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Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Tell me it hasn’t been almost three months since my last post. Where have I been?

 

I’ve learned that I’m not the best juggler of two blog sites, for one. My critique group, the Page a Day Writers, launched a blog in November 2009, and I’ve put much of my blogging energy there: www.wordpress.com/pageadaywriters  Join us to see what we’ve been up to. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

 

Time to improve my juggling skills!

 

Knee news: My knee is so much improved that it feels like a miracle. I can hike, garden, walk our dog Buddy, and I took a NIA dance class and loved it. But my knee gets a bit creaky if I overdo. It hasn’t swollen up like it did that infamous day almost a year ago, though. So I’m determined not to overdo, which takes effort for me in itself. A very good practice in life, though. I highly recommend it, not overdoing.

 

But time management is a good thing- I don’t think maintaining two blogs is overdoing it if I don’t get too tangential and carried away and use up all my word juice on one or the other. I know it’s not really possible to use up all one’s word juice, though. Word juice seems to flow best when it’s on daily tap. Anyway, some people maintain many blogs at once. Hats off- I’m a beginner when it comes to that level of time management.

 

Any time management/blog schedule tips from those who maintain a number of blogs?

 

 


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Knobby Knee Update: I had an MRI last Wednesday, 12/2. All went well. As soon as I entered the room I eyed the big creepy tube. "My head will be out, right?" Thank God the answer was yes; otherwise I would have needed sedation. The process was fine but I was amazed at how loud it was! Why does it need to be so loud? The tech gave me earplugs but wow...

So I should have some knews on exactly what is going on with dear old Knobby Knee by Friday or Monday. 

Meanwhile I'm thrilled to be able to walk Buddy and also have gone to a Pilates class and Tai Chi. Loved them! The quick side-to-side footwork of Jazzercise may be a thing of the past for me. But I've come to accept it, and I can still do low-impact everything. 

Love my knees!

 

 

 

 


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Hear that sound? It’s the sound of my novel splintering off the axe. Chop chop chop. My plot ails (using a charitable term). My scenes are too chipper. Am I uncomfortable with conflict? Uh, yes. Ouch. That’s going to be difficult for me as a writer of fiction. Difficult but not impossible to overcome.

A good scene involves goals in conflict. Two characters each want something, perhaps two different things, but they can’t both win. How many novels have I read in my lifetime? Why I wouldn’t have absorbed into my psyche this basic ingredient in the rich stew of a good novel, I have no idea. Articles I can write- I was actually starting to feel competent as a writer of articles.

But fiction humbles me, which I guess I needed. So that’s me now: humble, but not humbug. I’m grateful for the feedback on my scribblings before I submitted it into the endless loop purgatory of We’re-sorry-but-your-manuscript-does-not-meet-our-current-needs.

I begin with new determination: to let loose on the page. My characters are stamping at the gate, ready to go- all that pent-up conflict just waiting to play itself out. I’m sure they’re relieved I’ve finally "gotten it." They’ve probably all been saying, "My God, doesn’t she know we’re bored of being nice to each other?" The funny thing is, I thought I had so much darkness (intertwined with light) with a good bit of conflicted conscience thrown in, that I didn’t need more interpersonal conflict.

But I understand now that I do. So, the challenge is, now that I know it, am I capable of writing it?

One solid page a day is my new discipline, my new dance. As much as I want to reach the end-point with this story, there's no rushing this process. One page a day. As in, it’s coherent, with one sentence leading to the next, engaging all senses to immerse the reader in the characters’ world. And just tell the story with real words. Don’t worry about using poetic, "beautiful" language. Just tell the story, one sentence at a time. Keep in mind: goals in conflict. Then, once a solid draft is done, it's time to polish. I’m not there yet.

 


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

I’m honored to be taking a writing class through San Diego Writers, Ink with Drusilla Campbell, who has published a number of well-selling novels, including Wildwood, Blood Orange, Bone Lake and The Edge of the Sky. The class is called "Novel Read and Critique."

I’m working on my novel, which has been perking around in my head and on paper in various iterations since 1995. How long is that now? Wow, 14 years. Unbelievable. Many people would probably say, Get off the pot already! The thing is, I’ve tried to get off the pot and this story will not let me go. It’s definitely a case of the story choosing the writer.

My life has volleyed on with this story dancing like sugarplums (well, maybe dancing like skeletons- it's on the dark side) even when I wished it would leave me alone. The kernel of the story is downright scary- the murders of hundreds of women in Juarez, Mexico- even though my characters are filled with light. The scary factor has definitely challenged my resolve to continue at times.

