photo diary: julie & tara in vancouver

Julie and Tara, a couple writing friends from the States, came to visit Vancouver last week which means cue food, cue hang outs, and cue me being That Person who has to get a photo of everything (hey what can I say, I love my camera. Oh, and my friends too). Sarah H and I toured them around Lynn Valley aka Marvel At Nature 101 and Deep Cove aka Tara’s new favourite place in the world. We had tacos and walked by the waterfront with Kaya and visited Richmond Night Market with Grace where we indulged in everything from dill pickle and roasted garlic rotatoes to matcha soufflé pancakes topped with red bean and mochi. Here are a few snapshots from their visit :)

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Shout out to Julie and Tara’s creepy Airbnb that cut power on the first night and this guy at the night market whose job it was to stand in the water and supervise these children peddling boats. They’re the real MVPs of the week!

retreat to lake tahoe (sort of)

Earlier this month, I went on a writing retreat to Lake Tahoe. Sort of. We were actually in Truckee which is more north of Tahoe, and the lake we visited was not, in fact, Lake Tahoe as I’d first believed. Truthfully, I spent the majority of the weekend not really knowing where I was. But that’s besides the point. The important thing is! I went on a retreat with some dear writing friends and this is a post to commemorate the wonderful time we had together. Cue photos.

I chose maybe the most inconvenient and convoluted way to get to my destination, but that too is besides the point. Let’s focus instead on the beautiful sunrise I caught from the airplane window on my first flight (ooo ahh). And look at the free biscuits and tea I got on my second flight (ooo ahh). And don’t forget the fancy Starbucks drink I got before my third flight, which I texted to my boyfriend to show him what a great time I’m having (oo- wait is that just water? …let’s move along).

All of the above was worth it when I reunited with with these ladies:

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Hooray! Let the fun begin! But first, quick introductions.

Susan Lee: Writer of YA contemporary that is laugh out loud hilarious and hits you right in the feels. Follow her on Twitter.

Grace Shim: Writer of YA contemporary featuring Korean teens that make me go ‘omg that was ME in high school!’ Follow her on Twitter.

Jess Kim: Writer of MG contemporary that will make your heart grow three sizes like the Grinch. Follow her on Twitter and find her book Stand Up, Yumi Chung! (Kokila/Penguin, 2020) on Goodreads.

Julie Abe: Writer of MG fantasy but also pretty much everything else (she talented). Also the feeder of my Japanese snack addiction. Follow her on Twitter and find her book Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch (Little Brown, 2020) on Goodreads.

Three words to describe this weekend:

One: inspiring. From story brainstorm sessions to talking about our personal writing journeys, dreams, pitfalls, and goals, I felt inspired to keep on keeping on and to write the stories of my heart. I’m grateful for friends who not only remind me to press on, but model it for me in the way they live their own lives.

Two: celebratory. This retreat was extra special because we got to celebrate Susan’s agent signing! Woohoo!! This calls for not one, but two cakes! Also, a big shoutout to Susan for being our amazing chef for the weekend. The photo on the right is of her cutting strawberries for us. Seriously, what did we do to deserve her?

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Three: refreshing. There’s something about soaking in nature and the presence of good friends that is so rejuvenating. I said it before, but I’ll say it again. I’m so so grateful for these ladies. I’m also grateful for snow capped mountains, belly aching laughs, and cup ramen.

On that note, I’ll end with these photos from the lake that was not Lake Tahoe. Til next time!

writing bullet journal

I’ve always loved looking at other people’s bullet journals and watching Plan With Me videos, but I never thought I would keep one for myself. I like using pre-made planners to organize my schedule, and keeping a mood or habit tracker didn’t appeal to me very much. But! With that said, there is one thing I always need help keeping track of and that is: MY WRITING GOALS.

So, this past month, I decided to make a bullet journal dedicated exclusively to writing. Here’s what it looks like:

LEFT: A cover page! I chose pigs as the theme for my February spread in honour of Lunar New Year. Fun fact: my mom was born in the year of the pig so she has little pig figurines all over the house. They’re her favourite animal. RIGHT: A monthly calendar! For each day I meet my goal, I get a sticker on this page. It felt pretty rewarding to look back and see all the stickers I earned this month. Also, see the pig in the bottom right corner rocking the Korean pama? That was also a touch of mom inspiration.

Here are two examples of my weekly spreads. Each day, I write down my daily goals here. Making daily goals was super helpful for me. I used to make general deadline-based goals, like: ‘By the end of the month, I want to be done this draft!’ or ‘By Feb 15th, I will be finished Act 1!’ This didn’t work so well for me because it kept my eyes on the deadline, not on the present day where work actually gets done. More often than not, the deadline would feel so far away that I would put off doing any work because I felt like I had all the time in the world. Then D-Day would sneak up on me and I would be frantically calculating how many words I have to write per day to still make it.

