For a few years, I worked to promote literacy at a library in the City of Monterey Park, which is in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. I don't miss that commute but I do miss the work and grant writing.

I was always astounded, in my research for the grants, at the low literacy rates in the United States. Just think, if it's bad here, what must it be like in Africa?!

Granted, literacy is likely low on the list of priorities when many nations in the continent are struggling with war, poverty, AIDS and disease, unemployment, widespread crime and other troubling problems that people in the United States--by and large--do not have to face.

Still, I can't help believing that the research is right--when literacy levels rise, crime levels fall.

Learning to read, write, speak, comprehend and apply critical analysis to a text is key in helping impoverished nations grow and thrive but how can literacy rates improve in places like Africa where the majority of people can't afford school and books for education?

My research shows that does not have a strong market in this continent. Book suppliers tend to be local and quite honestly, if people in the U.S. complain about buying a $24 hardcover, how must people in Africa feel about it?

All these questions are plaguing me because literacy is an important cause; it's a cause I know I'll support until the day I die. My contributions now have been small (raising $100k in grant writing at my old job, donating to various charities in my spare time) but in the future, once I've made a successful career out of writing and teaching, I'm hoping to use my skills and experience to fuel the literacy rates in developing nations.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1.) Research shows that in various African nations, broadband services are either slow or non-existent. Desktop computer usage is also low but there is hope! The research uses South Africa as an example: "While there are only 4.5 million web users there are 43 million mobile phones (80% of the population), a $2.4 billion market dominated by carriers Vodacom and MTN and manufacturers Nokia and Samsung." Broadband access is improving because cellphone usage has increased quite a bit in Africa and will continue to do so in the future.

2.) Given that devices like the Kindle or Sony eReader are relatively expensive, the next option would be to find a way to allow cellphone users in Africa to download content from allover the world such as stories, novels, articles, etc. through their cellphones; the idea being that digital content is often free or much less expensive than the printed content.

3.) There are several programs that offer basic netbooks to children in developing countries. Perhaps basic eReaders are not far behind?

4.) If artists and the publishing industry projected their efforts in the longterm and supported the digital age--developing nations would be greatly impacted. Information could be shared faster, freely (or close to free), and furiously. Literacy rates would begin to rise. As a result, I'm sure the walls of censorship in certain places would also take a hit, brick by brick.

This is my dream as an artist, to see literacy rates rise and watch the chains of those who have been denied the right to read fall and hope for their freedom through the sharing of art.

Imagine how many artists would be born, would rise out of this digital age in developing nations. Just take a moment to imagine.
scififanatic: (dadelions)
( Apr. 2nd, 2009 11:00 pm)
Hell yeah! I just graded the last mid term exam. I'm all packed for Virginia. I can't wait to see my friend Lori. I miss her! She has all kinds of adventures planned: driving to Philly, touring Monticello, dancing, attending a Bach music festival, fun fun fun.

Friends + me = happy

The only drawback--waking up early for the plane tomorrow.

scififanatic: (purple flower--black woman)
( Apr. 1st, 2009 10:51 am)
After freaking out and being reassured by Jade Park that the radishes would be fine--I woke up this morning to garden goodness!

I have other thoughts about what gardening is teaching me, mainly that I worry too much but for now I will focus on the goodness of it all.
scififanatic: (Tori's Eyes)
( Mar. 29th, 2009 02:03 am)

Inspiration...or freeing the ghosts.

I blazed through two chapters of my WIP. Revised them quickly. I love these "new" sections because they are still authentic. Original. Me.

I revised them when everything was illuminated, when my novel's world turned to night.

This makes a lot of sense...

Now the question is: how do I hold this feeling? How can I stay happy in the heavy arms of the world?
scififanatic: (purple flower--black woman)
( Mar. 27th, 2009 08:05 pm)
Things have been rocky for me these last six weeks. I've been wrestling with a lot of demons but I'm slowly working my way out of the tangled mess of my mind, my fears. So far, my fitness goals the first quarter of the year have been shot to hell.

That means I've got 3 quarters of the year left to turn it around. I'm not one of those who believes the first time you break a New Year's resolution that you should forget about it until next year. No, I'll keep trying. I'm that stubborn. Also, my doctor felt I needed to take a different approach to my fitness goals.

