Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Jeepney is a WHAT?

I pinned a few images of jeepneys on my Pintrest Inspirations board this morning because I needed to be inspired. The opening scene of my current novel in progress features a Jeepney of sorts and I needed to describe it in a way that a goodly portion of readers, who have never seen (let alone heard of) this vehicle, would be able to imagine this contraption without having to stop reading to hunt down a Google image of one.

I don't want my description to be to wordy, but it takes so many words to describe such a colorful and distinctly Filipino work of mobile art. And since I am writing for a younger audience, I do not want to bore my 8 to 12 year-old readers with description. Action is the attention grabber, so how do I turn a mass of colors on wheels into action?

The answer I was led to was to go ahead and describe it the best way I could, then post it here in hopes that people would read it, hopefully share it with kids they know, and then tell me - does it work? Post your comments or send me an email with your thoughts...

"Finally, he heard the familiar chugging of steam coming around the turn. The steam bus sounded like a train and looked like a Filipino Jeepney; a military vehicle that got rear-ended by a panel truck and the sides popped out. Its bright red body bore the scars of a paint war, the bold yellow and black letters screaming the bus route clashing with random images of cane fields and familiar buildings where the bus would stop. Its scalloped yellow roof carried just as colorful bundles belonging to the passengers already on board.  Kai could see the people through the large open windows. As it came to stop in front of the shelter, the iron stack on the side of the cab belched a large white cloud of steam."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

An old musing that I still think about when I run out of rice

About two years ago, I had a moment where I was running out of rice. And from that moment, memories came forward of my childhood, and I had this need to write my thoughts down. Well, today I looked in my tin container of rice and saw that I was running low, which once again brought up thoughts of growing up. So I dug up this personal musing and decided to share it.

"As with any Asian household, rice is the staple of just about every meal. And I'm running out. This brings me to today's musing.

Growing up, my grandmother had a large, possibly 10 gallon, round steel storage container. Since we lived near the ocean, she had wrapped the container in wall paper to keep it from rusting. Quite ingenious really. Anyway, she used this container to store the rice in. We would buy a 50lb bag at the grocery store and she would open the bag up and dump it right into the container whenever it got too low. It sat in the corner of our small kitchen/dinning room near the sink, and whenever we needed a fresh pot of rice Grandma would scoop some amount out and put it into the rice cooker.

Looking at my own tiny container of rice dwindling down to possibly another seven or eight scoops more, I remember Grandma's big container, and I smile. My container was once a holiday tin for cookies, the Costco-sized ones. It's got nothing on Grandma's rice holder; I barely fit half of a 20lb bag in it. But as I stare at it, I hear the sounds of Grandma's kitchen - busily cooking whatever regional masterpiece she had the ingredients for that day. And of course there was always the smell of steamed rice. As I look at my poor excuse for a rice container, I remember that I miss Grandma.

I also remember that I miss where I grew up. And that is where writer's block set in. Since my own son is growing up in what is essentially a foreign land to me (The "mainland" is definitely nothing like Hawaii), I wanted to write down memories of my childhood growing up in what was once a plantation town. Call it a memoir or whatever, it was supposed to be a simple collection of stories that he could read when he got older.

But I'm finding that it is very hard to put your childhood memories down on paper.  Or on a screen.  However one chooses to write these days.  It's not because I don't remember; it's because I do remember, and it is sometimes difficult to translate memory to word and still include all the emotion that comes with it.  How do I retell a story about a simple rice container - why it was important and why it should evoke certain feelings?  What I just wrote is sorely inadequate, because i can not truly convey the reason I am now crying as I think about it.  Yes, I miss Grandma, but my son did not know her.  Yes I miss my childhood home, but it is different now, and all I have left are descriptions of a past that holds no meaning to one who has never been there.

I could make correlations.  I could relate the story in ways my son could understand, but then the story would no longer be about that container of rice.  I have read many works by authors who give their memoirs the life I am trying to give my own words.  But it is not easy for me.  Perhaps it was not easy for them either.  Well, I will just have to see if I can get past my block and write my experiences so that my own son can experience them with me."

Well, I never did finish that collection of stories for my son. But I am hoping that my new novel, which takes place in a very different Hawaii, will at least convey the emotional aspect of my memories of home...