May 21, 2013
May 17, 2013
I don't remember how or when I started falling seriously in love with Mindy Kaling. Was it when Kelly Kapoor grotesquely pretended to be pregnant in order to keep her boyfriend? Was it when I started following her on Twitter a couple years ago? When I read her hilarious article in the New Yorker about the romantic comedy female archetypes? I don't know, but by the time her memoir and The Mindy Project rolled around, I was already a smitten fan.
The Mindy Project just aired its first season finale this week and I haven't been this in love with a TV show in a really long time. Yes, I love Game of Thrones like a freak joined by billions of other freaks. Yes, the West Wing will always remain the best TV show of all time. Yes, Buffy will forever be burned into my sarcasm-loving, teenage heart. Yes, yes, yes—so much good TV out there. But, I think I can speak for myself and many other people out there, The Mindy Project is different. It feels specially made for me while at the same time so broad and universally appealing. Kaling is a mad genius and anyone who says otherwise is a hideous little gnarled version of a human being whose sour contrarian face needs to be slapped by their boyfriend's penis in a tent (guys, this happens in the season finale of The Mindy Project).
So much has been written about this show already, so what can I possibly add? Well, I just wanted to publicly proclaim my love for this show and narcissistically loop it back to why I started to write YA. There's a huge void in pop culture for something light, fun, and mainstream about minority main characters. Whenever a minority's involved in a movie, TV show, or book—there's always this necessity for gravity and cultural introspection. I get it, I think cultural identity is a huge, important subject for Americans. But not all of us hyphenated children of immigrants are that angsty, I hate to break it to you guys. A lot of us, like The Mindy Project's Dr. Lahiri, are just regular women who care about the same shit everyone else does.
That's probably the biggest reason why I wrote SINCE YOU ASKED. It's about a normal teenage girl who happens to be Korean-American. And while that's a huge factor in her family life, it's not all that extraordinary in her school life—a school that is diverse and filled with a ton of kids like her. It seems so basic, "Hey, um, we're just like you?" But if you relied on the media for any understanding of American minorities, you'd think we were all crying into our pillows every night wanting to have blonde hair, embarrassed by our stinky kimchi lunches and our parents' accents.
It's 2013—most of us are used to seeing different kinds of faces every single day of our lives. I'm excited to see that experience normalized in future movies, television shows, and books. Until then, Miss Kaling, keep doing your fun, hilarious, smart, important thing. Because you do it so well.
May 9, 2013
Anyone else having a rough week?
Yeah, this week I've been living in Rough Town, Ream Country, Face-Punch Universe.
I don't like to wallow in negativity, but I also can't smile my way through it all with cool rationale. So, I try really hard to distract myself by focusing on the positives and the actual important things happening in the world.
SOME GOOD THINGS
Cats who hug their kittens.
Spring flowers all up in my house.
Looking at old high school pictures and finding out this former B list celeb is now an actor in a cult favorite T.V. show. Amy, this is for you.
My cat who is 19 and just don't give a crap.
Watching my garden grow.
This baby bear's little butt.
That time Randy Newman retweeted me.
The fact that Mark Twain and this kitten existed at the same time.
Here's to a better next week!
May 2, 2013
Confession: My husband cooks almost all of our meals at home. Hear me out. It's because 1) He loves it 2) He's really good at it 3) I love to eat more than I love to cook. Also, I'm way better at washing dishes than he is. (WHAT IS WITH GUYS AND DISHES. My God, NO IT IS NOT OKAY to put your 8-day-old caramelized onion-encrusted plate in the dishwasher! It's a metal box that uses steaming hot water not magicks.)
But I digress. I don't mind cooking, in fact I really like it. But. I like quick and easy meals that don't require measuring and temperatures and finicky this and thats. So what's my nightmare meal to cook?
Fancy Frenchie stuff.
But, my husband loves French food. He loves reduced sauces, pork fat, bits of weird animal organs, complex layers of flavors, butter—the whole shebang. Me? I'm happy with rice, seaweed, and kimchi.
So I decided that this year, for his birthday, I would not buy him yet another gray sweatshirt, or art book, or knit him some weird object that would sit dusty in some dark corner for the rest of its days. (Knitted things over the years: a stuffed robot, a guitar strap, a teeny-tiny hat, a terrible terrible scarf, an ok scarf that has shrunk). Instead I would give him the gift of blood, sweat, and tears—all in the name of a stuffed belly.
