Why I Chose To Be A Writer

Many times, I wonder why I’m pursuing a career in writing.  It doesn’t pay much, people usually look down on you if you haven’t published anything.  I mean why the hell would anyone do it? 

When I find myself doubting my decision, I always remember one moment when I was is in my Memoirs class over at Mount SAC.  One day, Professor Syd Bartman had us respond to a sentence she wrote on the board.  In this case, it was something along the lines of “write about an object.”  And I decided to write about a jade ring my father gave me when I graduated high school.  You see, my father left when I was about 7, and he was often absent while I grew up.  In fact, I wouldn’t see him for two years.  I read in class how the ring was a symbol of my father’s relationship with me.  It was a gaudy thing that I would never wear, but it was obviously expensive, as if my father could in a way supplement his absence with lavish things.  And when I became an adult, I grew disillusioned with my image of my father, which was before one of admiration.  After I told that story, at the end of class, one of the students, an old man, perhaps about 60 or 70, came up to me.  He was a very smart man, and I think he actually taught a class at another community college and wanted to take a memoir class to write about his own life.  He held out his hand and shook my hand and thanked me for my story.  He explained that he too had a son whom he abandoned in his younger days, and my story touched him so.  I was surprised because I didn’t really think much about my story.  I didn’t even think it was that interesting, but at least, it was an honest story, one that I’m not too proud to talk about.  And, to me, this is what my writing usually is about.  Things I don’t like thinking about too much, but need to put it down on paper to cope with things.  I never forgot this moment.  And I hope in the future, my writings will continue to affect people the way it affected him, even in the smallest ways.  

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The Importance of a Writing Community

A lot of us believe that writing is a lonely, virtuoso performance, one that must be isolated to one voice, and that to involve any other creative insight would be to tarnish the work altogether.  To many, the philosophy is, “you either know how to write, or you don’t,” and getting help from others is not helpful at all.  And while to some degree it is true that in the end, we must rely on our own decisions and instinct to finish a piece, to completely isolate yourself in your writing takes away the opportunity of learning great things, and getting objective insights to your work that you can’t see yourself, especially since we often think that we’re just awesome and perfect and have no flaws.

Workshops or critique do not have to be burdensome or even ill-willed, though sometimes there are people who really just want to take down your work just ‘cuz they’re douches.  But, if you find the right people, you, as well as they, can gain a lot from your partnerships. 

Case in point, this past weekend, I volunteered to read a story for my program’s reading series.  I signed up months in advance, so I thought I had plenty of time to think about what I’d write and read.   But, this semester has proven quite difficult—my teaching job gave me more hours, I had thesis pages to write, I got a new gig writing grant proposals, and I have a fiancée and wedding plans that took a lot of my time.  And so, without realizing it, I found myself one week before my reading, with only an idea in my head but nothing on paper. 

On Monday, I wrote the first draft.  I felt very nervous about it because first drafts usually suck, and I had little time to do rewrites, let alone think about the work deeply and objectively.  Bogged down by work and thesis pages and looming deadline, I posted on Facebook that I needed some help with my piece.  Immediately, about five people responded saying they’d read my story and give me notes within a few hours.  I got some pretty good responses.  But, on Thursday, one of my former classmates Skyped with me, and we talked for about half an hour about the work.  Her notes were scary because they required a lot of work to address.  But you could tell she really tried hard to make the piece better.  And so on Friday, during my breaks at the office, I made the changes best I could.  And still not comfortable with it, I asked my coworker, who’s also in the program to read the current draft.  She gave me some quick notes, I made some changes, went home, read it aloud several times, and the next day, went to work, and then to the reading.  I was pretty anxious, and my mom, who came, even gave me a tissue in case I began to sweat. I slurred some of my speech, at times, even losing my place as I read.  But, I looked up to the audience to find those exact same people who gave me last minute notes.  And you know what? It was both intimidating and comforting at the same time because they were very, very smart people and could easily spot any flaws I made, but I knew that they authentically wanted me to do well.  And to my delight, the audience enjoyed it…enough anyways.  And now I have a piece of which I can be proud. 

