Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Meanings of Christmas


Presents!

When I was a child, Christmas was all about presents; the more I received the merrier. I was the second of eight children and always found it stressful when one or other of my siblings got more gifts than me (which was the case most every year).

You can imagine with so many of us, the closer we got to December 25th the more the base of the Christmas tree got buried beneath piles of beautifully wrapped bundles. At that time, presents represented a sense of warmth, of belonging, of being loved.

As I got older, my perception inevitably changed, though I still LOVE to open a gift or two.

And now, I have a daughter whose appetite for receiving presents is even more voracious than mine ever was.


Here I feel torn.

On the one hand, I totally get her wanting to stack the base of the tree high with gifts bearing her name. Yet, I believe it’s crucial that she learn and incorporate in her life the deeper meaning behind Christmas, including the historical and religious aspect and all that that entails.

Of course Christmas means different things for different people. For me it’s about hanging out with family; it’s a time to slow down and remember to appreciate life; to express gratitude for everything; to share laughs with friends. Naturally, it’s about exchanging gifts as well, yet this is no longer the main reason behind the holiday season. 

So as I continue to struggle through the dilemma of the commercial aspect of Christmas vs. the spirit of Christmas, I have to continually remind myself that everything happens in due course. It took me many years to snap out of my preoccupation with ‘give me, me, me, me’! So, one day, my daughter, too, will be teaching her child (children), about the true meaning of Christmas.

And I will be there in the background, cheering her on. A proud mom.

Friday, November 23, 2012

To Blog Or Not To Blog


Sometimes I wonder about this whole blogging thing and if I’ll continue to find something to talk about in the months to come. So I was reading the recent post of my fellow JFP author, Liesel Hill, (http://bit.ly/TTez1w) and the format gave me an idea, which I will emulate here.

In the vein of Thanksgiving, I will share with you a story I wrote years ago while living in Manhattan, NYC.  This was long before I ever considered writing for kids; years before I even thought of having children. It was also a period in my life where gratitude didn’t play such a great part. I was too into my own world.

Yet, I believe that what happened was needed to wake me up, to help me realize how lucky I was. It took years before I got the message though… as you will see. 


