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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 November, 2013

Thanksgiving And The Americanization Of An Immigrant

Thanksgiving And The Americanization Of An Immigrant

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It's a little early, I know, but what the heck! I'm in a holiday frame of mind and Thanksgiving may be my favourite one.

I don't know whether I'm a patriot or not. I know I'm not a 'rah rah' jingoist.  But I do  live in America and have dual citizenship (US and Philippines) and I have a lot of love for this country. So, last week, when I heard reports of how Black Friday has actually turned into Black Thursday, I was saddened. This is not new, however, with stores opening its doors at midnight for early Christmas shopping deals in recent years. This yearm however,  shops are opening as early as 8pm and, for me, this is just not cool.

Holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are largely family affairs. It some cases, family from parts near and far, but whom you don't see on a daily basis, come by. It's a great time to spend with these individuals and for one's kids to really get to know their relatives. One can argue that going shopping as a group can be a family outing but, come on, let's get real. And, for the United States, Thanksgiving is such a unique holiday. It's one of THE important national holidays - like July 4th (when the country became its own) and Columbus Day (when it was discovered), which, sadly, seems to have gone by the wayside.

I find it a little funny, then, that I, an immigrant, is blogging about the glory of Thanksgiving. Most immigrants, I think, form a bond with July 4th. That day, after all, is when America became its own nation, independent from Britain, and meshes perfectly with the immigrant ideal of coming to America, breaking away on some level from the immigrant's native land, to form his or her own way in 'the land of the free and the home of the brave.' Thanksgiving, though,  is something I didn't grow up with in Hong Kong. I'd heard about it and studied about The Mayflower and The Pilgrims but that was it. Hong Kong, in my youth, was a British colony and I'm Filipino so Thanksgiving wasn't something we celebrated. (We did, though, take some of Thanksgiving's traditions such as eating a turkey with stuffing, which my mother learnt from her German-American father,  into Christmas).

So, perhaps, since it was something new to me, it became something special.

Every year, going back to when I was single and still living in my parents house in South Orange, I watch The Macy's Parade on TV. It's fun, exciting and helps bring in the holiday season. Now, married and a father, I do that with my wife and son. We're establishing our own traditions and, maybe, my son will continue them. Who knows? After the parade, we watch the dog show and then, as the bird is cooking, we go for a long walk. I think, for me, Thanksgiving became extra special because it was a holiday when my parents and I got to be together. Being the youngest, with two married sisters in other cities and a brother in Manila, a lot of the years before I got married and before my folks moved back to Manila were spent with just the three of us. More often than not, they would be in Manila for Christmas with my brother so Thanksgiving became our time.

I think becoming a father, too, made me appreciate Thanksgiving; not just as a family holiday but as an American holiday. My son, like me, has dual citizenship but he was born and is being raised in the United States (unlike me). He's the first generation of natural-born Americans in my immediate family (one my sister's has three daughters, all born in the US, and while she is part of my immediate family her husband and children are not). Add to this that I am an immigrant who has difficulty in knowing where to call home - Philippines (where I was born, hold citizenship, and I see myself ethnically as a Filipino), Hong Kong (where I was raised from 9 months to 16, where my heart calls home, and a city that tugs on the Chinese blood given to me by my paternal grandmother) or New Jersey, USA (where I've lived the last 28 years, hold citizenship, and experienced many of life's defining moments) - and who has  a strong sense of loss and displacement, I feel it's imperative that I forge a sense of belonging and roots for my son. My son was born in 2008, in America, and I want him to be able to say, unequivocally, where he's from. When I'm asked where I'm from, I'm always uncertain how to respond.

