Hedgebrook Residency

sign

The first words that came to mind when I stepped onto Hedgebrook ground were, “Thank you.” I couldn’t have planned a more perfect setting for me to retreat to and work in. All of the details were designed just for me. The hand crafted cottages with a kitchen, wood burning stove, reading nook and large work station. Perfect. Being surrounded by the woods. Perfect. Within view of the ocean. Perfect. Bikes ready in the barn for me to use at any time. Perfect. A lovely garden of flowers and fruit and veggies. Picking sugar snap peas and eating them fresh is the best along with yellow raspberries. Perfect. A 5:30pm dinner call where you sit down to eat a meal prepared for you and are joined by six amazing women whom you’ve just met but by the next day you feel like you already know. Perfect. Words. Writing lots of words because you don’t have fear here. You don’t doubt. You just press through.

My cabin: Fir

firhouse

To have two weeks to myself like this was just glorious and such a gift. Hedgebrook are masters at what they call “radical hospitality.” It was radical because I was able to accept others serving and waiting on me. I was able to find my own rhythm of doing work without having to worry about anything else. There were no children. No outside pressures. Nothing but myself.

 

 

 

 

 

on a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier

view

I had read that confronting the self during my stay at Hedgebrook might be difficult, so I tried to prepare myself before hand. I told myself that I might get lonely or feel frustrated or bored. But none of this happened. I allowed myself to feel and accept and come to Hedgebrook with open hands, and I think this is what helped me. It was also helpful to have community with women every night, something I never do.

the garden  from which all meals were prepared and we could pick from

garden

As far as word count went, I pretty much wrote 2,000 words a day. There was one day I didn’t write at all and I was a bit anxious about it, but I let it go. I was there to do what I would do, no more, no less. In the end, I came home with 23,000 words of a new novel. The one I had been scared to write.

At the moment Hedgebrook is receiving applicants for it’s next session. I strongly encourage you to apply!

yellow raspberries

yellow

 

This novel. Oh boy. Now that I’m home (I’ve been back a week) the doubts have started to come.

 

 

 

The words. You know, the “you’re never going to be able to write this” the “no one will want to read it” the “this is hard, what if I don’t get it right?” the “I’m not really a writer. I’ll never be able to write another good story again” the “I suck.”

my reading nook

reading nook

So reentry has been difficult. While at Hedgebrook I gave myself to the writing and didn’t let myself dwell on much else. Maybe this is why it flowed because even when I wasn’t writing…when I was running or biking or walking or sitting and staring out the window, the story was always going.

One of my favorite spots to sit

pondAt home it’s been a lot of start and stop. Interruptions all the time. Kids off for the summer. Me looking for a teaching job because you know, money. Cleaning. Planning meals. Paying parking tickets…

I’m afraid I’ve lost my flow. I need it back. This story I’m trying to tell requires courage. I don’t have time for stupid fear. It requires risk and the possibility, maybe even the probability of failure. And so I know I have to do it.

I know I don’t need a cabin in the woods. I don’t need rabbits and deer passing me in the morning. I don’t need the view of the ocean.

I need me, my laptop and some black coffee. Back to 6am writing sessions.

I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and ready.

A lavender farm nearby

lavendar farm

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Pinoy love

There Will Come a Time is getting some Pinoy love. A group of bloggers in the Philippines is hosting a blog tour and give away at Pinoy Book Tours. It’s only open to those who live in the Philippines. Thank you so much guys for helping me get the word out about Mark and his story!

 

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Launch for There Will Come a Time

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Last night I had my launch at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. I didn’t take any pictures, but thankfully friends did, so I’ll pull from some of those to post here.

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Launches are basically book parties. A chance to celebrate a book coming out and getting together with friends, family and soon to be friends. But it’s really nerve wracking. The whole day I was anxious, wondering if anyone would come. As the day wore on, I started getting texts from people who weren’t able to make it. Of course that’s normal.

My beautiful sister in law and friends Dawn and Debbie arranged some sweets, drinks and coffee for guests.

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And when 7:30 came it was hardly full. By the end, over 100 people came out to celebrate with me. How awesome!!! I felt so loved and am so grateful for it.

It’s hard to tell from this pic, but there’s people all in the back and on the sides of the stacks and on both sides of me.

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I read from a couple of passages. Not too much, just enough, but my husband said I should have read a small third section. He said because it was his favorite part. Now he tells me!
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My wonderful trio of musicians: Andre, Darren and Niko!
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Me being nervous.1512281_10152447379649750_5662794125014987767_n

With a lovely friend celebrating.1926839_10203750054534972_5814783542878729028_n

Wow.

I mean, it’s a weird thing. Writing a book for one thing–takes great hubris to think that you have something to say that people will pay money for. And secondly it’s like look at me! look at me! like I’m a puppy jumping up and down. Because there are so many books, amazing books and my little book drops in the middle and I wonder who will really care?

Fear= Silence.

Crickets.

Amazon sales rank.

Yawn.

When’s book #3 coming??

So it’s like I talk to myself and get myself under control and I tell myself that this is fun. This is fun. Creating art. Being a voice of hope for teens. Writing a story that is very real about how the only way through something devastating is through.

I have to learn to push through. To tear through the fear and doubt and those stupid voices that creep around and tell me I’m not good enough. When will I be good enough for them? How many books will it take? What accolades? What nonsense! Knock it off! Be gone! You are banished!!

Thank you. Thank you for all who came out. Thank you for all who bought a book and all who buy it in the future. Your support is HUGE and dream making.

And thank you for sharing these moments. How fun a night of community in a book store. Everyone talking and happy to be there and books. All the books.

