Sunday, June 30, 2013

Meeting Khaled Hosseini: "And The Mountains Echoed" Book Tour (and My 21st Birthday + The Great Flood of 2013!)

#DailyWings: "When I was a child my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk, you'll be the pope.' Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso." 
-Pablo Picasso

A couple weeks ago, I read John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars," one of the best Young Adult novels I've read in a long time. (If you haven't done so already, I highly encourage you to read one or all of John's books and/or check out the awesome vlogbrothers, a YouTube video project he coordinates with his brother Hank.) One of the book's subplots involves the characters traveling to Amsterdam to meet the writer of their favorite book in person. 

After I finished reading the book, I Skyped my boyfriend — who shares my passion for good literature and was the one who introduced me to John's work  and said to him, "Wouldn't it be so cool if we could just meet our favorite authors like Augustus and Hazel do?" 

Two days later, I found out Khaled Hosseini was in Raleigh. Now, those of you who know me very well or have been following The Red Angel for a long time know how much I love Hosseini's novel, "The Kite Runner." It's publicly been one of my favorite novels for a long time (publicly, meaning when people ask, 'What's your favorite novel?' I say, "The Kite Runner.") The book is set in Afghanistan and follows the friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, which is changed forever by a single act of violence. It's a story of redemption and love, of friendship and forgiveness. You can read some of my old reviews of the book here and here

Khaled Hosseini, a medical school graduate and the founder of a nonprofit that provides assistance to people living in Afghanistan, also wrote "A Thousand Splendid Suns." Hosseini's stop in Raleigh was part of the book tour for his third and most recent novel, "And The Mountains Echoed." 

When I saw the event announcement on Twitter, my heart jumped into my throat as I thought about how cool it would be to meet Khaled Hosseini in person and listen to him speak. But that jump-in-the-throat reaction was followed by a sigh, and I knew there was no way I could drive to Raleigh myself. 

My luck turned when a good friend of mine, who, consequentially, knew how much I loved "The Kite Runner," called and told me he and his friends were going to see Hosseini in Raleigh  and that I could come with him and his friends if I wanted. (If I wanted!) Before I knew it, I was riding in the backseat of a friend's friend's car and on my way to Quail Ridge Books. I don't remember much about the car ride, except that I had Subway and kept repeating the words, What is my life? over and over in my head. 

I'm holding my copy of "The Kite Runner," which world-renowned author Khaled Hosseini had just signed for me, at the "And The Mountains Echoed" book event in Raleigh, N.C., on June 15.
Before the book signing, NPR's Frank Stasio did an interview with Hosseini, touching on subjects from the writing process to character development in "And The Mountains Echoed" to the culture of and life in Afghanistan. 

During Questions From the Audience Time, I plucked up the courage to stand up and ask Khaled Hosseini: "Since you started writing 'The Kite Runner' up until now, how have you changed as a writer, an educator, a person? And, if at all, how have these books — these characters you've created — changed you?" 

"And The Mountains Echoed" is much more complex than his other two books, Hosseini said. Over time, he's become more drawn toward characters who are conflicted. Instead of revealing themselves completely, the characters are mysterious and self-scrutinizing. 

"What drives me to write is the drama, the human element in these stories," he said. "The motivations for the way they behave."

Before Hosseini thanked Stasio on stage for coming to interview him for the book event, he left me and the audience with this: 

"Stories close the gap and reconcile between what we want life to be and how it actually is," Hosseini said. "That's what stories are for." 

~ ~ ~ ~ 

In other news, I turned 21 years old on June 22. I didn't go out and party all night. I didn't drink 21 shots (as the tradition demands). But I did go shopping at Southpoint, Skype my loved ones and tear open the presents that I had sworn I wouldn't peek at until the big day. 

Here are just a few of my excellent birthday presents (left to right): Gray goose vodka (I'm 21, y'all!), a martini plastic "glass," my first shot glass from Mount Vernon and a feather quill set complete with an ink bottle, fountain pen and nibs (!!!). Just, wow. 
I couldn't have asked for a better birthday, or a better month of June, which is ironic for me to say because of The Great Chapel Hill Flood of 2013

Basically, my apartment got completely flooded earlier today and I was forced to evacuate to higher ground. I left the flat with only a few essential belongings, thinking that the rest would be floating in rainwater by the time I came back. But most of my stuff is completely unharmed, and while the carpet is soaked and damaged beyond repair, my home is still here. And I've still got my brain and my lungs and my heart, the three things that gotta' keep me going. 

