Learning from books

Sometimes we place unrealistic expectations on books to make life-altering changes for us. I have often picked up a self-help book with that hope. Of course, that doesn’t happen. Reality check, please. Indeed I’ve gleaned many useful nuggets that I have been able to apply to my life from reading well-informed authors. I believe that if I can take away two or three tips and incorporate them into my routine, then my time is well spent.
Such was the case when I bought Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein – The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. I thought I would give my brain the gift of memory. Eagerly, I read page after page, holding my breath for the moment of enlightenment. Then I finished reading the book. Still the “Aha” moment did not come.
So I mulled over what I had read. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes, I did. Is there a takeaway for me? I thought about Mr. Foer’s journey from an ordinary person with average memory to winning the U.S. Memory Championship. He shared some of his memorization techniques. Example, “The idea is to create a space in the mind’s eye, a place that you know well and can easily visualize, and then populate that imagined place with images representing whatever you want to remember.” I tried that out. It worked. I loved the suggestion that the more ridiculous the images, the better you would be able to retain them. The problem was that the effort became too much for me. I have lapsed back to my usual forgetful self, but I’m learning not to chastise myself for not remembering.
The lesson:  books can’t change me, only I can…sometimes with assistance from experts in their fields.

Left Brain Right Brain At Work

The writing and publishing universe has a business side that, I’m quickly learning, has many nuances. As an accounting professional, I practice in a field that taxes my left brain mostly. Just when I thought I would mobilize the under-utilized right brain, when lo and behold, I find out that it’s not enough to be creative. In a way, I like that I get to exercise my imagination as much as I have to stretch the more familiar analytical abilities.

When I first started to write regularly, I wrote for the sheer joy of playing with words. My mentor told me that people don’t write in a vacuum. We want others to read our work eventually. Of course, she’s right. So I started to explore. Now I’m dipping one little toe into the indie world in the hopes of finding out more about self-publishing.

I’m reading Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters. She’s feisty and knows how to keep her readers engaged. This is someone who knows what she wants and has gone after it like a dog with a bone. Her voice reaches out to would-be indie authors in a way that is credible. 

I’m not sure which way I will go, traditional or independent, when my manuscript is ready. The information in Ms Winters’ book certainly provides great tips for self-publishing and the author is proof that you can make it as an indie through good writing and work habits along with a large dose of determination.

Some Historic Events Should Never Be Forgotten

Recently, I was reminded of a significant part of my Chinese Indian history. An author had released a book in Assamese language about the plight of the Chinese people who were detained in a concentration camp by the Indian government in 1962 during the Sino-Indian War. Some died. Others were deported to Hong Kong or China. The survivors tell harrowing tales of incredible hardships. None of the detainees were spies; they were unfortunate political pawns.

I only knew about the Calcutta Chinese being arrested. Now I’ve learned that numerous were also snatched from their homes in Assam State. Many returned several years later to find their homes and possessions gone. They had to start all over again. I grew up and went to school with some kids whose fathers were detainees. During our teenage years, long after the chapter on this terrible event had closed, they told me stories of their struggles while their fathers were away.

Today most of the Chinese people from India have immigrated to Canada, USA, Australia and many parts of Europe. The fall-out from this momentous event has uprooted many families. These Chinese communities are now a shadow of their former selves.

There are groups of people now campaigning for the Indian government to acknowledge it’s wrong-doing. Some wrongs cannot be righted. We should never forget.


Spinning Fever

Every Sunday morning I lead a spinning class at the local YMCA. Spinning is instructor-led studio cycling on stationary bikes with adrenaline-pumping music blaring in the background. It’s a great way to kick start my day with this energetic cardio workout.
I’m an avid cycle fit fan turned volunteer instructor. I have been leading a class for the last few years. For sixty energy packed minutes, I am transported to a make-believe world where the hills can be as steep as I want them to be as I coax the riders to stretch their physical capabilities, while the downward sprint is uninterrupted by traffic with only the finish line before us. It is an exercise where I test the group’s endurance as much as they challenge my ability to keep them motivated. I bellow encouragement, constantly reminding the riders about their posture and focusing them on their breathing. Anything to take away the attention from their tired bodies. Pushing and extracting another mile, another hill.
When I first decided to become a volunteer cycle fit instructor, I thought I would just have to spin away yelling out instructions. Fortunately for the cyclists, the YMCA mandated that I go through some courses before receiving my certification. Along with some essential technique training and CPR skills, I also learned how to put together “radio-friendly” music to inspire frenzied sprints and laboured climbs.
I marvel at the intensity of the spinners in my class. Their enthusiasm pushes me to work harder than I normally would.  This is a great love affair. I can name far less enjoyable ways to stay healthy.

