Friday, May 31, 2013

APA Day in the Life: Julie Ju-Yeon Kang

We've reached the end of Asian Pacific American Month 2013! To wrap up, I've got A Day in the Life from one of my soul sisters, Julie Ju-Yeon Kang, creator of Geisha School Dropout and an amazing promoter of mental health awareness among Asian Americans. 

As a bonus, she also shares her very own Asian hottie: her Japanese-Missourian
husband :) 

Greetings!  I am Julie from Geisha School Dropout and Kimchi Mamas, and Sophia has asked me to document a typical day.  Even though my life is extremely repetitive and tedious, I just can't say no to a pretty face, so here is what a typical Tuesday looked like for me and my family (we collectively call ourselves The Mangs):

image from
6:15 am: Wake up to a wet nose nudging my arm.  The wet nose belongs to Margaret Thatcher Moo (Miss Moo if you're nasty), our family corgi.  Shuffle over to the glass door to let her out, then shuffle towards the living room to see that my husband (Tim) and son (Isaac) are already dressed for the day and working.  Gently wake up my daughter (Emi) and thank the gods, it is a meltdown-free morning.  Blearily make breakfast, pack snacks, perform last-second backpack checks.

image from
7:40: Walk to school.  May means jacaranda season in our neighborhood, and they line our streets, fragrant and defiantly lavender.  It's really quite a sight.

8:00-11:30: Run home and feverishly work for my dayjob.  I am a clinical programmer for a biotech consulting company in the Bay Area, but I work from home.  I've been working remotely for 5 years, and it's pretty sweet not having a commute, but I must confess it has really taken a toll on my grooming habits.

image from geishaschooldropout.typepad.com11:40: Pick up Emi from kindergarten.

11:45-1:00: This is our special just-us-girls time.  We eat lunch, draw pictures, read books, have tea parties, sometimes paint each other's nails.  I really look forward to this time, and I probably have more fun than Emi does.

1:00-4:00: My friend Sonya comes over to pick up my son and play with the kids while I again feverishly work for my dayjob for another chunk of time.  Sonya is my HAPA Mary Poppins.  Every working mom needs a Sonya.

image from geishaschooldropout.typepad.com4:00-5:00: Dance lessons.  This week was special because the kids got to try on their recital costumes!  Here is Emi's mini hip hop group modeling theirs.

image from geishaschooldropout.typepad.comimage from 5:00-6:00: Head over to Shoe City to purchase black Converses for aforementioned recital for both Isaac and Emi.  Discover that Isaac has graduated to adult shoe sizes!  Celebrate that fact with a mini photoshoot and promising never to make him order from the kids' menu again.

image from image from geishaschooldropout.typepad.com6:00-8:00: Happy birthday to Harabuji (Korean for grandpa)!  We celebrated my dad's 64th birthday with Korean BBQ and a bottle of Oban 14 year.  The kids made him a plaque to hang on his wall.  I swear, the man never ages.  I hope I inherited that from him.

8:30: Bedtime for Bonzos!  Then, my writing shift starts after I finish up some dayjob loose ends.

12:00: Sleep, perchance to dream.

Bonus hottie HAPA hubs:


Julie Kang was born in Seoul and traded her Korean language skills for a Valley Girl accent when her family settled in southern CA. Often described as "too big for the room," Julie brings shame upon her ancestors daily with her unconventional humor and potty mouth. She writes for Geisha School Dropout, her personal blog, and the Kimchi Mamas, a consortium of women raising Korean American children. She is a vocal advocate for work-life balance and lives in Long Beach with her husband and two children.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Be Awesome (Crazy Cat Lady): APA Month Interview with Paula Yoo

One of the hazards of being a writer is befriending more crazy cat ladies than I care to count. This one is so cool I went as her for Christmas (photo at end). 

I'm sharing her wisdom and enough cat craze to make you sneeze through the rest of APA Month. Please welcome my safety-school graduate friend, author and TV writer Paula Yoo!

photo credit: Sonya Sones
Paula Yoo is an award-winning children's book author/novelist and a TV writer/producer. Her YA novel Good Enough (HarperCollins, 2008) was a 2009 Honor Book of the Youth Literature of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Her other books include the IRA Notable non-fiction picture book Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story (Lee & Low Books, 2005) and Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story (Lee & Low Books, 2009), which also won the 2010 Carter G. Woodson Award from the National Council for the Social Studies. Her TV credits range from NBC's The West Wing to FOX's Tru Calling and SyFy's Eureka. She is also an honoree of the 2012 Writers Guild of America Feature Access Project competition in feature writing. Paula is a former journalist for The Seattle Times, The Detroit News, and PEOPLE magazine. She graduated with a B.A. cum laude in English from Yale University, an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, and an MFA in Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College, where she was the recipient of the Larry Levis Fellowship in Fiction. Paula's teaching experience includes teaching composition and English at Glendale Community College, creative writing at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, and she is also a certified K-12 substitute teacher in the Culver City Unified School District. When she’s not writing or playing with her three cats, Paula is a professional classical/rock violinist who has performed and recorded with bands like No Doubt, FUN, and the King Crimson tribute band The Great Deceivers.

