kicking off august with a bang

Been crazy busy at work last week with the setting up of our magazine community, so here’s a quick update of what August has been like so far:

 Saw the derp lord, who was in town promoting his new movie:

Dove headlong into a book sale:

Met up with old friends:

 Got into the mood for the nation’s 50th anniversary: 

Then joined 200,000 people around the bay area to watch the National Day Parade:

The weather was breezy and cool – perfect for a parade.

 

The grounds were hella muddy where we were, but who cared really?

     

The Black Knights – or, as my friend Melissa put it, the lead guitarists of the Singapore Armed Forces.
The crowd was definitely left gaping in awe.

What’s a parade without some fireworks to top it off?

It was one of those you-had-to-be-there kind of moments. Having so many people around you singing along to the National Day songs you learned (way back) in school, the camaraderie and feeling of togetherness was so palpable I couldn’t help but tear up. I had already gotten emotional at this video tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew earlier on:

But when everyone sang along to the NDP classic, Home, in unison the floodgates broke loose. I sang with tears streaming down my face, and found that I wasn’t the only one. This girl my age next to me was in the same state. It’s funny how emotional you become, standing in the midst of such an outpouring of love and pride and gratitude for a country.

How has YOUR August been so far? :0)

Advertisements

when not writing, I am planning an itinerary

It’s mid-December already?! How did THAT happen? Where did 2014 go??

 photo donghae amazed 3_zpsks55xobh.gif
Donghae is as amazed as I am. Except consternation looks better on his pretty face.

It’s always as the year wears on that you get more disillusioned. Not only did I not accomplish any of my goals, I’m falling behind on my word count. Why, Joyce, WHY. Procrastination is a terrible colour on you. All those time you were waiting for the muse to strike – keeping unnecessarily busy with creating playlists for your stories, decorating your room, looking for new music, and reading (mean and scary) reviews on Goodreads – you could have plowed through your sucky writing and found a way through your manuscript.

It was around this time last year that I started on Neverland, and I’m STILL writing it, STILL haven’t written its ending even for the first draft.

 photo siwonwhuuut_zps61e7d8aa.gif
Don’t judge me, Siwon!

It’s one thing to write at your own pace, and another to put off writing it because you’re afraid you’ll fail again like you had the first two times (Neverland is at Draft 3 now).

Good thing for good books in the meantime.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15818357-dreams-and-shadows

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14061955-siege-and-storm?from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9361589-the-night-circus?from_search=true

*

Also, I’m planning for a trip back to Korea next spring!!

Truth is, I’m a travel noob. I’ve never travelled free-and-easy before. It’s just easier to have travel agencies plan everything nicely for you. But I really want to learn how to plan a trip from scratch, get around on my own, and explore places I wouldn’t get to see on a package tour. Everyone I know travel on their own in their twenties. I mean, what better time to do that, right?

And where better to visit than the land of K-pop? Yes, I have become a legit fangirl and I’m not going to be ashamed about it. So I like K-pop, I enjoyed Korea the last time I was there, and now I’m going to make this spring 2015 trip happen.

 photo donghae dorky yeah_zpszbsxuxqa.gif
Donghae approves, obviously

But there are so many sites for flight and accommodation deals and so many places I want to visit and things to take note of (public holidays, for instance – you do not want to jump into the fray at train stations or the airport), transport preparations (e.g. buying train tickets beforehand) that quite frankly I’m getting inundated by it all.

So if you have any tips on flights, accommodation, places of interest, and getting around (we’re planning to travel around Seoul, Busan and Jeju), do share! All help will be greatly appreciated by this travel noob :0)

24 Things About Turning 24

(Or, A Frivolous Post on Discoveries Made At 24)

((Or, What My 24-year-old Self Will Tell My 18-year-old Self))

1. You will never stop looking for stories.

2. Or loving them.

3. It’s okay to go all out with pink, even if people give you this look

 photo hermionejudgingyou_zpse6d610ae.gif

And this

 photo bellejudgingyou_zpse2d1bb16.gif

4. You still won’t know what you’re really good at.

5. But you know what you will keep doing even if you’re not paid for it.

6. You will learn that you are not supposed to wash away toner.

7. You will still hate wearing heels.

 photo siwoncrossdress_zps81b66f07.gif

8. Your Facebook feed will be filled with your friends getting engaged/married/pregnant.

9. Meanwhile, you’re just like

 photo zooeydeschanelcreepysmile_zpsdb877c16.gif

And

 photo donghaedorkydance7_zps4bb1d2e2.gif

10. There is nothing wrong with reading Young Adult fiction even though you’re technically a New Adult.

Don’t ever be a book snob.