JUST A TRUNK
            I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I hurried south on Seventh Avenue.
            Tucked firmly under my arms, the computer keyboard I had purchased just yesterday was wrapped in a bag I had accidentally torn.  Such a waste of my time I fumed, storming across 38th Street.  I have so many things to do today: clean the house before Derek comes for dinner tonight, buy groceries, call my parents, do my wash.  And here I am wasting time because I have to return this dumb keyboard.  Why did that foolish salesperson have to sell me this defective piece of junk.   
            I saw him out of the corner of my eye, through the blurs and shapes of New York's masses.  Traffic had gridlocked, and across the street I caught a glimpse of his white T-shirt, of a tin can resting on the handle of a wheelchair, his look of expectancy as he observed the pedestrians scurrying by.  I tore my eyes away from this man whose hopeful, smiling face contrasted so heavily with his circumstances.  My hands felt cold, despite the sun's clammy heat.  I quickened my pace even more, trying to avoid the hordes of people swarming around me.  I wanted to swat them away like flies.
            I knew what I would tell the salesperson when I got there, I knew exactly what I would say and how I would say it.  It's defective, I would shout and I would glare at him so that he would know just how angry I was.  I want my money back.  End of story.
            I looked back and saw his hopeful expression fixed on the scuffling mob. A tin can rested on the handle of his wheelchair.  He was black.  A man walked by, a tall, white guy, who threw some coins in the can and continued on without stopping or even looking down.  The man in the wheelchair, I placed him at about twenty-five, gave him a wide smile of gratitude, which was never seen.
            Today had started out so well.  Until I had turned on my computer, equipped with its new keyboard, and it still wouldn't work.  All my plans ruined.  My day shot.
            Penn Station.  One more block, down the stairs and to the right. 
            I would give him $1.00, I told myself.  No.  $5.00.
            "May I help you?" a Chinese man with a baseball cap asked, the same guy who had sold me this defective equipment.  I yanked the keyboard out of the bag, banged it on the counter.  My eyes gave full vent to my frustration.
            "Yes.  I bought this here yesterday.  It doesn't work.  Here's my receipt."
            "No problem.  We'll exchange it for you."
            "Thank you."
            Imagine being stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, never able to walk or dance or stand.  Never to play sports, to run, to feel the joy of movement.  I would give him $20.00.
            I tapped my fingers on the counter.  What was taking so long?  I turned around and stared wide-eyed at the grim-faced, dark-complexioned woman glaring wide-eyed at me out of the full-length, rear-wall mirror.  I looked like I was pouting, I noticed in surprise, and I had this deep frown on my forehead.  I adjusted my face, forced a smile.  My hair needed a cutting.  It was all over my cheeks and almost touched my neck.  Do I have time to go to the hairdresser today?
            "Here you are ma'am."
            "Receipt please," I said, swinging around.
            $20.00.  I could afford that.  I allowed myself to speculate on his surprise, his gratitude when he saw...
            "Here you are ma'am."
            "Thank you."
            "Come again."
            Right.
            I rushed outside, my new keyboard in its new bag bouncing at my side.  35th Street36th Street.  Where had I seen him?  I ran a few steps.  Stopped.  Ran again.  Where was he?  I started to cross 37th Street, along with about thirty other people.  The light turned red.  A taxi honked.  The driver cursed.  Suppose he had gone?
            Then I saw him.  Sitting in the same spot, with that same avid look on his face and the same steady flow of pedestrians darting around him.  Several people placed money in his can.  The man grinned up at them.
            I hurried across 7th Avenue.  I could picture his reaction at my generosity.  He would give me a wide smile, wider than he had given anyone else.  I would say: "You are very welcome," and smile down at him in a fully non-condescending way.  Equal to equal.
            A man approached him.  About the same age.  Same dark color.  He stooped to eye level with the man in the wheelchair.  They started talking and laughing with what appeared to be the ease of long friendship.
            Yes.  He would look at me with gratitude, and I would say: "You're welcome."
            I stopped in front of the wheelchair and froze.  The tin can had been welded onto the handle.  The man continued laughing and talking with his friend, unaware of my presence.  Both men appeared relaxed, happy to be in each other's company, stealing a few moments of camaraderie from Manhattan's hustle and bustle.  But, how could he laugh like this?  What could a man with no arms or legs, not even the stubs of arms and legs, possibly be happy about?  How could he laugh in such a carefree manner with the knowledge that he could never embrace a loved one, be it man, woman or child? 
            My hands trembled as I fumbled with my wallet.  When last had I felt as relaxed or at peace with myself as this man who, in my mind, had nothing?
            "Here," I said, waiting.
            The man looked at me.  Eyes warm, a deep brown, held mine.  I placed a $1.00 bill in his can.  He nodded and turned back to his friend.
            I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I made my way up Seventh Avenue

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Very First Interview



When you get a moment, please check out my first interview ‘about me’ by Amie
Borst. Amie is not your typical interviewer. She has a way with phrasing questions that gets people to bare more than they ever thought they would. Here is the link to her site. http://www.amieborst.com/2012/11/interview-with-ann-marie-meyers.html

And please… don't judge me.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Meet Lehua Parker, Author of One Boy No Water





Today I am featuring author Lehua Parker, who is here to guest blog about her new book One Boy No Water, a middle grade fantasy that even adults will enjoy. You can read more about this amazing book in the review I gave in September.




And -- drum rolls please -- Lehua has kindly offered to give away a copy of One Boy No Water. To win, enter below:  

AMM:  Welcome Lehua.

LP:  Aloha, Ann Marie! Thanks for letting me drop by to answer a few of your questions about my MG/YA novel One Boy, No Water, book one in the Niuhi Shark Saga. It’s available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon in hardback, trade paperback, and ebook.

AMM: Does the story come from some mythology in Hawaii?

LP:  Most cultures have stories about shape-shifters. Throughout the Pacific there are many indigenous tales and legends about people who can turn into sharks, so I guess it’s loosely based on some of these ideas.

AMM: What inspired you to write One Boy One Water?

LP:  When I was in second grade we watched a film from the Legends of Hawaii series. In the film, villagers kept disappearing and it was feared they were eaten by a large shark. There’s a moment when the man-eater is discovered when they rip the cloak off the shoulders of a young man to reveal a gapping shark’s mouth where his back should be! I’ve carried that image in my head since I was seven, trying to wrap my head around the idea that his parents kept this secret hidden his entire life and that he was eating people he knew. All the answers to the why, how, and what if questions I asked myself eventually turned into the Niuhi Shark Saga.

