Barefoot Summers

I wrote today’s post as part of the WOW – Women on Writing’s “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” mass-blogging event celebrating the release of Finding Emma by Steena Holmes.

Steena is a woman who believes that “in the end, all things succumb…to the passions of your heart.” Steena’s life revolves around her family, friends and fiction. Add some chocolate into the mix and she’s living the good life. She took those passions and made them a dream come true by pouring her heart into each of her stories.

Finding Emma has quickly become a bestseller. Proceeds from each book will be donated to The Missing Children’s Society of Canada – an organization dedicated to reuniting families. Visit www.mcsc.ca for more information.

If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating the “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” day, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Finding Emma! 

To read Steena’s about childhood memories and view a list of other blogs participating in the “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” day please visit The Muffin.

 

 

It’s been getting warmer lately – even though it’s still officially spring, it feels like summer. And who can help but think of childhood in the summer? There was something magical about the freedom that came with those long, sunny days. Even once I was old enough to have a summer job, and even now that there is no difference  for me whatsoever between the last day of school and the first day of summer, my childhood memories are brought back to me by a sweet summer breeze.

There is a part of me that still wants to make-believe a world full of fairies and magic, that still cannot think of dandelions as weeds rather than pretty flowers to make necklaces with,  that still wants to run through tall grass and talk to trees like the Disney Pocahontas, that still sees summer as a freer time when anything is possible.

This week I found a place that my childhood self would have loved. The thing is, there is probably nothing special about it to the general grown-up. Every so often we came across some purple clover blossoms,

but they were few and far between, not to mention much shorter than the tall grass. I had to watch my feet in order to pick them out. And other than that the field was just a patch of weeds to the unimaginative eye, like Thumbelina first thought the Vale of the Fairies was.

Thumbelina sings and the “patch of ordinary weeds” becomes a garden bursting with color and life, winter becomes summer, and she becomes a fairy. Every child’s imagination has the same power that Thumbelina’s song has.

To a kid the field I found this week is an unexplored wilderness full of possibilities. The grass would come up to the waist of childhood me, all the way up to my chest in some places. And the field is so big even the dullest imagination could pretend that it stretched for miles and miles until the suburban cloned husks of homes in the background were invisible.

In that field, childhood me might have been a tiny fairy, stranded with a broken wing in a human’s backyard, surrounded by birdhouses the human had put up around the garden. Or childhood me might have been a young Native American girl, not unlike Pocahontas, bored with the quiet life and unaware of the adventures to come. Or childhood me might have been content to just run, barefoot and free in the tall grass and sing all her favorite songs as loudly as possible, knowing that no one would be able to hear.

In the middle of the field, surrounded by several acres of flat land overcome by natural grass, was a tree. A single tree in the center of a small circle of dirt, the only clearing in the whole field.

Trees are one of those things for me. I just can’t get enough of them. I am a tree-hugger. In a book I read as a kid the main character tried kissing a tree once, and said they tasted like blackberries. I’m not ashamed to say that I tried it after reading about it. I wouldn’t necessarily do it again, but I’d say smokey blackberries is a fairly accurate, if romantic, description.

When I was little, my brother and I used to climb trees at the park almost more than we would play on the playground there. I preferred to do so barefoot. If the bottom branch of a tree was too high for us, our dad would pick us up and place us on it

so we could climb up the rest of the way as far as we could go.

One of my best friends, Katie, has said that her first impression of me was that I was a wild child because I had to climb down barefoot from halfway up a twenty-foot tree in order to be introduced to her.

This particular tree in the field this week reminded me of Grandmother Willow from the Disney movie, Pocahontas.

You should know that Pocahontas was huge for me as a child. I saw it twice in theaters, a lot for a six-year-old, and I got the VHS for my seventh birthday.

Maybe the movie wasn’t exactly accurate, but I loved it. I adored the way Pocahontas respected nature, the way she was awed by it. I knew the words to “Colors of the Wind” by heart and could sing it without music before the movie even came out (the song was in a preview before The Lion King, and I probably watched the preview more than the movie it preceded).

In any case, this tree, rooted in an almost perfect circle of earth, in the middle of an enormous field,  felt like a magic place. Summer brought me back to my childhood self.

 

 

 

To close, I want to include a summer childhood memory of Cinnamin’s, the main character in my novel, Finding ‘Ohana. Truth be told, it is my own childhood memory, with only the least significant details changed:

 

When we got off the plane, our first stop was the beach. As soon as our feet touched sand, we dropped our enormous suitcases that would get us through the semester and made a run for the waves. We had worn our swimsuits under our clothing for hours and hours just for that moment.

