All posts by jfgarrard

Reel Asian 2017 Articles

The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival is heading into town and I’ve been dispatched by Ricepaper Magazine to cover it. A few pieces were also done for Looseleaf Magazine, a Project40 Collective publication based in Toronto. Since festivals want press coverage before the festival is open to the public, I’ve been busy writing and watching the films as of late. When my husband asked what it meant that I was dispatched to cover this, I told him that it meant he had to babysit more!

I’ll continuously be updating this page as more work gets published, the Reel Asian Film Festival runs November 9-18, 2017 and a lot of the films get only one showing, so grab tickets while you can! For inspiring film makers there are lots of seminars on how to hone your craft or handle taxes, but you have to reserve your spot ahead of time.

For parents with krakens, there are Wee Asian events on weekends with free animation films and crafts for children. It’s at the TIFF building which means lots of space and large bathrooms for diaper changes.

Events

Reel Festival Overview of events

Press conference coverage for The Posterist (Hong Kong, 2017) 

Wee Asian Diary Entry 

Film Reviews

Summary post of all film reviews

Stand Up Man (Canada, 2017)

Bad Genius ฉลาดเกมส์โกง (Thailand, 2017)

Dear Etranger 幼な子われらに生まれ (Japan, 2017)

A Whale of a Tale おクジラさま〜ふたつの正義の物語 (Japan 2017) 

The Posterist (Hong Kong, 2017) 

Interviews

Summary post of all interviews

Simu Liu, Kim’s Convenience Actor

Aram Collier, Director of Stand Up Man

Nattawut Poonpiriya, Director of Bad Genius

Yukiko Mishima, Director of Dear Etranger

Kristine Estorninos, Reel Asian Head of Programming

Looseleaf Magazine article

Film review: Jesus is Dead (Philippines, 2016)

 

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Cover Reveal for Trump Utopia or Dystopia!

Whoopee! The great Jen Frankel and I are almost done editing this Trump book! Instead of 20 stories as planned, we have 30 stories. Too much of a good thing won’t kill you…I think…depends on what…

Anyhow, we revamped the cover too to make it a bit stronger. There were debates over changing the title too, but in the end, we stuck with the same title as Trumptopia, Trumpocalypse, etc were all taken.

It was great to work with all the writers and although sometimes we agreed to disagree, everyone worked hard on polishing their stories. We hope that reader will enjoy the book as we had a fantastic time editing!

This week I’m off to read a new piece about Toronto convention no-nos at the Tartan Turban Secret Readings #5. I honestly don’t know what to expect. There could be 5 people in the room or 50! Looking forward to connecting with local authors and seeing if they know more secrets about success than I do.

I had a talk with the organizer who asked me about where I published other than self-publishing. I said only Ricepaper Magazine and their anthology. Then after hanging up, I realized that I had either written or contributed a bunch of stuff to rather large outlets such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Women’s Health, Book Baby (blog), Authors Helping Authors, etc. I’m just not used to taking credit for stuff. The lesson from my MBA marketing prof: ‘ if you don’t toot your own horn, no one will do it for you!’ obviously didn’t stick to my brain that much.

Over the weekend one of my American friends told me about some course on selling millions of books. I told her that at the end of the day, I believe it’s about creating a good quality story. Marketing/selling is a different skill set than writing, but first you have to write something worth selling!

Trump Book Almost Finished!

Apologies for not updating this blog as of late.

Trying to finished the Trump book has been a priority (oh and that toddler creature needs to be take care of too) and we just finished signing our 30th author (Timothy Carter, who sent in a fantastic story that made me laugh loudly) that will be featured in the book. The stories selected are pretty fantastic and unpredictable. As a writer I don’t like reading things in which I know how things will end. The publishing date we set is November 31, 2017 for the e-book and January 2018 for the print edition.

By the way, I am a horrible person to go to the movies with!

Jen Frankel has come on board as the second editor of the book and she has been fantastic to work with. There was another editor that came and went – lessons learned was to always keep communication open and to be organized, since things get hectic with 30 stories! Also parting amicably is a good thing because one never knows what the future may bring!

Labor day weekend (Aug 31-Sept 3) Dark Helix Press was at Fan Expo , a scifi/fantasy/horror/sports convention which brought over 100,000 people to one place. As a not very famous author, it was a loss financially, but I made some new contacts on the creative front. My husband couldn’t understand why I was exhausted every night. “You just sit at a table!” he said. Well, sitting at a table from 7am-8pm and talking all day is really tiring. Especially when you are not a natural salesperson. But if people don’t know about your book, they won’t read it, so you have to put a piece of your heart out there and let it get stomped on usually! There were a few people that heard me speak at other conventions so it was really nice to meet these people that have similar passions!

