About Me

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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

25 March, 2013

Depth of Desire

No, this post isn't about anything remotely sexual or erotic, as its title might hint at. (Is it just me or has society made us think this way? Haha.) Instead, this is about my son and a value judgement he made last night based on his desire for a new toy.

Last Friday, after I got home from Track and Field practise, my wife informed me that she and our son had made a deal. Our son would have one serving of vegetable everyday until his birthday (a month from now) and he could have the Jake and the Neverland Pirates sword he's been eyeing at Target. (Jake and the Neverland Pirates is a show on the Disney channel that our son frequently watches.) He agreed and, after a couple of delays, he was to have his first bite of vegetable last night.

Veggies are good for you. All sorts of research shows that but not everyone is going to love every kind of legume or leaf out there. Some people, like my wife, do. Others, like me, not so much. I eat the vegetables I like and I discard the ones I don't. I also took to veggies later in life - around my late teenage years - so I'm not too concerned about when my son gets there. He will eventually. Anyway, next to his bowl of Mac 'n Cheese, my wife put down a bowl of steamed mixed vegetables. She forked a broccoli floret and offered it to our son. He looked at it, leaned forward and sniffed it. Then, he went for it but, just as quickly, he backed off. My wife reminded him of their deal to which he shrugged, scrunched his face and said, "You know, I don't think I want a sword."

In other situations, when he's changed his mind and expressed it, there's been a hint of manipulation and pity in his voice and, when we've taken the offering away, he'll immediately change his mind and eat or do whatever it is he'd decided not to. In this case, however, there wasn't any of that. The look on his face and the tone in his voice was sincere, without any kind of irony or pouting or suffering. Naturally, my wife and I were disappointed that he hadn't stuck to his guns and tried the veggies. Like I said earlier, though, he'll get to them eventually.

What was more impressive to me, however, was his value judgement. He'd decided that the sword wasn't worth the cost of eating something that looked and smelled unappealing, to him, and which he felt he wasn't ready for. And, to be completely, honest, I felt proud and pleased. He'd changed his mind and, I believe, he did so after weighing out his options; as much as an almost five year old can. I was especially pleased, too, because he'd made his own decision and stuck to it, even after my wife reminded him a second time that he wouldn't get his sword this way.

There are some people who contend that, in terms of personality, who we are when we're children is ultimately who we'll be when we're adults. If that is, indeed, true then I'm happy. You see, my son showed that he's going to make his own decisions, stick by them and not be coerced by outside influences (the sword). Instead, he's going to have his own value system and do what he does based on that. He knows that he can change his mind about things and that doesn't make him a bad human being.

Naturally, I'd hoped he eaten the veggies but, in the larger scheme of things, I'm glad he didn't. Well done, son.

21 March, 2013

Don Lee's "The Collective

The Collective: A NovelThe Collective: A Novel by Don Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another Don Lee triumph. Not since Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" has a book brought me to tears. Perhaps it's because I am also an Asian American writer - like Joshua and Eric - but, in more ways than that, I relate to both of them that this novel simply resonated with me on every page. And the ending...Oh the ending. I won't give it away, naturally, but be prepared. My heart dropped and I felt like I was kicked in the gut and slapped in the face. Thank you, Mr. Lee for writing entertaining and meaningful books and for being an inspiration to hacks like me.

View all my reviews

06 March, 2013

Book Review of Back Kicks And Broken Promises

Back Kicks And Broken Promises, my debut novel that came out last year, got its second formal review today. Reviewed by one of IndieReader.com's staff writers, Back Kicks has been called "...an insightful and pertinent novel..."

Go to the link below to read the review.

