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Announcement: Moving This Website to Newsletter Format

Hi, my wonderful followers. Thank you for subscribing and being part of my writing journey – it truly means the world to me.

I’ve decided to change to a newsletter format, which means instead of posting on this website for all to see, only those who are subscribed and want to receive my newsletters will see them via email. Nothing is changing except for the format and delivery of my blog posts.

Here is the form, and you may unsubscribe at any point if you wish to stop receiving emails from me:

https://my.sendinblue.com/users/subscribe/js_id/3kwye/id/1

I hope you’ll subscribe, and I look forward to sending out (semi)regular newsletters!

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The Art of Codeswitching

A few weeks ago (or maybe months…time passes in very strange ways when you’re deep in the revisions cave), one of my critique partners asked me to write a blog post about incorporating a different language into my manuscripts. Well, I’m finally doing it! Thanks for the idea, George. 🙂 Incorporating words from another language is something I do a lot as an #ownvoices author (specifically with the Mandarin language).

For those who may not know the term, here’s a brief definition.

Codeswitching: “the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.”

I’ve gotten all different kinds of feedback on my approach(es) to codeswitching in my books. Sometimes readers tell me that it’s too confusing if I just drop a mandarin term into my writing without explaining it. Some readers have told me that it feels more authentic if I don’t explain the Mandarin words and just let them flow from the English words, like how my parents and I converse in real life through a strange combination of Mandarin and English terms

 

Sometimes I’m just a big jerk to my non-Mandarin speaking readers (lol sorry ducks punches) in that I like to let my Mandarin words just sit there unexplained in my manuscript. See an example in this excerpt from my YA figure skating novel:

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This excerpt features a Chinese proverb basically stating that a thousand-mile journey begins with a single step. It’s translated as a quote in the chapter heading, but when I insert it into the text again, I didn’t bother explaining it. I like the way it looks there on the page, an authentic representation of what it’s like growing up as a Chinese diaspora kid who transitions from English to Mandarin naturally. I chose to do this not just to be a giant jerk (well, as far as you know, anyway), but as an artistic choice that most carefully reflects my own experiences and captures the heart of my story.

 

Sometimes (i.e. when I don’t feel like being a big jerk), I like to explain my Mandarin terms, as in this case which is again taken from my YA figure skating novel:

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(Sauteed mushrooms…and what, Katie?!?! Well, my screenshot cut off there, so unfortunately the world may never know lol…unless this book sells on sub one day! crosses fingers)

In this excerpt, I defined the Mandarin terms because I was using them in a more fact-based context. I wanted to list out a bunch of some of my favorite Chinese dishes and give both their authentic Chinese names as well as English translations/equivalents for non-Mandarin speakers. Therefore, it made more sense to me to insert the translations and make the text more accessible!

 

Those are just a couple of the many examples of codeswitching I sprinkle throughout my writing. Because writing #ownvoices is such an important thing to me, I’ve thought a lot about how to incorporate both of my languages into my text. I am by no means an expert – this is just how I approach the process, and other #ownvoices authors might have entirely different approaches to their codeswitching.

Basically, the point of all my rambling is this: there is no one way to properly codeswitch! Do what you think is most authentic to you and your book and the heart of your story. I myself am still learning about how to be a diaspora author, carving a path for myself in a dark, unlit maze that often feels like it’s full of traps and dead ends. For example, before my YA figure skating novel, I had never added tones (those funny little symbols above the letters) to my Mandarin words! I thought it would confuse the reader. Now I’m realizing that yes, while readers might be confused, I have to do what’s most authentic to me, my cultures, and my writing.

So go forth, diaspora writers! You can be as transparent or “confusing” (though I prefer terms “artistic” or “authentic”) with your #ownvoices writing as you so choose. Now I’ll leave you with some delicious pictures of the foods I mentioned in my 2nd excerpt, which is torture for not just you, but also me, since it’s lunchtime and I’m starving lol.

beijing_roast_duck_jingzun_peking_duck_restaurant_beijing_china

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Mmmm, I would kill for  bāo zi or kǎo yā right now!

