Monday, March 28, 2011

And now for something completely different

Remember the Starburst contradiction commercials? Some of them are really random, but the one with the Scotch Koreans are hysterical! I didn't realize they did one with zombies also!

My favorite line - You are boring me to death, and I'm already dead. You're boring me back to death!

Ok so for those of you who never saw the original Scotch Koreans, here it is:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sometimes you just gotta speak your mind

Recently I ran into a Mom who's son used to go to school with Oldest. I hadn't seen her in over two years.

Being Asian, the first thing she said to me when she saw me was, "Ellen! Long time no see! Oh, you got big! You look like you need to lose some weight, huh. You need to watch what you eat and exercise. We aren't getting any younger, right?"

And then she laughed. And I swear she sounded exactly like the wicked witch of the west. Looks a lot like her too, except not as green.

She just happened to get me on a bad day. Instead of my normal "grit my teeth and smile" response, I said, "That's funny, (name redacted). I was thinking you must have lost all your manners, but then I realized you never had any."

And then I laughed. And she laughed. And we both smiled big toothy smiles while hating on each other.

But I bet anything that she will never make another comment about my weight again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ganbatte Kudasai - Be strong!

I had a post scheduled for this week that my heart wasn't into. It seemed wrong to post something so light and funny when it seems like the world around us has faced so many disasters - so many changes.

There continues to be so much turmoil and unrest in the world. And Nature has reminded us that there is no prejudice in disaster. Earthquakes and tsunamis don't notice political boundaries or class distinctions. We don't own this earth, we only live here and we aren't doing a great job taking care of our home. Maybe it's time to snap out of our complacency and recognize our responsibility to take care of the world. Whether it's environmental or social issues, we all have some obligation to do our part.

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami was a wake up call for me. I've been a half-hearted conservationist and I'm ashamed to admit that I do not contribute back enough to our society. I have been selfish. Watching the devastation of a modernized country like Japan reminded me of how very little control we have in the grander scheme of life. The Japanese have a saying. "Ganbatte Kudasai!" It means be strong. Even during the worst of the natural disasters they have had to endure, it was a phrase that strangers would constantly say to one another. Passing one another on the street, or as one passenger left the train or bus. "Ganbatte Kudasai!" They are survivors They are truly strong and they have my deepest admiration and respect.
I want to be strong also. I've donated to the Red Cross immediately and plan to do donate to other organizations as soon as it becomes clearer what other relief will be needed. But there's not a lot else I can do. Except this. I promise that I will try to raise my children to respect the earth and our people equally. I promise that I will do my part to be an active conservationist. I promise that I will do what I can to give back to the community and help those who are less fortunate than I am. I promise that this is a message I will pass on to my children.

It isn't a lot, I know. But it's a start.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Literary Rambles with Casey McCormick

Recently I've received some emails from young authors who were eager to find out what they could about how I got my agent. After pointing them to such resources as Verla Kay's Blueboards,, and other fabulous online resources, I always tell them to head on over to Casey McCormick's fantastic blog Literary Rambles. Casey's blog was a godsend to me during my agent search. Her Agent Spotlights provide in depth information on nearly a hundred children's literature agents.

During my agent search, I read every single agent spotlight and started compiling a new agent excel spreadsheet based entirely on what I like to think of as compatability factors. What books had the agents repped, what were their likes and dislikes, how did they come across in their interviews, etc. I absolutely believe that my agent search was successful because of the hard work Casey had done providing this amazing service to the writing community. So I'm extremely happy to have Casey drop by and talk to us about herself and her blog and all she does for the writing community.

Ello - Hi Casey! I really feel I owe you a big thank you for all the hard work you've done compiling the agent research and then providing it to everyone on your blog. Thank you so much for all that you do!

Casey - Hi Ellen! I'm so happy you recognized Lit Rambles as a great resource. I really appreciate your support and enthusiasm in spreading the word. Every time someone reaches out to me with thanks it makes it that much more worth it.

Ello - You've done so much for the writing community. You are really amazing! And so well appreciated by all of us.

Casey - The writing community RAWKS. Seriously, the community of writers I’ve come to know online and through SCBWI over the past few years is amazing. I don’t know what I’d do without them. I’ve met all my critique partners online, learned a ton about the craft and business of writing, and made a lot of fabulous friends. I hope all aspiring writers find their way into the fold; it has so much to offer.

