Sunday, May 31, 2015

Indian Car top Carrier

So much is going on in my life right now. It was report card weekend. I had research papers to grade, lesson plans to write. Like a broken record. That's about to end. Eight days left until school is out for the summer. And then I can concentrate on my writing with no distractions.

Except Facebook and Indian movies and getting lost online doing 'research'. I revised two picture books on the Punjab today. It made me want to go back. Sigh. I'd love to teach in the Punjab or anywhere in India. But it would be hard for Kent. And my family might miss me. Eight more days. And then I'll be Author Cathy.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bringing Amrit to America for a visit...

Is so much more difficult than I imagined. First of all, I thought that, as a natural-born citizen of the USA, I would have no problem hosting a visitor from any country in the world. Color me privileged and naïve - not a good combination.

From the minute we met, Amrit and I have been very close, as have Sandeep and myself. But Amrit and I would like to write a picture book together about the Rajasthani puppets. She has done extensive research on the craft of making the puppets, and I had an idea for a picture book while I was in Laroi for the wedding. We talked at great length about our collaboration, she sent me her research, and the rest should be easy. Should be...

For some reason, trying to get a visa for her to visit is more difficult than trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack. First, she said she needed a letter from me which I provided. But now she needs more - financial information and something to prove that we are going to be working on this project together. ARGH!

I have learned many things during this process. My greatest lesson is that Americans take much for granted. Certainly, I had to get a Visa to travel to India. But it was a simple matter of filling out paper work and sending in some money. I have other friends from India who live here who have not seen their families in over six years because the Visa process is so difficult.

Simply by an accident of birth, I am able to travel freely pretty much anywhere in the world. I truly feel, on this memorial day, that it is important to thank the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to give me so much freedom on so many different levels. Feeling blessed.

But missing my Amrit...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Straddling the Median

I've often been asked to describe what it feels like to mingle with the Punjabi culture and, if I'm being quite honest, I'm afraid to be completely honest. I mean, they are delightful, kind, generous people. But, when you venture outside of your culture, you never quite become a member of the other. You are always an outsider. It's hard. There is something inside of me that wants so badly to become a part of them. And I don't know all of the reasons. And I skirt this issue in my novel. But I need to come out with it and pray that I don't hurt the people whom I love so deeply.

Because I can see that it's not their fault. They did not ask me to become obsessed with them. They did not ask me to dress in their clothes or speak their language or try to cook their foods. And I can't begin to explain my desire to do so. On a very deep level, I feel like I am home when I am with them. Sometimes when I'm in a Punjabi gathering, I pray that God will suddenly allow me to understand Punjabi fluently so that I won't feel left out. But even when I feel left out, I'd rather be in their midst.

I'm writing this here in my blog so that I can remember to put it in my book. And as an explanation in case the book makes my exclusion by the Punjabi culture seem harsh. I realize it is my own doing - forcing myself into a group of people who never asked for my crazy gori presence. Still, it's hard when they don't ask me to sit with them at gurudwara or dance with them at the vasaikhi mela. Especially since my own 'people' look at me as an oddity for wanting something I'll never have. All I know is that, on some level, I am Punjabi and that it speaks to me. It has brought me to a rather lonely place. But it is who I am. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Mere naam Amandeep Kaur hai, te Punjabi passande hai.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Learning to Speak Desi

I'm having a difficult time with the rewrites of my latest work in progress. First, I'm running out of Punjabi words to use as titles. Secondly, I'm still wishing I could use Diljit songs, but he hasn't contacted me back giving  me permission. Finally, I don't want to work on the part that focuses on Julie before she goes to India. I want to keep reliving my trip and revise the India part. Sigh. The stuff written about her exploration of self in 'Merica is rough. I need a full day without interruption and a clear mind. Soon.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Author Website!

It's been interesting and a bit painful, but I finally have most of my website completed! The only thing missing is a link for published books and my testimonials from students.

I've had to work on it in the evenings while trying to grade papers and all. And, of course, it has held far more interest for me than my grading, etc. I need people to read it with a critical eye to make sure I haven't made any glaring grammatical or other errors. As with everything I do, I'm doing it while multitasking so I wasn't able to devote 100% of my attention to it. ARGH! Someday this will be my main focus. Soon???

Meanwhile, check it out:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Poopoo Platter

Aaja Bhangra Pa Laiye
Lyricist - Kumaar
Singers - Amrinder Gill, Diljit Dosanjh, Kunal Ganjawala, Navraj Hans, Sumitra Iyer, Simran Tripat, Lehmber Hussainpuri, Manak-E.