Getting stuck in a routine doesn't work for me. For about 6 months last year, I worked out regularly and lost quite a few pounds, which I gained back this year. This time, my doctor suggested that I focus less on fitness and more on being active and being healthy (more so in mind).

I joined a hiking group, but it's not a group of die-hards who would feel weighed down by beginners. We're all beginners and we learn together. There are only three of us right now, all women but I find it comforting to meet with them, talk with them, explore with them, and just walk in silence with them.

In addition to hiking, I've also taken up a new activity--gardening. Partly inspired by the desire to move my body more often, partly inspired by my grad schoolmate's, Jade Park, experiences with gardening first here, then here, and finally here, and partly inspired by what my writing process has been teaching me this year--to write slowly, to listen to my environment and what it's telling me.

I spent six hours in the garden today. It didn't seem like a lot while I was working until my back screamed at me during dinner tonight. Screamed in a good way, of course. "You remembered us!" my muscles thanked me.

I cleaned, prepped, planted, and then I freaked out, much like the way I write: What if I messed up? Did I leave something out?! Will this work???...and so on. I learned today that I can't worry about the end product. All I can do is pour my heart, pour my best into the process with all the love and enthusiasm I've got. What happens later is really out of my hands.

And so, today, I let go and enjoyed myself. I let all of yesterday's worries dry out beneath the sun. I got my fingers dirty because gardening gloves just get in the way. I laughed, brushed away the spiders when they lost their way on my arms, pressed the seeds into the soil a quarter inch deep, a half inch deep, sometimes 3 inches deep; and each time I went into the earth I also went inside of myself to plant the things I've been denying myself lately: love, support, encouragement. "You are capable," the wind whispered.

Yes, I am. I am capable of great things and best of all--everyone on this earth is capable of the same thing. So, it is with great pride that I display my plots. Whether they grow or not is not the point because then I'd be missing the best discovery of all: I am capable.

I planted eggplant, tomato, basil, cucumber, radish, lettuce, spinach, and squash. Pictures beneath the cut )

I also planted mint, which freaked me out once I found out they're greedy with space. Who new something so sweet could be so sneaky? Luckily Jade Park reminded me that I can keep them under control by plucking them when they sprout. My mom planted onions, carrots, thyme, and parsley.

Tomorrow, I'm going to work in the garden again to plant brussels sprouts, artichoke, and bell pepper.

The earth is good.
scififanatic: (Color blocks)
( Mar. 23rd, 2009 03:38 pm)
That's right--I'm doing a countdown until spring break. Only 10 more days before I head to Virginia. Wooo!!!! I haven't taken a vacation since Arizona last August. That vacation was the most relaxing I've had in a while and I just know Virginia will be even nicer.

I'm planning to walk the trail with the Blue Ridge Mountains as my glorious background. My friend Lori is coming up with other fun things for us to do.

This will be the toughest week to get through, with correcting papers, calculating grades, and typing out the mid-term exam. I've made a deal with myself: I can correct papers on the plane but not while I'm in VA.

Tonight, I'm planning to grade several papers, record grades, and calculate the grades for one class. I also need to type up a few make-up assignments for some students in ENG 21. Aren't I nice? I really don't have to do this but I'd rather see students succeed and at the beginning of the semester a lot of students didn't receive grant money from California so they couldn't buy their books and so they fell behind.

After that, I'll spend part of tomorrow grading more papers, quizzes, and printing out what I need for the next two weeks at the Repo office on campus.

At some point, I need to buy a few things for this trip and I've got to return a bunch of books and CDs to my local library. So much to do, so little time! I count the days: 10...
scififanatic: (dadelions)
( Mar. 13th, 2009 05:41 pm)
Stephanie slept on a pen and dreamed of writing her name in the sky. When the ink ran out, she hopped on a spaceship with aliens who could read minds. That’s when she realized that reality is all in the mind. Reality is a dream. And so, she kept dreaming and soon learned that everything was in its right place.