11. There are books that will move you

 

12. And shake you to your very core

13. And books you wish you’d written

14. You will face rejection. Lots of it.

 photo zooeyweeping_zps00ecfc0f.gif

But you will keep trying. Because you want it that badly.

15. It pays to take a shot and put your work out there. You never know when it might get published.

16. The only way to get anywhere near published is by sitting your ass down and finishing that novel.

 photo madlywriting_zps55a755b3.gif

17. A long swim makes everything better.

18. Graduation ceremony is important to the people who saw you through to that point.

 photo rory-gilmore-graduation_zps1bd035d4.gif

So take it seriously!


19. You don’t like being lonely. You just like being alone.


20. Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and move on to better things.

 photo pocahontasdramaticwave_zps24118895.gif


21. Don’t regret or be embarrassed by the things that make you happy.

22. When you stop obsessing, things fall into place.

 photo phoebecalmdownwoman_zps6220b841.gif

23. People can be nice to you if you open up to them.


24. You still don’t have shit figured out.

Book Review – Eleanor and Park

So despite the slightly underwhelming experience that was Fangirl, I’ve decided to try another Rainbow Rowell novels, Eleanor and Park. It came highly recommended by friends, as well as Goodreads folks, and Fangirl was enjoyable enough, so I gave E&P a chance.

Overall it was … okay. Better than Fangirl, in terms of plot and character. But I was still left wanting. Not for more of the story, but for something to seriously blow me away. Like, “reach into your chest and crush your heart to smithereens because THE FEELS THE FEELS” blow me away.

Or maybe I’m just dead inside.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The Story

Basically, Korean-American kid meets weird chubby girl who dresses differently. Eleanor ends up sitting next to Park on the school bus, and they start sharing his comic books and discussing music and it’s all very nice and dandy, except that Eleanor is being bullied by the kids in school and her stepfather is an explosive, sadistic ass. Plus, she keeps find sick, perverted messages scrawled in her textbooks.

Eleanor tries to keep Park a secret from her family (especially her stepfather, who will destroy anything good in her life), and her family a secret from Park (because she’s ashamed of them). But the story eventually reaches breaking point, and all the secrets come tumbling out as Eleanor’s carefully curated life comes tumbling down.

The Pacing

Compared to Fangirl, there is way more conflict and tension in E&P. I like how the subplot of the creepy anonymous notes (“suck my dick” – very classy, step-daddy) contributes to the main narrative arc at the end and actually creates a very cool twist to the story.

Plus, the tension builds steadily towards the climax at the end so it’s quite impossible to put down the damn book (looked up to find a couple of hours just gone).

The Characters

I’m still not sure how I feel about Eleanor. Park, I get. Park, I empathise with (he feels like he’s always falling short of his dad’s expectations and sometimes just want to retreat into his own world). Park, I might actually be in love with.

(If I imagine Donghae as Park, Park is practically swoon-worthy. I mean, they’re practically of the same build, they’re gorgeous – at least according to Eleanor, but she might be biased about Park – and they’re sweet and kind but sometimes a little brash.

*Swoon*

I swear, that’s what I did. Imagine Donghae as Park, I mean. He fits the character to a T! Even when Park went through the eyeliner phase. I mean,

Come on.)

Anyway, Park I love.

Eleanor, though. Sometimes, I got a little impatient with her. She either wants to jump Park’s bones, or she shuts him out. She is either super frail and in need of saving, or super snarky and mean. I get that the hostility is a defence mechanism, but it doesn’t seem very consistent.

Sometimes, she’s completely self-flagellating:

Sometimes completely smitten (and horny):

And sometimes just plain weird.

That’s a fine stride you’re making for feminism, love.

The Romance

As with Fangirl, Rowell did not hold back her horny rabbits characters. They are all over each other, and can’t stop gushing over how beautiful each other are and how they just want to eat each other up.

I thought their romance progressed a little too fast, to be honest. Like Steph from Cuddlebuggery said,

Park went from “God! Just sit the fuck down, Eleanor!” to “God, she has incredibly soft hands.” 

Eleanor went from “That stupid Asian kid” to “He’s so pretty. I love his hair! I want to eat his face!”

The next thing I know, Park is telling Eleanor that he’s in love with her, how he can’t imagine being without her, that she’s IT for him. Then Eleanor is telling him she doesn’t breathe when she’s away from him.  

The breakneck-speed romance is a bump in the road, but if you manage to get over it, the rest of the story is all right.