Writing.Com Forum

Writing.Com lifted me out of my writer’s doldrums last fall when I needed a boost.
Spring had unfolded with promises of new beginnings and hope. Our oldest son and his fiancée were married under a blue Mexican sky on a warm breezy evening. As incredible as this may sound, that same day back in Canada, my mother was undergoing surgery to remove an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a procedure that has a 90 percent success rate. Some events just cannot be rescheduled on short notice.
The evening ended on a high note. The wedding guests left with the afterglow of a wonderful celebration.
Up north, my mother was recovering from an apparently successful surgery, or so we thought. Complications arose.
The promising spring turned into a long summer that finally ended when my mother was discharged from the hospital in early fall. That’s when I stumbled upon Writing.Com, a robust hub for the writing community. You can interact with other writers by participating in many sponsored activities. Contests, auctions, raffles, discussions, events and gatherings, and resources to guide you through the how and where of writing and publishing. Authors, new or experienced, feature their work in their own portfolio, a page that can be viewed by anyone. Basic membership is free. Paid members have access to more activities and resources.

When I became a member of Writing.Com, I felt overwhelmed at first by the sheer number of activities. In fact, there are still many areas that I have yet to explore. Since then I have given and received reviews, all done in a positive environment. This has indeed been a rewarding journey for me.

My WDC Portfolio

The Palm Leaf Fan

Kwai-Yun Li is an amazing person who I had the pleasure of meeting recently. She is the author of The Palm Leaf Fan, a collection of short stories that has prompted many discussions in university classrooms. A Chinese Canadian who emigrated from India in 1972, she is a generous spirit brimming with enthusiasm about her work, and eager to share her knowledge about the writing world.
Ms. Li’s characters are based upon the Indian Chinese of Calcutta (now called Kolkata). Her stories bring to life a community that was once vibrant in that populous city. Most of these people are now living in other parts of the world, the largest number having settled in Canada. Ms. Li writes about growing up in Calcutta with simplicity that lends credibility to all the personalities. She has a gentle and persuasive style as she weaves her characters into arranged marriages, the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict and subsequent internment of Chinese residents, and the Indian caste system.

I feel very fortunate to have made the acquaintance of this graceful person. If you’re looking for something different and uncomplicated to read this summer, try The Palm Leaf Fan.

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Book Review – Dreaming Kathmandu

If you love words, Glenn Forbes Miller’s book, Dreaming Kathmandu, will captivate you. If hiking is your passion, you will be treated to an adventure. If you love traveling, the sights and sounds will reach out to the tourist in you.
Miller has captured the rugged and rustic beauty that is Nepal. His eloquence paints an ephemeral glimpse of a world that is as yet unspoiled, for the most part, by modern advancements. When he reaches fabled Tilicho Lake, the highest lake in the Himalayas at 16,232 feet, its pristine beauty moves him to philosophical musings.
“One has to observe the beautiful and be moved by the phenomenon for the beautiful to exist. Things in and of themselves are only things. A mountain. A valley. A gelid blue lake. Each, all exist without me. And if I perceive one of them as beautiful, it exists because I am there to behold it, to declare it, to think it into existences.”
Then there is the human dynamics. Four family members, Miller and his wife and two adult children, always within yelling distance for 34 days. It is not always a smooth ride. Other trekkers along the way also become characters in his book as he weaves them in with interesting side stories. Add to that mix the local people brought to life with words that he seems to have an endless supply of.

Certainly a book worth reading.

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Books That Help

Recently I was in Hawaii for a much needed vacation. Something in beautiful Kauai stirred my creative juices. I heard about Christina Katz’s book,Get Known Before The Book Deal, and decided to buy the e-book on my iPad. Before long, she was hitting all my writing buttons. She has a conversational style that made me feel like she was talking to me. By the time I finished reading her book, I realized that I’d only scratched the surface of the written word’s cyber-network.
Now I’m reading Showing & Telling by Laurie Alberts. I can see why she’s an expert on the topic. We all know that it’s better to show than to tell, but she guides you through the art of balancing the two. I like the way she defines scenes and summaries in her introduction with great examples to distinguish one from the other. Right away, I picked up important nuggets that I can apply to my writing. I can’t wait to finish reading the book.
On the home front, it turns out that I was needlessly worried about my mother’s first mini-vacation with a tour group since recovering from her surgeries. She returned in one piece, all the better for having taken the plunge. It’s proven to her that there is life outside her home even if she isn’t as mobile as she used to be.
Until the next time…

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