Even though there are some things that could be much worse than a flood, and also some things that could be more awesome than meeting the author of your favorite book, I can't help but think: So this is what it feels like to be the luckiest person in the world. 

Wendy Lu


Friday, June 7, 2013

The Noise In Your Head: A Different Kind of Writer's Block

#DailyWings: "It's all right to do things the way you want. There is no map to life, no blueprints to survival, you can create your world day by day if you have a clear vision and an unwillingness to give up." -John O'Callaghan

The first time I drove a car, I was seven years old. My back was propped up against the seat of an arcade racing game at one of the pizza joints in Boston. My two best friends at the time, twin sisters wearing ponytails and matching choker necklaces, watched and waited eagerly for their turns to play. I clutched the plastic wheel in front of me, eyes fixed on the screen. But the whole time, all I could focus on were my friends' cheers in the background and the shadow of our mothers hovering above my head. 

I ended up maneuvering around like an old grandma  I was either too fast or too slow, and kept bumping into trees and the vehicles in front of me. After a few moments, my friends looked away, bored with my game. The race ended as all the cars braked to a screeching halt, and two pixelated words showed up on the screen: Game over!

It took a few tosses for me to realize no matter how many silver coins I slipped into the slot, I wasn't going to get any better at the game so long as I kept getting distracted. I couldn't help it, though. Embarrassed, I hopped off the seat to let one of the twins try next. My seven-year-old pride dug in: How could something that looked so simple end up in disaster? 

I'd been driving for that checkered flag at the end of the race, but what I had really been going for was that grownup pat on the shoulder, the rumple of my mushroom-cut hair and the half-impressed, half-envious looks on my friends' faces. 

Now, I'm nearly 21 and my driver's license was issued to me just barely a few months ago. Unlike the faded student identification card hiding in the back of my wallet, the newness of my driver's license is evident in the shiny exterior and blue airplane signifying the mark of North Carolina. With this barely-larger-than-my-palm card of plastic, I officially have permission to be on the road – the real one this time. 

This is what I must get through every day on my way to work...
Nowadays, the commute between my apartment and the location of my summer internship lasts about forty-five minutes, so my license comes quite handy these days. Luckily, I don't drive the way I did back when I was seven years old. It was, however, difficult to focus when I first started practicing: I kept getting nervous with my parents sitting in the backseat ("just in case"), and I worried what the other drivers thought about me, this slow beginner. But after a while, I learned to drown out these distracting thoughts and instead pay attention to what was in front of me. I learned how to be a better driver. 

Lately, I've been struggling with my writing for similar reasons. Whenever I try to get the words down, there seems to be so much traffic in my head: I'm not good enough. My writing sucks. This blog post is going nowhere. I'm nothing but a starving artist. Everyone else writes better than me. Look at these cool indie authors and accomplished people – I'm certainly not one of them! 

Unsurprisingly, this self-deprecation leads to writer's block. Literally, there's a block in my mind. Not because I don't have any good ideas, but because reminding myself of all the things I'm not fills my head so there's no room left for actual creative work. Then, something that's supposed to be fun, something that I supposedly love to do, becomes a source of fear and pressure. 

Similarly, those daydreams we all have from time to time, featuring Bestseller Lists and wide-eyed admirers, also poison my writing so it no longer seems genuine. I end up only writing what I think people want from me. Don't let any sort of glimmering prospect of fame and glory keep you from writing quality work  quality, meaning it comes from your heart.

About a month ago, my dad told me something that I still think about every day. He said, "Wendy, just ignore all the noise around you. Don't pay attention to what other people are doing or what paths they're taking – everyone's looking for something different. If writing is what you really love to do, then just do it." 

Whenever my mind starts to fill with self-doubt and other mental distractions, rendering myself incapable of writing any further, those are the words I remember. And it's worked (so far, at least; I wrote a blog post, didn't I?). 

That being said, the real world/real life isn't always quite that easy (if ever). There will always be people watching your moves, either waiting for you to make a mistake or building up expectations or comparing themselves to you. Ignore them. 

Wendy Lu

Do you ever get this kind of writer's block, and if so, how do you banish these distracting thoughts? What are some other obstacles or challenges you face while writing? 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...