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Being a Hummingbird

Recently I’ve joined an amazing group of women, Hummingbirds, who have come together to create a place where other women can come together for inspiration and motivation.

It was formed by four incredible authors and women Tess Thompson , Tamsen Schultz , Heather Huffman, and Carolyn Ridder Aspenson who want women to feel empowered and connected.

It’s been a wonderful experience. You can also join us on The Hummingbird Charm Readers Haven (or Haven for short) where we share and talk Books and the Perch where we share our lives!

I’ll be covering posts about family and motherhood, which I’m super-excited about. There’s nothing I love more than talking about my family and being a mother. While I’m certainly not an expert, I am passionate and believe parenting is terrifying, fun, and amazing.

I recently wrote my first post, Imagining that I’m a Mom, which I was excited to write and share.

I hope you’ll join the Hummingbirds! The more I get to know these women the more excited I am to get to be a part of them. My wonderful friend JC Wing helped bring me on board, personifying what this group is all about, and I’m so grateful.

Women supporting women.

I couldn’t be more happy and proud to be such a beautiful little bird!

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Everything I Write Sucks

This is where I am.

Everything I write sucks and I’m struggling to find a rhythm but this is different. This isn’t simply trying to find time; it’s struggling with the story I’m writing. There’s a crucial piece missing and I need to find it … soon.

I’m beginning to believe that Ms. Plath was right. Perhaps the answer is simply to just keep writing.

So I’m going to stop freaking out and just … 

Lessons Learned

I released my first book into the world in 2013. It was like releasing my heart, raw and vulnerable, into a tank full of sharks and doing it terrified me. I nearly hyperventilated  the moment I hit publish, as I paced my bedroom and wished for the floor to swallow me whole.

I was terrified and had so many doubts running through my mind.

Maybe nobody will read it.

Maybe EVERYONE will read it.

Maybe nobody will even notice. 

 Worse yet, what if someone reads it and hates it?

What if I can’t write and this story is crap?

What if people love it?

Oh God, what if they think it sucks?

What if they think that I suck?

What if I really do suck and I’m a bit fat phony?

The fear was palpable and paralyzingly. Then I posted that I published my book on Facebook, and I had no choice but to look ahead. I had done something that I’d always dreamed of doing from the age of fifteen. Even though it scared the living hell out of me, after the fear fell away, it felt right and I was finally a complete person.

The process  wasn’t perfect.  I’ve hit a lot of bumps along the way but have learned much since releasing that first unedited, Createspace-generated cover for Leaving Eva. I haven’t just learned technical skills, but also marketing and writing skills. Most importantly I’ve discovered who I want to be (and don’t want to be) as an artist, and what is important to me in this journey.

I’ve learned from doing, watching, and listening to others who know more than I do. I’m a religious podcast listener and Joanna Penn and Tim Grahl are two of my favorites. I consume their experiences and learn from them regularly. It just makes sense to learn as much as possible from successful and experienced people in all of life. Joanna covers countless helpful topics with an endless backlist, which has helped shape my mindset as a Creative.

I’ve learned much, which applies to life, not just to publishing :

