I won

My mind feels like mush. I succeeded in writing 50k of fiction this month. This is the second time I've won--the last time was in 2002. It was a lot more fun this time around, since I took it for what it is: a time to play in the sandbox and pump out lots of words in any way I saw fit.

What passion?

Let me describe a scenario that I think will never happen.

Let's say one of the blockbuster authors, such as John Grisham, decided to get rid of his agent, and was looking for another. So he submits a query letter or a story idea to some agents. Do you think he would get a form letter that said, "I'm just not passionate about this." I think when it comes to beaucoup bucks, the passion of agents and editors changes.



If you've studied Japanese, you probably know the phrase "denwa-chu" which means "in the middle of a phone call." Like, if you want to contact someone, but that person is on the phone, that person is "denwa-chu." So I've attached that "chu" concept to reading, because I've been reading The Right Nation. It's really good, and it's for everyone, regardless of their political views.


Arthur's accent

I just heard an interview with Metrofiction guest Arthur Chrenkoff online. He has a strong Australian accent instead of the mixture of Polish and Australian accents I thought he'd have.

The reason why I thought the Polish accent would be more pronounced is because he immigrated when he was a teenager, and usually people don't drop their "native" accents at that age. Perhaps the only hint of the Polish accent was the occasional soft "d" pronunciation for the "th" sound, and he sometimes pronounced his "i" like "ee". These two sounds tend to baffle non-native English speakers, no matter where they're from.

So now you know--Arthur sounds like an Aussie.

They didn't eat turkey?

According to a primary source, it doesn't sound like the Pilgrims ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving feast. Here's what Edward Winslow wrote in 1621:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

A Thanksgiving site says that "Tough, resourceful, able to fly and hard to catch, turkeys were not the first choice of either Native Americans or early colonial hunters."

I wonder if other Americans know that.


German is scary

Guillaume du Gardier had a link to an article about public relations in his blog, and posted an excerpt, “For those who are not scared by an article in German."

I thought, "I'm not scared. It's not as scary as memorizing a bunch of Japanese kanji." At first, it was glorious; the sentence structure was simple - subject, verb, object, like elementary school:

"Blogger berichten über Parteitage. Blogger kontrollieren Journalisten. Sportler durften nicht bloggen – zumindest während der Olympischen Spiele. Manager bloggen. Es heißt, Blogger können ihre Firma in Gefahr bringen. Es heißt aber auch, Blogging sei „die“ Chance für PR. Was also bedeutet Blogging für die Public Relations? Eine Revolution? Ein kleines zusätzliches Tool? Einige meinen, Blogging sei das Ende von Public Relations. Andere sehen darin den Anfang."

It even had a structure and tone like English. I was psyched. So I decided to go to the original article, and was intimidated by the following sentence:

"Gerade wenn journalistische Medien ihrem Informationsauftrag nur mangelhaft nachkommen (können), werden Weblogs zu komplementären Angeboten – allerdings ohne sich notwendigerweise an journalistische Standards zu halten – schon die große Bandbreite der Blogger legt dies nahe."

It's too long and complicated. It requires too much dissecting. This isn't fair. So to further demonstrate how German can infect itself, check out this random sentence from Der Spiegel:

"Damit widersprach Müller der Aussage Daschners, dass es nur die Möglichkeit gegeben habe, durch 'Androhung unmittelbaren Zwangs auf den Tatverdächtigen einzuwirken', damit dieser den Aufenthaltsort des elfjährigen Bankierssohns Jakob von Metzler preisgebe."

German reminds me of that Star Trek Voyager episode where an alien had a weapon that changed time. This is how it worked: he would shoot the weapon at a planet, then time would change, but then the universe would get wrinkled in the wrong way.

German is like that: you think you know a case, a vocabulary word, and you're happy. But then a case like dative or accusative comes along (or others), and you start to worry. It gets especially scary when you have to figure out who's doing what to whom, or another what, and if it's moving then you better reconstruct it, and you better split your verbs correctly, or not at all. And don't forget about word order. Or the way they jam words together to create words that have like 50 letters.

Okay, the comparison with a forgotten Star Trek episode is obscure. But the point is this: sometimes German is kind, and sometimes it's scary.

And look at what German has done: it's even made this post really long.


Weird English

Jordan at Macvaysia posted, what he said, “is one of the best examples of wacky English.” Read the post entitled "Ah yes, the square method." If you look at the example, you'll probably agree. It's hilarious and weird.