In the end, I don’t think I could’ve made this story work in the amount of time I had without this community of writers.  So, if you guys are reading, I just want to say thank you.  And to those who want to be writers, don’t be a cocky loner, and go find your community…Now!

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Asian Gangs

Asian Gangs

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a novel depicting Asian gangs in the San Gabriel Valley.  What I find interesting is not that there are gangs, but that these supposed gangs break basic stereotypes we have when it comes to them.  Most of the time, we think of guys in white tank tops, tatted up from head to toe, grills, and rough neighborhoods.  But, when it comes to Asian gangs, many of them live in the suburbs and lead double lives in which they go to school, have jobs, but at night, go out and engage in gang activity, such as property damage, beating and even murder.  This seeming paradox is what I want to write about.  And so, I’d like to start sharing with you some interesting facts I found regarding Asian gangs and hope that you too will be as intrigued as I am. 

Click on this link below:

http://www.streetgangs.com/asian

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The Most Randomest Story Ever, Part Deux

“Nuns!” Hark Joon yelled with incredible jubilation. The entire class turned around, frightened, since these nuns were carrying machine guns.

“Don’t worry, we’re here to help you,” the nun, standing in front said. She was not elderly, but was clearly past her prime. Her face would have been kindly, save for her long scar that ran from her left eye all the way down to her lips, atypical of most nuns.

“You are all under attack of the ETS officials for scoring too high!” she said, as she flourished the machine gun around as though it was a toy instead of a weapon of mass distruction, showing off her many biceps.

One of the nuns got shot so she took out a box of kimchi from her bag and started to eat it, thinking that kimchi had healing powers. While she was eating the Kimchi, she found out that it was too spicy for her so, she went to retrieve water from the river (still wounded I think) when in which she encountered a tiger.

The tiger ate her.

No one witnessed the incident, but the river nearby was turned into a bloodstream.

Blood floated down the valley and it started to rain meantball.

A meat ball fell on Hark Joon, and he got stuck, so GV chased after the meatball to save Hark Joon.

However, because GV was too hungry, he chose to eat the meatball instead.

Hark Joon was left there to die alone. The nuns prayed for him.

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The Most Randomest Story Ever

So, when I taught test prep in Taiwan, and the students were bored out of their minds with the SATs, we sometimes took a break and played a game in which they each took turns adding sentences to a story.  Here’s how it worked:

1.  We made sure to establish certain consistent characteristics to the story, such as setting, characters, stuff like that.

2.  I wrote the first sentence to start off the story.

3.  After the first student wrote a follow up sentence, he/she would have to fold over the previous one, so that the next student can only see the previous student’s sentence.   For example, I wrote the first one, student one wrote the second, and student two can read student one’s sentence, but not mine, and so on, and so on.

4.  After all the students were done, I read it out loud.

I came across it the other day, and it was so funny and random that I decided to put it up.  So here was part one of their masterpiece:

On the eve of Christmas day, this class, drunk on excitment took a red eye flight to Florida, in celebration of their high SAT scores and prospective futures.

We stopped by Korea to pick up some supplies, such as milk, a lot of milk. But, Hark Joon instist(ed) that we (also) needed some bibles in case we see some (hot) nuns. (After we got everything), we went off to Florida.

Then, Nathan remembered that he had a best friend in Saudi Arabia, so we flew to there instead.

However, as the plane was passing through the clouds, a flock of ducks were sucked into one of the engines, which caught on fire. The plane lurched forward and the passangers shrieked as most of them slammed their heads violently against the seats before them, killing over half of them because of the impact, in a very gory manner.

Hark joon woke up to find his seat twisted up and half the class dead on the floor; GV however was alive, and the two best friends hugged and cried for a long time, then set out into the wilderness to find some milk to survive.