1) So 80% of the time when I think of you, I think, "Why is Paula living such an amazing life?" But 20% of the time, I'm thinking, "Cats. So many cats." What's with the cats, Paula? 

PAULA: I was never an animal person until my first cat, Oreo, started visiting me. It was 2008. I was between TV writing jobs and writing at home. This dirty and clearly abandoned stray black and white cat kept visiting me every day around 10 AM outside my study (I had these sliding glass doors that led to the backyard from my study). It was kind of nice to have someone around to listen to me when I talked out loud about story problems and act beats. :) He visited me every day for about a month. I didn't have any pets, so I just fed him tuna and water. And then one day, he didn't show up. I immediately BURST into tears and walked for two miles around my neighborhood, looking for him. When I got home, he was waiting for me. Turns out he was just late! I immediately realized I had to adopt him, and Oreo has been with me since 2008. Beethoven and Charlotte joined us in 2010 when our cat sitter, who is also a surgery vet tech, called us after she had found these kittens born in a garage who needed a home. I had no idea I would turn into That Person Who Posts Way Too Many Cat Photos on Facebook and Twitter. My proudest achievement is not writing books and TV or playing the violin or graduating from college. My proudest achievement is being Crazy Cat Lady. P.S. Here is the youtube eHowPets "Warm and Fuzzy" series piece about me & my cats!

2) On your panel "Taming Tigers" for the Beyond the Bad & the Ugly Conference, we talked about the enormous pressure Asians, particularly from our generation, faced from our families to excel beyond our human capacities. Some of us, *ahem* you, have achieved those, and others of us still suffer the traumatic impact of this pressure (the rest of us). What can we do on a personal level to heal from this? Is there anything we can do on a cultural level?

PAULA: First of all, I think there's nothing wrong with having ambition and lofty goals. Working hard, being ambitious, wanting to be the best you can be… these are all wonderful, positive character traits that should be lauded in our country. BUT… as the saying goes, it's not about the end, it's about the JOURNEY. This needs to be emphasized more, especially in the Asian American community where culturally, a lot of Asian American young people are raised under enormous academic pressure and ridiculously high expectations. Being ambitious and competitive and wanting to "win" is fine, AS LONG AS YOU ALSO ARE GIVEN THE TOOLS TO LEARN HOW TO COPE WHEN YOU DO NOT "REACH" THOSE GOALS. You have to learn to treasure the journey itself. If I had never gotten a book published or never gotten staffed on a TV show, of course I'd be disappointed! I would totally cry and be upset! But after a good pity party, I'd get back on my feet, roll up my sleeves, and apply all that hard work and focus I had developed towards those goals and either try, try, try again OR apply these new work skills in a different direction that would be equally creatively satisfying. Everyone, whether or not we "achieve" our goals, needs to concentrate on also developing our COPING skills and learning how to think outside the box when life hands us lemons instead of lemonade. My favorite example is when one of my favorite Olympic heroes (aside from the great Dr. Sammy Lee), ice-skater Michelle Kwan, graciously and proudly told reporters that she did not "lose" the gold to Tara Lipinski, but that she had WON THE SILVER. So I guess on a personal and cultural level, I would encourage everyone to go for the gold but be grateful when you win the silver, and if you don't place at all, be proud of the journey itself.

3) Okay seriously, how did your life get so good? Writing for TV - how did that even happen?

