As of today, April 1, 2011, my blog and web site are up and running! Ready for visitors!
Visit: www.kristinbairokeeffe.com OR www.writerhead.com
See you there!
As of today, April 1, 2011, my blog and web site are up and running! Ready for visitors!
Visit: www.kristinbairokeeffe.com OR www.writerhead.com
See you there!
Hey y'all. I know, I know...it looks like I'm neglecting this blog once again. And I suppose I am, but now it's for a terrific reason. I'm putting together a brand-spanking-new website and blog!
I am so excited about this. I want to reveal it all to you today...but can't. Still a secret.
So hold tight and keep checking in. Sometime in the next few weeks I'll be directing you to a new blog.
Posted at 12:38 PM in Books, China, Craft, Expats, Fiction, Memoir, Path to Publishing, Reading, Shanghai, Social Media, Thirsty, the novel, United States, Writing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: author, blog, China, expat, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, repatriation, Shanghai, Thirsty, writing
If you're a regular here at "My Far-Flung Life," you know that I haven't been getting much work done since late last summer when my family got news that we would be moving back to the U.S. from China (after nearly 5 years in Shanghai). At that point, my writing/work life pretty much came to a screeching/hollering/ba-ba-ba-banging halt.
Since then, instead of hunkering down at my desk every day, I've been "transitioning"--me, my daughter, my husband, our stuff, our life, our grocery store purchases, our snow boot supply, our...(you get the picture).
But today--January 3, 2011--my almost-three-year-old started preschool and I once again have a handful of sacred, silent hours to work.
Aaaahhhh! Sweet writing/working time.
And in the same breath...uuuuuuuggghhhhhhhh! Holy *#(!, I have way too much work to catch up on, like:
But honestly, after such a long hiatus, I've got no rhythm. I'm sitting here at my desk staring at the shadows the sun is making on the wall and getting absolutely nothing done. All of which got me thinking about what boosts my productivity and gets me working. Surprise, surprise, I got a list:
Stop Photo Credit: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Go Photo Credit: Scott Chan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted at 12:20 PM in China, Cool Things in Shanghai, Craft, Expats, Family, Motherhood, Path to Publishing, Reading, Shanghai, Social Media, Travel, Tulliver, United States, Writing | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: author, back-to-work strategies, China, expat, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, motherhood, preschool, repatriation, Shanghai, Thirsty
Today (the delightful 1.1.11) I'm giving a nod to Chris Brogan and Susan Murphy (a.k.a. SuzeMuse) for sharing the New Year's non-resolution these-are-not-goals 3-word strategy. I love the idea of setting forth three words that don't represent specific goals, but that express the energy and direction of all I want to accomplish in 2011.
So with no more than a few moments of thought behind my three words, here goes:
TAKE ROOT-- (yeah, two words, I know...but one thought) -- Since receiving news of our recent repatriation from China to the U.S. (way back in late summer 2009), I've disengaged...a lot. I had to; for me, there was no other way to move my family from one side of the world to another AND manage all the emotional, geographical, physical, financial, and career changes that accompanied it. But as my family slowly begins to take root in our new town and our old-new country, I'm feeling the urge to once again reach out and engage...take root myself.
THRIVE -- "to grow vigorously : flourish : to gain in wealth or possessions : prosper : to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances" (pretty self-explanatory, yeah?)
CONSTRUCT -- Just what it implies. I'm a'building this year. Dreaming. Drawing. Seeing. Constructing. Inhabiting. Taking risks. Changing the skyline. Inviting. Sharing what gets built.
And you? Three words?
Posted at 08:24 PM in China, Cool Things in Shanghai, Craft, Dreams, Expats, Family, Motherhood, Path to Publishing, Shanghai, Social Media, Thirsty, the novel, Travel, United States, Weird Stuff in China, Writing | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: 2011, 3-words, author, China, Chris Brogan, expat, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, resolutions, Shanghai, Thirsty
At this time last year, I was celebrating the publication of my novel THIRSTY. I was still living in China, but was in the U.S. promoting the book...joyfully running from event to event. It's hard to believe an entire year has gone by.
I had big plans for this anniversary (balloons, giveaways, blog posts, etc.), but instead I've spent the month of October repatriating to the United States after almost 5 years in China. There's been little time for anything else.
But in the few moments between plane rides and packing and trying to get our two-year-old settled into a routine, I've been quietly re-celebrating the fact that my novel THIRSTY is out in the world for readers to find.
Now...back to the repatriation thing.
Posted at 04:02 PM in Books, China, Cool Things in Shanghai, Craft, Domestic violence, Expats, Family, Fiction, Path to Publishing, Reading, Shanghai, Social Media, Thirsty, the novel, Travel, United States, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: China, domestic violence, expat, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Shanghai, Thirsty, travel, writer
You know what I'm thinking after re-reading my blog posts from the last 4.5 years? Good gracious Mavis...I've been in China for a good long time. I've seen a lot. I've done a lot. I've explored a lot. And now? Some days I feel like I know something about China; other days I'm pretty sure I don't have a clue.
