How Writing Saved My Life


Well, “saved my life” is a hyperbole.


1013067_10151515698409702_1351553181_nAfter living in Canada for 10+ years, my dad got a teaching job at a university in South Korea, so we (the family) followed him abroad. I knew a bit of Korean so my parents thought I could handle attending a Korean public highschool. YES, I was able to handle the all-Korean speaking environment. In fact, a great deal of my happiest memories are from the time I spent with my Korean highschool friends.

BUT, I wasn’t able to handle the workload. I’d study for hours and fail tests with grades ranging an average of 10%-30%. I once even got a ZERO on a multiple choice test. I soon gave up trying to study for every subject but my English class (this class made me feel super smart) and my Chinese-characters hanja class (only because that teacher would hit us for every character we got wrong. I probably had the most swollen hands at the end of each examination. Yup, those were the good old days…)

216701_5351059701_8537_nNaturally, my parents grew concerned about how much time I was wasting. School would start at 8AM and end officially at around 4PM, but without a legitimate excuse, all students had to remain at school self-studying until 11PM. Teachers would monitor the halls to make sure none of us escaped (though, when my friends and I did escape, we’d venture through the dark halls pretending to be secret agents, sneak out to buy snacks and then sneak back into the classroom before we were discovered).

So my parents worried: What was I doing with all the hours spent in classes if I’d given up learning from teachers? What was I doing with all the hours meant for self-studying if I wasn’t studying at all?

What was I doing?

I was writing most of the time.

I was writing plot outlines. And if I wasn’t plotting, I was writing chapters of a novel.

In other words, I was living the dream. I got to write for 10+ hours, during school, five days a week.


I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for novel-writing I’d have been psychologically worn-out. Writing added thrill and purpose to each day.

Writing gave me a much-needed confidence boost. Because of the language barrier, I ended up being overwhelmed by the thought of studying, giving up even before I tried. At one point, I began to think that I must actually be ‘stupid’. I filled pages of my journal with self-deprecation, ink smeared with angry and helpless tears.

Writing, however, gave me something to hold onto during these moments. I’d tell myself: my mind IS valuable. Why? Because my mind IS capable of creativity.

So THIS is the story I’d share if someone were to ask: How has writing been a therapeutic experience?



Aspiring-Author Interview #3: Jean Clement

FictionPress is a growing network of over 1 million writers/readers,
and home to over 1,200,000 original works.


Jean Clement
(Read her work on FP)

1. Tell us about yourself!

I am a first-year English student at the University of Southampton in the UK, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it – except for the fact that writing essays on other people’s books tend to get in the way of writing my own.

Becoming a published author has been my dream for many years. I’m still shaping my writing style, so I always have various different types of stories on hand, most of which (mercifully perhaps) end up being abandoned. I am a voracious reader, both because I enjoy it and because it helps me improve my own writing. Having a keen interest in modern history, my preference is for historical novels, although I will read practically anything which looks good. I love poetry, too, provided I am not required to analyse it.

Some of my other interests are music, art, film and drama, and going for rambles on Southampton Common when it’s sunny.

2. What is your novel about? (It can be a completed story, or the new story you’re currently working on–whichever is your biggest project that you want to draw attention to)

Mary Banks, subtitled ‘A Victorian Life’, is the story of an ordinary middle-class single woman in the mid-Victorian era, and her quiet and lonely struggle with the role society imposes on her. Her talents and intelligence cause her to want more out of life than a career as a governess in a country squire’s household can offer. A visit to London with her brother, catapulted to fame by a début novel, allows her to meet the authors she knows only through their writings, and shows her an alternative life, in the shape of her own writing career, and one of her literary idols and his young family. Yet every time she considers seizing her chance, a problem arises in her large family – and her sense of duty and responsibility persuades her that the only way to show her love is through self-sacrifice. My story explores the effect the two-faced, sanctimonious Victorian conception of a woman’s role must have had on many talented young women at the time.

3. What inspired you to write this story?

Funnily enough, an academic article. Two years ago, when I was in the midst of feverish research for a school essay about William Thackeray’s authorial manipulation of the reader’s sympathies, I happened upon an article by Richard A. Kaye: ‘A Good Woman on Five Thousand Pounds’. Centring on an apparently casual similarity between Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair, which came out in the same year, it described the literary rivalry between Thackeray, struggling to keep up the reputation he had built for himself, and Charlotte Brontë, his timid admirer whose début had taken London by storm. When Brontë visited London in the following year, she met Thackeray, and neither of them knew very well how to deal with the other, which led to some painful and some comic episodes. The article proved useless for my essay; but the curious relationship between two great literary names which it described gave me the idea for the main characters in this novel and their behaviour towards one another.

