Recently I finished an op-ed piece and sent it around to major media outlets. It wasn’t picked up by anyone. Naively I thought that since the piece was about a small press publishing a book by Asian writers and finding it difficult to gather in-depth book reviews, this would be an interesting read since a lot of diversity articles only talk about the good things about why it’s needed or negative experiences. The experience I had was a good one, but in the op-ed I wanted to highlight the fact that people are scared about being cancelled, so they can’t comment on anything, which makes it difficult to move forward. Everyone says they want diverse books, but is this really true? Or are they saying this because it sounds like the right thing to say?
As a writer, I wonder about why this piece was rejected. If you are a successful op-ed writer, perhaps you can send me some tips!
Generally, the message in this piece was: sometimes it’s best just to sit down to have a cup of tea and eat together to build relationships going forward. Basically instead of preaching diversity, let’s talk about what we have in common and be friends!
June is Pride Month and on the Artsy Raven podcast we are releasing episodes featuring a LGBTQ author every Sunday. More details available in our June newsletter (click here), including which episode to listen to which has a submission call for short stories. It was great to talk to these authors who all generously shared their challenges and struggles, but despite all this, they all remain optimistic and achieved their goals!
At the end of May we had a book launch for Belief, an anthology featuring Asian authors. I was happy that my 3-tiered cake didn’t fall down and it was a lot of fun baking, even though I’ve lost my sense of smell and taste after the COVID vaccine. Since I take care of my 105-year-old grandma, I get tested for COVID every week and it’s been negative. Anyhow, we recorded the Belief event which can be watched on Youtube here. More details about the book here.
Comedian Josh Williams and I talked a little bit about Belief and other things in life on his One Man Podcast, click here. His podcast is a casual conversation and somehow I impressed him with my talk about the radioactive sandwiches I fed people when I worked in Nuclear Medicine!
I’ve been trying to do more writing by doing writing sprints with an indie author group every Sunday night, but it’s been slow. My brain is still split on weekdays because of virtual school and I can’t write one sentence without the kraken (my child) demanding something. I’m not sure at what age human children become more useful!
For more detailed Artsy Raven podcast episode summaries, they are posted on Patreon and Ko-fi every Sunday.
May is Asian Heritage month and this year on the Artsy Raven I interviewed a few of the authors from the Belief anthology, a book which has been getting some PR on Canadian radio stations. This is the first book I’ve ever done marketing and interviews via radio stations so I’m not sure what the ROI is on doing this, we will see! Visit the book page to see the radio interviews and other media links, including The Richard Crouse Show on Newstalk 1010 and THE RAW MIKE RICHARDS SHOW on SAUGA 960 AM: http://www.darkhelixpress.com/acww/belief/
Every week in May I’m dropping an interview with a Belief author and they read their piece from the anthology as well. It’s really great to hear the authors read from pieces which we have been editing for a few months and they give life to their words! Check out the Artsy Raven podcast page for dates of when the episodes will be released: https://jfgarrard.com/arpodcast/
The podcast pace hasn’t been too bad, I am not an exhausted pigeon yet! Until next time!
This morning we woke up early to listen to “The Raw Mike Richards Show” on Sauga 960am which caters mainly to the Toronto area. Once a month, The Idea Shop goes onto the show to promote the latest book releases in the Canadian market.
To be honest I was a bit nervous about what people would think about the book because although I think it’s fantastic, I’m also the gardener who helped plant the flowers, so my perspective is biased!
It was wonderful to listen to the opinion that the stories were like a “box of chocolates” which cheered up the readers during COVID and also brought up memories of the host (Mike Richards) being close to an Asian family in the town they grew up in. Canada’s strength lies in diversity and the ability for people to work together to transform society for the better.
In the historical imperial palace game I play there are dual competitions once in a while. As a concubine you build up a team of confidants who are princes, eunuchs, maids, friends and foreign diplomats. Over time you gather potions and collect items to increase their tactics, glamour, wisdom and vigour.
When the duals open, for a week you slaughter other people’s teams by beating the butterflies out of them. Yes, you read right, butterflies instead of blood because this is a civilized girly palace game after all! There are random battles and you can choose to challenge players. To win, some players challenge the same person over and over again until they are negative in scoring.
On the server I am playing on, the top player or winner believes that using any strategy to win is fair, so during duals week, they pretty much kill everyone since they have such a strong team. The winner runs a “palace” (to be a member you must convert your name to include a swastika Buddhist symbol and listen to the winner who is the “Master”) and they send orders to other girls to go after certain players to ensure only their palace members will make the top ten. There is one particular player the winner will send orders to be destroyed every time. The person they bullied went onto the chat board and said quite a few horrible things such as the winner’s mom being a street prostitute and hoping that the winner gets COVID.