When she woke up, the sunlight illuminated the dullness of earth. Nothing but trees and ants and computers and robots and cars and telephones and cell phones and musical sheets spoke to her but she could not hear them because in the waking world, reality was (de)constructed and broken and duotone.

In other words, the earth is black and white and no one knows where all the crayons in the Crayola box are constructed…perhaps in our dreamworld.
scififanatic: (purple flower--black woman)
( Feb. 26th, 2009 11:12 pm)
Octavia Butler passed away. I was in my last year of grad school and when I got the news, it was like someone had taken out my stomach, kicked it, and sewed me back together all bruised. Looking back at it, in some ways, I feel foolish for crying the way I did but I needed to cry alone.

At times, don't we all?
scififanatic: (Color blocks)
( Feb. 16th, 2009 09:33 pm)
This Valentine's Day, I had an awesome friend, [ profile] stinglikeabee, to hang with and I've never had so much fun. Seriously, the last time I had that much fun, I was at the Exploratorium in San Francisco with my friends Lori and Judy.

[ profile] stinglikeabee took me to The Huntington in San Marino for birthday/Valentine's Day celebrations. I'm so lucky to know people who are as kind and good as her. She's so smart. I learn so much just by listening to her talk enthusiastically about writing, comics and manga, the movie and entertainment industry, etc. That's what I love about my friends: each person is so unique! I'm lucky to know them.

Well, I'd never heard of The Huntington until [ profile] stinglikeabee told me about it; I've lived in SoCal nearly all my life but I'd never been to this historic landmark. With over 120 acres of gardens, museum/mansion, an art gallery and various exhibitions, we spent the entire day learning, walking, exploring, talking, and laughing.

Here are some photos from the trip (I could only upload 40 or so to flickr):

We left The Huntington at 4:30 p.m. and headed straight for Zankou Chicken. Ohhhh, the food was so good! I've got hummus left over, which I spread on my lunch sandwich today. I can't wait to go back. After stuffing our faces with yummy food, we stopped by the comics store next door.

I browsed around and took a look at a manga selection [ profile] stinglikeabee recommended. After reading the first dozen or so pages, I was hooked so I had to buy it: Me and the Devil Blues: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson by Akira Hiramoto.

Then we headed to Vroman's Bookstore because there was a "singles mixer" and I wanted to use a gift card that someone had given me nearly a year ago. Vroman's is an awesome place and if it were closer to the South Bay, I'd shop there more often. They had a great selection of new books! I saw my fiction teacher's book on display, The Vagrants. (As I type this, I realize that I should have taken a picture of it for her. Darn!) The poetry section was okay. I couldn't find the Gregory Orr collection that I want so I'll have to use my B&N gift card to get it.

Once I picked my selections and [ profile] stinglikeabee got some coffee, we realized that there weren't many singles mixing around. We asked one of the employees about it and found out that we were at the wrong location. LOL!!! She gave us directions to where the party was at but [ profile] stinglikeabee and I both looked at each other with that same look, "Ain't gonna happen." Oh well, as she says, "it was their loss" that we didn't show up. :)

What an awesome holiday weekend! I can't wait to go again!
scififanatic: (Tori's Eyes)
( Jan. 8th, 2009 04:37 pm)
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
7,021 / 58,566

I started revising my most recent novel last month. I'm pleased with the progress so far. It took learning some painful lessons in 2008 to find a positive place for my writing and my process.

For a time, I fell out of love with my writing because I lost direction and I also underwent some personal problems. People probably get sick of hearing me talk about Tori Amos but hey--she is my muse (along with Octavia, of course). Tori doesn't care about what people say about her outlook, her fashion, her music. This is why I love her so much. She dares. She doesn't dare to be different--she dares to be herself, flaws and all.

My Tori Rant )

I draw on the strength of these women, of so many great women who've gone on before me; we're walking a similar path. My pain is theirs as theirs is mine. If they can overcome all obstacles, then so can I.

I've decided that for every 10% I revise in my novel, I will mark my progress with something positive. I've been eying this stainless steel necklace for a while and finally, it's on sale for $10!

scififanatic: (Tori's Eyes)
( Jan. 5th, 2009 03:19 pm)
My muse likes vanilla scented candles, writing long hand on legal pads.