With the help of my mother-in-law, one of the best cooks around, I planned the following menu based on his favorite dishes from our favorite French restaurant:
Duck Liver Pate with Bartard Bread
Frisee with Poached Egg and Lardons
Le Plat Principal
Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Whipped Cream
Braised Cabbage in Wine Sauce
Haricot Vert with Herbs
Profiteroles with Ice Cream and Homemade Chocolate Sauce and Whipped Cream
I cooked the entire meal in one day. Total hours clocked in the kitchen: 7 hours. BT dubs, I have concrete floors. And I cook barefoot. My sister helped for 2.5 hours and it was STILL mayhem. Every single pot, pan, utensil, bowl, plate, knife, chopping board, appliance, strainer, measuring cup, and measuring spoon was used.
What a dutiful little slave sister. JK Yams, JK. (I don't think she reads my blog anyway.)
Whenever I try new receipes, I usually mess up hardcore. Something gets deflated or burnt, is accidentally missing a super crucial ingredient, or improvised to epically disastrous results. So I braced myself for a weird meal that my sweet husband would eat enthusiastically no matter what.
But GUESS WHAT. It came out PERFECT. Amazing. SO DELICIOUS. I almost cried into my napkin. Even the profiteroles, which I was so scared of—baking and me never mix, and piping those babies with a Ziploc bag was damn near the end of Maurene Goo as you know her. But all went according to plan. I even used a meat thermometer for the first time in my life and the duck was at EXACTLY the right temperature. Guys, I was so impressed by this. I don't know if that's easy or what, but to me it seemed insane that the temperature was EXACTLY RIGHT??
Husband ate so much he was in pain...mission accomplished.
P.S. Did I mention that I POACHED AN EGG? This method made it a cinch.
Apr 26, 2013
(From Tumblr a couple years ago—sorry do not have the proper photo credit!)
I recently volunteered to answer some best friend-related questions for a book blog (publish date TBD), and it got me thinking about best friends.
As a kindergartener it was girl named Hannah who wore tiny turquoise studs that I was fascinated by. Once, she asked me a question during story hour and when I answered, I GOT IN TROUBLE. That was the end of that friendship.
First grade and second grade, it was a freckled gal who lent me books and probably didn't even know I existed because everyone and their mom considered her their best friend.
Third grade to fifth grade it was a combination of gals—a blonde girl with long hair who did gymnastics and a Chinese American gal with a little sister exactly my little sister's age. (Said Chinese gal was a bridesmaid at my wedding last year and said gal's sister is still my sister's best friend.)
Then in 5th grade had a major mean girl ditching—as in I was ditched. Okay, new best friend. Another blonde, also endlessly long hair, who was so sweet and loved her pet rat. She remained my best friend until sixth grade.
Middle school: Mean girls took me back like, "Hey, no hard feelings!" I also met a bunch of other Korean American gals then, and became super Korean for awhile. Went to church, listened to K-pop, and started watching Korean dramas. Only the K dramas stuck for life.
High school: Most of my high school years were spent with 3rd grade Chinese gal best friend and new Korean girl best friend who had freckles and was good at dancing. We spent high school obsessing over celebs and boys in bands, studying for the SATs, watching movies, snarking endlessly about people we didn't know, and being your classic dorks.
But the best story is about my dad and his best friend. A few days ago his best friend from Korea wanted to take my husband and me out to dinner since he's never met the husband. It was good times, I always like seeing my parents with their best friends because they instantly revert back to super excited kids who want to stay up all night. My dad's friend, who is now this super successful dude in Korea, told us a story about the time that my dad mean-girl-style ditched him.
Because my dad had gone through a growth spurt, and now taller by a few inches, was embarrassed by his short friend. He ditched his friend for two weeks in their friendship because he was too short.
I can't believe his friend ever forgave him for that. They really took that FOREVER bit in BFF seriously.
Apr 18, 2013
This week has been ROUGH, Internet.
Starting with the Boston Marathon bombing, and ending (well, it's still Thursday so who knows) with a fertilizer plant explosion and the failure of gun control legislation.
(I wrote that yesterday and was planning on posting this today. Ugh. All that's happened since is unreal.)
The Boston bombing really hit close to home because I lived there for a couple years when I went to grad school. Where so many people went to school. And the site of the explosions was blocks away from where I worked. I walked on that exact same sidewalk so many, many, many times. Seeing the photos made me ill—those pretty New England streets so familiar to me juxtaposed with blood and terrified people. I have friends who are runners, who do insanely admirable things like run in a marathon when I can barely do a short sprint from my car to my house without hating life.
I imagined them pushing through those 26.2 miles only to end it all with the worst possible terror. Inconceivable.
