Tag Archives: Writers

VONA 2011: Orientation

Today was the first full day of my residency at VONA. There’s a lot I can write about, but as I’m trying to be on an internet diet this week, I’ll keep the posts brief. I’ll kick off the week of blogging with Orientation, which took place last night.

To give you some background, VONA is hosted this year at UC Berkeley. It is my first time on the west coast, and my first time living on a “real campus.” It is also the first time I’ve ever done anything solely for developing as a fiction writer.

Here are the highlights (and some low-lights) from Orientation:

  • 94 writers of colors
  • My nations are Peru, Brooklyn, bellydance and writer.
  • My ancestors are telling me “abre la puerta.”
  • People named “Juan” like to be called “Al.”
  • There are lots of Brooklyn writers in Berkeley right now.
  • Junot Díaz is the kid that grew up on my block and the kid that mentored me in law school.
  • Evelina’s last name is pronounced “Ga” like the Lady and “lung” like the organ.
  • I’d like to go clubbing with ZZ Packer.
  • David Mura is zen incarnate.
  • I really hope Diem Jones has a lucrative side-career as a voice-over artist.
  • Stern Hall reminds me of a creepy 1980s summer camp. I’m expecting Jason to come out of the woods at any second.
  • Communal bathrooms aren’t that bad.
  • Walking up a hill is good for your calves and poto.
  • Everyone is trying not to be a lawyer.
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UPDATE: Advice from Lawyers-turned-Writers

I recently wrote a post on a NYC Bar event on parenting, writing, and “having it all.” I zeroed in on the advice for writers, but now you can watch portions of the panel discussion on Youtube! It is chock-full of insight on not only writing, but juggling a career and family responsibilities.

Part 1: 

Part 2: 

Part 3: 


Advice from Lawyers-turned-Writers

Last night, the New York City Bar Association hosted a panel discussion on lawyering and parenting in the age of “having it all.” The panelists were lawyers-turned-writers: Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother“; Emily Bazelon, senior research scholar at Yale and senior editor at Slate; and Julie Buxbaum, author of “The Opposite of Love” andAfter You.”

It was interesting to hear both their perspectives on parenting and their insights on writing. Here are some tips I was able to jot down:

  • Write FirstThe first thing you do when you wake up is write. Although writers are creatively productive at different times of the day, it might be harder to carve out time to write when we become parents or advance in our day jobs. One panelist suggested writing first thing in the morning.  If that means getting up at 5:30 am, so be it. Otherwise you might find yourself scrambling for time to write, or simply lacking the energy to hit the keyboard. I tend to be more productive at night, but will give this a try starting tomorrow.
  • Be Selective: Choose the things we really want to do well, then let ourselves off the hook for everything else. There’s no way you can be great at everything. Focus on the two or three areas of your life where you really want to do well, and let yourself slide for the others. For example, you can focus on your children and work on your craft, and perhaps not focus as intensely on being a faster runner. I think you can also apply this on a micro level: focus on one or two writing projects at a time and do them well.
  • No Email/Social Media: Write first – check email and social media later. In an earlier post, I suggested limiting email and social media to once or twice a day. The panelists suggested no email or social media before or while you write.  One of them uses Freedom, a program that blocks the Internet, to ensure she isn’t tempted to go online when she writes. I signed up for a free trial today. Blocking the internet means less time socializing online, but it also means you cannot research, use the thesaurus, etc. while you write.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it forces me to focus on writing and leave the researching/editing for another time.
  • Don’t quit your day job:  One panelist did quit her job cold-turkey to write, but success is not just about talent – it’s about luck, too. She gave the aspiring novelists in the room a reality check: there are many unsuccessful writers out there, and sometimes this has nothing to do with talent; sometimes, the manuscript falls in the right hands at the right time.  While she took a chance and quit her job, she wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. This piece of advice is a little too late for me – I did quit my day job to hopefully find another that offers a more manageable schedule. The reality is that had I stayed, there was no way I could have focused on even my own health, let alone writing.

I’m glad I could share some of their insight, and hope it was helpful. Do you have any tips from writers? Please share them! Happy writing.


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