While a lot of us were sympathetic originally to the person being bullied, we then felt lines were being crossed on both sides. The winner shouldn’t be bullying others so much but the game rules allow this and the person being bullied shouldn’t be saying such horrible things. After a few days of endless chat messages, a lot of us just gave up being peacekeepers and ignored the drama.
Being an online game, we don’t know each other’s true identities and it’s just ok to walk away sometimes because not all fights are worth fighting! And so, once a month, drama fills the game…
The perfect song for wailing indoors while full of COVID19 melancholy is “Niji” (虹, “Rainbow”) by L’arc-En-Ciel. It’s the opening theme of the Rurouni Kenshin movie Requiem for the Ishin Patriots, which has a storyline about samurai trying to start a revolution to overthrow the Meiji government. If you haven’t checked out the Rurouni Kenshin samurai anime and movies, now is a good time!
The main character, “Hitokiri Battōsai”, Himura Kenshin is a former assassin trying to make amends for his sins while fighting for love and peace. In the anime, the seiyuu (voice actor) of Kenshin is Mayo Suzukaze and she is amazing. In the movies Takeru Satoh is Kenshin and he is awesome in all the action sequences. Admittedly I would have loved a younger Masaharu Fukuyama to be the main character, but he does play Hiko Seijūrō XIII, Kenshin’s swordsmanship instructor in the movies. Rurouni Kenshin an anime classic and one I would gladly watch multiple times. The OST soundtracks are great as well! Some of the instrumental background music is full of tension, great for those writing fiction.
The song “Niji” starts off quietly with keyboards, electric guitar, drums and then main singer hyde launches into “TOKI WA KANADETE OMOI WA AFURERU” as if he is pleading with the heavens to save someone. Enjoy the youtube karaoke video below and know I am wailing with you! At home…where no one can see…with my Tzumi Pop Solo Gen 2 light up microphone!
I recently represented Ricepaper Magazine to interview the Cantonese and Mandarin talents of Kruger Products’ (manufacturer Cashmere toilet paper and Sponge Towels) Unapologetically Human ad campaign, featuring real people dealing with real messes – spills, tears, blood, runny noses, messy crafts, and more. The campaign featured songs in English, French, Hindi/Urdu, Mandarin and Cantonese. Really cool that a company created a diverse ad campaign! The situations captured in the videos are touching as well, it’s worth checking out the beautiful imagery.
The Cantonese soundtrack is sung by Mr. Will Wong and the Mandarin song by Moulann.
Next Thursday I’ll be hosting an Asian Speculative Fiction Reading event as part of Small Press Fair for Dark Helix Press. All of the authors are wonderful readers and I look forward to listening to them do their magic! Details about this event below!
Also putting together another digital raffle to test how successful it is as a marketing tool. Someone told me that all raffles need to be coupled with Amazon gift cards so we will try that. I do worry about coupling book giveaways with gift cards – do they want the gift card or to read the books? Sigh.
March 4, Thursday, 2021: 8pm EST – 9pm EST Asian Speculative Fiction Readings panel features Asian speculative authors who will read their stories featured in Immersion or Dark Helix Ezine. There will be a Q & A after the panel. Authors featured include Vincent Ternida, Carlo Javier, Melissa Yuan-Innes and Lily Chang. Host: JF Garrard
During a meeting in Jan 2021 with a few Asian authors, they lamented over the fact that they haven’t been getting much support from others since they were isolated due to COVID-19 and they lived in places with relatively few Asian people. This inspired Ricepaper Magazine to put together a Write-Rice Asian writers support group. Of course, it’s also open to anyone supportive of diversity, we want to be inclusive as well!
The list of topics we will touch upon includes the different methods of publishing to tips on how to write better. The hosts for 2021 are JF Garrard, Vincent Ternida, Derwin Mak and Cynda Yeasting. For more details and to register for these free sessions, click on this link: ricepapermagazine.ca/writerice
Feb 19 – JF Garrard (What are the different options for publishing? Traditional/Self-Publishing/Vanity/Podcasting/Youtubing, etc)
March 19 – Vincent Ternida (What is the difference between short stories, novels and poetry?)
April 16 – Derwin Mak (What do editors look for? Surviving the slush pile and looking for submission calls for fantasy and science fiction genres)
May 14 – Cynda Yeasting (What is an author platform? Discussion about networking and promotion ideas)
June 18 – JF Garrard (What is the difference between genres? Scifi/fantasy/horror/specfic/magical realism, etc)
July 16 – Vincent Ternida (Writing a good villain and interesting characters)
August 20 – Derwin Mak (What happens at genre conventions for science fiction, fantasy or romance? Are they worth the money to learn about writing?)
