Let's ComicCon! (San Diego Style)

I wanted to share a couple photos from my trip down to San Diego for a little festival called ComicCon (SDCC). Since I consider myself an internet aunt who only shares vacation pictures, I decided I would do this post in a photo journal style. (My real aunts are actually way too cool to force vacation photos on People. Oh screw it, I love vacation photos. If you stuck me in a dark room with one of those old fashioned photo projector thingies, I'd have a blast.)

Unexpectedly, one of the great highlights of my SDCC experience was the Pokemon Adventures anniversary panel on Saturday morning. I went because I read the Pokemon Adventures manga as a kid. The writer and artist, as well as the Japanese and English editors, made up the panel. At one point, the audience voted on characters (Red, Sapphire, Giovanni, Black) and Pokemon (Pikachu, Greninja, Mew, Tyranitar) to appear in a picture together drawn by the artist live while other panel members answered questions. The audience choose Red and Mew. As the artist started to drew—and we watched his work on the big screen above—the writer commented that we made such a nice choice. Mew and Red were a perfect fit. Now, if we had chosen Giovanni and Picture, said the writer, he would have been concerned. As some of you might know, Giovanni is the evil boss of Team Rocket, and the worst members of Team Rocket, Jessie and James, are always trying to catch Pikachu. Anyway, as the writer made this observation, glowing with happiness, the artist pushed away his drawing and pulled over a legal pad, where he started to draw... Giovanni. Then Pikachu. Then Pikachu kissing Giovanni, and Giovanni blushing, and the audience roared with laughter, and then the writer  finally  caught on. They ended up giving both pictures away in an epic game of rock-paper-scissors with the audience. We all also got free posters. I don't even know what more to say. 

Unexpectedly, one of the great highlights of my SDCC experience was the Pokemon Adventures anniversary panel on Saturday morning. I went because I read the Pokemon Adventures manga as a kid. The writer and artist, as well as the Japanese and English editors, made up the panel. At one point, the audience voted on characters (Red, Sapphire, Giovanni, Black) and Pokemon (Pikachu, Greninja, Mew, Tyranitar) to appear in a picture together drawn by the artist live while other panel members answered questions. The audience choose Red and Mew. As the artist started to drew—and we watched his work on the big screen above—the writer commented that we made such a nice choice. Mew and Red were a perfect fit. Now, if we had chosen Giovanni and Picture, said the writer, he would have been concerned. As some of you might know, Giovanni is the evil boss of Team Rocket, and the worst members of Team Rocket, Jessie and James, are always trying to catch Pikachu. Anyway, as the writer made this observation, glowing with happiness, the artist pushed away his drawing and pulled over a legal pad, where he started to draw... Giovanni. Then Pikachu. Then Pikachu kissing Giovanni, and Giovanni blushing, and the audience roared with laughter, and then the writer finally caught on. They ended up giving both pictures away in an epic game of rock-paper-scissors with the audience. We all also got free posters. I don't even know what more to say. 

I met Victoria Schwab. Accidentally. I feel like I should say that I planned SDCC down to a t, but the truth is that I stumbled across a lot of cool stuff. I ran into my friend Jillian in line for a free copy of  Vicious  at the Tor booth, and I joined her, planning to buy hardbacks of her  A Darker Shade of Magic  series. I thanked her for a writing a great (and inspiring)  blog post  about not giving up as she signed both my new books. It's always nice find that a skilled author is friendly too, even when they're swamped with people expecting free stuff.  Speaking of free stuff, I also ran into Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha trilogy and  ix of Crows!  Also, accidentally. As Jillian and I walked away from the Tor booth and wandered down an aisle, I recognized her. I stopped. (It's official, I have a crush). Jillian stopped. We booth decided to get in line, even though we had nothing to sign, because it's Leigh Bardugo, and we're here, and she's here, so... We got free posters and Crooked Kingdom samplers, which Bardugo signed as I attempted to low-key, super casual, like we're friends. Whatever. 

