Category Archives: creativity

Excerpts from Rule of Thirds

I’m theoretically doing NaNoWriMo again this year, making up my own rules on relative word counts. I’m failing miserably, but that’s what happens when I try to write while working full time.

All the same, between word sprints on my phone and Melissa-enforced notebook writing while we were in Yosemite, I’ve managed to word vomit up some halfway decent words.

Here are some excerpts that I’m unreasonably proud of having written.

Continue reading Excerpts from Rule of Thirds

Yosemite, Mono Lake, and Devils Postpile (6/6-6/8)

Brace yourself for some belated trip recaps — too many trips, not enough time to write recap posts!

My dad and I took our annual Yosemite trip again this year, just the two of us. I took that Friday afternoon off work so we could fit in two days of hiking and photography. All in all, we had a little too much driving in this year’s trip, but we did see some new sights and trails!

Continue reading Yosemite, Mono Lake, and Devils Postpile (6/6-6/8)

Dogsitting Jedi! (5/9-5/18)

My favorite office dog is definitely Jedi, the English Shepherd that belongs to one of the engineers in my office. For reasons unknown, his owner lets me dog sit and brainwash Jed into loving me. Now when Jedi hasn’t seen me for a few hours, he gets super excited and jumps on me to say hello.

I was dogsitting all of last week, so here’s the photo roundup from my stint with this ridiculously photogenic dog.

“Doing things” progress report

It’s only been nearly 4 months since I posted a to-do list. Time to see how I’ve been doing…

Read a book
Actually, I read several. I  finally got around to finishing Skip Horack’s short story collection that I borrowed from Jaslyn ages ago, then started impulse-buying books on Amazon just to get myself to read again. Given how little I liked most of these, I’m going to go with Jaslyn’s recommendations from now on. Quick reviews:

  • Southern Cross (short stories by Skip Horack)
    Highly recommended. I might be biased because he was one of my fiction writing instructors, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
  • The Fault in Our Stars (young adult fiction by John Green)
    Ugh. Touching, but only if you can get over the fact that it’s narrated by an annoyingly self-important high school girl.
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (novel by John LeCarré)
    Slow, considering this is supposed to be a suspenseful spy novel. I liked it once it got going, but it took a while to get there. I also watched the movie after reading the book. Maybe it made less sense than the book because I was busy playing Candy Crush the whole time, or maybe movie-going audiences came out of that movie super confused. Hard to say.
  • One Day (novel by David Nicholls)
    This was one drawn out chick flick in novel form. Good girl falls for bad boy, bad boy inevitably breaks good girl’s heart, and way down the line bad boy is changed by good girl. The overdone storyline that keeps every girl falling for jackass guys. Ugh. But hey, they did make it into a chick flick.
  • Divergent (young adult fiction by Veronica Roth)
    Maybe it’s my abiding love for young adult scifi, but I really liked this one. While also the start of a dystopian young adult series like Hunger Games (I’ve got a draft of a review somewhere in my old files), it’s better written than Hunger Games, the main character evolves in such a cool way, and THERE’S NO LOVE TRIANGLE. What more could you ask for?

Write a short story
Nope. I’ll get to this… eventually.

Write some code
Nope… unless reading engineers’ commits at work counts.

Paint some abstract things
Forgot about this one! It’s time to hit up the craft store.

Climb some rocks
Indeed! Well, indoor rock climbing walls, and I clambered up a rock memorial on a hike the other weekend. I have to do more of this though, since it’s not worth having a climbing gym membership if I’m not going.

Take some pictures
Some miscellaneous photos taken with my phone. Time to relearn how to use the dSLR…


That’s all for now! Time for some writing and some more reading.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Which No’?

Hello friends, casual visitors, and spambots! As some of you may remember, I did National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year in a hilarious month of word vomiting, medical school application writing, blogging, and surgical procedures.

Long story short, I didn’t reach 50K in November 2011. (But I did reach 50K in February 2012. Doesn’t count.)

It’s a new year and a new NaNoWriMo, which means it’s time to pick a new novel idea that’s going to be the bane of my existence in the month of November. Here’s where YOU come in. Help me decide which one to write!