I lived in Boston for two short years, but I will always feel a fondness for the city—it was such a nice contrast to Los Angeles, where I lived most of my life. (All Californians should live in a different state at least once in their lives, by the way. That's a whole other topic...) I loved all the nerdy historical facets of the city. I took so many visitors to Paul Revere's house whether they wanted to see it or not. (HOW COULD YOU NOT? SO COOL! LOPSIDED AND HISTORIIIIICAAAALLLL.)
And Boston was where I discovered Spring.
Me, having only lived in Southern California my entire life: What's the big deal with Spring? Who cares.
Me, the first warm, Spring day after my first Boston winter: I AM SO HAPPY TO BE A HUMAN ON THIS PLANET EARTH. HI STRANGER, LET US SMILE AT EACH OTHER WITH CARTOON HEARTS FLOATING ABOVE OUR HEADS FOR THE PURE LOVE WE ARE EXPERIENCING LOOKING AT THE TULIPS BY OUR FEET. LET US THROW OUR HEADS BACK IN LAUGHTER, FEELING MOTHER SUNSHINE ENVELOP US IN HER WARM EMBRACE.
My short stay was a wonderful time in my life and I felt heavy, heavy grief for Boston, and the world, when I heard the news.
It's so easy to be disheartened, to fear for our future. But I have to remind myself that we can't get paralyzed by the bad, we simply do not have the damn time. We just have to do what we think is good, everyday. Whether that's replying to an email from a stranger with a happy face emoticon or writing a story about teenagers who are good people. I'll try in big ways, but I think the little things are actually more pervasive in the end.
Stay safe—to everyone I know and don't know in Boston. Try and get some sunshine on your faces if you can.
Apr 10, 2013
I've recently discovered that, hey, I like a lot of things that I not only DIDN'T LIKE doing before, but kind of hated. WHO KNEW?
Maybe it's because I grew up in L.A. or because I hate being out in the sun too long without a large body of water nearby—but I always scrunched my nose at the thought of spending time in the dirt planting stuff. Then I met a boy from Idaho whose mother has the most amazing garden of all time. And then I got a house with a huge backyard. And then I got cute gardening gloves. And then I got obsessed with my little plot of cyclamens and succulents. And now I love it all.
I spent almost my entire life until recently skinny and weak. Because I never gained weight (and I used to eat entire pizzas. ENTIRE PIZZAS), I was never compelled to exercise to lose weight. And exercise for fun? HAHA. I'd rather read for hours in a chair, thanks. But a few years ago I thought I'd start because I felt majorly wimpy and suspected that my heart was maybe coated in entire layers of lard. After trying a ton of different classes and activities I've grown to love two things: Ballet and spinning. And they've both made me pretty damn strong so that I can try other crazy things (like Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shed omg) and not pass out. And now, I've become one of those insufferable people that feel crappy unless they work out in some capacity a few times a week. SMUG PUNCH coming my way.
I'm just as girlie as the best of them, but I could never be bothered to slap on more than some drug-store eyeliner and blush. I always felt like a weird child geisha when I wore too much makeup. But now, maybe it's age and the fact that my "contrast" is lowering, but I feel the need for makeup. I have upgraded almost all my teenager makeup to fancy overpriced stuff from Sephora (guys, it makes a difference, though, for real!) and I actually wear LIPSTICK now. LIPSTICK. This used to be the ultimate old lady makeup product for me. But I love it. Makes me feel spunky.
4) Science Stuff
Not only was I completely remedial in all my science classes growing up, but I still don't *really* get it. My husband says I have a "science sigh"—which is basically a sigh, that I am not even aware that I'm doing, expelled when anyone starts talking deets about sciency stuff. It's not out of boredom, more like girding my brain for the hard thinking ahead. But so many nerds in my life love science and it has rubbed off on me. We went to the Los Angeles Science Center a few weeks ago and I literally could not pull myself away from anything NASA or space related. WHAPPENED?
No, wait, I still hate it.
Apr 3, 2013
My dad's been pestering me to clean out my stuff from my parents' garage ever since I got married last June. I've been avoiding it for the obvious reasons—laziness, fear, and sadness at the prospect of not having anything from my childhood left at their house anymore.
But then a few months ago the garage flooded and my dad hobbled his old ass down there (just kidding, he's actually super fit and spry for his totally normal dad age) and moved all my stuff just in the nick of time, and it made me feel like a bad daughter.
So I finally spent an entire Saturday in my parents garage, on a perfect 75-degree L.A. day, sifting through many boxes of stuff.
It was a super sobering experience.
The first thing that greeted me.