Ello - What made you start this amazing resource?

Casey - The idea for Agent Spotlight sort of came to me out of the blue. I’d been considering my favorite blogs, what I liked about them in particular, and realized I was drawn to ones that had a lot of humor or a regular feature that was helpful and unique. I’m not really a funny person but do love to be helpful. I started trying to think up something I could do for my fellow aspiring authors that I was qualified to do. I guess the idea sprung out of my obsession with agents and the querying process!

Ello - So tell us a little about your own writing.

Casey - My writing has had a really interesting evolution, but I thinks that's a story I'll keep for after publication. ; )

Right now I have a couple contemporary YA novels in the works. One is more high concept and psychological and the other is (in my dreams) comparable to a Sarah Dessen novel. I have just a few more months of school left and hope to query one or the other before the end of the year. We’ll see!

Ello - How do you manage your time with everything you juggle?

Casey - Last year was pretty rough. I was juggling the blog, self-employment, school, family, interning, WriteOnCon, a ton of e-mail, social networking, critiquing, and writing. I really spread myself too thin. Toward the end of the year it was obvious I needed to reevaluate. I ended up reprioritizing some things and quitting my job. I’m not sure what that says about my priorities (ha!) but hey, I was in a position to do it and I’m much happier now.

As for actual time management, I keep lists of everything I need to do in a given day, week, month, etc. and update daily. Knowing what I could be working on at any given moment helps me stay on task (sane) and nothing feels better than crossing stuff off my lists!

Ello - Speaking of WriteOnCon, I know it was a fantastic success. Is that something you are doing again? If so, what do you want to share about the experience?

Casey - Yes! The 2nd annual Writers Online Conference (WriteOnCon) will happen in August again. We’re doing our best to make it bigger and better this year and, with any luck, there won’t be a server crash this time. It was a fantastic experience. We got to read, watch, and learn from over 60 amazing authors, agents, and editors and share invaluable knowledge with other writers. If you enjoyed WriteOnCon last year, please spread the word! We’re really hoping to reach more writers this year.

Ello - I will absolutely spread the word! But what's next for you?

Casey - What’s next? Well, who knows! I’m always pushing myself for more. I’m gaining a blog partner at Literary Rambles this month who will be doing some fabulous interviews and giveaways, planning for WriteOnCon 2011 with the other organizers, and getting through the last few months of school. With the right amount of motivation, I’ll accomplish all my goals and finally jump into the query trenches.

Ello - How has all of these experiences changed you, helped you?

Casey - I think my blog and WriteOnCon have affected my life positively. I’ve learned and grown a lot from both endeavors. I’ll be the first to admit they take a lot of time away from writing, definitely, but they nurture other areas of my life and I can’t imagine setting them aside at the moment. I’m just taking each day and opportunity at a time and feel confident in the path I’m following.

Wish me luck!

Ello - Absolutely! I wish you all the success in the world! And thanks for everything you do!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pho - Asian Medicinal Soup

I know spring is coming as soon as my sinuses clog up, my nose drips, my eyes itch, my throat gets all scratched up, and my voice sounds like a desperate moose in heat. Ah spring! This is the time, more than ever, that I need some Asian medicinal love in the form of a beautiful bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup called Pho. Pronounced Fuh. Here's my bowl from the fabulous hole-in-the-wall-all-they-make-is-pho Pho 75 in Rockville.

The thin slivers of eye-of-round steak is served raw and cooks up in the hot broth. I add lime, tons of bean sprouts and a nice dab of sriracha red sauce and I'm in heaven. The funny thing is I didn't grow up with Pho. My first encounter with pho was in my late twenties, but it was love at first bite and I've never turned back. It got me to thinking of all the wonderful different foods that I've been exposed to in my life and how much I love the diversity that is available to us in this day and age. I've fallen in love with Belgium food in Montreal, had the best Indian food in Spain, had the best tapas in Washington, DC, the best French food in-well, in France! And talk about amazing, innovative Japanese food at Nobu NY.

So tell me, what cuisine reigns supreme for you? What didn't you have growing up that you now couldn't live without?

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