I was shocked at how warm the water was. Of course I knew the air was warm in Hawai‘i, but I thought all bodies of water were inherently cold, no matter what part of the world they were in. The next thing I knew, I was neck-deep in salt water. I floated with the waves, letting them wash away my exhaustion from the flight. One went higher than I expected, and I found myself sputtering the salt out of my mouth.

I was instantly brought back to our family trip to Florida. I could not have been more than eight years old. Billy was just a toddler, playing in the sand with Mom while Dad took me out past where I could touch the ocean floor. He held me above the waves, swinging me in and out of them as they swelled around us. I was scared to be where I couldn’t reach, where I had no control, but I trusted my dad. He laughed at my joyful screams. It was one of my happiest memories of him, probably because I was still innocent – the part of me he could not accept had not emerged yet. I had not had the taste of salt water in my mouth and nose since then, until I was in another ocean, thousands of miles away.

Exciting Upcoming Posts!

It has been far too long since I’ve posted. I’m sorry, readers!

Today I mostly just want to give a heads up for blog posts to come.

First of all, WOW is having a mass blogging tour and I am proud to say that I am one of the participants!

My posts for the tour will be Childhood Memories on May 30 & The Art of Loving Your Life on June 21. (Anyone who comments on those posts has the chance to win fabulous prizes.) I’ve already been working on my posts, so I’m getting pretty excited!   😀

Secondly, living in Reno, Nevada sometimes has its perks. This week, the perk was a full solar eclipse! Apparently these are not so rare. The rare part is the eclipse being visible to people who are not in the middle of the ocean! So I was able to see a full eclipse for the first time in my life, and for the last time until I’m… 56… I think.

It was pretty cool & I took some good pictures (hard to do when your camera can barely pick up anything without special solar glasses). I will be posting them as soon as I figure out how to get them onto my computer. (Have I mentioned I’m a little technologically challenged?) Stay tuned!

Cinnamin & Naali’s Hawaiian Wedding

Today I found some pictures that put an image to the clothes and jewelry I’ve always pictured on Cinnamin and Naali when they get married. I thought I’d post them here, but you can also find them on my Pinterest account.

Let me paint you a picture…

Pinned Image

Standing on this beach, Cinnamin and Naali vow to love each other until death do they part.

Cinnamin’s wedding gown is a simple strapless dress with a corset-style back, soft tulle skirt, and satin ribbon at the empire waist as its only adornment. Cinnamin enjoys very simple fashions, although she still wants to feel like a princess on her wedding day.

Pinned Image

Cinnamin’s has the shape and satin ribbon of the dress on the right, but with the simplicity and length of the dress on the left.

On the big day, Cinnamin’s make-up is minimal and her hair is straightened and flipped out.

Naali’s wedding dress is stylistically the complete opposite, with as many beaded details as possible.

The halter top accentuates her curves, and barely conceals Cinnamin’s two favorite freckles just above Naali’s collarbone.

Naali’s make-up is natural-looking, with shimmers of body glitter here and there. Half her hair is curled on the crown of her head while the other half of her hair falls down her back in waves.

Believe it or not, this is a difficult style to find an image of. I should have taken better pictures of my hair at my junior prom…

Most of her hair is curled up like this:

prom updos for long hair 2011. prom updo hairstyle 2011

But a small section of hair (smaller than is shown here) comes down the back:

Cinnamin and Naali’s engagement rings match somewhat, but, like everything else in their bridal ensembles, Naali’s is more elaborate and Cinnamin’s more simple.

Naali likes the vintage style because of its attention to detail.

She also loves color, so the sapphires are a nice touch.

Cinnamin’s ring is a solitaire, with slight filigree to match Naali’s ring.

She likes that the detail is something she has to look closely to see and that it doesn’t distract from the diamond.

And there are all the tools you need to see Naali and Cinnamin’s wedding with the same clarity that I’ve seen it. Now read all about the wedding.

Obama Supports Marriage Equality!

So it’s finally happened! The President has announced that he supports gay marriage!

There are so many avenues we could go down while discussing this. Bear with me while I deposit my brain through my laptop.

First of all, woo hoo! It’s about time. Now on to the next step. With Obama’s new slogan of “Forward,” I’m hopeful for the legalization of gay marriage within his second term. *knock on wood*

That said, I also feel the need to remind my readers that I’m not exactly politically-minded. In fact, the issue I’m mainly interested in is gay marriage. It’s safe to say that I would probably place my vote with any candidate running for any office if they support LGBT rights. In 2008 (the first election I could vote in!) I wanted to give my support based on this issue, but because no candidates were supporting gay rights, I ended up voting for Obama mostly because of his environmental stance. I had to do some reading today to find out that Obama has kind of gone back and forth on same-sex marriage.

