I Am Not My Hair

Hair. So simple, yet so complicated. A couple of months ago, I was home alone, bored, and wanted a change. I wandered into our bathroom and saw my husband’s broken shears beckoning me to put them to use. I stood in front of the mirror and began chopping off my hair.

Before I began hacking away, I had a bob that I loved at one point, but ended up hating. I didn’t touch the back of my head (I’m not THAT daring) but I take a few inches off the front, the longer parts, giving myself “layers”.

I didn’t look up any “how to” videos on YouTube. I didn’t ask my sister, who’s a cosmetologist, for advice. I wanted to cut my own hair. What started out as a simple DIY haircut turned into a statement: I am not my hair. Continue reading →

Writing My First Novel: How We Got Together, Broke Up, and Then Got Back Together

I started writing a story when I moved back from Berkeley. The story was about a guy and a girl and the seemingly complicated nature of love. Original, right? Anyways, I finished the story about a year after I started writing it. I’m obsessed with clean sheets of paper and good pens so I ALWAYS write my first drafts by hand. This particular story is literally hundreds of handwritten pages long in two volumes (because they don’t make notebooks with enough pages for my imagination). I’m thinking it’s novel length but once I type out the handwritten pages, I’m fearful it will be about 20 pages long.

Enough with my commentary and back to the point…Shortly before I returned to school, four years later at UCLA, I began to type out the edited story. Once school started, between a full course load and a full time job, there wasn’t enough time to keep typing. I promised myself that after graduation (because I chose to keep up the full course load even during my “vacations”) I would put finger to keyboard and finish.

A year and a half after I transferred to UCLA, I was done and ready to write. The only problem was that so much time had passed and I felt disconnected to the characters I had spent so much time with years earlier. I ultimately decided to shelve the project (aka lock It away and never think of it again in order to start all over with new, shiny characters). I decided the story wasn’t good, the characters were horrible, and the premise made me roll my eyes (boy, do I know how to sell a story. By the way, check out my stuff). A couple of months went by and I didn’t touch my old story but I also didn’t start a new one. Writer’s block? Maybe. It felt more like I was in my own way. Not too long ago I finished a book called Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. It’s the first books I’ve completed since graduation (sorry The Hobbit and Saturday). It was amazing. It moved me. It penetrated my soul. It reminded me why I want to write. It also brought me back to the shelf where I laid to rest the story and characters that I had formed with my own hand out of my own imagination.

I have taken the battered, fragile, pen stained notebooks off the shelf and I have decided to let them finish this dance called writing. Once upon a time I felt strongly enough to commit every waking minute to this story…and if I’m being honest, my dreams were taken over by the characters too. I loved them once and I will love them again. It turns out the story is hopeful, the characters are real, and the premise…well the premise is why I wanted to devote countless hand cramps to committing words to page. There will be things I don’t like now, six years after I first began writing it but hey, that’s what editing is for.

This past week, I completed the second draft of this story. I stuck with It. I fell in love again and I hope you will too.

Stay tuned…

Born To Read About You Being Born to Stand Up: Born Standing Up Review

Along with writing regularly, I’ve decided I need to get back to reading like a fiend as well. I mean…DEVOUR books. I read plenty of fiction but lately I’ve felt as if I needed some more nonfiction in my diet. My first foray into this was Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up.

It had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, begging to be read. When I first cracked open the pages, I expected to come across a behind the scenes scandal of his life. There was none of that.

Ever a private person, martin stuck to his time on stage as a stand up comic. It isn’t even a how-to blended with his experience (unlike Stephen King’s On Writing). It’s a simple yet funny look back at the period of his life where he was the most famous, and the little jobs that got him there.

My favorite moments are when he’s talking about his father, just barely letting the audience in. Early on, he writes: “I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know I am qualified to be a comedian.” His issues with his father don’t haunt him but they definitely have an impact on his life: “At last he said, ‘Yu did everything I wanted to do.’ ‘I did it for you,’ I said. Then we wept for the lost years. I was glad I didn’t say the more complicated truth: ‘I did it because of you.’”

Overall, it’s a short, chuckle-worthy, entertaining memoir. It won’t direct you how to break into comedy or how to mend broken relationships but it will give you an inside look into one of America’s most famous comics.

 

What’s your favorite memoir?

Learning to Read…After College

Like for many, my college experience was filled with endless reading. My first two years were spent reading things I didn’t particularly care about…thanks General Ed (aka breadth requirements). However, my last year and a half was filled with countless novels and short stories. I literally read, at least three novels a week (I guess they aren’t so countless). In college, I read with a purpose: themes, characters, literary devices…endless highlighting, endless chicken scratch in the margins. I didn’t read a single book of my choosing during my last year and a half of school. I told myself once graduation came I was going to overdose on books that had been collecting dust on my bookshelves.

Well, graduation came and went and the first book I picked up was The Hobbit by ­­J.R.R. Tolkien. After fifty pages, I threw in the towel. People told me to stick with it because it would get good but I had to walk away. The thing was putting me to sleep every time I tried to read it. I even have a super cool version with glossy pages and pictures. (Side note: pictures in books are NOT just for kids.) It’s not easy for me to walk away from a book I’ve started. The act induces feelings of failure and guilt. I take books that seriously.

My next pick was Saturday by Ian McEwan. I felt confident in my decision because it’s from the same author who wrote Atonement and that book totally gave me the feels and still haunts me. Truly gifted writers pen those types of books. It took two months to get through 100 pages. That was ridiculous. I can normally get through that amount of pages in a matter of hours. The book is basically about a doctor and the way he spends one particular day: Saturday. Titillating, I know. It’s not a bad book. It’s beautiful but very slow. I didn’t find myself dying to reach for it. It was a time filler when I had nothing else to do. That is NOT how I read. I began to worry because I bought a ton of McEwan books based on the fact that I was obsessed with how amazing Atonement was. To be honest, I’m still worried about my McEwan collection.

I finally put the book away when a friend of mine let me borrow Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I had seen the book in stores, thought it had a cute cover (YES I judge books by their covers), and made a mental note to read it at some point.

Now let me just say, it was hard to put away yet another unfinished book. When I was younger I used to feel sad for all the unread books. I thought I could hurt their feelings by not finishing them or that they’d come to life and go against me à la Sid’s toys in Toy Story. Then I grew up and realized life is too short not to be madly in love with what you’re reading.

Before I opened Eleanor & Park I felt broken, as if I had lost the ability to read for fun. I was reading these books looking for themes and motifs and waiting to tear them apart both literally and literarily. Would I never again be able to read for pleasure? Would my yearly reading of the Harry Potter series die with my ability to enjoy books?

So, I put Saturday away (on a Monday) and cracked open this new book. I finished it in three days. I felt like me again. The book made me laugh, cry, hope, cheer, it made me feel things I hadn’t felt at the hands of a book in such a long time. It resuscitated my reading life. It saved me from an ocean of mediocre texts.

I no longer feel broken or dead inside. Through my crisis of reader-identity, I learned that it’s ok to not finish reading a book. It’s ok to embrace YA fiction. It’s ok to read just for the feels and not for the footnotes. I feel like someone who has discovered the magic of books for the first time. I feel bright, and colorful and new…just like that cover.

 

Have you ever found yourself in a reading slump?