Recently I couldn’t find too much information about a device which I splurged hundreds of dollars on called Ovusense, so I will do a future post about this device and how it helps women with PCOS who are considered infertile. Time is passing for me, so I am hopeful, but trying not to be in case I get disappointed (Baby Shadows, an essay I wrote a long time ago explains more).  I wish that my husband could have the baby because I seriously hate labor and recovery.

For those bugging me about the second International House of Vampires book, I am working on it, really. I know people are waiting and I have to get it done. I hope to have a draft by December, then find an editor in Spring 2018. This one is about mankind spewing too much garbage into nature and the consequences of that. Have you watched Plastic Ocean on Netflix? Birds and whales among other animals all starve to death because  of plastic junk they swallow! The ocean has become a trashcan. Just one example of how horrible we are. Although if any other species took over the planet I’m sure they would do similarly destructive things…

On that cheerful note, have a great weekend!

 

Diversity Is For The Next Generation

Lately I’ve been asked a lot about why I do what I do by other writers and random people I deliver talks to.

Recently I participated in a panel about The Ghost In The Shell Controversy at Anime North and had originally written initial thoughts here – comparing the movie to a sub-par hamburger. Before the panel started, a fellow panelist whispered, “I’m glad that we have a token Asian on this panel!” Yup, I was the only non-white person on a panel which was about diversity.

Originally I wasn’t sure if we had enough material to fill an hour criticizing this Japanese manga based movie, but the audience filled the air with questions. The audience was very respectful and really wanted to understand why there was a controversy. A few panelists believed that nothing should change and things were fine. It was a bit disappointing, but I thought it was good that they had a forum to voice their opinions.

I was impressed that another panelist said that their issue was that the movie was about an Asian girl who grew up to become a white female robot and they found this horrifying as well as sad. That being Asian was not perfect and the worst! After they said this, black girls in the audience started snapping their fingers in the air!

We were asked again and again why there was a diversity problem in this movie. Finally I blurted out, “The issue is that the Asians in Asia don’t care about the Asians in North America!” An Asian girl approached me at the end and thanked me for that.

The Asian culture has been well established in Asia. But Asians in North America that don’t consider themselves Asians from Asia. This is a new phenomenon. Well, not that new, given the railroads were built in the 1800s and all. The new generations of Asians or “bananas/coconuts” (white on inside, yellow/brown on outside) grew up in a different culture and are outsiders in North America and in Asia. We are discriminated by our ancestors’ culture and in the culture we live in. We aren’t good enough for either sides.

The diversity issue is important to us because we know we don’t want to go back to Asia and want to contribute to the society we live in currently, outside of Asia. We want to share our insights and add to the arts. However, when you are told over and over again that you are not good enough to contribute anything; while being told that yes, you are an equal in society (since you pay taxes), you become angry at the hypocrisy.

“You’ll never be seen as a Canadian,” my father told me once. “People think you are from China.” He was telling me to stop believing that I fit into Canadian society and to accept that there was no equality here. He always thought that I was a naive optimist who dreamed too much. If there is no change, he is correct, we will never be able to fit into society we live in.

The other day I met with some famous Asian Canadian writers to invite them as guests to speak at a future Asian literature conference in Toronto. I had to bring my toddler with me because my husband couldn’t babysit last minute. Anyhow, these two men (both had no kids) were asking me why I was planning a conference when I had a child to take care of. What was my motive? 

I do what I do for the next generation, was my answer, as I held my wiggly toddler who was kicking me in the shin the whole time. He’s half Asian and half Caucasian – he’s not going to fit in anywhere as a halfie (or hybrid as some people tell me). Sometimes I feel guilty because I think life would have been easier for him if he was fully Caucasian. That somehow my Asian blood contaminated his future. I know this stems from an inferiority complex, of being told everyday that you aren’t good enough…Fighting for equality is draining and there are days when I just want to give up.

But, I can’t give up, I don’t have a choice. By bringing more Asian literature and diversity debates into the world, the next generation will not have to fight as much to have their voices heard and perhaps live in a better world we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger.

Heck, to be honest, I don’t want to waste my time debating about being Asian or what not either. Until everyone is on equal footing, these conversations will continue. As I mentioned in one of my talks at Anime North, there are more robots and aliens on book covers than Asian people! Somehow, that doesn’t sit well with me, which is why I speak up as much as I can.