For anyone who hasn’t been following:

When he first ran for Senator in 1996, Obama said he would fight against those who would ban gay marriage. But eight years later, he “said he believed marriage is between a man and a woman, citing his faith as the reason for that belief.” He reiterated this when running for President, but toward the end of 2010 he said that his opinion was “evolving.” (http://tinyurl.com/7jtg67z)

Yesterday, President Obama said that he supports gay marriage. You can imagine why some would call him a flip-flopper.

I’m not so hasty to name-call someone who has finally joined my side. It’s inevitable in our political system that you have to make compromises to be successful. He got into office, he showed us his change, and now he can help us earn the equality we deserve.

Also, let’s not forget that being human means having the ability to change your mind. In the above video, Obama mentions all the people in his life who have helped him see that not allowing same-sex marriage is discrimination.

I used to believe that homosexuality was a sin. I’m ashamed of it now. If I can change my mind, why can’t the president? And why can’t those religious voters also see the light and stop the discrimination? Obama’s “flip-flop” is a reminder that there is hope for a future of equality.

And we need to support him if this is going to get anywhere and actually mean anything for LGBT Americans. Signing this petition: http://tinyurl.com/7x9rmlg shows that you support Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality.

You can also donate to the election or go to a fundraiser, like the LGBT fundraising gala in LA featuring Pink on June 6th.

pinktalk1_400x301.jpg

I would have tickets now if I had more than twenty bucks to my name. LOL

If you happen to be loaded, you can get tickets to an LGBT gala here. (I’m having trouble determining if it’s the same one that the news article mentions, which features Pink.)

In any case, with a president who supports same-sex marriage, we’re that much closer to marriage equality. Our votes need to support him and any Congressional candidates who will help us reach equality.

Hawaiian Fish Recipes

Hawaiian Fish Recipes

Today this image caught my eye from a blog post (the blog doesn’t seem to have a way to select the exact post you want, but it’s a third of the way down, right after the really long pig-roasting post).

Looks delicious, doesn’t it?!

So I looked up a couple of Hawaiian fish recipes to share with you here. 🙂

First, the one that started it all:

Catch of the Day Baked in Ti Leaf

Ingredients to Cook One Fish:
* 1.5 lb whole `ehu, or whatever fish catches your eye

* Hawaiian salt or sea salt

* 1/4 c. mayonnaise

* 1/4 c. crab meat (optional)

* thumb-sized knob of ginger, cut into matchsticks

* 4-5 garlic chive flowers, or substitute scallions, cut into 1 inch lengths

* 4 ti leaves

After cleaning the fish, season it with salt and coat in with mayo. (I know, that much mayo sounds gross. The recipe calls for it so that the fish is moist and will steam while it bakes. I have yet to try it out, so I can’t name a suitable substitute right now. The genius chefs experiment, though, so experiment away. I’d love to know if any of you readers come up with something good.)

Lay the fish on top of one ti leaf and top it with crab, ginger, and chives.

Cover with second ti leaf, stem pointing in opposite direction.

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Wrap with third ti leaf, like a corkscrew,

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and then with fourth ti leaf, with the corkscrew going in the opposite direction. Use the stems to tie bundle closed.

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Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. This should go without saying, but make sure the fish is fully cooked when you pull it out of the oven.

To serve, just cut open the leaves.

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I love this recipe because of a) the crab! Can’t beat crab when it comes to seafood. And b) the presentation. It looks so fancy-schmancy!

Here’s a video of someone cooking a fish similarly to the way described in above recipe:

The differences that I can tell are:

  • the way he ties the fish. Instead of using more leafs, he uses twine. This saves leaves, and may be easier, but takes away from the final presentation.
  • the coating of mayo. Rather than putting it on the fish itself, he layers the leaf with it. This might help with the gross-out factor and prevent too much mayo from soaking into the fish.

And one more recipe for you:

Baked Coconut Uhu

Ingredients:

* 1 whole uhu (three to four pounds), cleaned and scored

* 2 lbs Wetland taro

* 2 medium onions, minced

* 2 cups coconut milk

* salt and pepper

* 3 ti leaves

Line baking pan with ti leaves and lay the uhu on the leaves.  Pour coconut milk and onions on the uhu.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for forty five minutes to one hour at three hundred and fifty degrees.