  • Use your resources. If you don’t know the answer, just ask. There are many others who have the answer if you don’t. I’ve spent the past few years getting to know so many wonderful people in the publishing world and they are always so generous with their knowledge and time.
  • Don’t be afraid to learn something new. Once you’ve mastered one thing, learn something new. It can be extremely daunting to begin but like Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of any work.”
  • Read! Read anything and everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, and blogs and books that you might not normally read. The War of Art, Your First 1000 Copies, and The Successful Author Mindset  have been inspiring and interesting non-fiction reads. I also love reading classics, YA, Women’s Contemporary Fiction, and books/blogs that are outside of my normal wheelhouse because they are interesting and inspiring.
  • Stay away from the drama.As with anything, in the book world, there is drama; lots and lots of drama. I make it a point to stay far away and while its important to be informed, it’s also vital to stay out of it. It can be ugly, divisive, and distracting from your work.
  •  Don’t compare your journey to others. It can be hard not to get discouraged by watching the successes of others if you feel that your own is struggling. You have to remember that everyone is on their own journey and that it’s important to be happy for others! Everyone’s story is different and every road has its own twists and turns. Focus on yours and don’t get off track. When success does find you, share it by paying it forward to others. Call it karma or just being a good person, but your path is your own, so work hard and you’ll get there.
  • Know thyself. Do you write for money, for recognition, for the love of the craft? Knowing why you write is crucial in order to recognize your own success when it comes. 
  • When you get discouraged, don’t quit. Pick yourself back up.When I get discouraged, I go back through old messages, or read positive reviews to remind myself that what I’m doing is worthwhile. There have been plenty of times that I’ve wanted to quit but then I remind myself why I’m writing. I’m doing it for myself, for the love of the story, and for those I meet a long the way who want to share it with me. If I ever stop loving or needed it, then I’ll quit. 
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket!  Keeping your options open in this precarious business can be important. Publishing Houses open and close and your rights are crucial to your lifelong success. Be careful with your eggs and keep them close to your own basket! 
  • Not everyone is going to like you and that’s totally okay! You’ll get reviews from people who didn’t like your book or don’t like your style and they might not be that nice about it. People can be mean and there are a lot of trolls out there with big internet balls. Ignore them. When the feedback is negative but constructive, pay attention to it and grow from it. When the feedback is mean, ignore it. Find your tribe and embrace the ones who care about you. If you’re kind, there will be plenty who do. The ones who don’t… well, they’ll just be missing out on the wonder that is you!
  • Put yourself out there and share your journey. Being a more private person, I’ve always struggled with this. How much do I share? How much do I keep?  My writing doesn’t always reflect the entirety of who I am, and I’m learning to be more open. I’m learning to share more of myself, even the stuff that scares the hell out of me. I’m tired of being afraid that people will know who I am deep inside and I’m learning that transparency and openess are important (though there are still limitations). The parameters vary per person, so you have to learn what you’re comfortable with and what works for you. Your comfort level may be drastically different than someone else’s, but I would be remiss not to stress that internet safety is crucial. There are a lot of people out there you’ll want/need to stay away from and you’ll recognize them pretty quickly. (Don’t be afraid to defriend and block anyone who freaks you out.)
  • Have fun. Writing books is fun! Authors, bloggers, and readers are fun! Book signings and events are fun. Takeovers, reader groups, and meeting new people is fun. Enjoy it. All of it. Because it’s pretty amazing. 

I’ve learned much, but there is yet so much left to learn. Every day I discover something I didn’t know and it’s exhilarating and exciting to be able to gain so much in life. Each day brings a new person into my life, a new perspective and experience and I love it. I hope that as this journey continues that I’ll be able to share more of what I’ve learned with you. In turn, please feel free to comment below with what you’ve learned a long the way too.

Jen’s Loves-JC Wing

In my last post, I featured the beautiful and amazing CD Bradley, and in this one I want to introduce to you to JC Wing.  JC is a wife, mother, author, and editor, and an overall incredible person. She’s my editor and has become a good friend and someone I consider a soul sister!  She has an amazing work ethic, is incredibly positive, is a talented storyteller, and I absolutely adore her.

I’m sure you’ll love her as much as I do!!

  1. Dog or cat person? I’m both. I have a seventeen-pound cat named Mouse. He acts as the logo for my imprint, Black Cat Press. I also have two chocolate lab puppies named Phoebe and Ursula. They make sure I step away from the computer and get a little bit of exercise throughout the day.

 

  1. What are three interesting/unique/fun truths about you? Many (oh so many) years ago, I was a competitive ice skater. I got to live in Germany for two years – and absolutely loved it. I also collect baseball caps. It’s more fun to wear caps from places I’ve visited, but some of my favorites have come from places I’ve never been.