The Truth About Submissions And Why Editors Reject Your Story

The following is a response to a writer who submitted to the Trump: Utopia or Dystopia Anthology and had questions about what to expect when submitting stories, what it means when they receive comments and why they need to rewrite:

Hi XX,

I am glad that you wrote in with questions, don’t be afraid to always ask – I don’t believe that anyone is a true expert, everyone is always learning.

Generally when you submit anything, you will never hear anything other than, “sorry your piece didn’t make it into the book/magazine.”

As a small publisher for the Trump Anthology we got over 100 submissions (deadline isn’t over yet). An agent typically gets 10,000 submissions/year. Big publishers even more. It is a tough, tough business to select and chose stories. Then it’s another tough road to sell it to readers. 9/10 books don’t sell to recoup costs of editing/formatting/publishing. It’s the one superstar that pays for everything for the publisher during that year.

When a story is selected, it’s because:

1) it connected with the editor (super subjective and editors read a lot, so the story has to be super special),

2) it was well polished, which means that the publisher buying doesn’t need to invest more time/money into the piece,

3) it was an ok story which the editor knows will be an easy sell to the readers.

To be honest, yours is perhaps the 95th story in which the story focuses on a violent incident. After getting so many of them, they all start to blend together unless there was something different about it.

For example, there is a lot of death and violence in one story we bought – “Trump Vs The Zombies” by E. Reyes. His story was the best one selected in which Trump built a wall to keep out zombies (there were about 5 of them) and because he is Mexican American, some of his cultural background also made it into the story. There were many creative twists in the story that made the editors want to  keep reading.

Most likely we will pass on your story, I have another editor I work with on making such decisions. We held back on rejection letters as we wanted to get everything in the pool first before we started tossing out stuff. We are going to send a note out to people to let them know that we will be sending out rejections soon. Already one writer wrote back to let us know that he sold his story to another publisher which is great. That’s why we allow simultaneous submissions; we don’t want writers to miss out on another publisher buying even if we don’t!

When you submit a story and get feedback, that is the most valuable part of submitting. If people don’t give a shit, they won’t give you any feedback.

Think about why we sent you such questions or comments and yes, it means a rewrite.

The next version could be sold to another publisher or you can self-publish yourself. On other projects, I’ve worked with editing teams in which we presented such questions to writers and they refused to rewrite. This means we could not recommend the publisher to buy because it means the writer isn’t willing to meet a higher standard.

There was another story in which we had numerous comments/questions, however, the main theme in the short story connected with us. This means another 4-6 months of editing back and forth (between editors & writer) to get the words and ideas in the story to flow properly to make the story better. If we didn’t like the story, we wouldn’t bother spending so much time cleaning up their writing. Another story was so well polished; we finalized it in 3 weeks.

No matter how good of a writer you are, you will always need an editor. I see writing as an art form and it takes time to discover your voice and to perfect a piece, like a painting (I used to be a painter). Anyhow, expect a rewrite every time you receive comments. It will get to a point in which the editor is satisfied and then it will be published. Then sometimes post publishing readers will point out stuff and then another rewrite. It really never ends sometimes…

I hope that you have a day job as many full time writers struggle to eat. It’s hard to become a writer superstar. I don’t think it was every easy – we just never hear about the struggles as much. Self-publishing does fill the gap for those who want to publish, but even for self-publishing, higher standards are being brought in or else readers will not trust this new group of publishers. The landscape continuously changes and I don’t think anyone knows what the secret is to becoming a writer superstar.

Anyhow, hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions.

JF

If You Care, Delete The Email!

The other day I didn’t sleep and managed to finish the first Dark Helix Press newsletter which contained pictures of the Anime North 2017 conference and some news about book projects.

During the conference I had collected about 100 emails and wanted to start an email list because I will lose momentum (perhaps even misplace the signup sheets) and my book promo dates were running out. Along with con goers, I also looked through my personal email and built a second list of friends and family who I thought would be interested in receiving news about my projects.

Whenever a small business person you know (such as real estate or financial adviser, etc) adds you to their list of newsletters or mass emails, you probably think it’s spam. Why are they sending me stuff? My name isn’t on it!

Well, they are sending you information about their services because they think that you are a kind, wonderful person who will support them in their goals. Running a business is hard work and back breaking. If they thought about you enough to add you to their email list, it means you are important to them. They think that you are a person who will ask them about their business next time you meet them and that you will pass on the information to anyone who is interested.