  1. Will
    Genre: literary fiction
    Premise: After a debilitating accident, recent college grad Will gets lost in the alternate reality of his coma/dreams while his friend Katherine tries to bring him back to reality. A coming of age story wrapped in a surreal dreamscape.
    Pros: solid and fully fleshed out characters, the disconnected nature of the surreal dream sequences makes it less likely for me to get bored, story could use a speed draft just to fill in the story and see where it goes
    Cons: minimal story line planning has been done
    Existing story bits: 1 2 3
  2. Evenfall
    Genre: fantasy (epic)
    Premise: The Evenfall Prophecy states that a set of twins, pit against each other by pride and circumstance, will bring about the end of magic in their world. The story follows precocious twins Kaeden and Kiersta as their lives inevitably fulfill the prophecy. An epic saga of possibly tome-like length. Oh, and did I mention it involves dragons?
    Pros: DRAGONS, magic, epic write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants action scenes, extremely long story line that I could write out of sequence all month
    Cons: while the middle is relatively developed I have no idea where this story starts, no concept of pacing, I can’t take myself seriously when writing fantasy (see here)
    Existing story bits: 1 2
  3. Rainwalkers of Penryn
    Genre: science fiction
    Premise: Set in the future, when humanity has razed the earth and caused environmental disaster, and the survivors establish themselves in underground metropolises. Twins Xan and Annilea, both members of the elite surface-restoration corps, go AWOL on the surface to rescue their kidnapped younger sister.
    Pros: cool blend of environmentalism and badass scifi, could use a speed draft like (1) just to fill in the story and see where it goes, characters mostly fleshed out
    Cons: futuristic world needs work, no idea how the story goes from point A to point B, haven’t touched this story in years
    Existing story bits: 1 2 3 plus Pengel’s Universe, a short story that’s not posted online in its revised entirety
  4. Rule of Thirds
    Genre: mainstream/literary fiction
    Premise: The three children of a photographer must cope with the sudden death of their father. Left with loose ends of their individual relationships with him, the siblings try to reconcile their versions of their father and the secrets he kept.
    Pros: interesting exploration of family dynamics, main characters are fleshed out, really really like the narrator
    Cons: runs the risk of turning into a depressing book or an overly literary coming-of-age-with-a-romantic-side-plot story, less action and more contemplation
    Existing story bits: 1 2 plus an unfinished short story/prologue that I’ll post later
  5. Skies Over Kalispell
    Genre: mainstream fiction/romance
    Premise: complicated girl falls for rock star bad boy? I bet you can fill in the rest. Started with the goal of writing a romance story with better writing than Fifty Shades of Grey (high standard, that)
    Pros: plot mostly planned, straightforward but fleshed out characters with some dynamism, same narrator as (4) but a little younger
    Cons: if I can’t take myself seriously writing fantasy, I can tell you I definitely can’t take myself seriously writing this
    Existing story bits: 1 2
  6. The Literary Adventures of Zeus Jorgensen
    Genre: mainstream fiction
    Premise: Bat-shit insane friend becomes the literary agent for a talented writer and whores him out on various writing jobs.
    Pros: episodic by nature and therefore easy to get a new ball rolling mid-month, room for hyperbole and absurdity
    Cons: conceived as a collaboration with Seth (could still rope him in? eh?), no thematic ideas for this one and not really any planning has gone into it
    Existing story bit: names are irrelevant

Thoughts? Comment below to make your opinion known!



Q: Are you ever going to finish The Jade League (NaNoWriMo 2011)?
A: Maybe. Eventually. One day.

Q: You wrote a column about the experience last year. Are you doing it again?
A: Nope. 1,667 words per day is already enough. And let’s be real, who would run that column of panicky nonsense?

Q: Wait, aren’t you working a full time job this year?
A: Yes. I’ll make it work?

Q: Are you making up these FAQs as you go along?
A: These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…


Lastly, to distract you, a picture of my dog:

The Rockhounder’s Sonnet

(In honor of Lucas, who has been obsessed with the poetry textbook I gave him. Sound and Sense, we salute you.)

~a Shakespearean sonnet~

Right here where rocks must stand to meet the sea,
There lies a strip of stones that brightly shine.
So scattered there, each thought and memory
Awaits my choice — discard or keep as mine?
Among mere pebbles I find agates cloaked
In ocean’s salt, now dry beneath the sun.
But look, what beauty there if washed and soaked –
We’ll find the stones that mark our days as one.
Before you came I thought that rocks were rocks,
And days would pass without the need to choose
Which moments to keep safe inside this box
To cache these stones that I fear I might lose.
    So polish, treasure all these rocks so rare
    To then put on display the love we share.

(Originally written 4/29/09)

(Also, “rockhounding” is a weird word.)

27 Hours in LA

2/13/12 2:30pm
Scanning people at SJC. Sweaty faces. Hurried footsteps. The man ahead of me in the security line is frantically taking off his belt. There is no security line–and that’s messing us up. No time to extract the one quart ziplocks of three ounce liquids from the rest of the luggage. No time to down that last gulp of water in the bottle. I’m stumbling over my shoes with one hand still trying to shove my ID back into my wallet–thankful, really, that belt-man is holding up the line.

I don’t scan for AEDs at SJC anymore. I already know where they are–a kind of learned instinct, I suppose. Instead I scan faces, make judgements. I’ll bet your cholesterol is high, man in the business suit whose tie is feeling a little too snug. You’re looking a little red in the face and I’m sure you’re a very important international businessman running late for your international business meeting, but don’t you worry, sir, I’m an EMT and I’ll be there in a flash if you start feeling weak and clutch at your chest and just so you know there’s an AED not 200 feet behind me and another coming up ahead. Don’t you worry, sir.