Also, in 2008, the first minority president was elected. Barack Obama, half black and half white, became our president and, yes, I voted for him. I liked what he had to say. I'm not a die-hard Democrat and I'd vote Republican if I thought the candidate would do the best for me and if that would, in turn, be the best for my family. In 2008, Obama made me believe he was that candidate. I felt the same way in 2012. But, more than his goals and policies, I felt a connection to him - as a biracial human being. In a way, I felt there was finally someone who would, on some level, put minorities and multi-ethnics somewhere close to the front of his thoughts. Furthermore, he has a strong Asian connection, having lived in Hawaii and Indonesia and he has Asian relatives. So, again, he was someone I, as an biracial immigrant citizen of this country, could relate to. Lastly, Obama spoke about - and speaks about - Americans taking care of Americans, crossing the aisle from the Democrat side of government to the Republican - and that is the kind of world I want my son to grow up in and, hopefully, influence. No man is an island and we should all watch each others' backs.

So, it is with this view of America - a 'new' America, if you will - and my American-born son and the special quality Thanksgiving has for me that I count down to Thursday and celebrate what I regard as the best of American holidays and usher in the holiday season. Thank you America for all you are and all you've given me and for what you will give my son.

God bless America and Happy Thanksgiving!

16 November, 2013

Philippines Relief Efforts

Hi readers! I hope you're all doing well. Sadly, many of my countrymen back home in The Philippines are not. I am pleading for your help. Buy my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, and I will donate all royalties to relief efforts in The Philippines through 2014.

Clck http://www.filamkickingscribe.com/4/post/2013/11/giving-back-to-my-homeland.html for details.

Thank you for your help and Lakas Sa Pilipinas!

15 November, 2013

Class of 2026 - A Father's Hopes

Yes, 2026. 

Earlier this month, I had my first parent-teacher night. That's not entirely true. I had my first parent-teacher night, and conference, as a parent earlier this month. (Being a teacher in my twenty-first year, I've had many parent-teacher nights.) And, even though I'm a big believer in lettings kids - especially kindergartners - be kids, I couldn't help from feeling some trepidation, amidst my excitement, as I headed to the school. It seems that the pressure surrounding kids today and the (over) specialisation they undergo in academics and sports and other extracurricular activities they are put through at much younger ages than kids were in my day, reared its ugly head into my psyche for the night. Heading to my son's school, I hoped that my son's teacher would have only good things to say about his behaviour and development and that my son, of course, would be the cream of the crop and the standard against which all other kindergarten students get measured. 

As it turned out, my son's behaviour is well within his teacher's expectations - and my expectations - and in adherence to her class rules and the school's code of conduct. Also, developmentally, Jude is doing just fine. His reading is better than some and not as advanced as others but such is the world of kindergarten. Numbers seem to be his strength - hold the jokes about numbers and Asians (which I can hear some of my Caucasian friends making) - and among his favourites are PE (well, his dad is a PE teacher, after all), music, technology (again, hold the chuckles) and his weekly visit to the library. 

Once that was settled, his son's teacher gave my wife and I a sheet of paper. On it was login information to an educational website where she'd set up separate accounts for all of her students. In each account are online books that help with reading and learning sight words. My son and I have visited that site and read many of the books and it's a joy to see his excitement when he sounds out the words and gets them right. 

What slapped me in the face, however, when his teacher gave us the paper, was the login name. It's a combination of parts of my son's name with 2026. That's the year he's scheduled to graduate from high school! High school! My son only started kindergarten two months ago and already thoughts of high school graduation are popping into my head. I guess it hit me because of how fast the last five years have gone. It's still vivid how I held my son in one hand, shortly after he was born, and when he began preschool and when he started to talk and....I could go on. Now, he's in kindergarten, which is flying. Before my wife and I know it, he will be a high schooler and a graduating one at that. 

I suppose what I'm experiencing is nothing new and common to what all parents experience especially, perhaps, with their first child. My wife and I only have one child and, probably, will only have the one child. And, while all children are precious gifts, for now, all our eggs are in one basket, so out speak. I just hope the time doesn't go by too fast and that I'm able to be a good role model and guide for my son; to help him avoid the mistakes I made, to be more fearless than I was, to be his best regardless of what 'best' means to the rest of the world. There were many things I did and choices I made that were good and right for me and I wouldn't change for the world. There were also many I regret and many more I wish I had made that I didn't because of fear and uncertainty; and my own fear and uncertainty gave in to the fear and uncertainty of others so those things I never did will always be a bit of a 'what if' for me. And, for me, the 'what ifs' are in many ways worse than the mistakes. 