This is why I was so hurt when I received an email from someone who told me to piss off because I was wasting their time. This person was the most quiet, gentlest, nicest being. I thought for a while about why I was feeling this way. Obviously CBT is working here, normally I would just spiral into depression!

It’s a small thing for someone to ask you to remove them from a mailing list. I thought about it for a long time and concluded that they: 1) do not support what I’m doing and 2) they are very busy and I shouldn’t bother them because I am not worth any of their time.

They could be struggling with something and lashing out, I don’t know. I emailed them a confirmation that they were off the list. I still felt really bad, so I tried calling them to apologize and to see what was going on, but they hung up on my “hello, how are you?” Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow, but perhaps I should focus on my more positive friends with my limited time on Earth. As all business people know, we don’t like burning bridges.

Friends and family knew I had been really hurting last year from my dad’s death and had fallen into a deep, deep depression. The fact that I pulled up the straps of my boots, managed to even attend a conference (it was such a struggle to “turn on” my game face) and make a newsletter meant I was feeling better.

Usually newsletters and mass emails are not personal to makes it easier to pass onto the next person. Also, the small business person does not have time to write messages on thousands of emails. They barely have time to eat dinner…

Newsletters and mass emails are not sent out forever and ever. One day the business or the author will die and no more will be created. Receiving some news is better than silence if you care about the person.  Delete if you don’t want to read but know they are well and alive. You are a good person if you receive any!

I hope I put newsletters and other emails you get from your small business owner friends in a new light!

World Building On A Road To Hell

The following are some thoughts which I will be sharing at Anime North on May 27/17 at the World Building for Authors panel.

Recently I was looking up some ideas on what to talk about at this world building when it suddenly occurred to me that I have been doing it every day for almost a year now. Last June, after my father died, I got into a huge fight with my family.

Elderly relatives (especially one over 100) was not allowed to know that he died. People believed that they would die from shock from hearing the news. I was the outlier and eventually caved because of a group vote.

In Asian culture, one is not supposed to share bad news. I am the one banana (yellow on outside, white on inside) who feels that bringing out the truth is the best so solutions can be discussed. Well, in case of death, there is a stigma against any discussion, usually people just don’t talk about it. When an aunt died of cancer last year, I wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral either because I was on maternity leave and weak, therefore, spirits from beyond could harm me. During her time of illness, no one in the extended family knew. She wanted to die in secret and didn’t even want a funeral. When I fought to let people know my father died, I was fighting not just family, but the Asian culture as well.

Anyhow, my father was a devoted family man and visited these elderly relatives every day. After work he would drop by to cut up grapes or prepare other snacks for the ones in nursing homes. For immobile relatives in wheelchairs, he would take the time to drive them out for dim sum and groceries every weekend. Now that he has gone I haven’t been able to fulfill even half of what he did for these people while he was alive.

Since he disappeared, I have been asked questions everyday:

Where is your father? they would ask. Sick, not feeling well, I would say. Why isn’t he visiting? He hurt his leg. What is he eating? I’m cooking and freezing meals (technically true as I was dropping them off at the house to feed mom). Why didn’t he come to my birthday party? He was busy.

Indeed, the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

In the beginning I felt a lot of pain whenever I spoke to them because I felt guilty about lying. I had many breakdowns during the first few months and would start crying after I left the nursing home. None of these elderly people have dementia and their memories are better than mine.

Over time I started to construct a world for them and me in which dad was still alive, but just sick and in bed. We do have relatives that get sick and disappear for twenty years, so this was the most plausible explanation. No one talks about it, pretending that it’s normal, but I suspect it must be due to chronic depression. After I explained that dad is probably experiencing the same thing as the “other relatives” there were less questions.

When an author builds a world for their readers, they have to think about many things. There are physical rules, society structures, the characteristics of their environments, food, clothing, relationships, etc. All the things which we adhere by and use on a daily basis. I have written fantasy and science fiction with such worlds I built for readers. I have edited stories and criticized other authors for breaking their own rules or writing nonsensical science.

Nothing however, compares to the world building I have to do now. It is a fragile world I have constructed because I am not the only author. I have siblings, aunts, cousins and other relatives that have the ability to destroy this world if they say the wrong thing. They usually run from questions asked about my dad and I told them that this is unacceptable. If you all agreed to keep the truth from her, at least keep your end of the bargain with me on speaking about dad as if he was alive.