Stormy skies at SJC

Rattling down highway 405 in a Flyaway shuttle. The scenery bounces past for this mile or so stretch without traffic. I can barely focus my eyes on my iPhone screen, much less hit the right keys as I text my parents that I’ve arrived. Thank God for autocorrect. The shuttle rattles so much that the emergency exit window beside me is almost falling off, a thin sliver of cement highway pulsating between the black rubber linings with each bump in the road.

The hapless driver charges forth, spearing the tank of airport shuttle through openings in traffic. I would trust his experience except he already left the shuttle doors open while trundling around the terminals, oblivious until another Flyaway driver yelled, “DOOR!” as we drove past. He’s listening to something unintelligible on the radio, quietly buzzing beside him as we rattle on down the highway. The rattling sporadically connects the audio to the rest of the shuttle and blasts R&B in neurotic spurts, long enough for me to feel the soul of the singer pouring out but too short to even make out the words.

LA sunset in Instagram

Lying on my friend’s futon in the dark. The interview’s still nine hours away and I can’t think about anything else, much less sleep. I tell myself to breathe, slow it down, feel the calm creep into my bones. But it’s too early, too early for sleep to set in, even if I do need to be up at seven. I lie there and listen to the sounds of others moving around. Showering. Brushing teeth. Switching off lights. Rolling over in bed. To them it’s another night at home, another night before work or class, another night to fall asleep in.

There’s a strangeness in sleeping in someone else’s home, no matter how wonderfully gracious the host. It’s their home, not yours. I stare at the lighted porch outside, trying to summon parallels to make this place feel familiar. That light is the glow of the street lamp outside my senior year dorm room, I tell myself. It’s that soft glow on the ceiling.

When that doesn’t work, I lie there with my eyes closed, imagining best friends and calming presences in the rooms next door. What makes places feel like home? You carry the voices of the people you trust inside yourself. Let them permeate this unfamiliar space until the strangeness is gone.

2/14/12 7:40am
Making snap judgements of fellow candidates in the admissions office. Not so much judging as seeking guidance and comfort from our similarities. Girls with purses. I need a purse like that. Leather-bound portfolios. Just like mine. Mismatched pinstripe blazer and plain black slacks. I guess you pulled that off. Minimal makeup. Good, I didn’t under do it.

Chit chat fills our time as we wait for the bus to take us elsewhere. I’m not the quietest one like I would have been a few years ago. But I’m not the loudest one either, crowding the conversation with my voice out of nerves or affable personality. I’m calm. I leave the free coffee untouched.

Touring the campus behind three first year students. One guide in skinny jeans and sweatshirt branded with school pride. One guide in scrubs. One guide in his white coat and slacks, Skullcandy backpack, a pink collared shirt, and sunglasses settled jauntily on the top of his head. It’s this last one that amuses me–he wasn’t assigned to lead the tour, just hopped on like he owned the thing. He smacks on his gum while dispensing advice in his SoCal rhythm–so extroverted, so confident, so likable. One of the others reveals he was an English major who wrote for MTV before matriculating. And glancing at him again, this makes perfect sense.

He went out and purposely bought that pink shirt this morning, he tells us. Just for Valentine’s Day.

Sitting in a French bakery-café, watching all the dutiful boys go by with bouquets from the flower shop next door. They’re sweet arrangements, pink and white and red. Roses interspersed with baby’s breath, all wrapped up in tissue and cellophane.

You can tell which ones are headed for the flower shop by their walk. Head down, purposeful. Checking the street signs to make sure they’re going the right way. Even from across the street, watching them waiting at the crosswalk, I can spot these dutiful boyfriends and husbands fidgeting. Some worried–they forgot to order ahead. They remembered everything else–dry-cleaned the suit, made dinner reservations, bought her the perfect necklace. But some, they forgot it was Valentine’s Day until they got to work and every woman in the office was cooing over bouquets or chocolates or balloons or neon pink pieces of construction paper cut into hearts. These guys would never admit their fault–what man would? Besides, it’s the thought that counts and less is more and all those other clichées that are overused but so, so true.

I watch them parade past, calmed by the bouquet in hand, and for the first time in a while, I don’t loathe Valentine’s Day. It’s adorable, watching them file past this café window. Call it over-marketed, call it a corporate construct, call it a day to make us single people feel inadequate. But damn it’s cute to see so many romantic gestures synchronized to the same sunny afternoon in Westwood.

One last photo of a muggy LA sunset snapped through the window of the Flyaway heading back to LAX.

Goodbye LA. Perhaps I’ll see you again soon.