No jaunt down Memory Lane is complete without a Baby-Sitters Club appearance. Which leads us to Exhibit B:
I got the BSC calendar every year and then I vandalized them. OMG I didn't even spell Stacey's name correctly.
Next up, my collection of amazing folders that I held onto for 20 + years because...??? WHY DID I KEEP THESE. Maybe it was just to keep the Super Shades toucan's memory alive.
I also had a huge stack of old high school newspapers from when I was on the journalism staff. This issue stood out to me because a) What the heck were we thinking with this front cover??? Lmao. That's my friend Rami on the cover, there. He was good at football but also super smart. And he pre-ordered SINCE YOU ASKED....YOU'RE THE BEST RAMI! b) The homecoming fiasco chapter in SINCE YOU ASKED... was based loosely on an experience I had while working on this very issue. LOOSELY.
You know what I was obsessed with in high school?
*NSYNC, mixed CDs, and magazine cut-outs. But wait, why did I make a mixed CD of *NSYNC songs? ONLY THE BEST SONGS ON THIS MIX. Their greatest hits!
I've revealed too much, already.
I cleaned out about eight boxes of stuff, half of which went to Goodwill, a quarter of which went to the recycling bin, and the last quarter is in my house.
Why I keep this incriminating evidence in my new home is beyond me.
Mar 27, 2013
One of the best things about writing contemporary YA is that you get to describe outfits. For me, anyway. As a kid and teen, I loooooved any books that described clothes. Yes, sometimes they were outdated (as mine will be very soon), but I devoured the outfits anyway—turtlenecks and all.
Awhile back, I discovered this blog, Claudiavore, and it blew my mind. Someone used Polyvore to bring various outfits in the BABY-SITTERS CLUB to life! Genius.
So inspired by that, I thought I'd make outfits for the three main girl characters in SINCE YOU ASKED....the first few outfits mentioned for Holly and her best friends Liz and Carrie. (Note: I picked clothes without thought to price or label—so these are not outfits that most of these gals could probably afford, except maybe Liz).
Hope this is a fun sneak peek at the girls and their personal styles!
Holly, the main character, is low-maintenance but not totally without personal style. She is all about comfort and fun touches.
Holly's fancy friend Elizabeth, or "Liz", is always super polished, stylish, and puts a lot of care into the clothes she picks out.
Rasied by former hippies, Carrie lifts her style from their influence: lots of handmade goods and vintage finds.
I had way too much fun doing this. Running off to write more outfits now...
Mar 12, 2013
A few years ago I took a six-month long break from working so that I could try to get SINCE YOU ASKED... into shape for submission. My agent liked it but thought it needed work (which it definitely did).
You guys, I started that book almost nine years ago today, as a submission for a grad school children's writing program (which I got into, but passed on for a Master's program in publishing). I worked on it on and off for a few years, but not very seriously. That break would be the first time in my life that I sat down to spend all my energies on writing a book. Even though I always knew I wanted to be a writer, that idea fell to the practical wayside of life, you know?
It was a scary and exciting period in my life. I had recently spent two years getting a Masters so that I could work in book publishing, but moving back to L.A. had really made that dream difficult. And then the whole economic meltdown created the perfect storm for re-evaulating my barely-started career.
At the time, I was also doing some freelance writing for VENUS ZINE (RIP). And during this period of feeling lost, like I was floundering in all my life and career goals, I got a dream assignment.
I was going to interview Ann M. Martin.
Cue shrieking, squealing, all forms of girlish excitement. I instantly became eight years old again, clutching my box sets of THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB. Waiting with near-manic anticipation for Super Specials and the yearly BSC calendar. In that moment, I remembered what it was like to love books SO MUCH. SO MUCH YOU WANT TO DIIIIIE.
Leading up to the interview, I was strangely calm. I had my list of questions and the only prep I did was to remind myself over and over again: Keep it professional. Do not go into fangirl mode.
The interview went great. Ann M. Martin was thoughtful and smart. And despite having written one of the most popular children's book series of all time, she was so humble. And at the very end of my interview, I allowed myself a small fangirl moment. I told her that I had loved her books as a child and into my teens. And that the BSC is what made me love reading. That it kickstarted a lifetime of reading love. That now I was writing my own YA book and hoped to sell it one day. She said something along the lines of, "That's wonderful. I'm so happy to hear that, and I hope to read your book one day."
Two years later, I sold my book to Scholastic, home of the BSC. I know I worked hard in order to make this dream happen, but I also feel a little author pixie dust from Ann M. Martin didn't hurt, either.
So, thank you.