 

  1. What is the single most guiding principle in your life, and how does that impact your role in the publishing world? I try to show my family and my friends that I’m honest, and that if I say I’ll do something, I will follow through. I work hard to be dependable. I believe in showing respect for people, to try to find out who they are, what’s important to them and to act accordingly. I think these things impact my role in the publishing world a lot. I’m an author myself, so when I edit for someone, I’m only interested in making changes that will make their work grammatically sound. Every writer has their own style, their own voice, and keeping that intact is very important to me.

 

  1. What is one big thing about yourself that you would change and what have you done about it? I think I probably try to take on too much. Sometimes I think I should change this, but ultimately, I don’t think I ever will. I love being asked to do things. I’m a pro at multi-tasking, and I usually have ten different projects going on at once. I’ve heard many times that I should try to do less, but I’m very happy being busy, so I doubt I’ll try very hard to be different.

 

  1. What do you do in the publishing world? I’m an author. I’ve written and self-published four novels: The Color of Thunder, Alabama Skye, A Skye Full of Stars and Dead Beat Dates & Deities. I also own an editing company called Wing Family Editing. I work primarily with indie authors, but I’ve had the opportunity to edit content for some websites as well. I’m a blogger, and I run a writing group on Facebook called Writing Challenge Warriors.

 

  1. What is one thing you want people to know about you? I’m probably the biggest dork you’ll ever meet. I’m annoyingly optimistic and I smile and laugh a lot, but I’m serious about the things that matter.

 

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/J.-C.-Wing/e/B00AZXVS1W

Wing Family Editing website: http://jcwing.wixsite.com/wingfamilyediting

Author Blog: http://jcwingandthegoddess.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jcwing.novelist

Writing Challenge Warriors: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1638083136502522/

If you haven’t already, read one of JC’s books. You’ll be so happy that you did.

 

We Are America 

I rarely wax politics for many reasons and I won’t in this post either, but this election has been painstakingly brutal.

Isn’t a large part of what makes America great the ability to have and speak your own opinions … Freedom? Isn’t that what this great country was built upon?

But this election and the world we have come to live in, disturbs me greatly. It has become a country where nobody can voice an opinion, and viciously attacking individuals or entire groups for having a differing one, has become accepted and even expected.

I wasn’t born in America and was naturalized when I was as three. I was born in South Korea, an unpopular girl-child left to survive on her own. Though the specific circumstances that brought me here will remain unknown, I am grateful and always have been for the journey that gave me what I have today. I have always been deeply appreciative that I was allowed to become an American. 

I became the daughter of a blue-collar union worker and a stay-at-home mother, and began working when I was fifteen years-old. I was an Asian-American who didn’t look like anyone else and was a minority in every setting, my entire life. I was ridiculed, made fun of, and called names by school-mates. I even had a great aunt who wondered if “they could fix my eyes.” 

I accepted that I was different at a very young age because I had no choice, but instead of allowing it to weaken me, it galvanized me. I didn’t allow it to define me, or destroy my potential for a wonderful life.  Instead, I embraced it and appreciated that I lived in a country that gave me the opportunity to thrive and work for a successful life. As much as it hurt, it didn’t matter. I was an American and that’s all that mattered.

Having children in 2016 America is a huge challenge because everyone walks around on eggshells and is afraid of the PC police. I want my children to be compassionate, kind, and strong young men, but I also want them to have a sense of humor and levity. While one of them is going to be handsome, dark, mysterious, and classically good-looking, the other will be impish, unavoidably irresistible, and adorable. But one of them looks more Asian than the other, and has already had to deal with racism and the ugliness of the human spirit. While my heart aches for him, I truly understand what he has experienced. Yet, while he has been hurt, he has also been helped by his friends who have defended and protected him, which is by far an even greater lesson and he has learned that he is beautiful.

The magic of America is that we all get to be different, have differing opinions, beliefs, religion and customs. But there are also processes, rules, laws, and accountability that come with living in our great country, and this sense of entitlement and expectation is frustrating and degrading. This lack of respect for process & procedure and for each other, is disheartening on many levels.