AMM: Do you speak Hawaiian Pidgin English daily? With your family?

LP:  Unfortunately, I rarely speak Pidgin. It’s in my head, not my mouth anymore. Although when my kids were little I once overhead this conversation:

Daughter: Is Mom really mad at us? Are we in serious trouble?
Son: I think we’re okay. She yelled at us in English. When she’s really mad she yells in Pidgin.

AMM: So Lehua, were you born in Hawaii?  

LP:  I’m the eldest kid in my family and my parents were in college on the mainland when I was born. My Mom and her family are from the mainland and my Dad and his family are from Hawaii. When I was six weeks old, my parents went to Hawaii to show me off to my paternal grandparents and ended up staying to raise a family, which was probably my father’s plan all along!

AMM: How long did it take you to write One Boy, No Water?

LP:   Once I figured out who the audience was and how I was going to handle the Pidgin, it went very quickly. I took about 20,000 words from a manuscript I’d worked on about six years earlier, tweaked them and added another 30,000 words in five marathon days over two weeks. But I’d been thinking about the story for years, so it’s not quite accurate to say I wrote the whole book about 100 hours.

AMM: Is there a message in the story you would like your readers to grasp?

LP:   One Boy, No Water is about Zader understanding that he can’t run from trouble. When you’re in the ocean and a big wave is coming, you have to swim as fast as you can toward it. That way you can control what happens to you, whether you go over, under, ride it for a while, or power through it. If you try to run to shore, the wave will pick you up and you’ll have no control as it spins you like you’re in a washing machine and tosses you up on the beach, spitting out sand if you’re lucky. In Zader’s life, the trouble is coming like a tsunami and it’s pointless for him to try to hide anymore.

AMM: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

LP:  Initially it was figuring out who I was writing for and how I was going to handle all the foreign language and culture I wanted to use without explaining too much or too little. To keep kids familiar with the culture engaged, I wrote a lot of inside jokes that add but don’t detract from the main story if they’re missed.

AMM: Can you give a hint to the sequel?

LP:  Remember the tsunami I mentioned earlier? In book two the troubles get bigger and the stakes get higher. Zader learns for certain what he is and a little bit about why his mother hid him with the Westin family. Kalei finds out about Zader and it’s a cat and mouse game as Kalei pursues him. There’s more about lua and hula and surfing and art and mud sliding and Uncle Kahana’s mysterious friends. Stay tuned!

AMM: What is the best part about being a children’s writer?

LP:  After imagining how a kid might react to something I’ve written, I love talking to kids about books and writing. Their imaginations are so much bigger than mine.

AMM:  What are you working on now?

LP:  Book two in The Niuhi Shark Saga. It’s due to Jolly Fish Press in early December and will be published in August 2013. The working title is One Truth, No Lie.

AMM: What are some fun facts about you?

LP:
1.     I don’t have any cavities.
2.     My favorite treats when I was a kid were squid jerky, pickled and salted plum pits, and soy sauce and seaweed flavoured rice crackers, otherwise known as dried cuttlefish, crackseed, and kakimochi.
3.     I didn’t learn to SCUBA dive until I lived in a desert thousands of miles from the nearest ocean. Highly ironic since some of the best diving spots in the world were my childhood backyard.

AMM: What is your favorite holiday?

LP:  It’s really hard to pick just one, but if I had to it would be Halloween, although I don’t like gore or horror. Zombies seriously creep me out. But when our kids were very little our house was out in the country. None of the local kids could trick or treat easily, so we’d host a big neighbourhood tailgate party. Even though a lot of the surrounding fields are now subdivisions and our kids are too old to trick or treat, families still come with their jack-o-lanterns, candy, and lawn chairs. The adults hangout and joke around as kids in costumes swarm like bees, begging for candy. Over the years it’s grown to include a kind of potluck dinner of soups, breads, and hot apple cider. To me, Halloween kicks off the holiday season, not Thanksgiving.

AMM: And finally, Lehua, if you could choose another passion, what would it be?


LP:  If I were smart, I would choose exercising or housekeeping because my life would be easier if I really enjoyed those kinds of things. The reality is more like reading good books, eating ice cream, and going to the beach. The ultimate would be reading a good book while eating chocolate ice cream at the beach, especially if the book was waterproof and I could be in—or under—the water at the same time!