PAULA: I love how you think my life is so good when I'm still between TV writing staff jobs and haven't sold another book yet and am dealing with a leaky roof. :) The problem with being a writer is that you constantly have to hustle. You can't rest on your laurels. Especially if you are writing professionally and it is your only source of income. BUT… even if you have a full-time NON-writing job and you are a Weekend Warrior Writer working feverishly on that novel or script in progress, you still have to keep writing because writing is like wine - it gets better and deeper and more complex over time. :) As for TV, I originally only wanted to be a novelist. That's all I ever did. I majored in English in college and got my M.S. in Journalism and my MFA in Creative Writing. I thought I would either be a journalist and novelist or a teacher and novelist. I accidentally fell into TV when a friend suggested I try out for the Warner Bros. TV Drama Writing Workshop. For fun, I wrote an ANGEL spec script and to my shock, I was accepted into the program in 2002. I was immediately hired on THE WEST WING (NBC) after the workshop ended, and it's been a crazy roller coaster adventure ever since. The learning curve was harder for me than other folks because I knew NOTHING about the TV industry and how it worked, so it took me a little longer to figure out the business as an outsider/civilian, but again, the journey has been worth it. I think writing for TV has helped me immensely when it comes to plot and structure for novels, and I think my novel writing geared me towards being a very strong character-driven screenwriter. It's like mixing peanut butter and chocolate together. :)

4) PLAYING VIOLIN FOR GRAMMY-DARLINGS fun. WTH!!!! Please enclose a photo. Where's my signed poster?

PAULA: When I'm not writing books or TV or playing with my three cats, I am a professional freelance musician. I've been playing the violin since kindergarten. Although I'm classically trained, I also play with a lot of rock, jazz, country and even bluegrass/Celtic fiddle bands. I've gone on tour with Arthur Lee of Love and Spiritualized and done gigs with everyone from No Doubt to Fun. And I'm in a King Crimson prog rock tribute band called The Great Deceivers.

As for FUN, I was contracted by a good friend to play in a string quartet for their November 2011 gig at the Troubadour. This was right before they blew up big! It was such a fun gig. We then were invited to record an all acoustic version of their biggest hits, plus a Van Morrison cover, for an iTunes Session at Capitol Records in September 2012. I wish I could have gotten you a signed poster but the recording session was a really intense 12-hour day. To compensate, I'm enclosing a couple pictures instead. :)

5) Help us fellow yellow sisters out. What are the top 3 Paula Yoo Tips for Yellow Sisters Who Want to Live a Fabulous Life?

PAULA: I too would like those tips because I love my life but I don't think it's fabulous yet. Remember, I have a leaky roof. Plus, despite my accessorized outfits and trademark red cat-eye glasses, I'm surprisingly messy and unorganized and our house looks like a college frat dorm on a Sunday morning. Seriously.

But as I too still strive for the Fabulous Life, my three tips are:
  1.  Work your ass off. 
  2. Remember to take breaks and relax/rest/recharge your batteries, otherwise you will burn out and won't be able to work your ass off. Repeat Steps 1 and 2.
  3. Corollary: When things fail and blow up in your face, you are allowed to cry and have a pity party before you repeat Steps 1 & 2. I know it sounds harsh and Spartan and draconian, but when I look back at my life, that's pretty much how I got here. Getting a book published or writing for a TV show is a privilege and an honor I do NOT take lightly. I take these jobs and books very seriously and treat them no differently than if I was a med school graduate trying to become a surgeon. Being a writer takes a lot of hard work and comes with a lot of heartbreak. Wow, this sounds really depressing. I sound like a Tiger Mom. Hmmmm…. :) 

So to end on a happier note, I would include Step No. 4 to a Fabulous Life.

 Step 4: Have fun. Seriously!

And as Paula Yoo:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

APA Month Blog Award

(Asian) Kristy Shen of the always fun (and Asian) Two Nerds. One Dream. has gifted (Asian) me with the Liebster award - thank you!!
  1. What's the dream? 
  2. the 7-figure book deal
  3. How are you going to make that dream happen? 
  4. Write my a** off
  5. What crazy awesome thing are you going to do when that dream comes true? 
  6. fly first-class to Taiwan to see Granny and stay at the Hyatt by 101
    photo credit

  7. Who is your favorite hero? 
  8. Babs Bunny
  9. Who is your favorite villain? 
  10. It's a Euro evil-off between Fassbender's Magneto and Cumberbatch's Khan, although my cult fav is, of course, Sheen's Aro
    photo credit
  11. Which one would you rather be? 
  12. hero - Asians have been the villains too long the history of entertainment. Plus I can't handle the pressure of being bad.
  13. What turns you on? 
  14. tattoos and a shaved head every. single. time.
  15. What turns you off? 
  16. screaming children and cigarette smoke
  17. What is your favorite curse word? 
  18. Only one? I'm a NYer for #!%^'s sake.
  19. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? 
  20. "You did it exactly the way I planned."
  21. What are you doing tomorrow, and more importantly, how are you planning on making it more awesome than what you're doing today?
I'm working and then FINALLY going to the weekly Lindy hop dance in town that I've missed all month due to random engagements and ailments (swollen toe, sore throat, writing workshop). Any day I get to dance is automatically more awesome.