What truly breaks my heart is the nastiness, the name-calling, and the venomous vitriol that is spewed when there are disagreements. The violence and anger are dangerous and frightening, and encouraged by a society that doesn’t respect or appreciate that two sides can find value and common ground. There’s nothing wrong with having a different opinion, there’s nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree. Isn’t that what makes this such a wonderful country?

Let’s face it, there was no perfect candidate in this election! This election lacked a true leader with undeniable integrity or even a smidgen of likeabilty, which was incredibly disappointing.


But the democratic system operated regardless, and now we need to come together to figure things out to make the world better for our children and our future. Attacking friends, family, coworkers, and strangers because we aren’t happy with their opinions and views just makes us a bunch of dicks. 

We’ve become a country of A-holes who’ve been hating, unfollowing, defriending, and ridiculing the people we are supposed to love the most because they think differently than we do. We’ve become social communists. 

In truth, name-calling, bullying, and nastiness are playground tactics that will never get us anywhere. Never.
Aren’t we the ones who make America great? Aren’t we the ones who make up the fabric of this country? When we’re brutally attacking others, we are the ones muddying up and destroying our country. Now we need to stop, breathe, and realize that we have a lot of work to do. Not one side is completely right or wrong. If we can figure out how to work together, we can do this. But it has to start with us and how we treat one another daily. 

Watching the fallout of the election has been truly heartbreaking and disgusting. I hope we can look within and realize that the only people we are hurting with our vicious attacks, on both sides, is ourselves. I hope we can come together and listen to one another, appreciate and show compassion for each other like we did on 9/11.m

 We are a country that is capable and strong, but we’ve forgotten who we are, and what we can do when we stand together. I truly hope that we find ourselves again before it’s too late, before we’ve become so divided that we implode from within.

We are better than this. 

We are Americans.

Character Inspiration 

Inspiration is a funny little muse. 

She can be elusive, explosive, and unpredictable. There are times when I expect her to arrive only to be disappointed when she doesn’t, and other times she shows up unexpectedly like a long-lost friend. Anytime I find her I am thrilled that she is with me, for as long as she chooses to stay.

Often, characters are inspired by real-life. I find that people I know, stories in the news, and people I meet can inspire the creation of a character that I never realized existed. They will often set off a  spark  of creativity then ultimately the characters take on a life of their own. They evolve to the story around them or to the others who arrive to share the story with them, uncontrolled and unfettered, they become their own beautiful creation.

In The Lost Children, I found my inspiration in my own children and in other children I’ve known throughout my life. In I Run to You,  I was inspired by my niece and her battle with cancer. But in Leaving Eva I was inspired by myself and my own sense of abandonment and sadness. Leaving Eva was therapy for me as most of my writing has the tendency to be.

And as I’m constantly observing the world around me I’m also searching for insight into the souls of others, inspired by everything and everyone. Even the most unsavory or unpleasant people of circumstances can create a story within my brain, some that I share and others that sit on a shelf waiting for the right time or story to appear in. 

Until I began writing consistently I used to hear the voices in my head that never made sense, like a constant narration in my mind. There was always a stready voice explaining the world around me until writing quieted the madness and made sense of it all. Now the characters roam throughout my stories instead of in my mind, and I feel more at peace now than I’ve ever been. 

I’m thankful for my muse, in whatever shape or form she may come in because has finally made me sane.

Being Perfectly Imperfect 

Recently Author Harper Sloan posted a challenge on Facebook to share pictures of a time when we have felt perfectly imperfect. This challenge came at just the right time when I’m already on a journey to feel better about myself through exercise and eating better. I posted  a picture that was taken six months after having my youngest son, though there are hundreds of pictures I  could’ve could’ve chosen from. I’ve spent years hiding from the camera because I hated how I looked. I was always afraid that I would I look too fat or have a double chin. They are all the pictures I hide from my timeline on Facebook or untagged myself in, with the hope that nobody would recognize me.