Sept 17 – Cynda Yeasting (Social Media 101. What is the difference between Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tiktok, etc)
Oct 15 – Vincent Ternida (Writing realistic fiction and plotting)
Nov 19 – JF Garrard (Nainowrimo Write in session, e-book prizes during “Word Wars” in which people compete to see who can write more words in 10 mins)
Dec – no session, survey link will be made available for feedback
To get everyone into the holiday spirits for some merriment and laughter despite COVID-19 still lingering about, here is a podcast of me reading a story about mom cancelling Christmas after finding a severed Barbie doll head. I had originally written it for the Renaissance Press Holiday Blog Roll 2017. Text of the story is re-posted below, enjoy!
The Year Christmas Got Cancelled
One year, a fake auntie (not blood related) gave my sister and I a real Barbie doll to share. We never had a real Barbie before because they cost too much. We only got the Bargain Harold’s or Woolco generic dolls. I remember not wanting to play with Barbie anyways because I would rather play with Transformers, which was more interesting.
A few days before Christmas, a blood curdling scream went through the house. My seven year old sister and I were doing extra Kumon math exercises without any joy. We shrugged and continued our grueling work. Mom screamed a lot; she could be either yelling on the phone at someone or mad about something on tv. Our tiny bodies tensed when she appeared in the doorway of the living room, holding a severed Barbie head by its long blonde hair.
“Who did this?” Mom demanded in her loud voice in Cantonese. Her giant afro perm bobbed up and down, as she stormed into the room and flickered a severed Barbie head by it’s long blonde hair in our faces. She was a tiny woman, but had enough power to topple over any mountain or rip apart any savage animal in our eyes.
Being the wiser ten year old, I shook my head and spoke calmly. “I don’t know mommy.”
My sister was frozen with fear, but after a few seconds of silence, parroted me in a squeaky voice, “I don’t know!”
Both of us looked around for our younger brother who was five. He was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter, he was the golden child and could do no wrong.
“Christmas is cancelled! No more presents! You are naughty children and presents should go to good children!” My mother was livid that no one was owning up to destroying an expensive doll. We rarely got any toys from our parents because there was no extra money in an immigrant family home in which chocolate milk was considered a luxury.
I sighed and tried not to roll my eyes. A few years ago my mother had suddenly told me that Santa didn’t exist, but my cynical seven year old self was already aware of this. I was more upset then that my shrine to Jesus had been ignored by everyone and became an atheist soon after. As the first child, I was continuously being experimented on by my parents.about:blankREPORT THIS AD
“But we don’t get presents from you anyways,” my sister smirked.
“I’m talking about all presents! Even from other people! You are all bad children!”
“No, mommy! I want presents from the uncles and aunties and Santa!” My sister started wailing and crying.
Mother looked happy that one child had reacted to her stern lecturing. “There is no Santa! Hahaha! Now who took apart this Barbie?”
“I don’t know,” I said in an exasperated tone.
My mother shot daggers in my direction as she glared at me.
“It wasn’t me!” My sister sobbed, her chubby cheeks becoming red and streaked with tears.
“No one is confessing? No more Christmas!” My mother stormed off to dispose of the doll head.
“What do we do now? What did she mean that there’s no Santa?” My sister asked me.
I shrugged. “It’s ok, she’ll calm down and change her mind. I’m sorry, the whole Santa thing was really mom and dad all along.”
“Oh,” my sister said as she wiped her tears. “No wonder Santa always gave us such crappy presents.”
As with many things, I was wrong about mom changing her mind about un-cancelling Christmas. I also never found out who tore off the doll head. In the following years, any presents given to us were never seen by us. It’s presumed that they were re-gifted to another child who deserved presents.
Although we didn’t get presents at Christmas, we still got red pockets (cash) at Chinese New Year, birthdays and whenever we passed any big tests. Admittedly all the red pockets went into our bank account which we later learned was paying for household expenses.
There is a Chinese idiom about daughters: “Daughters are water poured out of the family after they get married.”
After I started dating a Caucasian Canadian guy in university, my Christmases were spent with his family. We eventually married as well and he was relieved that there were no fights about splitting up the Christmas holidays since my family didn’t celebrate it.
My sister and I have children now and they have great Christmases compared to our childhoods. Maybe we are trying too hard to compensate for the fact that we didn’t celebrate it or have any toys and want our kids to have everything. I hope that the kids don’t end up being spoiled brats! They will sigh as I tell them this story about Christmas being cancelled and probably won’t believe me since grandma always brings them presents!