Since I already bugged tagged more people than cared to answer in my last Liebster award, I'll just link you TO THAT POST.

Monday, May 13, 2013

APA Bachelor 2013: Nam Ho, Real-Life Water for Elephants

It's the feature I wait for all year: our bachelor for APA Month! Ladies get your hats ready to throw into the ring for your very own future animal-healer.

  1. Name: Nam Kim Ho
  2. Nickname: If food is involved, I’m guaranteed to get a “Nom Nom” thrown in my direction at least once.
  3. Age: 25
  4. Height: 5’10”
  5. Profession: Zoology student/Aspiring veterinarian
  6. Guys, girls, both, something in between? Girls
  7. Do you cry at movies? Armageddon. When the boy sees the “salesman” on the television and is told that the salesman is in fact his dad
  8. Security blanket you sleep with at night: Laptop with the brightness dimmed playing a podcast that I didn’t get a chance to finish the night before
  9. Boxers or Briefs: Boxer briefs, preferably something that comes in a 5-pack in the clearance section
  10. Instant turn-on: Sarcastic to a fault and/or a strong jawline
  11. Dealbreaker: Close-mindedness and lying
  12. Karaoke song of choice: Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer
  13. On a Friday night you'd prefer to: Sit around with some of my closest friends filling each other in on
    the past week’s events (Laughter, food,
     and drinks may be included)
  14. Last Friday you actually: Had the opportunity to meet some people that I’m going to spend my summer working alongside. Introducing myself to a group of strangers is something that I’ll never get used to, but will always enjoy
  15. Boba flavor of choice: Jasmine milk tea. Hot. No boba.

Hi, future wife.
Message to your future wife:
Hey. I want you to know that you’re my best friend. I think you’re fantastic. You have my unwavering trust, but please do not mistake that with gullibility. And I love you.

Bonus question!
What animal are you most like? Why? 
A turtle. I’m a very social creature, but I like having a shell to draw back into every once in awhile. 

You heard it here first, ladies! Nam is available for non-boba boba and animal stories. (He also has a cool tattoo he failed to mention, in MORSE CODE.) Drop me a line or leave some comment love for Nam below!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Asian Grandmother Power Campaign

As part of Tara Sophia Mohr's Grandmother Power Campaign I proudly bring you the bombest grandmother ever:

Why she makes me bow down crying "I'm not worthy":
  • Granny had 5 kids. 
  • Her husband had a stroke while my mom, the oldest, was still in high school, leaving them with only one functioning parent. The younger ones were still in elementary.
  • Grandpa died while mom was in college.
  • After singlehandedly raising all 5 of that generation, she came to America to raise my mom's kid. Me! Then went back to Taiwan to raise the other grandchildren. Omg I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
  • The funny thing is, when I asked her 2 years ago if she wanted that many kids she said, "Nope. Your grandfather did." 
  • Granny was a teenager during the Sino-Japan War and had to escape two times. When I asked her how long she walked - that's ON FOOT for you whippersnappers - she said, "One week."
  • One of those times she was hiding from the Japanese, tucked into a closet or some cramped space, and they snatched the guy in front of her. She was so small they missed her. So here I am today.
  • Years later, she stayed up late to alter a vest for my pubescent self who was convinced I had to look JUST RIGHT for school the next day. She was tired from cooking all day and could have said, "I walked for 7 days to survive and almost died; stop being a brat, you look fine." But she just quietly altered the vest. (Yes, I'm a horrible person. I still feel guilty about this, which is probably why I'm writing my penitence for the world to see.)
  • 4 years ago I got to see her again for the first time in over a decade and I told her the Mandarin equivalent of "I love you to death!" The Chinese of that generation don't say affectionate things too much. Her eyes filled with tears and she said, "That makes me very happy." It was my redemption.
Thank you grandma. I love you to death!

P.S. There's still time to join the campaign! Click the button above.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Asian Pacific American Month 2013!

APA Month sneaked up on me this year, like a ninja. Sooo sneaky.


It's been a good year for us - we came a long way from ninja jokes to a record number of Asian Pacific Islanders in national office, including the first Hindu-American in Congress.

Of course, I woke up today to another email from my mom criticizing my life choices and calling me a middle-aged woman, so in other ways, status quo.

Once again, this blog will go yellow for May, with Asian-Am hotties, recaps of conferences, interviews with writer-bloggers, and another bachelor to auction off (for free). This one's got a heart for animals, so get ready, ladies!

For now, here's a photo of the Asian that runs this blog:

with my current Amelie haircut


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