The truth is that I’ve felt horribly imperfect my entire life. Even when I was in high school and a size nothing, I still never felt good about myself. As a younger woman in my 20s and in the prime of life, I never saw myself for who I was. Even when I didn’t need to, I went to Weight Watchers because I thought that would help me feel better about myself. It reflected the fact that I wasn’t comfortable in my  own skin even at such a young age.

When I got to my 30s, which were my childbearing years, I felt even worse about myself than ever. Even though my body had created the beauty of life, I was miserable. This is evident in the numerous videos that my husband took when I was running away from the camera, and yelling at him to put it  down. I didn’t want to see myself and what I looked like and I didn’t want it preserved on film, forever. Even in my latter 30s when faced with personal trauma, I lost a lot of weight but even though I wore smaller clothes,  I still couldn’t find happiness with myself or the person that I had become. 

Now that I am deeply rooted in my 40s, for the first time in my life, I feel more comfortable with who I am and what I look like. I’ve decided to come to terms with embracing my imperfections. I know that if I want to be healthier it’s completely my choice. 

Physically, I know that I have a lot of work to do but for the first time it’s more for health reasons then for aesthetics. Vanity has been replaced by necessity, and the necessity is to feel good and be around for my children for a long time. I simply want to be stronger and healthier which is more important than anything else. 
I don’t blame anyone else for my insecurities or make excuses anymore . I don’t fault society,  magazines, movies, or television. I don’t blame anyone although it’s tempting to pass the buck, and blame the generation before, or the world around me. But instead I choose to own it and change it. If I don’t, where will the cycle of insecurity end of it doesn’t end with me? 
As I get older I understand that the best that I can do is to be the best person that can be. I’m short and I’m stocky, built more like a gymnast than a Barbie Doll, but when I was younger I didn’t see that I was built like an athlete. I only saw that I didn’t have a tiny waist and slender shoulders and I only saw the things about myself that I didn’t like, and didn’t see anything that I could like. I’m learning that the key is to be happy with who I am and to look for reasons to love myself. I know there are things about myself that are what they are. There are parts of my body that no matter how much I work out, how little I weigh, or how small my clothes are, that will never change. I will always be built the way that I am  with big calves and broad shoulders and there’s nothing I can do about that.  
But I can be healthy and better toned with lower blood pressure and better cholesterol. I may never be the size I was in high school, but that doesn’t matter now, because I didnt even appreciate it then.

I have a long history of faking self-confidence pretty well. But when someone I once knew saw through it, they asked me why I had such low self-esteem. They told me that I was pretty and had much to be proud of and thankful for but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t answer them. Even now for as many times as I’ve asked myself that very question I still don’t fully know the answer. Maybe it began in childhood or sometime later in life. There were a lot of things I was confident about but deep down I still struggled with myself, daily. I often feel that the mirror we look into reflects so differently for us than it should. We fail to see the beauty within us that others see. Instead  we focus on what we perceive to be our own ugliness because that’s what we choose to see. If we could only embrace what the people who love us see, and envision ourselves in the best possible light, our world would be a far more beautiful and peaceful place.

I’m raising sons and I’m finding the boys have just as many insecurities as girls do. I’m trying to teach them to see the good in themselves especially when they don’t want to.  While I don’t ignore their insecurities we talk about them with acceptance and love, and I try to help them understand that its a part of their beauty and who they are. I’m trying to teach them that there is no such thing as perfection and that we only have the best version of ourselves to live up to.

It has taken me over 40 years to realize this and accept it. While this is not the truth I live with every single day, it is the truth that I strive for. I’ve accepted that I am perfectly imperfect with my wrinkles and extra pounds, my broad shoulders, my not so tiny waist, and my huge calves that won’t fit into every pair of boots. I’m learning to love myself for who I am while still hoping to become the best version of myself that I can be.

Truly that is the best thing that I can ever do and the best gift I can ever give myself or my family. Yet in all of my perfect imperfection, it’s amazing to know that they are completely and fully in love with me. 

Even when I struggle to love myself.