I met Victoria Schwab. Accidentally. I feel like I should say that I planned SDCC down to a t, but the truth is that I stumbled across a lot of cool stuff. I ran into my friend Jillian in line for a free copy of Vicious at the Tor booth, and I joined her, planning to buy hardbacks of her A Darker Shade of Magic series. I thanked her for a writing a great (and inspiring) blog post about not giving up as she signed both my new books. It's always nice find that a skilled author is friendly too, even when they're swamped with people expecting free stuff. 
Speaking of free stuff, I also ran into Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha trilogy and ix of Crows! Also, accidentally. As Jillian and I walked away from the Tor booth and wandered down an aisle, I recognized her. I stopped. (It's official, I have a crush). Jillian stopped. We booth decided to get in line, even though we had nothing to sign, because it's Leigh Bardugo, and we're here, and she's here, so... We got free posters and Crooked Kingdom samplers, which Bardugo signed as I attempted to low-key, super casual, like we're friends. Whatever. 

This might be pointless to state, but I am hardcore on for PokemonGo. I was playing it at SDCC. I'm playing it right now. But it was especially special at SDCC because almost  everyone  was playing it. As Jillian and I waited in line for the premiere of Timeless, a new tv drama about time traveling soldier, historian, and scientist (three people), we checked our phones and nabbed Pokemon. Timeless was great. I hope the following episodes are just as fun. But there was something special about being packed in a dark room with lots of other people to watch something for the first time.  Like someone showing vacation photos, but not!  We wrapped up our Saturday in the big dealers' hall, then had amazing burgers for dinner. We crashed at a friend's house. 

This might be pointless to state, but I am hardcore on for PokemonGo. I was playing it at SDCC. I'm playing it right now. But it was especially special at SDCC because almost everyone was playing it. As Jillian and I waited in line for the premiere of Timeless, a new tv drama about time traveling soldier, historian, and scientist (three people), we checked our phones and nabbed Pokemon. Timeless was great. I hope the following episodes are just as fun. But there was something special about being packed in a dark room with lots of other people to watch something for the first time. 
Like someone showing vacation photos, but not! 
We wrapped up our Saturday in the big dealers' hall, then had amazing burgers for dinner. We crashed at a friend's house. 

On Sunday, I waited in the long (and infamous) Hall H line to attend the panel on PokemonGo. It was hosted by Chris Hardwick and he interview the president of Niantic, John Hanke. All the information from that panel, if you are interested, is repeated in countless media outlets. I had a great time, planted somewhere in the middle of Hall H. I learned that I am on the same PokemonGo team as the president. That's all that really matters. (Go Team Instinct!) 

On Sunday, I waited in the long (and infamous) Hall H line to attend the panel on PokemonGo. It was hosted by Chris Hardwick and he interview the president of Niantic, John Hanke. All the information from that panel, if you are interested, is repeated in countless media outlets. I had a great time, planted somewhere in the middle of Hall H. I learned that I am on the same PokemonGo team as the president. That's all that really matters. (Go Team Instinct!) 

Many steps were walked, and many snacks were had. I wandered the artists' alley and the dealers' hall one more time before heading home. It was a great time. If I can manage it, I would love to come next year. And maybe one day I'll get to sign books her myself! 

Many steps were walked, and many snacks were had. I wandered the artists' alley and the dealers' hall one more time before heading home. It was a great time. If I can manage it, I would love to come next year. And maybe one day I'll get to sign books her myself! 

Let's Job End

This is my last Wednesday as a journalist. It's been a ride, although I haven't written much about it on my blog. But my day job has shaped my writing schedule and experiences of the last two years, so I suppose it's worth reflecting on. 

