May be Next Year

One more Dashain festival is about to slip away, reminding me of those colorful ‘Dashain moments’ from my past, triggering nostalgia so powerful that it almost makes me cry.

Though I couldn’t go home this Dashain, I haven’t forgotten home. In a far away city, I search for the colors of Dashain: deep red of Teeka, bright yellow of Jamara. I search for the sounds of Dashain: giggles of children around swings, Mangal Dhoon playing on the radio. And I search for the signs of prosperity Dashain brings: golden rice paddies caressed by ripples, guava and orange trees so laden with fruits that they bow like new brides.

In the Jamara I’ve planted in a corner of my rented apartment, I search for my roots. I tell myself that this cruel sand of time can’t bury my hope. So I reach out to those who, like me, couldn’t return home this Dashain.

In the evening after work, I’ll celebrate my own mini-Dashain. I’ll imagine myself as a ‘Dashain kid’ I once used to be. And I’ll sit down and hope to go home in Dashain…may be next year.

Dreaming in English

One day, my boss of ten years asked me about the transformation in my English. “How did you improve your English in such a short period of time?” he said. “Back then, I used to understand half of what you said. Now I understand all of it.”

Though I’d realized that my English (both written and spoken) had improved since I first came to the United States, I’d never thought much about it, partly because my English was (and still is) far from where I want it to be.

I attributed any improvement in my English to time and practice. “Ten years is not a short period of time,” I said to my boss. “I think you just got used to my English.” He shook his head, and that made me think.

When I first came to the United States in late May of 1998, I’d left all my friends and family behind in Nepal. I remember wondering how I was going to survive in a country where I knew not a single soul. In those early days, I was, like millions of fellow immigrants, lonely and homesick.

My dreams (and daydreams) were filled with people I loved but had left behind. In my dreams, I was still back home, talking to and laughing with them. Obviously, the language of my dreams was Nepali.

As time passed, I opened up to the people of this new world: my new friends, classmates, professors, co-workers, and many other people who often come in a person’s life. These people now began to appear in my dreams. As you can guess, they didn’t speak Nepali; therefore I couldn’t speak Nepali with them.

I’ve come to this conclusion that my English must have taken a noticeable leap (in addition to a slow, continuous improvement) around the time when I’d begun dreaming in English. In dreams, one hardly has an accent or any hesitation.  

As a writer striving to master this language, I sure have many more hours to sleep, many more dreams to dream–some in English, some in Nepali.

Now let’s hear your stories about ‘dreaming in English’ , or dreaming in some other languages.

‘Sex in the Time of Diarrhea’ and Other Summer Blues

Holy smoke! Two months have slipped by since my last post. I guess I’ll need to blame it on the sweltering summer days (more than thirty five of them with hundred plus degrees…phew!).

While I added (only) twenty pages to my second, nameless novel since my last post in this blog, I edited the first fifty pages, submitted to my fellow writers from Wichita Complete Critique Circle* in three installments and received invaluable feedback.

I also managed to read a few great books this summer, which is always a good thing. While I was (finally) reading the wonderful ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, I realized that I was also writing about my fourteen-year-old main character discovering ‘sex in the time of diarrhea’. I assure you that it (his ‘discovery of sex during diarrhea’ and my writing of his discovery while reading Love in the Time of Cholera) was a sheer coincidence.


*My friends at Wichita Complete Critique Circle are simply awesome. I’m happy to be a part of such a wonderful bunch.

Finally, Some Good News

A few weeks ago, after putting off the project for months, perhaps too many months, I finally started to write my second novel. It doesn’t have a name yet (note to self: a baby doesn’t need a name to be born :) ). The first draft looks like a heap of dry sand waiting to soak in some of my sweat. It’s about one-fifth completed, which is undoubtedly a great beginning, a source of much needed new energy in this writer’s thirsty veins. That’s the ‘good news’. Now let me go back to cranking out some more pages…

Updates on  ‘The Fate of a Moth’:
After sending out some queries for my first novel (The Fate of a Moth) a few months ago, and receiving mixed results, I’ve decided to set it aside for a while. (No, it’s not being abandoned.) Based on some great feedback I received from literary agents, I am convinced that parts of the novel need revision. My synopsis and query letter can use some revision as well. Hopefully soon, I’ll complete the revision on the book, the query letter and the synopsis, so the fun can begin again. 