I hope you enjoy Mark’s story!

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THERE WILL COME A TIME is here today!!

Happy book birthday to There Will Come a Time!!!

Today is the day that my second book comes out. I can’t believe I even get to say that–second book. I started writing this story two and a half years ago. But I began thinking about it even before that. So it’s been a good wait for me, and I’m so happy it’s here.

The novel follows Mark as he navigates the loss of his twin sister, Grace. He’s got friends and family to help him along the way, if he lets them in. It’s real and moving and may have some tears, but also hope.

Some people have asked me why I chose to write from a male, teen, Filipino perspective, and the answer is because I wanted to. I was inspired by a former student of mine, who happens to be Filipino, and a story he shared about being in love with his neighbor across the street since the fifth grade. I was also inspired by my neighborhood and the friends of my children. I used to watch this guy skate down my street with no helmet, pads, anything and he also became some of Mark. I am also painfully aware of the lack of diverse protagonists in children’s literature and wanted to help to change that. The characters in this novel reflect my own world and the world of my children. I love Mark and his story and hope you all do too.

The book is now out in stores and available online: amazon Indie Bound  Barnes and Noble

The official launch party isn’t until April 24 at Skylight Books in Los Feliz at 7:30pm. Come and get a signed copy!

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There Will Come a Time is out this month!!!

April 2014 is here! I have been waiting for a year and a half for you. This is the month that my second book, THERE WILL COME A TIME is out. April 15 is the official day. I still can’t get over that I have a book coming out, let alone that it’s my second. So so grateful that I get to do this.

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I am also incredibly grateful to be a part of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this year. I have been attending for years and secretly wished to be one of the authors some day. That day is happening on April 13th at 1:30-2:30 in the Norris Theatre the panel is titled: Young Adult Fiction: Outside Looking In. I am joining authors: Deb Caletti, Anna Shinoda, and Ann Redish Stampler. These are all fantastic YA authors, so I’m thrilled to be joining them.

Right after our panel Laurie Halse Anderson will be speaking and signing. I hope I get to meet her finally. I read her first book, Speak, years ago and loved it as much as my students. And this is what is so wild, I am sharing the stage with her? I mean, I would have looked at you like a crazy person if you told me that ten years ago, five years ago, even a year ago. I love this journey I’m on because it has been so unexpected.

I hope you can come and see me!!

Please look over the schedule for both days. There are so many wonderful authors of all kinds–cookbooks, childrens, adult, nonfiction, fiction, etc… It’s a great day for families too.

My official book launch will be on April 24th at Skylight books in Los Feliz at 7:30 pm. I’ll be talking about my book and reading a little from it. We will also have live music from two local high school musicians, one of which, Niko Embry, helped me with some details of my book.

The third event I’ll be a part of is the Pasadena Teen Book Festival on April 26 from 12-4. This has a wonderful line up and is almost sold out, so click on the link to reserve your spot.

Thankfully I stopped biting my nails two years ago, or I think they’d be bitten raw with anticipation, fear and overall ahhhh!!!

Would love to see you.

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updates on health and wellness

It’s been almost a full year since I was diagnosed with MS. That’s crazy. I’ll often have people ask me how I’m doing, so I thought I’d write about it. This is also for those of you who spend months searching and reading about MS after you’ve been diagnosed, like I did. I found personal blogs to be very informative and encouraging.

This morning I went hiking with my sister in law. It was beautiful. The water was full down the creek because of the recent rains and the waterfall an actual waterfall instead of the usual trickle. And while it was a good hike and on the outside things are fine, on the inside I was having a silent conversation with myself. My right leg felt tingly and numb, so the whole time I was conscious of it and praying that it didn’t mean anything. That it wouldn’t turn into some big flair up.

I’m tired today, probably because I’m a little out of shape and sleepy due to bouts of insomnia, and in the past I would push through it, but I’ve learned to listen to my body. So I take a couple of things off the to do list and settle in on the couch to get some work done.

The tingling has lessened. It’ll be barely noticeable in another two hours.

All good.

This is what’s it’s been like for me. I live my life. Make my plans. Do my thing, but MS is always kind of there in the background. The potential for an attack.

Thankfully I haven’t had any flair ups this year. I did struggle with some fatigue for a few months in the beginning, but I slowed down, napped, tried to lessen stress and it helped. Now I don’t experience fatigue in the same way.

I changed my diet. For those who maybe are researching if that helps. I believe it does. I do the Swank low saturated fat and have opted to remove meat and dairy as well. I eat fish, all the veggies, grains, legumes, etc… It’s a challenge when I eat out, but you can do anything when you’re disciplined about it.

The big change this month has been that I’ve started on some medication as well. After the strong encouragement and recommendation from my neurologist, I decided to take Tecfidera, one of the recent pills on the market. I had one day of flushing as far as side effects go, but nothing after that. So that’s been wonderful. My reason for the change is that I want to be doing everything I can to beat this, feel good and lessen chance of disability later on. I have no idea what the course of my MS is going to take, but I do know that what I’m doing now will effect that.

I don’t like the idea of taking medication because it makes me feel like I’m sick. But I have challenged my own thinking about this and see it more like the vitamins I already take like vitamin D and such. I’m just adding a blue capsule to the mix.

Since I don’t feel too differently, it’s hard for me to understand that I have this condition? this disease?, except for on mornings like today when the numbness is there. Fear creeps in and I’ll indulge it for a bit. My mind follows the familiar trail, but I stop it before I’m entangled in it.

And then I take a deep breath, pray and keep moving. It’s all I know to do.

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