I love you son. 

03 November, 2013

Falling Back An Hour

I don't get Standard Time. I don't understand it. I don't see why it exists.

Why would anyone want - why do we need  - to have shorter days and longer nights? When I was a child, growing up in Hong Kong, we used to fall back an hour in the autumn and move ahead in the spring. Now, and I must confess I wasn't aware of when it stopped happening, Hong Kong and The Philippines (where I was born) don't change their clocks. Now that we've gone back an hour here in New Jersey, my parents and other family members in Manila are ahead thirteen hours. In the summer, it's a nice and easy twelve. One of my sisters lives in England. They don't move the clocks over there, either. 

So, why do we do it here in America? It doesn't seem to make sense to me and if anyone can explain it so it's as clear as the daylight I miss, I'd be very grateful to hear from you. It just seems that people are happier and more productive when there's more daylight. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) would be suffered less, for one thing. Also, less electricity and other energy resources would be used up because, simply, we wouldn't need it. Now, by 4pm, I 've got to open my outside light. During Daylight Savings Time (DST), I  can leave it closed until about 8pm. That's four hours less of resources being used and money I'm putting out. 

Just a few moments ago, a little after 6pm, my wife told our son that in a few minutes it would be time for bed. When she saw the actual time, she laughed and said, in Tagalog, "It's still early. " I smiled but with the switch of clocks and seeing how dark it is already, I don't blame her. We're not chicken who sleep depending on when the sun goes down and awaken when it comes back up. 

So, again, what's the pointof Standard Time? I'm just glad that, before he left office, President George W. Bush signed a bill that delayed the falling back weekend by a couple of weeks and moved the return to DST up by the same time frame. I'll adjust to the longer nights, as I do every year, but I'll be counting the days and waiting with excitement for March 9, 2014 to arrive. That, if you haven't guessed or don't already know, is when we go back to DST and when we get back to seeing the light. I just wish that those who decide when and if we say goodbye to DST see it light too. 

02 November, 2013

A Writer's Editor - RIP Monica Harris

It's strange how people affect us, impact upon our lives and leave some kind of indelible impression. And, I'm not referring to the people we've known the longest or the most intimately. Sometimes, more than we might realise at the time, these individuals are people we've met only a few times or, in some cases, only once.

I was reminded about this just a week ago when I checked my email and found one from Twitter. I get these often, as I'm sure many of you who have a Twitter account do. It's an email suggesting people for me to follow; the suggestions generated by some program that analyses trends, hashtags, followers, those who follow you, etc. Well, one of the suggestions was MHM Editorial Services (@mhmedits). It'd been a while - probably a year or so - since I'd last thought about MHM but I recognised the name immediately and my initial thought was "Don't I already follow this account?" So, I logged into my Twitter account and checked it out and, just as I suspected, I already follow @mhmedits. I further learnt, however, that MHM's account is no longer active due to the death of its account holder. Likewise, MHM Editorial Services is no longer operating.

Upon discovering this, I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut and slapped in the face. MHM Editorial was an editing business run by Monica Harris. I met her at the 2009 Book Expo America and a few months later we met at the lobby of a New York hotel where my sister-in-law and her husband were staying. My wife came into New York with me. She had breakfast with my in-laws and I had a meeting with Monica. 