And of course...Tori Amos.

Her favorite song of the moment? "Flying Ducthman"

Hey kid, I've got a ride for you.
They say, your brain is a comic book tatoo
And you'll never be anything.

"What will you do with your life?" Oh,
That's all you hear from noon 'til night.

Take a trip on rocketship, baby
Where the sea is the sky...

Flying Ducthman, are you out there?
Flying Ducthman, are you out there?
Flying Dutchman...

They can't see what you're born to be.
They can't see me.
They can't be what they can't believe.
They can't see what you see.

They can't see...
They can't see...

Are you still out there?
scififanatic: (Tori's Eyes)
( Dec. 31st, 2008 05:32 pm)
Hello, 2009!

New year, no limits. 2009 will be divine--the year is mine! I'm looking forward to accomplishing new goals. 2008 presented some trying times but I plan to make 2009 spectacular. This upcoming year will be all about me: my writing, my career, my creative pursuits, my volunteer efforts, my health and fitness (AMEN!), my finances, my hobbies, my goals, ME.

Of course, I've got resolutions. Actually, I like to think of them as goals instead of resolutions. Anyhow, I'm not going to post a list to my blog because some things you've got to keep close to the chest. All I can say is...stay tuned! There will be great news in 2009. I truly believe it!

Best wishes to you and yours!

"You are the star, the dreamer, the creator of your destiny."
scififanatic: (Default)
( Dec. 6th, 2008 08:59 pm)
There is truly SOUL in soul food. I feel good...and how could I have forgotten that a couple of days ago, I rented Step Brothers?! Will Ferrel, you are the king of comedy. Now make me laugh!
Early Sunday evening, I had a nice conversation with a good friend from grad school. She and I were very close our first year. In fact, I don't think I would have made it through if not for her. She showed me kindness and gave me encouragement in difficult times. We've both seen each other at our best and our worst, both have gotten drunk together, laughed hysterically together, shared personal histories and stories, shed tears together. Our last year was full of stress and many memories that we were both happy to put behind us.

Tonight, as we were reflecting on those years, I started thinking about the meaning of friendship.

I have a different friend, Kristie, who says that in these modern times, the meaning of friendship is taken all too lightly. I wasn't quite convinced but now I'm starting to get what she meant.

Services like MySpace (and other services like this) where you add people as your friends and even discern those who are your "top friends" create a false sense of closeness. Even in this journal, I sometimes cringe to share my personal thoughts because after all, how well do you really know the people you add to such services?

This is why I mostly do not add people I haven't met at least once in real life (obviously excluding authors and other artists whose journals I enjoy reading). This internet can be a strange thing. I'm often in awe of how it brings people together in positive ways. I think, because people can connect so easily, that it's even more important to have a firm sense of what it means to be a friend.

For me, I believe it takes a while to get to know someone, to learn about the good and the bad in a person. (Though, I will admit that I can tell right away whether or not I'll get along with someone. There's just this aura each person carries and I'm often more sensitive to this plane of our human existence.)

In other words, I think it takes not only listening to what someone tells you but also observing how that person acts in many different settings, deconstructing those masks we wear. It takes time to be a friend, it takes seeing someone below the surface and still loving and accepting him or her for all the mistakes made. And there will be mistakes!

My closest friends: Kara (friend since pre-school), Charyl, Kristie, and Tabatha (friends since high school) are my rocks. Along the way through adulthood, I've been lucky to collect a few more precious stones. My best friend, Charyl, will always be my best friend, in spite of our recent disagreement. That's because you don't just throw people away, people who you know love you in spite of a heated argument.

How do I know she loves me? Because when I was homeless at 18, she took me in. That's not a fair weather friend. Likewise, when she was down and out, I gave (not lent--gave) her money and helped her buy groceries and let her borrow my car for job interviews. Again, as I was reminded by my conversation earlier this evening with this dear friend from grad school, it takes seeing someone at her best and her worst and never letting the minor things outweigh the major contributions someone makes to your life. I'll admit that I'm not always the bigger person. Sometimes, it takes me a few days to let go of petty arguments but in the end, I'm always grateful for the lesson.