But my characters won't give up on me. They peer over my shoulder while I'm busy with other things, with life in general. Since Marisol, Liseta and Alma first entered my mind, John and I have gotten married (1998) and we now have two very active sons (7 and 9). I transitioned from social work to a number of jobs; I taught ESL for a while, I started my own business, Memory Quilt Memoirs, which included a subdivision, Wedding Day Story Book. I even did Welcome Wagon for a stint. One thing I learned for sure is that I am not a Welcome Wagon Woman.

Writing continued as my comfort space, but I was not confident enough to try it as a means of earning money. But my husband John saw that my inner being ran free on the written page- writing was where I found creative flow- so he encouraged me to try my hand at freelance writing. So I did, and have been freelancing since my first published piece in January 2004.

To accomplish something I was never sure I could manage, and yet always hoped to, has been gratifying. My articles have appeared in San Diego Family Magazine, Today’s Local News, San Diego Magazine and The San Diego Union-Tribune. I've also completed online city guide projects in collaboration with MSN, Ford and Toyota. For the past three years I’ve been a contributing writer for Living in Style Magazine, a fantastic experience which included ongoing "Live Your Dream" profiles as well as health and wellness features.

Living in Style Magazine has recently folded- something I’m still mourning. But with every closed door… you know that little cliché. Optimism works, though. I see this chapter as a chance to focus on finishing my novel, which has evolved to rough draft stage over the years.

I have the courage now to offer it up to be poked at and prodded- and the determination to wrestle with it until it is an actual full-fledged, flowing story with strong legs to walk forward on its journey into the world. So my draft is in the poke and prod stage in Drusilla’s class now.

My novel’s working title is Sisters of Aguamiel. It is the story of three sisters living on their ancestral farm, Aguamiel, in murderous Ciudad Juarez. Things happen. People cope, sometimes well and sometimes not well at all, leading to wretched moments and hurdles of all kinds.

More to come…


 
Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

John’s mom, Frances, was here over the weekend. As serendipity would have it, I had procured my mom’s sewing machine a few days before. So, being the sewing goddess that she is, Frances, aka Grammy, was delighted to help me conquer my fear of the quick-needled machine.

With her guidance, I cut off a pair of Leo’s favorite pants - the ones with the airplanes and parachutists-and hemmed them into shorts. And then we tag-teamed a really wide tank shirt of mine; she did one side and I did the other. And then I got really adventurous; I said, "This one has a grease stain on it; maybe I could applique something on it…"

She said, "Sure, why not?"

So I cut one of the orange airplanes and a parachutist from the cut-off material of Leo’s pants and appliqued it onto the shirt… with the sewing machine! Time was, I would get an idea like that and then earnestly hand-sew them on bit by bit over the next month. But not that day- woo hoo! Done in minutes! No wonder folks like this machine. I get it now.

But we didn’t stop there, no sir. Our duvet had a huge rip in the foot end. We’ve been thinking about buying a new one, waiting for a sale. But Sweet Li’l Sewing Machine to the rescue… I swear, it was all sewn up in a matter of 15 minutes, maximum.

By then all my nervousness was gone- I was getting a little charge out of the whole thing by then, even. The mystery was gone.

Roy was rather stunned to look up and see me there, foot pedal to the metal, needle whirring away. Then he said he wanted to try it. So he did, on a little scrap of fabric, he tried a few different stitches, ones I hadn’t tried yet. And no fear at all! He liked the whole machine aspect of it, the way the components all start moving and working together to get the stitches on the fabric.

Kudos to my friend Juliet and her friend Debbie, who sparked some inspiration for me with their talk of quilting. Juliet showed me one of her fantastic, cozy quilts- it had a wave motif- as she, Debbie and I waited for our kids at swim class. Juliet also sews glorious bags. Bags of dreams. Debbie also brought her darling hearts-in-envelopes quilt.

My goal now is to tackle the baby quilt I made for Roy- 8 years ago!! Sigh. It just needs to be quilted now. I say "just." Yeah, right. Well, after talking it over with Grammy, I’ve determined that it’s best just to finish it by hand, since the whole thing is hand-sewn so far, and it would just kind of feel off to finish it by machine. So I’m going to finish it with ties, and then hand-sew the binding… We’ll see.

I also wanted to mention, in light of maiden voyage, first-time attempts, hats off to Juliet for making her first batch of jam! Strawberry. She used self-sealing jars so she didn’t have to deal with wax.

So, I guess I need to stop for now. I’m going to try to update more frequently and less massively…I’ve been craving carrot raisin muffins.

Rock’n’roll daisies to you!

And more juice from the Juiceman Jr. (also from Jen’s garage sale :))