I still set a general deadline to give me a finish line to work towards, but from there, I create daily goals to make it happen. The biggest change for me was setting my daily goals either the morning of or the night before, taking into consideration everything I accomplished or had to adjust in the last 24 hours. Before, I used to make daily goals like, ‘I’m going to write 1000 words per day!’ and then I’d miss a day and have to write 2000 words the next day to make up for it and then I’d miss that day and so on and so forth until I’d end up lying on the floor, staring blankly at the ceiling and wondering where I went wrong. The difference is subtle, but I think really key. Pre-setting a series of daily goals makes me shape my day around them and if I miss one day, the rest of my days become more inflexible. Setting goals for each new day while being mindful of what that day holds for me is, I find, more forgiving and also more likely to be accomplished. Our goals should work for us to help us get to where we want to go, not make us tip into an existential crisis when we can’t meet them.

Anyway! This system has been working really well for me and my writing. It might change in the future as my needs and preferences change, but for now I’m going to keep going with it. Here’s a sneak peek of what I have prepared for March:

If you couldn’t tell, I like eggs. I’m especially proud of the tamago nigiri I managed to sneak in this spread. Hehe. Whatever you’re working on this month and next, these eggs and I are cheering you on!

twenty nineteen

New Year’s is always an interesting time for me because I am, by nature, a very reflective person. I love journaling and thinking about where I’ve been and where I want to be. While January 1st isn’t the only day of the year I make resolutions, I like that it’s the time of year where everyone is sharing theirs. I appreciate the collectivity of it, and so! Here is a blog post to ring in the new year and share a bit about my goals.

In 2018, I decided to change the way I think about goal setting. I wrote a Twitter thread on it a few months back, but I’d like to share it here as well. Instead of thinking of it as ‘I met my goal = success!' VS ‘I didn’t = failure :(‘ I’ve started thinking more along the lines of ‘today I’m going to CRUSH IT or ADJUST IT.’

CRUSH IT: Some days I crush my goals. I meet them, high five them, and send them flying into outer space. I get the job done and it feels really, really good. But some days, lots of days… I don’t.

ADJUST IT: I often underestimate the time, resources, and energy (mental, emotional, and physical) needed to meet my goals. And you never know what unpredictable thing will throw me off my tracks. But that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’ve failed; it just means I need to re-adjust my goals for the day and meet myself where I am.

It’s ok to learn as you go, to change your mind, and to see your goals as more malleable than rigid. Having to adjust as you go doesn’t make you too slow, incapable, lazy, or any of the other things we tell ourselves. It makes you human.

So today, this year, set out to crush your goals. And if you don’t meet them, adjust them for tomorrow in a way that you can. Here are a few of mine:

  • Finish writing my current Middle Grade WIP.

  • Take more photos & read more poetry.

  • Be more active! Exercise, go on walks, do my physio stretches daily.

  • Spend more time in the mountains & by the water.

  • And my overarching theme for the year (that I hope will stick for life): be present.

Like I said, I love looking back and looking forward. I live in the past with hopes for the future, but this year I want to be better at living in the now and being present in the present.

Whatever your hopes are for 2019, I’m rooting for you. I hope we all get to know ourselves a little better this year than we did in the last. Happy New Year everybody!

godmothers retreat

A couple weeks ago, I went on my first ever writing retreat with a few friends. We packed up the car, drove to the ferry, and crossed the water over to Mayne Island where we spent the weekend in a cabin full of blankets, writing, brainstorming, and filling our bellies with cheese, cheese, and more cheese.

We call ourselves the Godmothers, as in, the godmothers to each other’s book babies. Sarah H, Carly, Grace, and I met in a university Creative Writing class almost four years ago. We happened to be sitting on the same side of the classroom the day we formed critique groups and we’ve stayed that way ever since (a critique group, I mean. We didn’t become permanent fixtures of the classroom). From writing dates in donut shops to annual Secret Santa gift exchanges, I have many reasons to be thankful for these ladies. They were my Critique Partners before I even knew what Critique Partners were and I’m glad I got to experience my first writing retreat with them. It feels fitting.

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SCHEDULE OF THE WEEKEND:

Breakfast
Morning writing session
Lunch
Afternoon writing session
Dinner
Evening writing session, but more accurately, playing games, reading books, sleeping off sickness symptoms, and in my case, secretly watching figure skating videos on YouTube (specifically this video of Yuzuru Hanyu in Helsinki. Seriously, how amazing is he??)

We also went for walks around the island to stretch our legs. On one of our expeditions, Carly and I got lost trying to find the Japanese Garden and came across this view.

This is one of my favourite things about living in BC. That you can just stumble on a window of endless waters and mountains saying hello. You’re surrounded by it, and no matter how many times you admire it, it never stops being amazing.

