Earlier today I was feeling super nervous about an interview I have. My heart was beating fast and I couldn’t concentrate. It was the same feeling I get after breaking up or being in trouble. It was a fight or flight feeling, and how I felt whenever I was in the classroom and things were out of control.

It is the worst feeling of my life. When I feel that way for prolonged periods, I get physically sick.

But I had a mock interview with an old friend, and after that I felt a lot better and freer. I realized there are things I can do to prepare, but ultimately interviews are not only about who can do the job, but who they want to work with every day.

Once I realized that, I came upon these other conclusions:

The person I’m best at being is myself.

I can’t adopt a new personality in order to get a job. When I do, I’m not going to do a very good job because the job would be a poor fit for me. I can only present the best me and hope that the employer likes that person. But it is never a winning idea to try to be someone else, BECAUSE EVENTUALLY YOU HAVE TO BE YOURSELF!

Life goes on whether I get this job or not.

Even though it is an incredible opportunity, I’m not going to become a different or better person if I get this job. And even if I don’t, life goes on. It’s not the last interview I will ever go on, and it’s not the only job in the world. It’s not even the only job in publishing or in the company. I can reframe the interview as something that can only help me because there is nothing to lose

An interview is a chance to see if you’d work well together.

When I was interviewing and just desperate for jobs in the past, I always thought I had to impress the interviewer. But now that I’ve landed myself in some truly miserable and poor fit jobs, I realized that an interview is not only about winning the employer over, but about finding if you’d be a good addition to a team. In that case, it truly is a two way street! At this point in my life, I am looking for a place where I belong too.

Looking for a job is an extremely ordinary thing.

My parents always make it seem like I’m in trouble or something is TERRIBLY WRONG with me/my life/my fate when I’m looking for a job, but job hunting is actually extremely mundane. Millions of people all over the world, every day, are looking for work. They include students applying for residency, migrant workers looking for their next seasonal job, artists looking for their next gig, career changers looking for entry level jobs. It can happen in one day or it might take months to a year, and one thing I realized is that there’s no hack to it. (If there were, there would be no unemployment.) Unless you have extraordinary skills or connections, job hunting is just the pain that it is. Embracing that has been freeing. I’m still responsible for APPLYING and INTERVIEWING for jobs, but I’m no longer responsible for GETTING a job because that doesn’t have on my end. Only an employer can hire me. 

When you think it’s in your power to win a job, that only leads to misery and a lot of frustration (AKA feeling like a loser and wondering what’s wrong with you)

Be proud of your history and who you are. 

Having said all that, I think one way to embrace the job hunting process is to be proud of who you are. I think the hardest job hunt I had was after college because I had no work experience. I simply had nothing to talk about. But now, I have SO much to talk about because all those things really happened to me, and I don’t have to make up stories. I can wear my failures as badges of honor and signs that I have worked and lived life.

Probably my biggest takeaway from all of this is to embrace the process and not fight it. Also, be yourself and know yourself well! Job hunting is a way to bring your skills to a place where they’ll be put to good use. It’s really about alignment rather than winning.


Job Interviews!

How to Answer ‘Why Are You Interested in This Position?’ in a Job Interview

  1. Your answer must reflect an accurate understanding of the job. When that doesn’t happen, it’s usually because the person has talked about how excited they are to do X, when X is only a tiny portion of the job, or not likely to be part of it at all.

  2. Employers appreciate when people are excited about the company, but they generally want to hire people who are invested in and enthusiastic about the job they’ll actually be doing.
  3. Typically, a good answer to “why does this job interest you?” will not only explain what appeals to you about the job, but also explain how it fits in with your career path. That’s especially true if the job is very different from roles you’ve had in the past, in a new field, or a sideways or downward move.
  4. Your interviewer wants to make sure that you’ll be satisfied doing this job for at least the next couple of years. If you sound like you’ll be itching to move on quickly, that’s a negative.
  5. Does it use skills you’ve spent time building? Try to imagine someone who really does love the job and what they might be responding to about it, and think about whether any of that resonates with you.

How to Answer ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ in a Job Interview

Interviewers who ask this question are generally looking to get a broad overview of how you see yourself as a professional.

A good answer will summarize where you are in your career, note anything distinctive about how you approach your work, and end with a bit about what you’re looking for next.

“I originally got into ____ because I really wanted to work with ____. Pretty early on, I found that my ___ background was especially helpful in being able to ___. I love being able to ___. For example, last year I (accomplished) by doing ___. I’m excited about this role because it would let me continue to use my ___ background while ___.”

Don’t drag yourself.

“What are you currently working on improving on, and how are you going about it?”

“I used to be ___, and now I’m ___ by doing ___.”

They’re looking for a short explanation that makes sense and doesn’t raise red flags about your professionalism or ability to get along with others.