Brief Bio:

Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. So far she has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a poet, a web designer, a mother, and a wife. Her debut novel, One Boy, No Water is the first book in her MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, four cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

To find out more about Lehua:

Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/LehuaParker
Twitter: @LehuaParker
Goodreads: Lehua Parker




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Sunday, November 04, 2012

And they all lived happily ever after…


As a child, I used to love reading those words at the end of fairy tales. Just the knowledge that everything would be all right from that point forward was enough to make me happy. Cinderella’s life would be perfect. Snow White would marry her prince and live a life of luxury and joy. Beauty’s Beast was now a kind, gorgeous man who would take care of her and love her forever.

No more problems. No worries. Ever!

If only that could be true for me.

Growing up, I had these thoughts:

-- Once I have a boyfriend, people will see I’m pretty and popular.
-- Once I get married, I will have someone who would put me first and love me forever!
-- Once I have children, my life would be perfect. I would be the best mother, with the best children. I would know all the answers. I would be a great teacher to them and prevent them from making the mistakes I made.

In my thirties and onwards, one thought predominated over many others:
-- Once I get a publisher, my worries would be over. I’d write and people would love my books. There would be nothing else to worry about. My life would be set! And if I make the Best Sellers List, well then… need I say more?

And in the past few months, here is what's been rattling around inside my head:
-- If I can get several hundred likes on FB and if lots of people comment on my posts, then I’m in the loop. I’ve made it!

I could go on and on. But the thing is, life’s not like that. Even when I end up getting what I want, or think I want, I still have an unsettled, niggling something in my heart, or in the pit of my stomach, depending on the situation.

I  now realize that life isn’t all about getting or having. It’s more about feeling. Feeling good about oneself. Feeling happy. Feeling okay. Accepting ourselves for who we are, regardless.

Easy to say. Even easy to figure out. But it’s sure hard to have this realization resonate in my heart and to execute day after day after day.

I’m aware though. That’s a good start anyway. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween is Here Again!


Sometimes I wonder if Halloween is really for me or for my daughter. I get so excited thinking about all the chocolates my one and only child will be bringing home this year; how much I’ll eat, regardless of the side effect of deep regret the next day.

I comfort myself with the fact that I never really did experience Halloween until eight years ago, when my daughter turned three. At the time, we were living in New York City and we went with a group of parents, and their kids, from the children’s museum in Soho.

Halloween of 2003 was one of the most exciting times of my life. Lining up. Watching all those amazing, wonderful people hand out candy. I have to admit I was mildly curious as to why my daughter didn’t seem half as excited as I was, but it didn’t really bother me because, after all, she was only three.

Of course, when people started glaring at my outstretched hand and withholding their wrapped treasures, I decided it was time to get my darling daughter more into the swing of things. So I picked her up, gently placed her (half-open) hand in mine, and tempered my grin to a smile of mild curiosity. There was nothing much I could do about my eyes though.

In hindsight, as I observe my super-excited daughter gear up for Halloween this year, hinting, whenever possible, at how many BAGS of candy she wants to trick or treat with, I wonder if, maybe, I might have been just a tad bit too hasty in exposing her to so much fun.

Still, more than one bag stuffed with all sorts of chocolates and assorted treats… Yummm! Now I understand some of the benefits of having two kids. Or three.

Even four.        



Friday, October 05, 2012

Who is right, after all?


Years ago, soon after I started translating, I attended a translators’ meeting in New York City and heard a talk given by an executive from Bell. At one point, he said, and I paraphrase: “A person cannot be both a translator and a writer. The two don’t mix.” From what I understood, it had something to do with people not being able to write in both a technical and literary way.

Horror! Disbelief! Nooooooooooo!

What if this top executive guy was right and I couldn’t do both?

That was my dream!

I had a certificate of translation from New York University, so I had validation there that I had what it took to be a translator. Could I be a writer though? Was my writing even good enough?

I decided to ignore him. The alternative was not something I wanted to consider.

But… what if I had bought into his belief?

I meet so many people who believe strongly in so many things. I find myself admiring their passion and drive. At times I am drawn into their perspective and even buy into it, especially if this person holds a degree in something, or is considered an expert in a certain field.

Most times though, I wonder at their desire to convince others that their opinion is right.