Posted at 02:44 AM in Adoption, Books, China, Cool Things in Shanghai, Craft, Dreams, Expats, Family, Fiction, Motherhood, Path to Publishing, Reading, Shanghai, Social Media, Thirsty, the novel, Travel, Tulliver, United States, Weird Stuff in China, Writing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: adoption, China, expat, family, fiction, gender, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, novel, Shanghai, tea, Thirsty, travel, writer
Whaaaaaaat? You haven’t heard?
A few weeks ago, The New Yorker published its “20 Under 40” list of American writers to watch. You know, the 20 wrinkle-free writers (out of the plethora of American writers) that “capture the inventiveness and the vitality of contemporary American fiction.”
list, as expected, has sent many folks in the writing/publishing world into a
Politically Correct Answer: The politics surrounding which writers were included, why they were included, which writers weren’t included, who is or is not an “American” writer, who did the choosing, etc. are sketchy. (Aren’t all politics?)
Non-Politically Correct Answer: The New Yorker is a snobby, elitist, stroke-your-own publication that prefers one type of risk-free fiction.
Out of curiosity I picked up a copy of the “20 Under 40” issue of The New Yorker and read stories by eight of the chosen writers. (Stories by the remaining writers will be published in upcoming issues, I believe.) Some—like Jonathan Safran Foer whose novel Exremely Loud, Incredibly Close I absolutely love—I was already familiar with. Others I’d never heard of before.
Some I liked.
Some bored me.
Others simply weren't my kind of story.
Since I’ve been jetlagged and unable to accomplish much other than reading (and staring mindlessly into space at all hours of the night), I’ve also been monitoring the hubbub surrounding the publication of this list.
And yowza…it is quite the hubbub. (Nothin’ like a good hubbub, I always say.)
Who's talking about it?
[As always, I believe much truth comes out in the comments sections. Be sure to read the comments sections at each of the above posts to get a feel for how strongly readers/writers feel about this whole thing.]
What do I make of it all?
For some writers, it’s a fast boil.
For others, it’s sloooooooow simmer.
But in the
end, it doesn’t really matter, does it?
The New Yorker can create its preferred-youngsters list, Steve Almond can make us all laugh and cry about it (thank god), Dzanc can create a kick-ass alternative list, The Nervous Breakdown can explore the intricacies and implications of all lists, the rest of us can Twitter about it, Facebook about it, and maybe even have a quick bathroom-stall sob about the fact that we’re not included on THE list—or, um, any list, for that matter—BECAUSE no matter what, we writers are going to shut ourselves in our offices/coffee shops/cars/tingzijians, dive into writerhead, and write.
It’s what we do.
What we’re driven to do.
In other words, who gives a crap? We're all going to write anyway.
So, writers, two questions for you:
Photos Courtesy of:
Elephants: Tim Seed / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Tags: 20 Under 40, Dzanc, fiction, Gina Frangello, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, Lee Siegel, novelist, Robert McCrum, Steve Almond, The Millions, The Nervous Breakdown, The New York, The New York Observer, The Observer, The Rumpus, writer
In a tres cool project called Living Architecture: Holidays in Modern Architecture, philosopher/writer/all-around-interesting-idea-guy Alain de Botton* is renting out five mega-modern houses to Regular Joes and Josephines (RJJs) for really, really cheaps.
So the RJJs can get over their fear of modern architecture in a pleasurable, experiential way.
Like I said, tres cool.
Me...I'm not afraid of modern architecture; in fact, I'd give anything to live in a modern house made of funky materials with an unusual shape and lots of surprises.
But as a writer, there's something else in this Living Architecture thing for me. Ever since I discovered the project earlier this week (via a link on Twitter by @MustardPepper), I've been obsessing about it. Within minutes of reading the Tweet, I'd clicked through all five houses: three that are already built and booking renters and two that will be completed soon. I'd even discovered my favorite..."The Balancing Barn"...a house that immediately resonated with my head, soul, and writing process.
(Before reading further, please click through to a picture of "The Balancing Barn." Otherwise you're going to be lost and confused for the remainder of this post. Let's avoid this potentially hazardous situation.)
Now...those of you who read this blog regularly know that for the past few years I've been working on my second novel and am (knock on wood) almost finished. I'm in what I call the "final, final rewriting" stage and I've been searching for a way to describe to you (and to myself) how I'm working on the manuscript now.
"The Balancing Barn" gave me the answer.
I'm balancing the story.
Take another look at "The Balancing Barn." See how it is perfectly weighted so that one half sits firmly planted on the ground and the other half reaches out-out-out over the meadow?
Gorgeous, isn't it?
The risk? The equilibrium? The humor? The mystery?
It is this kind of balance that I'm working to create in my novel. (It is also these elements: risk, equilibrium, humor, mystery.) And it's not easy. Although there is only one main character in the story, there are three equally important story lines; two very present, very important secondary characters; a cast of lively supporting characters; and a setting that also plays an active role (just as setting did in my first novel Thirsty).
How am I going about balancing it?