A few weeks before our meeting, I'd emailed Monica the first ten pages of my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises. She was more of a content editor versus a line editor but she did offer suggestions in syntax and caught some typos as she made useful comments on the various red flags she found in the book's plot, character motivation and dialogue. As most editors do in this kind of situation, Monica went through these pages for free. To edit more would've required a proper business arrangement which, after considering my self-publishing budget, I could not pursue. In spite of this, Monica more than welcomed my emails that were full of general questions on publishing. She also, even months after our meeting, willingly accepted and promptly answered my questions asking for further clarification of the comments she'd made on the pages she'd read. To me, this showed a true dedication on her part of being a writer's editor; being more concerned about the writer creating the best work he or she can produce and understanding what he or she needs to do than performing quality editorial services and writer support just for a buck. 

As insightful as Monica was with my manuscript, she was also ahead of the curve when it came to self-publishing. In the last ten years or so, independently publishing one's own work has grown and become less taboo. Anticipating the growth of indie published books, Monica specialised in serving the independent author, leaving her editing posts at traditional publishing houses and forming MHM Editorial.

I didn't know Monica very well, at all. I only met her once. But, the integrity in her approach to my work and the dignity she offered me as a green first-time author, has left a lasting impression on me; so much so that, when I found out she'd died, tears pooled at the bottom of my eyes. I felt like a friend had died, albeit one with whom I'd lost touch.

I'm an indie author hoping to break into the mainstream with an agent and a traditional publishing house. Thanks to Monica, I'm less ignorant about the entire process and I feel more secure about my work and vision being my work and vision. For that, I thank her. And, whether you're an indie or a traditionally published author, I hope your editors possess the character and love of her craft the way Monica did. 

RIP Monica Harris. The publishing world, especially that of the indie author, misses you deeply. 

01 November, 2013

November - The Writer's Month

November - The Writer's Month
It's November 1st and, in addition to it being All Saints' Day, it's National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. I participated in NaNoWriMo last year and I 'won' it. I wasn't the sole winner. If a participant finished the first draft of a novel, at a minimum of 50,000 words, you were considered a 'winner.' Most novels, really, are 70,000 to 80,000 words long but 50,000 is absolutely doable in thirty days and becomes the seed for revisions, which can include making the novel more complex and reaching the bench mark 80,000. I'm actually in the process of finishing revisions for the novel I first drafted during last year's NaNoWriMo (Born From A Stone, book one of my Sage Of Heaven series) and I'm challenging (pressuring?) myself to also finish the first draft of another novel, Aliens Among Us, which is book one of my series of the same name.
I discovered earlier today that November is also NaBoPloMo. (Say that out loud a few times. Doesn't that sound like you've just come back from the dentist, tongue swollen and numb from novocaine?) Anyway, NaBoPloMo stands for National Blog Posting Month. If you're reading this, you're likely a blogger also. And, diligent bloggers, of which I am not one during the months of August through October because of a packed schedule, put up new posts several times a week, if not daily. Well, just as NaNoWriMo helps me with the discipline of sitting down to write and work on my current projects, NaBoPloMo will help me keep in touch with my subscribers. And, the goal of NaBoPloMo is for participants to post a new blog everyday. Like NaNoWriMo, NaBoPloMo has a site where you can register and get more traffic to your blog and through which you can make connections. Check it out here.
Really, NaBoPloMo is, in my opinion, an extension of NaNoWriMo. While WriMo is focused on writing a novel, both are about writing. That's why, with two global reaches to promote writing and reading (let's face it, both are reaching all areas of the world thanks to Twitter and other social media), November has become, for me, 'the writer's month.' Add to this that I took my first Gotham Writer's Workshop in the fall and this time of year is truly all about writing. Of course, I write all year long but there's something special about this time of year that jump starts or adds an extra spark to my involvement with words; not just as an author but as a reader, too. Maybe it's because we're going to be falling back an hour and enjoying less daylight and spending more time indoors. Maybe it's because it's getting colder and we'll be cozied up with a blanket, a warm dog at our feet, logs crackling behind you in your fireplace. Whatever it is, the next few months we'll all be spending more time inside and for many of us that means more reading and writing.
Good luck to my fellow writers, whether you're participating in NaNoWriMo and/or NaBoPloMo or not. After all, it's about showing up and putting the words down that gets the job done.
Happy writing!