That's because being someone's friend isn't a matter of adding them to a list. It's knowing you can count on people to be truthful to you and never betray that trust. I don't open up to people easily, not because I can't but because not everyone defines friendship the same way, just like not every person defines love the same way. I nearly jump for joy when I meet someone I can call a friend. Finding one and keeping one takes patience, kindness, openness, forgiveness. I learn these lessons everyday...from friends.
scififanatic: (Nano peace love)
( Oct. 31st, 2008 02:24 pm)
I have exactly 9.5 hours to finish up all the crap I need to do today (and for my class tomorrow) before I can start writing.

I need a list. Lists help me feel organized. Must prioritize:

Clear clutter off writing desk
Write out rent check
Pay college loans and other crappy bills
Balance checkbook
Finish and print application for full time teaching position at Rio Hondo College Almost done! Need Allison to take a look at my packet.
Wash 2 loads of laundry
Change bed sheets
Clean bathroom shower
Wash breakfast dishes
Read 4 essays from Reinhardt Reader Well, 3 out of 4 ain't bad! Probably won't have time for them all tomorrow anyway.
Read Chapter 8 of Composition Book
Think of a fun class activity using the essays and/or composition notes Punctuation BINGO, anyone?
Write lecture notes on index cards
Organize NaNo story cards Where the hell is my index card container?!
Separate recycling
Take out the trash

Okay, I don't know what to do first. I know people say start with the hardest thing first but for the sake of feeling productive, I'm going to get the little things done.

Hopefully I can make it by my deadline with energy to spare; I'm still sitting at the kitchen table when I should be...okay, okay--I'm going!

Edited: Crossing things off the list makes me feel productive!
scififanatic: (Default)
( Oct. 6th, 2008 05:26 am)
Somehow, I think I've been given good banana vibes from goddess writers like [ profile] dawn_metcalf. Her post was infectious. If you're feeling lost, brush her page and maybe you'll get the good banana vibes too. Seriously, I've been on stimulus overload for the last couple of days.

Believe me--I'm NOT complaining. After last month's drought, I'm glad to be resurrected from the dead.

At first, it started with two ideas; I figured the problem with my current novel was that it really deals with two different stories. Before I knew it, I was branching off into three different stories (one with totally different characters). Now, I just wrote out two ideas for two different novels. So that's ideas to explore for four different books (1 being what I think is a three-parter, and 3 separate novels altogether).

Whew! This feels good. Now I've got to decide which to write. It's official, I'm definitely going to do NaNoWriMo this year since I've been inspired with so much material this month. My only problem now is what do I go with for the month of November? I think it will be something completely new, and not the old novel.

This feels right.

Ya know, I was thinking about street artists: sketchers of caricatures at fairs, people who freestyle rhymes on a street corner, body paint artists at festivals, musicians on subway platforms, break dancers at a park. These artists don't burden themselves with perfection. They flow from the moment. Sometimes, I feel like the danger of working and reworking your work too much (and the biggest danger, writing for other readers) means that it becomes homogeneous with what already works, what's already being sold. I won't be lost in the crowd.

I refuse to be that generic. I need to get my hands on Agape Agape by William Gaddis. I read his novel once several years ago but now I'm starting to get what he was saying.

November can't get here soon enough!
scififanatic: (Default)
( Oct. 2nd, 2008 05:23 pm)
They're the best thing in the world, particularly the one I chose! ;)

Haha, I always like to tell my parents that I chose them. They just like to shake their heads and say, "Oh that Stephanie of ours."

Seriously, my mom is always there to listen when I'm frustrated. Sometimes, I'm like, "Mom, you don't understand," and then she'll say something that makes it all right. It surprises me--so she does understand. I guess that's just the magical stuff moms are made of.

She wanted to see what I wrote yesterday. After reading, she said the most perfect thing to me. I told her that I didn't think it was a beginning, that something didn't feel right about it. Then she said the perfect thing that made it clear; it was just the thing I needed to hear, to unlock myself from the grips of doubt.

I feel a little freer now. Thanks mom!