I can speak all I want, but I know I can not control other people and can only do my part as best as I can. Many people have stopped visiting the nursing home for fear they will say the wrong thing, which is very sad. The only thing I can do is keep up with this mirage the best I can until it breaks.

Ghost In The Shell Movie is like a Sub-Par Hamburger

This is an excerpt from a talk I’m preparing for Anime North about the Ghost in the Shell Controversy on May 28/17.

Last week I had a debate about the Ghost In The Shell Movie with a friend who was born in Asia. I’m born in North America, so I knew from the start that our views would be very different. She said that she didn’t see any problems with casting in the movie because once an American company buys the rights to a Japanese product, it becomes American. Since the majority of the population is Caucasian, why wouldn’t they cast a Caucasian person? I told her that it really bothered the fans who expected the studio to make better choices with casting Asian actors and keeping the story close to the source material. The debate went no where so we agreed to disagree.

It got me thinking as well, how do I explain this controversy to people?

The best way I decided, was to talk about food. An American restaurant owner goes to Japan and tries the best teppenyaki dish in a restaurant. He falls in love and decides to buy the recipe to bring back to America. Teppenyaki fans in America are super excited that this dish is coming! Chefs who specialized in teppenyaki in school want to cook this dish, but never have because the restaurant owner never had it on the menu. There is a lot of hype and the marketing people go nuts.

On opening night, critics come to the restaurant to discover that they are being served a hamburger with teppenyaki sauce. The owner didn’t employ the chefs that knew how to cook teppenyaki to help because he didn’t think the dish would be suitable for Americans. Instead, he called in the hamburger chefs who decided to just take the teppenyaki sauce and cover a hamburger with it. After all, hamburgers always sell, right?! Teppenyaki fans refuse to go to this restaurant because they know that they are only going to be served the sauce and not the actual dish. The critics shake their head at this missed opportunity at being served a real teppenyaki dish in America and that regular hamburgers tasted better without the sauce. Teppenyaki chefs are disappointed that their skills are being wasted. The owner defends himself by saying that teppenyaki can be cooked by anyone and they made a good choice by selling the sauce on a hamburger which always sells.

There are many sides to this story and at the end of the day, the owner missed a chance to distinguish his restaurant from other restaurants by serving a dish people were craving for. Of course, the teppenyaki in America was not going to be the same as the one served in Japan. It was going taste different and new. People in Japan would never see the teppenyaki in America as being “real” teppenyaki…ever…so why should they care that it be done properly or not?

Ghost in the Shell is a product just like teppenyaki which Americans tried to import from Japan. As Asian people continue to grow up outside Asia, this debate will happen again and again. The new generations of Asians want to contribute to the society they are living in currently, not the one in Asia which their ancestors left behind. They want to see themselves represented in the media they consume and believe in the fair, just society that they supposedly live in.

Avatar, Dr. Strange and Death Note all had opportunities for studios to touch base with audiences, but they blew their chances. The only thing for certain is that dollars matter. If more money can be made with changing casting choices and hiring writers that understand the original material, I’m sure things will happen. Until then, the internet will just keep exploding with disbelief!

 

What Manga Heaven Looks Like!

Yesterday I was with a friend who told me about a new manga cafe called Akiba Kissa in Markham, near John & Woodbine (7634 Woodbine Ave). I was actually super tired and full from eating too much beef brisket noodle, but we stopped by this cafe anyways.

I was blown away by the wall to wall shelves of English manga! For a few seconds…ok, minutes…I thought about how I would want to visit every night if I didn’t have a son and husband. Alas, the joys of being a single otaku! Anyhow, the cafe had all my old school favorites – Fushigi Yuugi, Kenshin, Inu Yasha, Uzumaki as well as newer stuff such as Blue Exorcist or  Rin-ne.

The front of the cafe had a huge space for cosplayers and tables for special events along with murals of Akira among other titles.

When you enter, you will see large sofas in front of a large screen broadcasting anime (they had The Devil is a Part-Timer when we entered) and tables for people to snack, lounge and read. There is a large dressing room for cosplayers to get ready and the cafe also sells lots of limited edition figurines imported from Japan.

Here you can see walls of manga and the back room had rows of arcade machines and video game setups.

Snacks available for purchase includes ramen, pocky, fancy Japanese pop, hot/cold tea and cute cakes in the shape of Totoros, rabbits or bears. Full hot and cold menu of drinks listed here. Along the walls there are displays by local vendors who display their wares such as 3D printed anime masks or original origami Sailormoon art cards.

If you have an afternoon/evening free and want to relax by reading manga, this is the right place to be!