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Ondine Brooks Kuraoka


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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:  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

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

At a recent gathering of women writers of a certain age, we were discussing and listening to music that moves us. One woman said, “When this song comes on I leap and twirl like a crazy woman. You wouldn’t believe it.”

But do we have to be crazy to dance for the sheer joy of it once we reach middle age? I admired my aquaintance’s acknowledgement that she gives in to a wave of exuberance, lifted up by the pulling charms of the music, no other eyes to ply her with a veil of restraint. She, in her glory of freedom, alone but together with her music. I relished goosebumps of solidarity.

I, too, am a solitary dancer. When I have the house to myself, dancing is both celebration and balm in centering myself in a moment in time. We are given this life, this temporary state of being. The sorrows and tragedies of the world, and of our own lives, will continue to play out whether we seize moments of joyful being or not. Not that all dancing is joyful. Sometimes the most satisfying dance is sad and aching, which on occasion transforms to joy or at least contentment. Or not.

Dance is a fluid moment, fluid emotion. Whatever we have within can flow through dance. All the chores on our list will patiently or impatiently await our attention. Why not allow ourselves to carve out time for the physical expression of beauty, love, longing, bliss, heartache, all the poetry that music is? Dance embodies music- we become the music- we become poetry in motion.