Sadly, this recipe had no photos.   😦   If I try it I’ll post an image.   🙂

This recipe uses a combination of ti leaves and aluminum foil, so it’s a little less authentic, but maybe easier? I’m sure another option is to use only foil and exclude the leaves entirely. I’d like to find out how this changes the taste.

Also, the addition of onions and coconut milk is interesting. I think both recipes here could be mixed and matched to create something unique. Like I said, the best chefs experiment!

Analysis of Critique

Analysis of Critique

Sophie Calle’s book, Take Care of Yourself is a collection of analyses of a single letter. Calle was broken up with over email, and as a way of coping she analyzed the email, and then had people she knew analyze the email, and then she had people she didn’t know analyze the email. As a result, there are 107 analyses that all differ from each other greatly. A psychologist, a writer, a mediator, etc. All with different ways of looking at it according to their profession.

I’ve decided to take a page from Calle’s book, figuratively speaking.

The other day I received in the mail a critique of Finding ‘Ohana from a literary agency which had requested seventy-five pages from me. Well, I happened to be a little down when I read the letter, so I decided to give it a couple days and then look at it with fresh eyes.

So I’m going to post the letter and my analysis of it here, and I welcome any outside eyes who will also offer their opinions.

 

Dear Ms. Leeder:

[Anonymous Agency] would like to thank you for introducing us to FINDING ‘OHANA. We regret to say that we aren’t the best match for you.

Cinnamin’s relationships with Naali and with Lucas are sweet and sincere, though they may rely a bit heavily on pop culture references.

[Here’s where I was first confused. The only pop culture I can think of including is Cinnamin and Naali’s song: “Ma Belle Evangeline,” which is in the movie The Princess and the Frog. They saw the movie on their first date, and held hands for the first time during the song, which is why they made it their song. It became kind of a thing for them, and they even engraved their wedding rings with “You are my Evangeline” meaning “You are the only one for me.” I thought it was sweet, but I can also be known to be quite cheesy at times. Is it too much? Anyway, I’m not sure what other pop culture they may be referring to, especially with Cinnamin’s relationship with Lucas.]

The flashbacks are integrated seamlessly into the narrative and never muddle the timeline. [Thanks!]

However, it is unclear to whom Cinnamin is telling the story. She says that it is a parent, but she also refers to her mom and dad without addressing them directly — when she talks about her dad kissing her goodnight, for example.

[This I did specifically because my workshop suggested it. The professor as well as students in the class said that the second person was jarring and that I should try to avoid it when possible without losing the suspension of disbelief that Cinnamin is writing the novel as a letter to her parents. My professor noted that when you talk to both parents, you might say, “Dad did this…” if you’re only talking about one of them, but then use “you” when talking about both of them. So I’m not sure what to do about this critique…]

Cinnamin’s relationship with Nicole and Kalani both clearly help shape her, and I think that they could be expanded upon. [Great! I need expansion!]

Nicole is her first real girlfriend, as well as the first person she knows who is familiar with the LGBTQ community and comfortable with being out. You mention Nicole’s frustration, both with Cinnamin’s self-loathing and with the homophobic atmosphere at the school. I would like to see this addressed more directly, and I think it would be valuable to the story for you to show the growing tensions in Nicole and Cinnamin’s relationship.

[I agree with this, I think. Nicole was one third of a chapter, and I didn’t want to spend too much time on her and have my flashbacks and present time be lopsided. I mostly didn’t want to distract too much from the main point of the book, which is Cinnamin grieving over Naali’s death. Would she be thinking about an ex-girlfriend at this time? I think in this case she might be since, as the agency pointed out, Nicole is Cinnamin’s first girlfriend, Cinnamin’s first peek into an accepting community, and the first to address Cinnamin’s self-hatred. And after Naali’s death, Cinnamin struggles with acceptance versus hatred for the first time since meeting Naali. I’ll never know about the balance thing until I try it out. So I think I’ll write it, save it in a separate document, and see how it turns out.]

Also, Nicole’s break-up speech seems a bit too on-the-nose for someone so young. [Again, I agree. This should be a quick fix to one or two lines of dialog.]

Kalani, born as Naali dies, clearly brings up complicated feelings in Cinnamin. You touch on them when he is first born, and later, in Chapter 5, but I think you could delve into them further, particularly during the middle of this excerpt [during the flashbacks with Cinnamin’s ex-girlfriend(s) mentioned earlier?], when Kalani seemed conspicuously absent from Cinnamin’s thoughts.

[Once again, I did this to try to avoid distraction. Chapter 4 is the only one in the book which is entirely composed of flashbacks. I wasn’t sure if including present time thoughts would seem out of place. However, since it is the only chapter of its kind in the book, it might benefit the flow if I do include present time here and there. I’m sure I can find a place for it.]