I might win

I haven't said this before, but I'm doing Nanowrimo. I started quite late, but I figured that I can cross the finish line if I write a few thousand words a day.

It's fun to write whatever I want, without checking the story to see if there's sufficient conflict, a decent plot, or "useful" characters. I usually edit a lot, but in order to finish in time, I can't look back.

I "won" in 2002, and I might win this year.


Kristan's accent

I was watching Design on a Dime, and was trying to figure out Kristan Cunningham's accent. My guess was that she's a southerner whose accent has morphed because she lives in California.

I was right. She's originally from West Virginia. I don't know what the "true" accent is down there, but I'm guessing that it's more pronounced than her current accent.

I've met southerners whose accents have naturally changed because they've lived in the north for a while, and others who purposely changed their accent to avoid scorn. One time I met someone at a party, and when she told me she that was from Tennessee, I was surprised because she didn't have a southern accent. She said that she'd trained herself to get rid of it because she didn't want people to think she was dumb.

Conversely, I've met northerners who've taken on a southern drawl after living down there for a while. I wonder if accent-snob northerners are as horrified as the ones who've made the Tennessee woman feel like a lesser person, because she dared to speak her true identity.

Update: it seems that Kristan's accent has changed--it seems to have become more "flat." I wonder if she saw this post ;)


German and French for Japanese

I was looking for information about writing emails, and came upon this site, which teaches Japanese people how to write emails in German. I've attempted German and Japanese via English, so to see them together, sans English, is just totally cool.

I have a bilingual French/Japanese book that helps Japanese people talk about Japan in French. Its French title is "Cent questions sur le Japon" and the Japanese title is "Furansujin ga nihonjin ni yoku kiku 100 no shitsumon." It's interesting to see how non-native English speakers learn other languages. Actually, "interesting" is an understatement.


American culture tips

I just posted five things to know about American culture. If you're from the U.S. or a culture that is similar, you'll think the advice is obvious, but it's not so obvious for people from high-context cultures.

There are, of course, more things to know about the U.S., but I'm going to provide that information a little at a time.


Agents' words

Karin Gillespie had a link in her blog about the words that agents use. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"Like all professionals, literary agents are often reluctant to express their true feelings about a manuscript, and freight their rejection letters with euphemisms. And for good reason. Who needs an argument with an author you're never going to work with? The following glossary, offered with tongue in cheek, might help literary hopefuls decipher messages received from agents in response to their work:

"Interesting - Boring

Has potential - Amateurish

Moving - Show it to Mom

Needs work - Hopeless

Mid-list - Won't sell

Intelligent - See 'interesting'

Ambitious - Too long

Spare - Too short

Poetic - Insomniacs only

Plot-driven - Superficial

Excellent - Possible, with a rewrite

Cinematic - Unreadable

Marketable - People will buy anything

Challenging - See 'poetic'

At this time (as in, we can't use it at this time) - Never

Experimental - In your dreams

Character-driven - No story

Novel of ideas - No one will read it

Talented - How did you get in here?"


So long Seattle

I was shocked to see that the Seattle's Best at Chicago and Wabash was closed yesterday. The lights were on, but the place looked empty, so my husband approached the door to see what was going on. At that moment, the manager put up a handwritten sign on the door that said, "Closed for business. Goodbye."

I already knew that they were thinking of closing, but the manager had said in the past that it could take up to a year. And now it's gone. I'm sure other people are not happy about the store's fate. I spent a lot of time there, especially last summer, when I talked about writing and academic life with a professor friend of mine. I read most of the first draft of her novel there. I also did a lot of work there before and after I moved to this area. The manager was talkative and friendly, which made the place even more interesting.

I read a while ago that Seattle's Best will be moving to hundreds of Borders stores throughout the country. Here's a slick announcement that I saw:

"With the conversion to SBC cafes, Borders is improving on what is already a compelling distinction in our stores. Seattle's Best Coffee brings tremendous specialty coffee expertise and a strong brand to complement what we do best, which is deliver a superior shopping experience for book, music and movie lovers."

Seattle's Best certainly has better drinks than what's served at Borders right now, but it won't be the same.


Brazil is warm

If you've never been to Brazil, you should. Or at least talk to a Brazilian person if you get a chance. They're friendly people, and I found an example of their warmth at a Kraftwerk fan site, of all places.

Kraftwerk is going to have a few concerts in Brazil this weekend. To celebrate the band's arrival, the guys at the Kraftwerk fan site have made a cute welcome message. It's incredible how their warmth manages to break through the technology.