When you talk about challenging pieces of your current and past jobs, do you sound intrigued/excited/driven by the prospect of solving problems and accomplishing something? Or do you sound more like you’ve chosen to just stick to the bare minimum?

“The role turned out to be ___, and I found that I really missed working with ___.”

What do your former managers and co-workers say about you?

How to Prepare for an Interview: The Ultimate Guide

The more you can think of an interview  as a collaborative business meeting where you and your interviewer are both trying to figure out if it makes sense to work together —  the less nervous you’ll probably feel.

“The culture of a company is really important to me, and I realized I wanted to work somewhere that’s more team-focused with more opportunities to collaborate. Not only do I get a lot of satisfaction from that on a personal level, but I also think it generally makes the work stronger as well.”

10 Impressive Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

“How will you measure the success of the person in this position?”

“What are you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year?”

“How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to really thrive here, and what type don’t do as well?”

“What do you like about working here?”

 “What’s your timeline for next steps?”

Your goal is just to give a good interview that shows why you’d excel at the job and what you’d be like to work with day to day.

YA girls, figure skating, and police brutality

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

First, what a beautiful cover! This book has been on my list for a while, and I was happy to finally read it. It pairs nicely with Ahimsa. It’s a little bit simplified, but it does tell the story of slavery and how it can happen TODAY, in the age of cellphones. (In the story, Amal’s owner takes her cellphone away so she has no connection to the outer world.) I am really glad that there is an opportunity for South Asian authors and artists to tell their stories now, especially in the kidlit world.

Spinning by Tillie Walden

This is a graphic novel memoir about figure skating, but it’s really about growing up and being unsure of who you are. Tillie Walden grew up figure skating and it was a huge part of her life, before and after school. The part that resonated with me the most was how ambivalent Tillie was throughout the whole thing–both toward skating and toward life. That is how I felt a lot, basically most of my life. There are a few brief periods in my life when I felt very passionate and present in life, but I’ve more often felt like life was something to be endured rather celebrated. The book ends with Tillie feeling apathetic and quitting figure skating, but we don’t find out what happens next. In the end note, Tillie talks about how Spinning didn’t necessarily have a point–it’s based entirely on her memory and she purposely did NOT do research by revisintg her old skating rinks. It was a way for her to process her childhood and teenage years.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

This book is a poem. It’s about police brutality and the African American boys (truly, they are boys) killed by White police officers. The ghost of Emmett Till visits the protagonist, Jerome, and Jerome really doesn’t know why. The most powerful part of this book is probably making the reader see that they are BOYS. They are not adults, they are boys who are confused and scared. They are not perfect or brave boys. Yet the police feared them, whether it is real fear or an excuse. Rhodes made it really clear that this is not a book attacking law enforcement–it is a book to call us to do better, and there are opportunities every one of us, including police officers, the children of police officers, bystanders, citizens, to do better. Thank you Jewell Parker Rhodes for writing this book.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

Oh my gosh, this book blew me away. People have said that the best art begs to come out, and the artist is just the medium. When I was reading this book, I certainly felt like the story of Julia and Olga was begging to be told, and Erika L. Sanchez was the only person who could have told it. Julia, the protagonist, is rude and obnoxious and decidedly imperfect. Her dead sister, Olga, was the obedient and perfect Mexican daughter, who was having an affair with her boss. (BTW, I think her boss was a predator.) I could feel Julia’s desperation and the way she wants so much out of life, but is limited by the circumstances. I really felt like I knew Julia and Olga, and I loved both of them?! Thank you for giving us the deepest dive into a Mexican teenager’s life, author.

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

I have not read this year, but will come back to it!

Politics and self-care

There have been so many disturbing attacks on the humanity of our country. It has been going on for the past three years, but it feels like we are in a full-blown attack on Latino immigrants. Scarily, we are on the verge of fascism.

Prior to the 2016 election, I always thought that fascism and the KKK existed in the past. It’s history, it couldn’t possibly happen again. Not after Barack Obama has been elected. Not in the age of social media and smart phones. It’s just inconceivanle that there could be another Hitler. That we would regress to the Jim Crow era. That a known rapist could become the Supreme Court judge. That children would be put into cages.

It’s super disheartening and I don’t know whether to mute it all so I don’t know. For a long time I ignored all of it because I was in survival mode, and I didn’t need to know anything else terrible. But now, I cannot imagine ignoring it. Politics has to do with all of us.

There have been so many attacks–on teen girls, children, immigrants, brown folks, parents–perpetrated by white supremacists. With every awful act that goes unpunished, unrecognized, or unnoticed, a more awful act is allowed to happen. I don’t know how much more awful it can get.