05 March, 2013

Nurturing Young Writers

My afterschool Creative Writing prorgam started out as a club for which I got paid a small stipend of $420 per six-week (once a week) session. After being informed that I needed to have at least six members in order to get paid, it's now purely a volunteer endeavour. (Right now, I have three students.)
And I love it. 
I've written since I was about eleven - the age of my youngest student - but I didn't have the priviliege of having my stories critiqued by fellow writers nor, outside of my English Language and English Lit classes, did I have the opportunity to learn about the craft of writing. Even then, in Language, we learnt basics (metaphor, simile) and in Lit it was about plot, character lists, setting and theme. My workshop is open to all kinds of writing because I don't have the time, unfortunately, to run separate workshops. Really, though, writing and creating stories is the same regardless of the kind of writing you do. Ultimately, I'm teaching what I know about the creative process and not just about form, style, voice, POV, structure, etc. Furthermore, with raw, young writers, it's about the commonalities of character development and "show, don't tell" that we're concentrating on.
I don't mention this to pat myself on the back for providing a free writing workshop. That's not why I'm writing this post. What I do want to say is that it's been a tremendously rewarding experience. It's been inspiring, too, and adds a boost to my own writing projects. I've managed to maintain daily writing, since I 'won' NaNoWriMo last November, but sharing what has been shared with me about writing, from what I've learnt from places like The Gotham Writer's Workshop, helps me keep on my toes. As a result of running my workshop, I've become more diligent about reading my Writer's Digest and Publisher's Weekly subscriptions for anything that might help my students develop in their writing pursuits. I've also become extra motivated to finish some of the projects I'm working on. And, giving my students suggestions and ideas, I'm able to look at my own plotlines and character motivations with a more discerning eye.
What's really exciting is to listen to my students talk about their work. They have grand ideas about being the next Michael Bay or Peter Jackson or Christopher Nolan and about the second and third books of their dystopian/scifi novels, even though the first one isn't near being finsihed. I don't say this condescendingly, the way some adults with experience and/or expertise in an area sometimes do when young people talk about their goals and dreams in that same area. Rather, I am genuinely excited to hear what they have to say because their enthusiasm is contagious and it reminds me of when I started taking writing seriously and how I had the same dreams. Now, wiser, I still have those dreams and aspirations but they're tempered with understanding. I've had some some success and more failure but, yet, I forge on. Moreover, some of the students in my workshop are really tuned in and have great instincts as far as character developement and character motivation are concerned. One of them, the screenwriter, has a fantastic idea that he's obviously been thinking about and plotting for a long time. And, my dystopian writer, has some unique storylines that the fans of Divergent, Legend, The Hunger Games and Twilight will enjoy. The ideas she has, as far as I am aware, have not come up in any recent works of popular YA fiction. She's really on to something and I'm proud to be helping her develop her voice and writing style and her story; especially as a fan of some of those books I listed.
Running this workshop, which I try to run like a Gotham Writer's Workshop class with 'The Booth' as our critiquing format, has been a great way for me to share what I've learnt about writing and, hopefeully, a way for some young people to get closer to realising their own hopes and dreams. It's my way of giving something back to the writing community that has welcomed me into its membership. It's also made me realise that, while I still have much to learn, I have already learnt a lot. Last week, with only my screenwriter's work being critiqued, I helped him get through some major stumbling blocks and there were several 'lightbulb' and 'Aha!' moments that will move his story forward. It was a fantastic session-each is only an hour long-and it made me feel like I was in  the writers' room, collaborating ideas, for a movie or TV show. It felt good, for me, to help him breakthrough. This class has also reinforced the importance of sharing your work; of talking it out and workshopping pages. Writers need each other. 
Last school year, 2011-2012, I ran one Creative Writing workshop and I had two students. This year, I have three and we're in our second six-week session. The writing is pretty good, too, and with each submission it's getting better. It's exciting to see students come in with their own ideas, some more fleshed out than others but all with great passion and enthusiasm. For those of you  reading this post who are writers, and you don't already do so, I encourgae you to run a program. Some of you might do so professionally already, as a writing teacher in an MFA program or through a workshop like Gotham. Some of you might be freelanceers, like me, who still have a day job and spends early mornings and late nights getting your pages written. Whoever you are, remember why you started writing and, when you meet a young person who writes or who expresses an interest in starting, make sure you help nurture his or her passion for it.
Happy writing all!