"Tenu Kothi vi pawadun,
Tenu Gaadi vi mangwadun
Teri sister de naal teri vi, Full full aish karadun
Saadi ikk waari setting ho laen de
Tension Nahi laini...
Tension Nahi laini.. Saliye, Aaja Bhangra Pa Laiye"

English Translation: "Come on, let's do bhangra."
I can never throw away anything. This (Aaja Bhangra Pa Laiye) was the Chapter Heading for the current chapter I'm rewriting in Leaving Home. Why is it here? In my blog? Each chapter of my WIP begins with a Punjabi phrase and image that are developed throughout the scene.
And, even though 'Saadi Love Story' no longer applies to the revised chapter, I can't part with it. Normally, I copy and paste all words I'm destroying and save them to a poopoo platter file in my computer. I realize that the actual term is 'Pu pu Platter'. However, the 12 year-old in me likes the humor in putting my rejected characters, scenes, and gems into a file named after fecal matter.
I was getting ready to file the above image and quote in said file when it hit me that I should share the painful process with other writers who may be able to empathize. I know they tell us to kill off the brother. And throw away the first three chapters. But do they realize that these gems were birthed without the aid of an epidural? This is natural childbirth right here. Suffice it to say, I probably have an entire hard drive filled with 'poopoo'. Yet I'm amazed at how many times I revisit it, in a panic, looking for an earlier scene or phrase I once used with a certain character. Yes, good fellows, my poopoo will live on.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gifts My Mommy Gave Me

Since this is a blog about writing. And this is also Mother's Day. I wanted to take a moment to tell you what my mother has taught me about writing.

She taught me that you should never give up on your dreams. Life is short and beautiful. God does not intend for us to be unhappy. If your dreams make you happy, then you should pursue them at all costs.

Whenever I did not have the resources- financial or emotional- for pursuing any of my dreams my mother would move heaven and earth to help me. She has never told me that I was stupid or unreasonable. When I told her I was an African American woman, she embraced me. When I decided to become Punjabi, she dressed in Salwar-Kameez and came to Vasaikhi Melas with me.

When I locked myself in my room to write, The Land of Sneezeitchrun, a sad tale of Allergy Sufferers, she read every word and told me it was wonderful. (It sucked.)

She sat in the front row of show choir performances, clapping her hand and smiling the widest smile, planned a multicultural 50th birthday party that rivaled many weddings, and planned my daughter's wedding because I don't have a left brain.

I could go on and on with tales of unfailing support, but she also taught me to be practical and work is calling. Mom, you know you are my heart and soul. Every good thing I am today is because of you. And, the fact that I dare to write in a world that has always told me I have no time and little talent, is completely because of you. Thanks for helping me build the castles.

Kitty Cat

The Pressure of Feeding Your Soul

I spent yesterday with my beautiful daughter and her husband, as well as the rest of my amazing family, celebrating her graduation from law school. Sadly, the demons in my head were constantly gnawing away at my contentment. What were the demons?

Lesson plans. Grading papers. Recording grades. Writing the newsletter.

These are the demons that plague me every waking hour of every day. People say, "Well, at least you have your summers off." But they don't know that summers are taken up with preparing curriculum for the next year.

Here is what I wanted to be doing:
Concentrating on what people were saying to me. Not worrying about the constant monkey on my back.

Today is Mother's Day. A beautiful, sunny day. There are many things that would feed my soul today: Having lunch with my amazing, wonderful mother. Going to gurudwara and see my peeps. My YA manuscript about the Punjab. My picture book about Rajasthani puppets. Unraveling the mysteries of my own author webpage. The manuscript in google docs that is awaiting my author profile.

Instead. What am I doing for Mother's Day?
Lesson plans. Grading papers. Recording grades. Writing the newsletter.

Do I hate my life? Decidedly, NOOOOO! Do I love my students? Unconditionally!

Am I having a difficult time right now with the problem of killing off demons, while trying to feed my soul? HEEECKKKKS yeah.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Pining for the Punjab

I'm working diligently on my rewrites for "Leaving Home: A Punjabi Love Story" and it's hard because it makes me miss the place so daggone much!!! And it's very difficult to explain when people ask why I'm so in love. After all, they ask, didn't you say that you were freezing cold the entire time you were there? Didn't you say that their homes had no central heat? Didn't you have to bathe by dipping cold water out of a bucket most days? And wear smelly, filthy clothing because I didn't want to hand wash my clothes in freezing cold water.

The answer is YES. And I didn't understand what people were saying to me most of the time. And I wasn't allowed to leave the house. And I was dragged around, at the mercy of the men who lived in the home.

So what do I miss? The smiles that reached the eyes. The hands clasped together, with a bow and a, "Sat sri akal." The full-bodied hugs from complete strangers. The food and drink 'forced' upon me every time I set foot in someone's home. The private jokes that needed no shared words. The new family members. The constant honking. The constant praying and singing and dancing and loud voices raised in joy, anger, sorrow...

Feeling alive and loved. Be patient with me while I try and acclimate to my former world. After all, I am no longer my former self.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Secret Agent

Well...not really a secret! I've signed with Jodell Sadler at Sadler Children's Literary Agency!!!
I'm hoping she'll keep me very busy. I'm going to try and get on here more often than once a year. Suffice it to say that finishing up a school year, trying to finish a novel, packing up a home, and preparing the new SCBWI-MI mentorship should be enough to keep most people busy. Most people are not me...
Stay tuned!