While they were searching for some milk, the rest of the class decided to play a vocab game. As the class played, it started to get a little too serious, and so…Hark Joon trampled to death half of the class. (Leaving one fourth of the original class?) :)

Pearl walked into the classroom (on the island?) screaming, dropping her cup of bubble tea. GV ran to Hark Joon to give him CPR.
“NO HARK JOON! NOOOOO!” All the nuns cried.

Then Nathan saved the day by pouring milk on Hark Joon, who all of a sudden, is revived. Yay milk.

THE END

Enjoy that?  Okay, then part two will come soon!

BTW.  These were the authors.

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THE BOYFRIEND RESUME (APRIL FOOLS EDITION)

Sometimes, I sit in my classroom and eavesdrop on my students as they prattle on and on about the musings of young people. And, lately, my students have been more and more been girls, all of whom are obsessed with the opposite of sex. They talk about how Greg said this thing, and how Sandra took it this way, but then she was wrong, because she’s ultra sensitive, and that b*&%h needs to step off ‘cuz none ah ‘dis is herr biz. But I digress. In listening to these conversations, I’m noticing a common theme threading them all together: a list “musts” for their future husbands.

Now, I’m not too much of an advocate of these lists, both for males or females. Their many times stereotypical and leaves no room for discovering the special relationships that await us. But, I fear that this litmus test for courtin’ is an inevitable thing. As a matter of fact, I’m sure that, soon, before you go on a date, you will have to go through an application process before you even interview to go out on one date with that prospective wifey. And so, I’d like to do my service to the world and make a list of do’s and don’t’s for the “Boyfriend Resume.”

Don’t:

Don’t Be Too Honest

Now take a look at this:
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Do you see anything wrong with this?
Now, I applaud this person’s candor. I mean, honesty is the foundation of any good relationship. But, come on. I think a little subtlety is mandatory. So, here’s a tip. Speak to the specific interests of your prospective girlfriend. Focus on the positive.

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Notice in this one, the author makes sure to be as specific to point out they would be going to Laguna Beach. This is important because, I mean, have you been to a Los Angeles beach? You really don’t want your romance disruptive by a used condom on the floor.

Do:

Make sure to specifically mention what kind of positive experience you’ve had in past relationships.

Now, under the “Relevant Experience” section, you have the opportunity to really show off what kind of specific things you’ve done to make your “honey” happy.

Take a look at this:

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Don’t:

While we’re on the topic of “Professional Experience,” let me also mention, you definitely don’t want to add too much experience. Although it’s good to be skilled at what you do, it’s not a good idea to bring attention to the fact that “you’ve been around.”

For, example, take a look at this.

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Now, if you don’t see what’s wrong with this resume, then maybe you shouldn’t apply.

Do:

Make Sure You Tailor Your Resume for the Christian Girl

And finally, we all know that Christian girls have the highest standard. So, if you plan to apply for a relationship with a Christian girl, please, just cut and paste the following, and you’ll be fine.

Resume Religious

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you are fellas’. I’ve just assured your future success of not being lonely. You’re welcome.

Happy April Fool’s!

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Grammar: “Who?” or “Whom?”…What? — The Mystery of Pronoun Case