 

 

 

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When Your Worst Haters Are Your Own Parents.

Okay, just thought I should start off with a warning: this post isn’t really helpful or informative in any way. I’m thinking of it as more of a letter to my own parents that I may or may not send to them one day, But I’ve been crying for the past half an hour and I just need somewhere to vent and maybe one of you reading this will relate and if so I’m truly sorry because nobody deserves to feel this way.

Despite their many, many faults, I love my parents. I appreciate so much all that they’ve done to provide for my sisters and me; crossing an ocean into a foreign country, leaving everything behind to start anew in the hopes that they and their children would have better lives. That kind of bravery is something I doubt I’ll ever have and I admire them so much. The book I’m writing right now will prove that, not that they’d ever read it, even if I let them.

But…today my dad started asking me about my whole writing thing. He started questioning my agent, saying that she could just be playing me.

Just to give context: a couple weeks ago, something Bookish and Big happened to me that was probably the best thing to ever happen to me in my life, and everyone I told congratulated me except for my parents. Instead they questioned everything. They told me “you’re just dreaming” when literally The Big Thing had already happened and no I was not fucking dreaming because I’d already pinched myself a bajillion fucking times. They did not understand or even try to understand the sheer amount of work, endless rejections, and pain it took for me to get this far in my writing journey…instead they belittled me and my work. And what’s more is that they belittled my agent, who is a fucking boss. I’m used to them dismissing my writing, but I can’t forgive anyone for saying that Penny Moore, who is an absolute champion agent, is just fooling her clients.

I literally did not know how to respond other than to jokingly tell my dad “Ok I just dropped her, phew! Glad you know so much more about publishing than I do!” and because he’s my dad he missed all the sarcasm and said “Good. Now you can come back to reality and focus on your CPA exams”.

As if I’m not already prepared to make writing a side gig. As if I don’t already have a full time job at a very respectable public accounting firm slotted to begin in the fall. As if I have not already done everything they have ever asked me to do.

At this point, I started crying. Because I realized something awful. That my parents weren’t just being hesitant or cautious. They actively are discouraging me from pursuing my dream in any capacity, And I can’t fucking understand, because I have always done everything they have told me. I have been just about the best daughter they could ever ask for (not trying to brag, but I just…have never defied their wishes).

I killed myself getting into advanced classes as early as elementary school. I took 13 fucking Advanced Placement courses and exams in high school to try to please them and get into a fucking Ivy League. I studied my brains out to get near-perfect scores on the SAT and ACT. Against everything my soul has ever told me, against all my dreams and everything I want for me, I did what they told me to do and applied to a Master of Accounting after undergrad and got in and am going to be a fucking accountant without giving a shit about accounting.

I have bent over backwards to please them and they still will not even support the one thing I have ever wanted for myself, my true passion in life: writing. Not even as a small side job. Not even in the smallest of capacities

Essentially, it boils down to this: my parents will not accept me, truly and wholly as I am.

As I type this, the tears are clearing up, and I see a crossroads before me. I hope I’m wrong but my gut is telling me that it’s true…that one day soon, I will have to choose between my family and my writing. And I know I will choose writing. I can’t not choose my writing, because this passion of mine has stretched beyond me now. It’s not just about Katie putting words to a paper. It’s about Katie writing books for kids just like her to see themselves in. To try to diversity the book world in the hopes of spreading a little more empathy into this shithole of a country.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m right about this…One day I’ll have to cut my parents out of my life completely, so I can continue writing. So I can be happy. My fellow creative types, I’m at a loss for what to do…if you’ve been in my shoes, how did you handle this complete lack of empathy from your own parents?

I really hope nobody has to answer that question, because from the bottom of my heart, you brilliant creative souls all deserve supportive friends and family. Thanks for reading. ❤