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Ondine Brooks Kuraoka


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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…