So, oftentimes, I go on my Facebook and find many people’s status updates in which they complain about bad grammar. They even go as far as to claim superiority over others who are not as learned in the technicalities of the English language. “Um, it’s ‘their,’ not ‘there.’” “This is why the Oxford comma matters.” “Good grammar is sexy.” “God, why don’t you just kill yourself because your grammar sucks.” And, to be honest, I sometimes find myself feeling the same way. But, after years of editing, meeting with students and taking my writing classes, I’ve come to realize that I my “superiority” is not at all deserved. When I edit and am baffled by a certain phrasing of a sentence, I constantly ask Google—because AskJeeves is so two thousand and late—what the actual grammar rules are. And, in the end, I feel so dumb after realizing how much I actually don’t know about the extremely complex English language. So, I’ve ceased to judge others’ bad grammar, lest I want to be called a hypocrite. I mean good grammar is a luxury anyways. It takes teachers well-informed enough to point out the specific conventions of the English language, without giving the lazy advice, “Just use your ear.” By the way, that is one the worst pieces of advice I ever got in regards to academic writing. How can one use one’s ear if one is only exposed to bad grammar? Our ear is often wrong.
So long story short, with as little pretention as possible, I wanted to stop making you all feel bad about your bad grammar and actually teach you something that even the most “skilled” often mess up.

PRONOUN CASE

This is one of the most misunderstood rules that confuse the hell out of students. When do we use “who?” What about “whom?” Aren’t they the same? Does it really matter?

Once in a while, I will ask my students which one of these sentences sounds correct:

To whom do I give this? Or To who do I give this?

Now, if you were to put this is spell check, you’d know which one was correct and accept it without question. But, if you didn’t, you might give me a variety of responses with a multitude of strange logic. It’s the first one because it sounds more refined. It’s the second one because it’s concise. And as Mrs. Iactuallyneverlearnedgrammar said, “Concise writing is always good.”

First of all, it’s the first one. “Whom.” And it’s not because it sounds “refined.” A refined tone isn’t always correct. As a matter of fact, it brings attention to the possibility that you’re bulls*&ting. The reason “whom” is correct has to do with case. You see, there are three forms to a pronoun, two that I will be referring to here.
There is the Subject Form (I, He, She, We, They, Who) and the Object Form (Me, Him, Her, Us, Them, Whom).

We use the subject form if the pronoun is conducting the verb. For example, in the case of the verb “give,” the sentence would read, “I give the present,” not, “me give the present.” I think that’s simple enough.

The object form is a little more tricky to some, so here are the two easiest ways to remember its proper use. First, you use the object form if the pronoun is “receiving” the verb. For example, “Randy gives him a present,” not “Randy gives he a present.” It may sound simple, but let’s look at a variation of the sentence I used earlier.

I am going to give this to who? Or, I am going to give this to whom?

If one were to look at this without any knowledge of grammar, one might think either could work. I mean they sound fine, don’t they? But, for those who pat themselves on the back because their grammar is sooooooo great, then it matters which form is used. “Whom” is receiving whatever “this” is. So, therefore, you use “whom.”

The second instance you use the object form is as follows. Now write this down if you want to remember the rule: If a pronoun follows a preposition, such as “from,” “in,” “above,” etc, then that pronoun must always be in the object form.

Take for example the phrase:

Between you and I, she is ugly.

Now, all joking aside, when one reads this, one might think it’s completely correct. It actually sounds quite…refined. But, it’s absolutely wrong. Why? Because pronouns “you” and “I” come after the preposition “between.” And because of this, they both must be in object form.

Between you and me, she is ugly. This is correct.

Got it? No? Here’s another one:

The stars that hover above her and I splatter across the canvas sky.

Beautiful no? But, wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s:

The stars that hover above her and me splatter across the canvas sky.

Pronouns “her” and “me” follow the preposition “above,” and therefore must be in object form. Got it? Good.

So, now you get it. And I’ll be honest, the more I learn about grammar, the more I realize that I don’t know everything. As a matter of fact, you might’ve found other grammar mistakes scattered across this post. But, nonetheless, let’s stop making people feel bad about speaking or writing incorrectly. Let’s not put our noses up in the air whenever we see someone confuse “their” and “there,” and point out how stupid he am. Did you catch that? Hope so. Let’s be good students and good stewards of grammar. Besides, what’s the point at being good at grammar if we don’t want to encourage others to perfect their own? To be an a$#hole? I hope not!

PS. Feel free to point out any typos or grammar errors I make.

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