How do we empower ourselves? That is the question I’m always asking. What can we do? Are things even more hopeless than we think, or is there a way to pull it around? What does that look like?

I do not have the answer but I’m going to find out what I can. The ways I’m going to attempt that is by:

  1. Bringing peace and conflict resolution in my micro-community
  2. Bear witness to the more global things happening around me–whether it is a car accident, a shooting, or
  3. Be intentional in the workplace and recognize biases.

Some more on this topic:

“This Land Is Our Land” is the Manifesto We Need at a Time When Immigration is Being Criminalized

Club Thrive: 2016 Election

What if courts treated young sex trafficking victims like Cyntoia Brown as People, Not Perpetrators?

‘I’ve Got Nothing Over here’: Michigan Man Deported By ICE Dies in Baghdad

Introducing #kidlit4gunsense

Realistic and diverse YA

I am so thankful that these books exist. They tell specifict stories and break stereotypes not because the characters do the opposite of what we expect them to, but because they are nuanced and have so many aspects to themselves. I think we are starting to see that minority characters are here not to make a book diverse, but that they can have full range in their own right. The characters in each of these books is flawed, complex, privileged in some way, and most of all, they are fighting internal battles. All of the struggles compounded to make the stories here very powerful, heartbreaking, but also more realistic.

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar

I loved this book about resistance. It’s set in 1940s India, a time when Indians were fighting for independence from the British as well as fighting internally between Hindus and Muslims. They are also acknowledging the inequality within Indian society, namely the Untouchables, a group that can never change their fate. It was interesting that the main character is super privileged, a Brahmin girl, and she had to acknowledge that her savior attitude was actually harmful to the people she was trying to help. It was very honest the way Anjali was called out for calling the Untouchables “God’s children”–the term was dishonest and in fact, insulting. They preferred to be called the Oppressed, or Dalits. Only when we acknowledge things for what they are can we begin to make changes. Ahimsa can be used to introduce kids to activism and talk about how to check your privilege and the angle you are coming from, as well as recognize intent vs. impact.

After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

Oh my gosh, this was such a powerful book. This book is NOT reductive and you won’t find black/white conflicts. Rather, you will see the ways that varying opportunities and privileges strain relationships within the African-American community. Every character here is different: Bunny, the talened basketball star with promises of going pro; Keyona, the girlfriend who is grounded and sensible; Wallace, the orphan who has been abandoned by every one; and Nasir, Bunny’s best friend and Wallace’s cousin who is torn in the middle of it. None of these characters are perfect or token anything and I think that is the best thing about this book.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

My first thought reading this was “How does the author know so much about us?” It does have the same narrative vibe as Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Gilbert writes about high school life in Cupertino, CA and it was just spot-on in describing the Asian American high school experience. Students are ultra-stressed and there is tremendous pressure to excel academically. College admissions is such a huge part of life and it affects social life and all your high school relationships. It resonated with me so much that I felt like I knew these people. I knew Regina, and Harry, and Danny. The best thing about this book is that it is not only about Asian Americans OR queer friendships, but also about immigration status, mental health, and teen challenges. It is one of my favorite books because it does such a good job of describing the uncertainties of life and how nothing is as it seems.

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

One conversation that’s been going on is that diverse books should not only feature the struggle of minorities, but also allow them to have joy and the full range of emotions and experiences that protagonists usually do. Taja, the main character in this book, is a good example of that. She experiences doubt about going her religion, loses her virginity, breaks up with her boyfriend, and applies to college. She doesn’t find herself in extraordinary situations, but her story is still worth telling because many teens do experience those exact same things.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

I still have to finish this. Really glad that these YA characters are multi-dimensional and not limited to their tragedies or their one strength. ❤

Writing and editing

  • Deciding to acquire a book is a gamble
  • Agents act as filters and they manage writers’ careers
  • It’s a very slow and long career full of hits as well as misses
  • It’s not a huge moneymaking business; you will need a second job
  • It costs A LOT to make a book and it’s a long before the books makes any money
  • Editing is diagnosing a book’s problems and writing a prescription to make it better
  • Finding the book a home is kind of a matchmaking business
  • Think of editing as developing a manuscript into its best form
  • There are a lot of criteria to consider in acquisitions
  • Readers’ reports offer a synopsis and your recommendation
  • One good part of the job is that you meet smart and interesting authors!
  • It’s a very social job in an industry full of introverts
  • There are so many variables: social trends, current events, and saturation
  • Having a mentor would be really helpful because it’s so hard to get into this field
  • Sandra Bond, literary agent, said she likes it after getting into the field at 45 and knowing her strengths