Except, REALLY? Park is swearing undying love for a girl he barely knows and Eleanor can’t live without a boy with whom she barely shares anything about herself?

 photo siwonjudgingyou_zps9073ccb5.gif

The Setting

The story is set in 1986, Omaha. But Park, or Eleanor’s African-American friends Beebi and DeNice, seem to coast through the book without much trouble. Instead, Eleanor is the one getting bullied.

I’m not saying pile on the hate, but everything else about the time and place seems to fall by the wayside when it comes to E&P’s epic love. Why set it in 1986, Omaha then? It could have taken place in 2014, and frankly it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

I do like Park’s mother, though. How her backstory affected the way she perceived Eleanor and how she finally came around was something I wish Rowell teased out more. (It reminds me of Mrs Kim in Gilmore Girls and how she came to accept Lane’s boyfriend Zac, except I think the show did a better job at highlighting the character arc). I think it’d be more interesting to see more of Park’s interactions and domestic tension with his family members instead of him and Eleanor taking about comic books.

The Ending

This was me, basically

 photo ronweasleywth_zpsd351175b.gif

Please tell me the story doesn’t end here. Seriously. There are so many loose ends untied. And while I get that not everything has to be tied up neatly – nor does everyone have to get their happy ending – there are still too many questions and uncertainties that the ending doesn’t quite address.

*Spoiler* Is Eleanor going to stay with her relatives until she’s legal? Has she been in touch with her mom and siblings? She just took off like that suddenly and built a new life so easily, cutting off from everyone, including Park.

One whole year, no word from Eleanor, while Park writes long, rambling lovesick letter after letter. And finally, when she does decide to write to Park, the message is only three words long on a postcard?

If I were Park, I’d be like

 photo elsafuckyou_zps38050838.gif

But Park’s a sweetheart and a hopeful, hapless git. Like Noah from The Notebook. Which means he probably doesn’t exist outside of the book.

The Rating

Still, E&P had its moments. There were some parts that quite poignant:

And some dramatic and pretty:

Although I kinda paused at this bit:

 

Oh, I can come up with a lot of hot Asian guys, but I suppose since this is 1986 Omaha, the Asian boy fetish hasn’t caught on. Yet.

In all, I’d rate this book 3.5 out of 5 (compared to Fangirl’s 3). Not spectacular, But Rowell’s voice is natural and the writing never too heavy-handed (except when it comes to describing love interests). Some parts she sort of skated across (I’m sure there are a lot more social dynamics left to explore, considering the setting) to make way for the romance. And there were still a lot of questions left unanswered towards the end. But at least this one has more conflict and tension than Fangirl.

Have you read Eleanor and Park? What do you think of it? Is there something about Rowell’s books that I’m not quite getting??

9 awkward moments with that office eye candy

1. Weird eye contact

When he walks past your table and you’re secretly like

 photo sungmincheekysmile_zps6e68b5cb.gif

But then he suddenly looks your way and you’re like

 photo siwonsurprised_zpse19485ee.gif

Wait … is that a smile? Should I smile back?

 photo zooeydeschanelcreepysmile_zpsdb877c16.gif

Too late.

 photo dammitdammitdammit_zpsbe5c15f8.gif

2. The water cooler walk

Is he heading for the water cooler now? Damn, I’m thirsty too.

 photo kyusprayinwater_zps337c6045.gif

3. Facebook stalking

Nothing?! Why is he so mysterious?

 photo zooeydeschanelintrigued_zpsdafb33fa.gif

4. Lunch break

He’s lunching at his table alone again! Should you ask him out for lunch?

 photo amandaseyfriendmeangirls_zpscce10df2.gif

… Yeah, just a thought.

 photo krystalareyoucrazy_zps4380c150.gif

 photo thatscrazy_zpscb6c54f0.gif

5. At the cafeteria

Oh, shit. He’s there getting lunch. Turn back or say hi?

 photo ronweasleyfailwave_zps3233fcc4.gif

6. When you’re lunching in

Do I have food down my shirt? Oh crap, please don’t let him turn around when I’m wolfing down this chicken.

 photo ronweasleyeating_zpsaa1869d1.gif

7. At office parties

Some cake for you? Not you. You.

 photo donghaeyouyesyou_zpsa7c2d036.gif

8. Lift encounters

You’re in the same lift as him! Enclosed space! BUT. He’s with a friend and they’re talking about some trip he just came back from. Should you join in or hope for this unending lift ride to end?