The rest of my story has simply grown out of this basis. I fed it by reading and re-reading the great Victorian novels I admire, and gradually resolved on making Mary Banks’s autobiography at once an homage to the era that shaped the modern novel, and to the ordinary women for whom this was simply a very difficult time in which to live.

4. Where are you in your journey to publication?

Nowhere much, I’m afraid. I’ve been a contributor to FictionPress for just over a year after trying out various other websites, but other than that I have made no attempt to explode my work onto the world as yet. I am learning a great deal from others going through the process at the moment, however: June kindly shares her experiences of publishing The Runaway Courtesan with me, and the contributions to Let the Words Flow have been extremely helpful. My own aim just now is to finish my manuscript, and redraft it until I’m satisfied – which will very probably take a while yet.

5. Your top five favorite books?

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – for its insight into human nature and its subtle wit

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – for the credible normality of its hero and heroine, and its lively yet courageous parody of the popular Gothic genre

White Teeth by Zadie Smith – for its almost Dickensian, big-hearted inclusion of all its different characters, no matter how flawed they are

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson and Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter – for their creative experimental narratives, exploring and challenging the boundaries between different genres of fiction

(Having said this, I am in honour bound to confess that not all my reading is this high-brow: I am a dedicated lover of the novels of Georgette Heyer. She taught me nearly all I know about the Regency, and the witty repartee of her spirited heroines has beguiled many of my evenings. My favourites are The Grand Sophy, The Unknown Ajax and Cotillion.)

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Aspiring-Author Interview #2: Rika Ashton

  FictionPress is a growing network of over 1 million writers/readers,
and home to over 1,200,000 original works.


(Read her stories on FP)

1. Tell us about yourself!

I’m a twenty-year-old aspiring author who refuses to tell anyone her real name. I wrote my first book at the age of seven, self-published it with illustrations and sold it to my sister for a quarter. I never thought I’d turn to writing as a career, in fact most recently went through a phase where I chose to brood and pose like Hamlet near windows, while loudly reciting “To write or not to write…”

2. What is your novel about?

As of now, I have two things to be proud of. Firstly, my first full-length novel, Masquerade, is complete. For those of you not familiar with it, here’s a synopsis:

Hidden secrets. A possible murder. Matchmaking grandmas. Scandalous, well, scandal. And last but not least, the romance of a lifetime. Let the masquerade begin!

Lucien Castello, a former student of Oxford and the heir to a weathly dukedom, has been ordered to commit the most grevious of deeds…GET MARRIED! To make matters worse someone has been sabotaging his secret empire. Really what’s a man to do?

Enter Jade…

She is Lucien’s every wish fulfilled and the perfect wife to boot…only she refuses to surrender her independence for anything! Jade knows that marrying Lucien would mean revealing the very secrets she has worked to hard to conceal, yet the young duke-to-be is proving far more persistent that she would have imagined.

And so the masquerade begins…

I had so much fun writing Masquerade and working with the characters of Lucien and Jade was a blast. I’m going to miss working with them as the focus of the story, but that hasn’t stopped me from looking forward to writing the sequel, Midnight Phantom.

But all that doesn’t start until my second biggest project is underway. So announcing…drum roll please…the first ever Regency ezine! I’m proud to say that the Regency Times, will be a free ezine available to anyone with an internet connection. It’ll feature fashion from the time, book reviews, interviews with aspiring authors, character interviews and more! This is great project that me and my editor, Illiana, cooked up when I announced that Damon would make a great cover model.

And don’t forget folks, you read it first on June’s blog!

3. What inspired you to write this story?

Masquerade was my answer to a reading dry spell. A few times while reading a book, I would get so disappointed by the way things were going that I would put it down and never pick it up again. Of course, this meant that I was rapidly running out of reading material. So I decided I should write my own book, one that would interest me enough to read till the end and one that wouldn’t disappoint. And, naturally, it had to be a comedy.

4. Where are you in your journey to publication?

Currently, I’m stuck in the dreaded querying process. Being the perfectionist that I am, I’ve written and rewritten my query letters a dozen times, now it’s a matter of getting them out to the literary agents.