Scent of a Novel

After a few months of (forced) literary sabbatical, I’m back on track again. It feels great to find some time to hold a book, write or rewrite a few pages, read and critique a fellow writer’s work, or return to writers’ meetings and book clubs. Nothing feels more wonderful than to lie down on the sofa on a Saturday afternoon, a book resting over my nose, fresh (or even old) scent of paper, ink and glue sending me into an involuntary nap-mode. Nothing in this world smells better than the pages of a well-written book.

Since the day we decided to sell our home (late January) and until we closed on the deal (early May), almost all of my free time went into fixing and painting the walls, cleaning and wiping the windows and furniture, decluttering the overly cluttered home, packing and unpacking our belongings, and finally moving into a new place.

During those few months, I had several opportunities to ponder over the meaning of phrases such as ‘drinking from the firehose’, ‘a chicken with head cut off’, or ‘walk like a zombie’. Strange how sometimes life itself gets in the way of living, how we finally realize our addiction to ‘words’.

Well, that suffocating literary hiatus is all history now, and I hope it won’t ever return.

Excuses, Guilt, Rolling in the Deep

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done some serious writing. Believe me, I’ve been amply productive in all other areas, yet I feel the guilt of being unproductive (as a writer). I’ve heard that it’s normal for writers to go through this phase, to be and feel unproductive at times. Despite the reason, this procrastination needs to end, right now.  

I was so bugged down by this idleness I sat down and made a list of my excuses. It must be the weather, lack of time, a crazy tax season, or may be a writer’s block. While I’m making a list of excuses, a new Adele fan, who sings ‘Rolling in the deep…’ in a high-pitched voice even in the middle of the night, has emerged in our household. (I think my daughter wakes up just to sing the song one more time, because the morning probably feels too far away.)

And I said to myself: Get a clue from a six-year-old. Stay focused. Stay motivated. Don’t make a list of excuses. Get up early and write, dang it.

Anyone else making a list of their excuses? Anyone else feeling almost suffocated by their own procrastination?

Under an October Sky

A picture can evoke a thousand emotions. Here’s one that reminded me of my childhood. This is a picture of a kuniyo (harvested rice piled before it’s thrashed). I grew up in a farming community (playing around similar kuniyos when I was a kid, and planting, harvesting, and thrashing rice and building kuniyoswhen I was a teenager). In my novel, The Fate of a Moth, my characters go around the village during harvesting season, wearing smiles in their weathered faces, as if nothing will ever go wrong, as if no unhappiness will ever return to their lives.

So, here are a few things (in the order labeled in the picture) I noted:

  1. A bunch of Sayapatri (marigold)  
  2. This is precisely where an orange or two are hidden (offered to God?)
  3. As (mischievous) kids, we used to climb up the kuniyos looking for the oranges
  4. Shadow of a hard-working farmer sitting (perhaps catching a breath)on top of another kuniyo
  5. Two other kuniyos nearby
  6. A lunch pack or some oranges wrapped in a pink plastic bag
  7. A sweatshirt or a towel
  8. Rice almost ready to be harvested
  9. Rice harvested and spread for drying before it’s piled up in a kuniyo
  10. Space between two (or more) kuniyos—a sanctuary for kids (especially to play card games)
  11. An October sky

 

*I thank Rabindra Giri (of Syangja, Nepal) for this picture. 

Thus Spoke My Cheerleader

Every writer needs a cheerleader. And here I introduce my one-person cheerleading squad. My six-year-old (six and three quarters actually, according to her) daughter has been my official cheerleader since the day she found out I was writing a book. 

Following are the bits and pieces from our conversations at various occasions:

The first time she learned that I was working on a book:

Cheerleader: Go Daddy Go!