My work has been a combination of translation, interviews, and tons and tons of reading. Also, a fair bit of writing. I am a glorified secretary, but I'm grateful to have had a job that has allowed me to pay the rent and have enough left over for everything else. I studied Japan in school, and when I finished my MA, I was unsure of what to do. This job came down to who I knew, and I was asked by a school colleague if I needed a job. The next thing I knew, I was interviewing for one of Japan's largest daily newspapers, and here I am two years later, covering the presidential election. 

We've worked on all kinds of topics, from sports DNA (does it exist?), to politics, to controversial statues and bullet trains, the American diet, the Oscars... I got to interview George Takei and Steven Spielberg. Not bad for a girl who didn't even go to journalism school. 

On an ideal day, I wake up and write fiction, then come to the office. I've already read through the main news items of the day, from the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, the New York Times and anything else that has surfaced. I arrive at the office and boot up the computer, turn on CNN. I handle any emails that have arrived in the night, and I prepare to brief my boss on the major stories of the day. Hopefully, I've found something newsworthy to work on that our Japanese readers will be interested in. Let's assume I have an interview scheduled. It might be on the phone or somewhere in Los Angeles, and I record the interview so afterwards I can transcribe it for my boss to use quotations in her articles. I might have another interview, maybe an expert or professor to complement a personal account of a story, or I might be sent off to hunt down relevant studies and statistics. Sometime in the late afternoon, I take lunch, and I'm pretty tired, so I don't get much writing done. When I return, I'm trying to finish up any research needed for my boss to finish writing by our evening deadline. If I've checked the boxes, I might translate articles. 

I'm leaving my job for a few reasons. First of all, it's time. As some of you might know, I'm starting a PhD program in the fall at the University of Southern California, where I will be studying premodern Japanese history. I knew I wanted to have some time off before I started school, so I've saved enough to cover my vacation. This summer, I'll be writing and traveling and spending time with my family. It should be nice. The second reason is that journalism is clearly a profession for those passionate about it, and while I've had a wonderful experience working in the field, I think it's a passion that I just do not have to the degree needed to stay.

I've met young people interested in journalism--and there's a lot to be interested in--but I fear that they think because they liked English classes it will be a good fit. That's really not the case. Of course, a love of reading and writing is crucial, but I think the most important thing is a curious mind, a tenacious personality, and an ability to quickly move between many research projects. You also have to really want to be in this field. The pay is low. The paid opportunities are few. But I've come to value this work as a citizen, especially the crucial work that full time investigative journalists do, and I hope we as a society come to appreciate it more. And by appreciate, I mean pay for it. The industry will have to find an economic way, but the rest of us will have to realize journalism's value before it's too late and we have another Flint, Michigan on our hands. 

On a lighter note, I had the opportunity to attend Free Comic Book Day this weekend! At the Comic Bug store in Manhattan Beach, people could line up and request free sketches from artists, in addition to the free comics. I requested an "Ironman Pikachu," as well as a Thor. I like to imagine Pikachu dreaming of having an Ironman suit that he can charge himself. Anyway. I also picked up the free Boom comic, a Korra comic, and a Sonic comic. I bought the new Black Panther as well. The art is wonderful, but I think I'll wait for the compilation issue because the story seems dense. But in a good way. It's hard to tell with opening volumes.

Progress continues on Food of Magicians (FOM). 

I was thinking about sharing some writing blurbs on Twitter, but I decided to wait and do it here. As of this morning, I have introduced my five main characters. Or three main characters and two supporting characters. Or two main. It's really only two perspectives. 

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to talk about planning a book. While I don't want to totally spoil FOM, sharing some of the planning process might be interesting for other writers. 

In some ways, planning a novel depends on how well you know yourself as a writer. What are your habits? What are your strengths and weaknesses and how will you plan for them? 

For me, I know that my writing game is best when I'm doing 600-1000 words a day. That's good words, words that I'm pleased with. I do not necessarily write scenes in order, but the more I write, the more "in order" things have become.

When I was younger, I would write a lot more when I sat down to write, not necessarily in order, and I was a chronic over-writer.