Times like these make me wonder if I could be a mom too. If I feel this way, I can only imagine how it must be for her.
scififanatic: (purple flower--black woman)
( Oct. 2nd, 2008 01:52 pm)
For about a month now, I've been unable to write and concentrate on my novel. I thought I'd be over it by October. Honestly, I've never gone this long without writing, even when I was in grad school and had to work three different jobs to support myself while dealing with regular critique sessions.

For a while, after quitting my library job, I was on a roll. I came back from Arizona completely inspired and I wrote and researched and wrote more. It felt like ecstasy.

I've always been a creative person. Being productive has never been my problem until now. Last night, I talked with my mother about it and she said something that made sense to me: "The more creative you are, the more mistakes you're gonna make. Trying to avoid those mistakes will destroy your creativity. So just go for it! Break some plates, have some fun with it."

Her words were a temporary relief. I wrote a little yesterday, about 1600 words. When I woke up this morning, those voices of doubt were back in my mind. This scene is stupid. What if readers get confused? What if readers don't like it? What if no one vibes with it?

I truly understand why Micheline Aharonian Marcom used to tell our class not to be concerned about the reader; she would also tell us not to be concerned about getting published. At least not in the writing stage.

There is no one person who can be the ultimate universal reader. I can make adjustments for 2 or 3 people, query another group and maybe they'll hate it while the other group loved it. I have to be the one who's in love with it and right now, I'm not. I'm being too critical and less creative.

I'm trying to run away from these voices but it's very hard. People have written about how they deal with their own inner critics. If I don't do something soon, I fear I won't be able to bounce back.

I need an escape plan.
scififanatic: (Dancer)
( Aug. 31st, 2008 12:11 am)
After attempting to sleep through the night, I woke up from a dream and faced a nightmare.

I've accepted that I must trash this novel I've been writing for the last six months. It was an unfinished project so mourning its loss came with mixed emotions. Grief was quickly replaced by relief. Disappointment took a backseat to excitement.

Ray Bradbury said, "There is only one type of story in the world--your story." The story I dumped reached a point where it no longer felt like my story because it no longer felt fun to write. While I know that every day isn't an easy writing day, it is usually fun. I think all writers know what I'm talking about because there's an electric buzz running through your fingers when things are just working.

In talking with some friends about Stephenie Meyer's current news, [ profile] mariveereminded us that when Meyer first wrote Twilight, she was writing late at night and all for enjoyment. Meyer shared the story as it developed with her sister and didn't stop, I guess, because she was having a ball. Fun! That's what I have to get back to because if I won't tolerate the absence of fun in my professional life (hence why I quit the library gig), then I definitely won't put up with its absence in my creative life.

I'm looking forward to writing more short stories, poems, and yes even completing more novels...all in the name of fun!
Why is it that the guys we WANT to notice us never do?! Maybe I'm feeling angsty because I'm listening to that beautiful song by Alicia Keys, "You Don't Know My Name."

For WEEKS now, I have been waiting and waiting, checking my email like crazy, hoping to hear back from this guy I don't even really know but I want to know him and I know I'm not making any sense right now, which is probably why said guy didn't write back because I tend to ramble incoherently when I'm attracted to a guy but he wrote back before so I must have said something wrong after he offered to meet up and I said yes which probably gave me away so he hit the highway like a Mustang.

And for the record--this is not some guy from an internet dating service. (Ick! Those NEVER work for me.) This man is smart, alluring...and sexy...I really connected with his eyes through a boundary you wouldn't believe...he seemed enthusiastic and kind...and his aura spoke to me. I was compelled to write him and I thought that actually meant something. Silly me.


Sometimes, I feel like life does this to me...

There's a great blog called "Single in L.A." that makes me feel less isolated. Really, that's what any single person is trying to do--meet nice people, make connections, and just enjoy life. My good friend Kristie said something I needed to hear: Rejection is God's protection.

I think this can be applied to just about any experience in life. I guess it's good to get rejected sometimes!

And with that, I should go to sleep. I'm helping my little sister move into her dorm at Berkeley we've got to DRIVE up first. Technically, we're supposed to leave L.A. by 4 a.m. but we'll see if I can wake up on schedule. Wish us luck!


scififanatic: (Default)


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