5. Your top five favorite books?

Ah, the million dollar question. I would have to say that my favourite books, or for that matter any books that I like, would have to be the same ones that inspire me to write. Julia Quinn’s “How to Marry a Marquis”, Johanna Lindsey’s “The Magic of You”, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Dance With the Devil”, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, and J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” These books taught me that good books break conventions, have unlikely heroes and sometimes, bad guys are allowed to win!

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Aspiring-Author Interview #1: Priscilla Shay

  FictionPress is a growing network of over 1 million writers/readers,
and home to over 1,200,000 original works.



(Read her stories on FP)

1. Tell us about yourself!
About myself…hmm… Well, I’m nineteen, turning twenty at the end of the month. Currently, I’m in my second year of college, but I’m a junior. When I graduate I’d love to pursue a M.F.A. (Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing), but I also want to attend Sign Language school so I can become a certified American Sign Language Interpreter. I’m a mass of contradictions. I write romances, although I’ve never had or experienced one. (I don’t think I would ever approach my characters if they were real people.)

I want to be an author, but I’m afraid of being an adult.
I’m afraid of commitment, but also abandonment.
I like candy, but prefer chocolate.
I have many books; I’ve started building books cases out of them.
I like origami, knitting, drawing, baking, English, History.

And finally, my current motto: “Everyone’s going to have their happy ending even if I have to kill them!”

2. What is your novel about? (It can be a completed story, or the new story you’re currently working on–whichever is your biggest project)
Let’s see. For Willful Wisdom, this is the working summary I had:

“William Somerset, Lord Rawley is a spy for the Crown and as always, his latest mission was a success. His new assignment, however, has him in knots. A fellow spy, Grey, went undercover, but is now missing. The Crown believes Grey is either dead or a traitor; Will has to go in, complete the mission, find the missing agent, and save the Prince Regent. On top of all that, his father’s cousin dies, making him the Duke, he meets this random girl and he can’t explain his attraction to her, making an ass of himself whenever he is around her.

The girl he meets is Lady Sophia. She is a strong, intelligent, independent woman who doesn’t need a man in her life telling her what to do or where to go. But, unfortunately for her, everywhere she goes Will seems to be. He irritates her to no end, yet they seem to have a connection. Sophia is also a spy working for her country. She needs to find information, send it to her spymaster so he can utilize the information to save lives

But what will happen when they discover each other’s secrets? Will the unexplained attraction for each prevail or will the love for their country??”

But, it’s currently undergoing major revisions and there are many, many changes.

I wrote another Regency romance, “Listening to Love” that’s posted on my fictionpress account. It’s not a major project since I wrote it because I wanted to give NaNoWriMo a try (I failed, but managed to escape with a new story in the end). I’m especially fond of the plot and characters and the lack of awareness during the 1800s is intriguing. I’ll probably go back and revise it, but for now it’s on the back burner. The summary is on my blog as well as the link if anyone is interested.

3. What inspired you to write this story?
Inspiration, inspiration. It came from a very odd place. There’s a kid’s show “Liberty’s Kids”. It’s about the American Revolution told through the eyes of three children who worked for Benjamin Franklin as journalists/apprentices (all fictional of course). There was an episode where Franklin received a blank missive in the middle of the night from a harried courier. Everyone was wondering what it could say, when there was nothing on the page save for a fancy “F” in the top left hand corner. Franklin explained that there were secret methods to decipher the letter and the “F” was a clue to use fire. Her held the paper over a lit candle stick and voila! the words appeared on the page.

Naturally, I wanted to do it too! But, alas, mother always told me not to play with fire – which is how I ended up creating a code. Once I had to code, however, I needed something to do with it and here we are two years, 100K+ later.

4. Where are you in your journey to publication?
Currently, I’m in the revision stage of my first project and I hope to finish and start querying agents by the end of the semester. But, I’m also penning the second and third MS of the series…along with any other idea that pops into my head. For example, I created a new group of characters for a YA series I wanted to work on and then I realized, WW is set in 1814 England, but my new group exists prior to 1814…making them older than my ragtag group of spies. Then, I had another brainwave and somehow managed to connect everybody and work my YA characters into the Adult series (although, I’m still trying to grasp what exactly YA is.)

5. Your top five favorite books?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult
Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples
The Impostor by Celeste Bradley
Splendid by Suzanne Enoch
(For an ongoing list check “My Book List” on my blog)

*Side note: I’d love to write at least one novel in each time period, past to present, in my lifetime.

