dogs.
The other inspirational post is an interview from author Catherine Johnson, posted on Curtis Brown Creative. I love her 2nd point on confidence: "be a little proud, have a little swagger."
So yes, my writer friends, to sum up: be proud, have a little swagger, and savor this motherfucking day!
And on a more personal note...
I turned 40 this year, an odd milestone to cross. For some reason, I still think I'm 29, which I guess isn't that bad of a thing? We made a long-overdue trip to Hawaii to visit family. Here I am enjoying a mai tai with Diamond Head in the distance. We also went to Miami to visit an old friend. Here we are doing our best Barbie impression.
We also had the rental goats back this year to deal with our invasive buckthorn. Despite one hiccup where they all escaped (and I had to chase them down in the rain by myself), they were wonderful guests. It makes me want to have goats of my own someday...
And, of course, what has brought me the most joy this year would be my little ones, Hugo and Samson, who continue to be the loves of my life.
I wish everyone a happy holiday and a fantastic 2019.