Honestly, I have come to the conviction that everyone is right… in their own imagination. I’m not 100% sure if this is because we need to feel we are right so we can feel good about ourselves.

All I know is that I’m glad that I trusted my gut instinct all those years ago, despite the certainty and confidence in the speaker’s voice. And I think, that is all each of us can do: carry out an internal check every once in a while and trust in ourselves so we can do what works for us.

That’s my humble opinion anyway… in my imagination of course

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker




A boy who is allergic to water. Add to that the location: Hawaii. Mix in the tantalizing legend of Niuhi, a shark that can turn into a person, and you have the perfect setting for a great mystery. Written in both English and Hawaiian Pidgin, One Boy No Water by Lehua Parker plunges the reader into a Hawaii where reality and mythology blend seamlessly.

Abandoned on the ocean reef when he was a newborn baby, Zader is found by Uncle Kahana who carries the infant to the home of his niece, Liz, to be raised as one of her three children. Though treated by his adoptive mother as family, Zader can’t escape the fact that he is different. After all, who wouldn’t when the slightest touch of water acts like lava on the skin, bringing on an onslaught of sores and blisters of intense agony?  

Strangely, the very allergy afflicting Zader is what leads Uncle Kahana to believe that he and Zader are, in fact, related. Yet, Uncle Kahana won’t give any details as to why or how this can be? Or where Zader’s birthparents are. Then Zader starts to have dreams: first of someone he calls Dreamgirl, then of a beautiful lady, and a man named Kalei whom Zader fears. Yet these aren’t dreams, as we soon find out. These people actually exist. Uncle Kahana knows them. What is their connection to Zader, especially when so much hints at their being Niuhi?

Parker does an amazing job of weaving the mystery of who and what Zader is throughout the story. Even more outstanding is her ability to infuse other mythologies into the action, which only serve to heighten the secrecy surrounding Zader. The truth will boggle the mind.

One Boy No Water, to be released by Jolly Fish Press on September 29th, is the first book of the Niuhi Shark Saga, and will be available in bookstores and in e-book formats.  


Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. So far she has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a poet, a web designer, a mother, and a wife. Her debut novel, One Boy, No Water is the first book in her MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, four cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Welcome


When I first started writing, I had this deep-rooted reluctance at revealing myself through my stories, despite the fact that I had read that, for an author, this was inevitable.

I didn’t want any part of it.

So I thought: Fantasy novels! Everything is invented, right? Nothing is real.

Actually I love fantasy. As a teenager I devoured hundreds of books by authors such as: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, H.G. Wells, David Brin, and many others. Ideas for fantasy books came easy for me. I though it would be a breeze; stress-free. I could stay apart from my stories and not get involved

Wrong! Not only was I faced with creating new worlds with all that that involved, my ideas, beliefs and feelings found ways to slip through and bury themselves deep within my stories.  

Resistance was futile.

Over time, I learned not to be afraid. That was when words really started to flow.

And now, here I am, with my middle grade fantasy novel, Up In The Air, to be published by Jolly Fish Press in July 2013.

Of course, now I have to overcome my diffidence in putting myself out here, on the web. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Press Release!

For Immediate Release
Contact: Kirk Cunningham, Head Publicist: (801) 380-4503 |
kirk@jollyfishpress.com

Jolly Fish Press Acquires Up in the Air

PROVO, UT—Jolly Fish Press (JFP) is excited to announce the acquisition of Up in the Air, a thrilling and insightful children's novel by debut author Ann Marie Meyers.

Ever since she can remember, ten-year-old Melody has always wanted to fly.

And when she leaps off a swing in the park one day and lands in the mystical land of Chimeroan, her dream finally comes true. She is given a pair of wings. She can fly! Life cannot be any better.

Yet, dreams do come with a price. Even with wings, Melody realizes she cannot outfly the memories of her past. The car accident that has left her father paralyzed, and her unscarred, still plagues her with guilt—she believes that it was entirely her fault.

In Chimeroan, Melody is forced to come to terms with her part in her father's accident. She must choose between the two things that have become the world to her: keeping her wings and healing her father.

Meyers grew up in Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies. She has a degree in languages and translates legal and technical documents from French and Spanish into English. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and super energetic daughter. Meyers is an active member of SCBWI and facilitates a children's writing group twice a month.

Up in the Air is Meyers' second novel and is slated for release July 2013.