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Pop a bottle of Champagne for me!

 1) Agent#1 requested the complete manuscript of The Runaway Courtesan!

2) Right now I would very much like to write an obscene word, capitalized, to describe my intense frustration. But instead I’ll keep my post Rated G. Anyway, today I slapped my palm over my forehead and cried out: ARRRRGGGGGG! So here is the story behind the tragic outcry: I was so busy this week I wasn’t able to send the full manuscript requested by Agent#1 right away. But I finally found the time today and hence went to the internet cafe to print my manuscript out. I triple checked that everything was correctly formatted. But I must have done SOMETHING wrong, because as the elephant-of-a-manuscript began to print, I noticed that some of the chapter headings were not formatted with the required “8 spaces down from the top”—but sometimes 3—other times 20—other times 10. Seeing some of the chapter headings at the very bottom of a page broke my heart. I wondered whether the agent would mind receiving a manuscript with bizarre chapter formatting. My agented friends/interning agent friends on Let The Words Flow warned me against it. So, I must spend another 30 bucks to reprint my manuscript properly. I will look at this as an investment. But after the initial frustration wore away, I became excited again. Whether Agent#1 signs me on or not, after reading The Runaway Courtesan, the very opportunity she’s given me of sharing my work with her is an honour in itself.

3) Yes, that is the photo of my manuscript, doubled-spaced, 311 pages long. Polished like it never was before. And so this leads me into my next rant of the day. I actually COULD have sent the manuscript to the agent right away. But do you know what caused the delay? While I thought everything was perfect, which was why I sent the rewrite of my partial to Agent#1 in the first place, my editor Val reviewed the last three chapters of TRC and was unsatisfied with it. I was like: Noooooo, I don’t want to know this now! But I’m glad I decided revise one last time. It was only after I read her critiques that I was able to see these chapters not through the eyes of the Omnipotent Writer, but as the Reader. From CH24 I was emotionally detached from my characters as I wrote. And Val picked up on this indifference in the flatness of my writing. And when I reread it with her edits in mind I saw exactly what she meant. It’s amazing how you can tell whether or not a novelist has her heart in her writing.

In the days that followed, scrambling to ready the manuscript as soon as I could, I went through one of THE MOST intense round of revising. It was one of the most frustrating, yet satisfying experiences I ever had. My schedule for last Thursday, Friday, Monday and today went something like this:

9:00am to 12pm-Write

12pm to 12:30pm – Eat Lunch

12:30pm to 8:00pm – Write

8:00pm to 8:30pm – Eat Dinner

8:30pm to 5:00am – Write

Very unhealth, I never want to go through this again. But I HAD to work this intensely because I needed to send the manuscript off within this week. It wasn’t all that tiring while I was working on my writing. I was having an adrenaline rush. So time flew. Yet, at the same time, it was emotionally exhausting. Like I said, the issue my chapters were having was that it was not emotionally engaging enough. So in order to fix this up I really had to put myself into the story. And the thing is, from CH24, The Runaway Courtesan gets pretty dark, with all its high drama. So from 9am until around 5am I was constantly forcing myself into the minds of either: 1) a socially condemned heroine in need of redemption, or 2) a tormented hero whose soul has been crushed by the woman he loves. Now I remember why I was so detached while writing these chapters. I think after getting through the previous 24 chapters, what with the characters tossing me about the emotional rollercoaster, by the time I reached CH24—I was pooped— But I had to face up to it in the end. And now TRC is very complete at 86,000 words! I won’t be touched this story for the next several weeks because Agent#1 asked for an exclusive. This means I’m not allowed to query or send a partial/full of my manuscript to any other agent. I’m fine with that.

But then do you know what my editor says to me?–Go and work on my next book. *Faints* I think not, madam! However, I do have an idea for a new book. But it’s just too all over the place right now to begin writing. I need to develop it more. But I love the story idea, and it’s going to be another Regency noire. Now that’s all I’m going to say. Lips are sealed. I need time to get over TRC before I start a new book. Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles to start a new book! I’m somewhat intimidated. So much work was put into TRC I’m almost afraid I won’t be able to repeat this feat.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to my blog! It makes me very happy! *hint, hint*

P.S.S. Below is the soundtrack that got me through the last chapter of TRC. I’m also open for recomendations! I’d love to know what you guys are listening to while writing.