Since Cinnamin is otherwise so open and straightforward, it did not seem as though she was intentionally repressing thoughts of him. [Good point. While writing a letter, thoughts will come in out of order. I’ll work on it.]

We encourage you to continue editing this novel, and wish you every success in placing it with someone who is as committed to it as you are. Thank you once again for giving us the chance to read your work.

Best regards,

[Anonymous Agent]

 

So there it is. Please feel free to comment with your own interpretations and thoughts.

I’m not sure if this is an agency which I can resend to once I make changes. They don’t specifically say that I should send them changes, but they might be implying it: “I would like to see this addressed…”

I’m also not sure about making permanent changes because of one agent’s suggestions. Any agents that are interested will surely have changes of their own in mind, and they may not agree with the changes in this letter.

So, again, any thoughts and responses are appreciated!

Break-In Novel

Rachelle Gardner’s blog post on writing a break-in novel made me start thinking about Finding ‘Ohana and whether or not it could be considered a break-in novel. Gardner describes a break-in novel as “the one that has the best chance of breaking you in. The one that presents the fewest obstacles to publication. The one in which your writing shines the brightest. The one in which the genre and subject matter are closest to what seems to be selling right now.”

Obstacles to Publication:

  • The main character is a lesbian. I knew from the beginning that it might be hard to get an LGBT book published by a large publisher who might not want to publicly appear to be supporting LGBT rights. I hate that there are still people who are so against giving people in the LGBT community equal rights, but it’s the reality of the situation. And, as Gardner points out, it may be easier to get an LGBT book published once I’ve had something else published. Still, I can’t help but think that no publicity is bad publicity, so if there’s controversy it may help rather than hurt the book’s sales.
  • Not only does Finding ‘Ohana deal with LGBT issues, but it deals with them in conjunction with religion, which makes it an especially touchy issue. Although, again, see publicity statement above.

Shine, Writing, Shine!

  • This is where I have something going for me. Cinnamin’s story has been on my mind for years. I knew her long before I introduced her to paper. The result? She is real. Not just for me, but for those who have read her. A friend of mine (you know who you are!) told me that his biggest concern before reading Finding ‘Ohana was that he might not be able to read it with a voice other than mine in his head. But, he said, most of the time he forgot that I was the writer. Cinnamin is her own person, and her emotions make her real.

Popular Genre/Subject Matter

  • This brings me back to my first bullet point: when has homosexuality ever been widely accepted? (Except for in ancient Greece and other similar cultures. And even then, it’s mostly — not in every culture, but many of them — homosexual men who were accepted.) However, homosexuality is more accepted by the general public now than it has been in centuries. The question is: has the genre been successful in book sales?

One out of three, if you don’t count the no-bad-publicity thing.

As Gardner says, Finding ‘Ohana is “closer to [my] heart, the [one I] really want to see published.” It’s certainly too early to think that it won’t sell, but it’s comforting to read: “Don’t fret. Once you’ve broken in, there may be opportunity down the road to get those published, especially if you revise and rewrite with your improved writing skills (because the more you write, and work with editors, the better writer you’ll be).”

So it may be a good idea to write a novel that makes three out of three as my break-in novel. Or at least two out of three. Luckily, I can still send queries for Finding ‘Ohana even while I write a novel that might have more wide appeal. If I can’t get Finding ‘Ohana published now, at least I’ll have another novel to work on getting published, and hopefully that will lead to having two (or more!) published novels.

I’ve had an idea for a novel with a new take on werewolves. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and have been getting pretty excited about it. Stay tuned for future posts regarding a synopsis, but for now I’ll do a quick evaluation based on Gardner’s three criteria:

Obstacles to Publication

  • Some agents/publishers may see werewolves as a fad and therefore less worthwhile. This obstacle could be overcome if I present my novel as character-driven and highlight the aspects which make it very different from your typical werewolf novel.
Shine, Writing, Shine!
  • This I won’t know until I write it. But as long as I care about the characters like I care about Cinnamin, I have faith in my writing.
Popular Genre/Subject Matter
  • The other side of the coin where my obstacle resides. Werewolves may be a fad, but that doesn’t mean the public doesn’t love them!

Potentially two out of three, three out of three if I sell it right.

I would be writing the werewolf novel while writing my untitled novel, which is also likely to meet obstacles in publishing, and which will be in a format that will help when working on two projects. This way, when my brain can’t take any more of one universe, I can switch to the other and still be productive!