9. Klutz alert!

When you think you’re all

 photo samwinchesterfabulous_zps9f2490fc.gif

That’s the moment you end up like this

 photo clumsypenguin_zps9feb82b3.gif

And he TOTALLY SAW.

 photo jlawsarcasticokay_zps7523e06c.gif

Crushes are much more effort than they’re worth sometimes.

last post for April!

OMG, IT’S ALMOST MAY.

 photo siwonsurprised_zps821fd36f.gif

 photo samanddeanomg_zpsfc988f24.gif

WHERE DID A THIRD OF THE YEAR GO?!

Terrible, tragic things happened (I can’t read an article about the Sewol disaster without fucking crying – why do awful things happen to good people? They were only kids, dammit!), the world is still crazy, and it’s already (only?) May. Can 2014 please be kinder?

 

*

 

In other news, author Chuck Wendig dishes some brilliant advice for young aspiring writers. So much gold in this post!

You’re not actually meant to be good. Not being good is how you get better. Not being good means you’re in that formative, fundamental blobby parthogenesis period where The Authorial You just starts to emerge. Not being good is how we are forced to take the time to not just Get Good, but also Become Us. You’re not yet the Author That You Will Become. This is all normal. Be bold enough to suck with gleeful abandon — but also know that your critical urge to be better-faster-now is a good one. Don’t quit. Don’t rest. Force yourself to improve.

You find your voice by doing. And by rewriting. You won’t want to rewrite now. You won’t want to edit. Edits feel like you’re not good, like you’re being insulted, like having to fix it means it was broken to begin with. But recognizing broken things is a value. A skill. You get as many shots at the goal as you want. Let that be freeing, not punishing.

In writing a lot and rewriting a lot, your voice will find you.

 

 

Author Natalie Whipple also shares her wisdom:

Sometimes You Have To Cut Your Losses

I’ve grown to kind of dislike the “Never Give Up” advice. Sometimes you gotta give up on something to move forward. Maybe not on writing as a whole, but on a story idea that is not strong enough to hold its own. Or on a novel that’s been on sub two years. Or on that first novel you ever wrote that has seen 200 rejections. Moving on can open up a new world. I’ve done it a lot. Never regretted it. If you find yourself pining over something from the past, you can always go back, too.

 

So here’s to rewrites and new beginnings, the pain of letting go and moving on.

 

 

*

 

And because I really don’t want this post to end on such a heavy note (I can’t read an article about the Sewol disaster without fucking crying – why do awful things happen to good people? They were only kids, dammit!), here are some happy things for a Monday:

 

Funny signs

 

Advice from children

 

Life hacks to make life simple for girls

 

Cool wedding ideas (not that I’m dreaming of my own)

 

Pretty pictures:

Swooooon. Those colours!

 

Atypalaia, Greece – this is what fantasy stories are inspired by.

 

Oh, you sweet sweet boy

 

 

And lastly, a lovely song:

I may not understand the lyrics, but Donghae’s voice! As sweet as his face.

 

Have a great week, everyone! And happy Labour Day!

Murakami wisdom, Tinder shenanigans and book talk

1. How girls talk:

That conversation came about after my girlfriends and I piddled around the Tinder app and were trying to figure out what a guy might mean when he doesn’t respond to an emoticon. And people say GIRLS are hard to figure out.

 photo siwonwhuuut_zps61e7d8aa.gif

Our responses to the faces we see on Tinder range from this:

 photo emmastonemehh_zpsf4c8b6ca.gif

To this:

 photo jacksparrowgrossedout_zps2071eb23.gif

(All the dudes baring their pot bellies or flexing their gargantuan muscles in minimal clothing, you know who you are!)

Occasionally, we’re like this:

 photo zooeycuteguyalert_zpsb7c2e172.gif

 photo jlawflirtywink_zps50cd69c0.gif

(There ARE some cute, non-creepy ones on the app, after all! Faith in humanity restored.)

But more often it’s this:

 photo jeremyrennerthatsweird_zps2125ad97.gif

(Why would you put a shot of yourself sitting on the edge of your bed in your boxers eating half a watermelon as your profile picture???)

By the way, can I just say that Tinder still has a lot of room for improvement? Not only are we unable to scroll back to the person we might have accidentally rejected, we are unable to go back and view the profile of someone we have approved until he approves back. Apparently not a fan of hindsight, this Tinder.

For now, though, while my friends have run out of guys to pick from, I’m still highly entertained by the different types of profile pictures (supposedly) single guys choose of themselves.