For those of you wondering, we did end up finding the Japanese Garden. When I was a university student, I used to go to to the Japanese garden (called Nitobe Garden) on campus all the time. It was my favourite place at UBC and losing free admission there was one of the saddest parts of graduating. For that reason, I was very excited to visit Mayne Island’s Japanese Garden and it didn’t disappoint. Breathing this place in was the perfect break between writing sessions.

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On the final day of the retreat, we woke up early to catch the 7:45 AM ferry back to Vancouver. I’m not really a morning person (not an evening person either actually. Mid-afternoon is perfect, thanks), but seeing the sun rise like we did that day makes me think I should re-consider this early morning thing. Maybe they’re worth it after all.

If you’d like to follow my talented friends online, here is Sarah H’s Twitter and Carly’s Twitter. They are also roommates and co-hosts of Toffee and Fudge, an A+ writing website. If you’re a writer looking for writing tips and resources, definitely check them out! Grace is currently #NoTwitterGrace, but you can visit her on Instagram where she shares spreads from her gorgeous bullet journal. Also, a special shoutout to our friend Susan for sending us a giant box of snacks to power us through the weekend. Susan, you’re the best!

Until next time, Mayne Island!

on healing

This is a piece I wrote back in February and posted on my blog at the time. I re-read it today and wanted to share it on this new space as well. This is for me, for you, and for everyone who has ever had good days and bad days.


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I call them good days and bad days, but really they’re more like hours, sometimes minutes. A good day for two hours and then a bad day for the next seven. Good for thirty minutes, bad for forty-five.

My good days feel like this: Hope like honey melting on my tongue. I breathe and I feel my lungs fill with air instead of water. Laughing feels easier and so does getting out of bed. I don’t feel like myself exactly, but I feel more familiar, like I’m recognizing myself again. The present feels tender, but when I hold it in my hands like this, I can feel its heartbeat flutter in my palms and I understand that this is what it is to be alive.

The bad days are like this: My world starts shrinking and it doesn’t stop until every star has been squeezed out of the sky and all that’s left is me and my broken mind. I’m trapped on a train that only goes in circles and every mirror I look into shows me someone I don’t know. The past is the sun and today is its shadow. I know I can fight this sinking feeling, flip it on its head and turn it all around, but I am too tired to try again.

Isn’t that one of the worst parts? When you become so exhausted you stop caring. You stop saying I love you to the people you love, not because you don’t anymore, but because your heart is so fractured it’s hard to connect even the truest of words. You want to be someone better, but you can only be who you are right now and that makes you hate yourself. But maybe that is the secret to healing. You can only be who you are right now so instead of beating yourself up for it, be kind to your bruises. Let yourself be.

I was under the impression that healing meant every day would be better than the last until one day, I would emerge good as new, but it turns out healing is not so linear. Healing is good days and bad days, falling into the same pits over and over again, and somehow finding enough thread of compassion to climb your way out one more time. The more you keep catching these threads, the more the good days begin to outnumber the bad instead of the other way around.

This is who I want to be: When it feels like a fist is closing around the sky and crushing every star, I want to be someone who closes her eyes and sees the sunrise in her mind. Even if it feels like a lie to remember something so far from reach, I want to remember that the real lie is that the light is gone for good, and the truth is that yesterday is the shadow and today is the rising sun.

welcome

Hi everybody! Welcome to my website. Though I’ve had a number of (shortly abandoned) blogs in the past, this is my first WEBSITE website and I give you all the warmest of welcomes. Thank you for visiting! -shakes virtual hands-

So who am I and what is this website all about?

I’m a writer. Specifically, I write Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction. You may be thinking Sweet! So can I read your book? The answer is no. No you cannot. At least not yet, that is! Hopefully one day you’ll be able to. I’m currently working on a Middle Grade fantasy project about a Korean inspired fairy land and am represented by literary agent Linda Epstein. But Sarah, I want to read your writing NOW!! Fear not, my friends, and thank you, I’m flattered. Come visit me on this space and I will entertain you with my blog posts in the meantime!

I’m a reader. As all writers are! I love reading, whether it be Middle Grade, Young Adult, Picture Book, Adult, Graphic Novel, what have you. These days I’ve also been really into reading cookbooks (and by that, I mean flipping through them and looking at the pictures). I post bookstagram photos of everything I read on my Instagram so visit me there if you are looking for recommendations or want to see what my latest read is.

I’m a shaved ice eater. My favourite dessert is ~ Korean shaved ice ~ aka BINGSU. To be honest though, I like all types of shaved ice. It doesn’t have to be from Korea, though that is my personal favourite. One day I aspire to go on a shaved ice world tour, traveling to different countries and documenting their shaved ice cafes, perhaps on this blog or in a YouTube documentary series called ‘Sarah Eats Shaved Ice’ or something like that. Hey, dream big or go home.

So there you have it! This site will mostly be dedicated to my writer life, though it may also end up being a space for me to share thoughts, musings, photos, and poetry as my heart desires. Whatever the case may be, you are always welcome here!