Writing

Death, Destiny & the Richness of the Hmong Culture

I imagine a bright spark when an idea is born. Miniscule at first, it starts to grow, crackling and fizzing before its jagged branches shoot across the sky like lightning. In the movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb says, “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow.” My idea for A Kiss of Blood—my young adult fantasy novel about a girl who goes into the spirit realm to rescue her mother's soul—was an amalgamation of many little things, and one of those things is a Hmong song called “Cia Ua Ib Zaj Dab Neeg”—“Let It Be a Story”—“it” referring to a relationship. In the song, a boy receives a wedding invitation from the girl he Ioves who is marrying another boy. Although he is devastated by the news, he chooses to accept the situation—hence, his saying, “let it be a story”. I was particularly intrigued with one part of the song and one line—the very last line, which talks about a “letter”.

On Finding the Courage to Write the Novel I’ve Always Wanted to Read

A couple of years ago, I read a fantasy novel that opened with the main character eating an apple on her way to market, and before that I read a fantasy novel where the main character and her companion packed bread and apples as their meal for their long, horseback trek across a kingdom to participate in a war that was devastating the countryside. Not gonna name any names or titles, but I was like, “Enough with the apples!” C’mon people. Can’t we do something different? Can’t we offer these characters some rice or something? Or maybe a cucumber?

A Different Way to Reflect

I’m weird. At least that’s the message I get from “normal” people when I start talking about Lord of the Rings, X-Files, Star Wars, The Matrix, Fringe, Star Trek, Avatar, Stardust, Babylon 5, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones. Even Harry Potter sometimes. They either roll their eyes or make an UGH noise or both and start to turn away. What they don’t understand is that my obsession with science fiction and fantasy is what informs my conceptual and creative thinking. And it’s science fiction that helped me to create the one reflection activity you’ve probably never done before.

Your Story Creates Your Identity

“The girl in the red coat went to the store and bought some apples with five dollars.”

As the words left my mouth, the need to roll my eyes was so fierce, I swear my body shook with it. The woman on the other side of the table didn’t even bother to look up as she wrote my words down on a piece of paper. A tape recorder rolled on and on and on next to her elbow.

The story didn’t end there. I’m pretty sure the girl in the red coat did something with those apples, but I can’t remember. I do, however, remember the anguish I felt at being the only student called out of class to be tested in the English language. I was a junior in high school and hadn’t been in an English language development class since elementary school. This felt like someone decided to wage war on my identity, and it wasn’t the first time.