And because I think I’m permanently scarred by the sight of this one guy in a pair of green floral shorts hugging a huge block of cheese (another head-scratcher), THIS is very much welcome:

 photo donghaeprettyraisehead_zpseb1c5d64.gif

 photo donghaesmile5_zps773e07c1.gif

Ah. Much better now.

2. Anyway, speaking of wisdom, here are some snippets of wisdom – so profound, but never self-righteous or self-important – from “the Yoda of Japanese literature”, author Haruki Murakami:

“Life’s no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe’s [your] own to fool with.” ~ Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985)

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ Norwegian Wood (1987)

“For ‘a while’ is a phrase whose length can’t be measured. At least by the person who’s waiting.” ~ South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992)

“Even castles in the sky can do with a fresh coat of paint.” ~ South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992)

“A person’s destiny is something you look back at afterwards, not something to be known in advance.” ~ The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997)

“Understanding is but the sum of misunderstandings.” ~ Sputnik Sweetheart (2001)

“In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.” ~ After Dark (2004)

I read After Dark a few years ago, in my freshman year at university, and I remember being taken by sparse, beautiful and heart-breaking prose.

Murakami’s characters are always diverse and complex, even when the things they say and the conversations they have seem surface. Plus, there’s something tragically lonely about the characters and their voices, and uplifting about the way they found each other – which, I realise, can be applied to Norwegian Wood too. But while Norwegian Wood got a little draggy for me, I didn’t want After Dark to end.

Go read all 30 of them!

3. Romance writer Jennifer Crusie on how to create conflict in romance novels:

Conflict in general is pretty simple … The pursuit of these goals brings your protagonist and antagonist into direct conflict because neither can achieve his or her goal without blocking and thus defeating the other.

The romance plot has a protagonist and an antagonist (or vice versa) who are drawn together and who, during the course of their story, move through the physical and emotional stages of falling in love … Over the course of the story, they change as people so they can connect, learning to compromise and forming a bond at the end that will keep them together forever.

The hard part [is] taking the romance plot and giving it conflict. A good conflict has the protagonist destroying the antagonist completely (or vice versa). A good romance plot ends in compromise with both protagonist and antagonist safe, happy, and bonded. Trying to navigate the space in between causes most of the problems in romance writing.

Romance novels aren’t just the usual, fluffy boy-meets-girl, done-to-death stories that everyone thinks are so easy to churn out. (Well, there are some stories that go like that, but we try not to emulate them.)

Romance novels are, in essence, highly character-driven, and that’s what makes them so tricky to write. What makes this character different from another? Why choose to write his or her story? How do they grow as a result of each other? What do I want them to become at the end of the story?

My characters usually end up sitting around talking, so I try to toss in some action that is totally lame and pointless, and it all ends up looking contrived and my characters get really confused and annoyed with me.

 photo ronweasleywth_zps3ae93fa6.gif

 photo donghaerollseyes_zpsbd12465a.gif

Still, it’s just the first draft, Joyce. Just the first draft. You can rewrite and edit the shit out of it later.

4. And from a literary agent’s perspective, Carly Watters believes writers should compete with themselves and not with other writers:

It doesn’t make it easy when you know how many other writers there are out there trying to get published, too. But that information has to light a fire under you and make you want to revise and want to write the best book you can. Competition is about writing better than you did the day before, and the book before this. You are your own competition. Make that your mission.

Also, she offers candid insight on what publishing requires from a writer:

Publishing is where creative writing meets Hollywood: Does it have a hook? Can you sell it in a sentence? Are the characters memorable? Is their journey compelling? Does it start when we meet the characters at an interesting point in their lives? Getting published requires some stripping down of overwriting and self indulgence. Getting published is about making your writing accessible to mass readers.

For more advice, go here!

5. Due to the slew of less-than-glowing book reviews that have popped up, particularly on sites like Goodreads, some folks are starting to question: Do we really need negative book reviews?

Of course, the first reaction would be to say no, that it’s unnecessary and let’s just all talk about books we love and enjoy instead of directing attention to the “bad” ones.

But without criticism, how are we writers going to learn what works or what doesn’t? I’d much rather be told candidly why my book is mediocre than be assured that it is deserving of critical acclaim if it isn’t true, even if the criticism may be harder to stomach.

Of course, if the negative review is mean for the sake of being mean and getting some laughs at the expense of the author, then please fold some origami and shove it up your pie-hole because the world doesn’t need more bullies.

 photo snapehaterstotheleft_zps22c8a884.gif

6. I don’t want this post to end on that note, so here’s some happy:

The Infinite Gallery : Cornwall, England

Okay, okay. Off to do just that now! Happy mid-week, everyone! :0)