Writer: Thank you. That is very nice of you. Very encouraging.

Cheerleader: You know what? May be I can be the illustrator for your book. You know I’m very good at drawing and painting, right?

Writer: I know you’re a good artist, and I thank you for your willingness to help, but my book won’t have any pictures.

Cheerleader: That’s no fun. Too bad, nobody in my class will read it then.

When I told her that her name would be on the book somewhere:

Cheerleader: Then you need to really hurry up and get that book published.

Writer: Why is that?

Cheerleader: Because I want to show it to my friends at school.

Writer: What? The book?

Cheerleader: No. My name on the book.

The day she found out I was waiting to hear back from the agents:

(I only told her that the agents, the people who help me get my book published, need to read it before it can ever see the light of day. No need to give her a heartache explaining the entire publishing process)

Cheerleader: Oh, so the agents are reading it now?

Writer: Yes, they are.

Two days later:

Cheerleader: Did the agents like your book?

Writer: I don’t know yet.

Cheerleader: What? Didn’t they even tell you whether they liked it?

Writer: I think they’re still reading it.

Cheerleader: But it’s been two days already.

Writer: I know. But it’s a big book.

Cheerleader: Those agents are very slow readers. Even I can read one book in one day.

Few more days later:

Cheerleader: Are the agents done reading your book yet?

Writer: Not yet. Still reading, I guess.

Cheerleader: You need to call them and ask them to read it faster.

Writer: I can’t call them.

Cheerleader: Why? They don’t have phones?

Writer: They do, but I can’t call them.

Cheerleader: I bet their phones are broken and they’re as slow in fixing their phones as they’re in reading your book.

 

And how could I not cherish all that motivation, right?

 

The Waiting Game—Part II

Soon after the first batch of query letters were fired, my waiting game began, making me all excited and anxious at the same time. Within hours, responses started to trickle in.

As I’d initially expected, a few agents said they already had their plates full and weren’t taking any new clients at this time. Two agents requested for the full manuscript (you can only imagine how elated I must have felt instantly). Then the Christmas break kicked in, and my inbox became quiet as a morgue. Not even a rejection. But I waited and waited some more. I kept checking email even during the Christmas weekend. There must be at least one agent who reads (and replies to) his/her email even in a Christmas morning, right? No. They apparently don’t. Huge surprise there… :)

 And I waited for the weekdays, still peeking into my inbox every few hours. Funny thing about waiting—the time barely crawls when you’re waiting. Talk about the theory of relativity in full action. Though I knew impatience was a bad idea, I couldn’t help it. Then one day, my wish for a new email was granted: A firm rejection (I’m not the right agent for this project…). :(

As I prepare to send out the second round of query letters (about ten of them), I’ve come to realize that the process of querying literary agents is so similar to fishing: You get all hyped up about the whole process, try to prepare as flawlessly as you can, go to the lake, bait your hook, do some research and find out where the fish might be, throw your hook, wait for the fish to nibble on your bait, move your bait around impatiently, pull it out and check the bait, tweak it a bit here and there, throw it into the lake again, and wait and wait some more.

The Waiting Game Has Now Begun…

After spending a few years writing and rewriting my first novel, I finally sent out the first batch of query letters to literary agents. Here’s the ‘hook’ from the query letter:

Himal Karki, a poor Nepalese farmer’s son, struggles to preserve his hope for a better future in this bittersweet tale of sacrifice and love, of reunion and redemption during a time of turmoil. THE FATE OF A MOTH, a literary novel complete at 93,000 words, takes the readers to a remarkable journey from a peaceful village to dark alleys of overcrowded cities, to Maoist camps in high hills, and back to the village.

As I wait for positive responses on my query letters (I admit I’m checking my email a lot more now, though I know it’s holiday time and too early to hear back from the agents), it’s now the time to begin working on my next book. Hopefully this waiting game will end (and soon too) on a positive note and the New Year will bring some new energy I desperately need to finish that second book.

Currently reading: Cutting For Stone
Next on the list: Every Last One