There are two parts to the process:
First, the concrete. From Staples in Shanghai, I ordered a load of Post-It Tabs (you know, the skinny, narrow, bookmarky Post-Its) in all kinds of colors. Next I assigned a color to each important character and to each of the three story lines. Then on a printed copy of the manuscript, I tagged every scene with the appropriate character and/or story line Post-It. Once all tags were in place, I could see when one character hadn't made an appearance in a while or when one of the three story lines got dropped for too long.
Obviously this is a complicated, time-consuming process, but it works for me. Once I knew where the gaps were, I was able to dive back into the manuscript. For the past few weeks, I've been writing new chapters and moving others around.
Second, the abstract. Here's how it happens: Before bed, read a few chapters. Ponder them. Play with them. Then sleep, wake up, lie in bed for a few minutes "seeing" the story in my head. Then walk my daughter to school, work out, do the grocery shopping, take a shower. Later, have a margarita with my husband. Read. Eat dumplings. Dream. And at every moment "see" the story in my head...solving problems that seemed unsolvable while sitting at my desk...and allowing the story to grow beyond what is already on the page (which can be wildly difficult once you actually have a story on the page).
Finally, when it feels right, I return to my computer and dive in.
This stage of the rewriting process requires two things: imagination and precision. I think about how the architects who designed and built "The Balancing Barn" went about their work and like to think it was in much the same way.
Now...time for a margarita.
Tags: Alain de Botton, fiction, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, Living Architecture, novel, rewriting, The Balancing Barn, Thirsty, writer, writing process
This morning (Sunday, May 9, Mother's Day), I'm thinking about...
Others like this:
(Whew! Thank god that non-blogging feeling is gone.)
Posted at 02:03 AM in China, Cool Things in Shanghai, Expats, Family, Fiction, Motherhood, Reading, Shanghai, Social Media, Travel, Tulliver, Weird Stuff in China, Writing | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: blogging, China, Chinglish, expat, family, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, Mother's Day, Shanghai, Thirsty, writing
We could begin right at this exact moment telling those stories and not be finished until...well, until never. And the entire time we were telling them, you (our audience) would be bent over double with laughter, sobbing like babies, or saying "No effing way" over and over again.
After all, we brave, crazy, passionate expat writers not only travel to exotic locales for spits-and-spots of experience. We actually pack up our homes, our families, our hearts, our underwear, and our bottles of Imodium and MOVE to these exotic locales. We say, "Yeah, bring it on! I want to live in this place...as uncomfortable and confused as I am right now...and I want to...I want to..."
"You want to what?" you ask.
"I want to figure out who I am in relation to this new place. Because I was pretty damn clear about who I was in my home country, but here? Here? This place where I stand out like a sore thumb? I don't have a clue who I am or how I fit in."
"Anything else?" you ask.
"Yeah, I want to KNOW this place. Not just a little, but a lot. As much as an outsider can, I guess."
"That's a mighty tall order," you say in a John Wayne drawl because maybe you are an American.
"Yeah, but I've got a while."
Then we expat writers live in these locales for...one, two, three, four, even ten years...witnessing cultural clashes, cultural enlightenments, medicine-resistant illnesses, language conundrums, awe-inspiring kindnesses, life-changing revelations, strange fish-stomping deaths, unfamiliar burial rites, and perhaps most importantly, everyday life. We eat funky foods and compare this to that. We stare, get stared at, drop chopsticks, make friends, make mistakes, and finally, let the old shift as the new seeps in.
And of course we write about it. Because that's what we do. Because like all writers, we are obsessed with getting our stories onto the page...with working life out in pen and ink (or via the clickety-click).
We start to change. We look in the mirror and say, "Who the hell are you?" We thumb through the myriad of stamps in our passports and say, "Who the hell am I?" We study the addresses on our mail and say, "Home?"
Because at some point...some critical point...we stop feeling like citizens of a single country...and instead feel like citizens of...well...the world.
How effing corny and wonderful and confusing and unlikely is that? There's no precedent for being a "citizen of the world." As far as I know, there's no "citizen of the world" anthem. No "citizen of the world" constitution. No "citizen of the world" rule book. No "citizen of the world" flag. There aren't any traditional "citizen of the world" costumes or sports clubs to cheer for.
Just what holidays does a citizen of the world celebrate? Tet? Chinese New Year? Passover? Christmas? And if Christmas, Santa Claus or Sinterklaas?
So once we feel this way, what do we do?
Well, you know, we're writers--expat writers-- so we do what we always do. We keep telling stories. And we find ways of sharing those stories with you (our audience)...wherever you are...back in our "home" countries...here in our adopted countries...or in the countries we touch down in along the way.
And hopefully, you (our beloved audience) read them.
Posted at 07:19 AM in China, Cool Things in Shanghai, Craft, Expats, Family, Fiction, Ireland, Memoir, Path to Publishing, Reading, Shanghai, Social Media, Thirsty, the novel, Travel, Weird Stuff in China, Writing | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: China, citizen of the world, expat, expat writer, Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, passports, Shanghai, travel, writing