If I needed one word, I would use four words. I think that came from wanting control. I wanted to be positive that the reader pictured exactly what I wanted. As I've gotten older, I've become more and more at peace with the idea that readers will think what they think. They will picture what their imagination gives them, and ultimately, you only have so much control over that. And that's okay.

I have always imagined the Durnsley's house as my grandmother's house. My imagination stuck a mantelpiece and fireplace in my grandmother's house to make it the Durnsley's and I think my imagination supplied my grandmother's house as a "set" because it was a mostly unpleasant place in my childhood. I don't Rowling intended the Durnsley's house to look like my grandmother's but that's just how imagination is. That's books. That's part of the magic and power of them, the associations the imagination will supply when reading. When I was writing Serango in high school, a friend told me that a character was blond because he was attractive. I had definitely described him as having dark hair, but her imagination had run with "attractive" and attractive for her meant blond. Stuff happens. Readers imagine what they like, and I think that part of writing is accepting that. 

Anyway, when I started to realize my controlling, and consequently, over-writing impulse, I worked harder to change that. That was a habit. I knew I wanted shorter chapters, to be more effective with my words, even if it meant working more slowly. I wanted to be the sort of person always working on something, not banging out thousands of words in a frenzy a few months a year. I did that throughout high school and the start of college, but my writing improved when I started treating novels more like carefully planned marathons and less like sprints. 

At Yallwest the weekend before last, I heard a lot of writers talking about pantsing, which I enjoyed very much. But since I haven't done that in some time, and since I enjoy reading process details, I thought I would so a series of posts on planning FOM. So, next Wednesday, I will be posting about planning the opening act of FOM, as well as planning for a relatively large cast. 

See you next week! I will no longer be a journalist. I will be full steam ahead on Food of Magicians. And I'll be eating food in New York City. 

Let's do lightning reviews

I thought it might be fun to break the trend and treat this post like a collection of bento compartments. First things first, let's talk about...

Books. Specifically books that have come in my library in the past two weeks. Lightning reviews!

Hokusai's Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon
by Christine Guth
University of Hawai'i Press, 2015 

As a lover of ukiyoe prints, this is the kind of book I buy in a tizzy and I want to love. Unfortunately the author engages in boring, theory-based meandering for the first twenty pages, and never quite gets comfortable with telling the story of Hokusai's wave. (Is anyone going to argue that this isn't an icon?) The writing is stiff and insecure, but if you skip around, you can learn about the history of the print itself and a few interesting reincarnations in modern art. Pass. 

Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History
by Q Edward Wang
Cambridge University Press, 2015

First off, hats off to Q. Edward Wang for researching and writing on such a tricky topic. At a glance, something widespread like chopsticks seems simple, but it's certainly not. Wang's read countless texts, poured over archaeological records, and distilled his history into a book less than two hundred pages. A lovely resource for scholars, although hard reading for those outside Chinese history. Experts only. 

 

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
by Malcolm Gladwell
Back Bay Books, 2013 

I had the opportunity to hear Gladwell speak on at the LA Times Festival of Books, and we received a signed copy after the talk. I tore through this book in two days. Gladwell's writing snap, crackles, and pops along. He interviews basketball coaches, Hollywood producers, and dyslexics, and he turns the idea of a disadvantage on its head. Gladwell's interviews shine, but I question his reliance on old research, with some studies seeming out-of-date. Think Freakonomics but without numbers. A nice airplane read or gift to the light nonfiction reader.

Nimona
by Noelle Stevenson
Harper Collins, 2015

When shapeshifter Nimona shows up at villain  Blackheart's fortress and offers to help him take down his nemesis, Sir Goldenloin, Blackheart accepts. But between bank robberies, rescuing poisoned citizens, and warriors riding triceratops dodging laser beams... Heroism and villainy blur, and the story becomes irrelevant enough to be sincere. Extraordinary. Stevenson calls it "Monkpunk." I call it Fun. Buy the hardcover. 

 

Did you read anything interesting this week?