I feel like this field is very suitable for me and I am so, so glad I have found it! And I finally get what they mean when they say something “is a feature, not a bug.” The fact that I have a hard time, am patient, and have a heart is a feature, not a bug. When I heard Cory speak today it made me realize that I can let go of assigning judgment and qualities to certain jobs. As recent as a year ago, I felt that teachers had to be the greatest human beings ever because they had to be firm, fair, consistent, and kind of be an infallible person. But today, I heard someone I admire speak, and I thought to myself, she would not have thrived in a classroom. Nonetheless, she is so good at her job!!!!! I think I am starting to let go of using “teacher” as a marker for greatness. This is probably a great thing for my mental health and I will be talking to Dr. Won about that! I am really reall glad to start to accept myself INCLUDING my imperfections and I realized there is actually a lot wrong with me and that’s okay. I love my past self too even though I often felt that I *should* be more ____ or less ___,

My shadow self is becoming my outside self. My flaws are features, not bugs.

  • Feeling anxious helps me relate to other anxious people.
  • Being calm and passive helps me observe different situations.
  • Having struggled helps me be more mature and relate to other people,
  • In terms of guys, I like who I like and am not ashamed of it even if they dump me.
  • I love how I try to include every one even if people don’t include me.
  • I have a lot of insecurities because I’m human <3.
  • I like how I get myself into good trouble.

When I love myself, it doesn’t mean I will never feel bad. In fact, I have the same insecurities that I had before. It means that it matters less whether people approve of me or not.

Summer recipes & feelings

* I love Babble, this website for parents that is no longer being updated. I always loved their DIY and food section. I’m not a hipster parent but their style totally speaks to me. Someday, I will live out the Babble life! Here are some recipes for the summer / light meals.

Gyoza dumplings & miso eggplant

Huevos rancheros

Fruit rainbow rolls

Buffalo cauliflower

Roasted cauliflower recipes

Watermelon salad

*Current feelings: I feel unmoored. To be honest, I have avoided the news a lot from 2016-2018 because I was in survival mode pretty much the entire time. Now that I have learned how awful things really are out there, I feel anxious and helpless–what can we do? I used to think politics had nothing to do with me, and no matter who was elected president or who was in power, my life would stay the same. After all, I’m not the people they’re making laws about or targeting.

When I got out of survival mode earlier this year, I learned that politics has everything to do with our lives. No one can avoid it. Racism, sexism, and victim blaming are real and the fact that I didn’t notice it means that it is so deeply ingrained that I accept it as normal.

Beliefs to unlearn:

-It’s the victim’s responsibility to deal with it or change so it doesn’t happen to them. The perpetrator is a given, even if they are wrong.

-If only you had done ___ instead of ___, the bad thing would not have happened to you.

-Success is earned. If I’m not successful, I must have made the wrong decisions or been deficient.

-Sexism look like a bad evil guy. The scary thing about sexism is that you can’t really tell who your allies and perpetrators are. Women and men can both enforce the patriarchy.

-Racism does not always look and sound like racial slurs or segregation signs. It can be subtle but all the more evil because it means people do not think they are being racist. Also, even though you are already the victim, the perpetrators are taking away the grounds for you to fight by saying that racism doesn’t exist.

Some ways that I’ve been motivated/inspired:

-Journalists who are doing amazing work and exposing what has been hidden for so long. I want to think like a journalist and observe everything as well!!!!

-Be more vocal and learn about issues that concern women, such as menstruation, career ceilings, family live, management, and the messages we send to adolescent girls.

-Continue staying in the loop about education and kidlit! I really do believe that little people grow up to be big people, and it’s all of our responsibilities to make sure that we help them be good.

-Sometimes, you don’t want to follow the law. You want to do better than the law. Law and ethics are not always the same, and in fact, laws can totally be tools for evil.

-Be present and take care of myself so that I can fight the good fight longer. 💛💪 This is probably my biggest takeway. If I want to work for good and live a happy, supportive life, I need to be strong and healthy emotionally, mentally and physically. This means taking the best care of myself, such as eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, drinking water, pushing out of my comfort zone, and going to therapy.

*Last feelings: It gives me faith that even if I am far away, time and distance wise, the people that matter to me will never disappear. For example, I was talking to Judith, my middle school stand partner today!!!!! It’s been 18 years!!!!!! This gives me hope that even if I do not talk to or even see someone for a long time, they are still in my life. I fear erasure or disappearing. But it doesn’t have to happen. I picked up viola again this year after not playing for 10+ years and it feels like a way to honor my connection to Dr. Little, even though I was a terrible student at the time. Being here, in a different state, is like a trial run for when I live on my own. Will I be able to make connections? In what ways will I honor people like Suzana, Carrie, Elaine, and my mentors? How will I keep the connection to my friends alive, such as Shirley, Britney, Coryell, Maki, Sophie, Claudia, and Floey? How will I make room for new connections?

My takeaway is that I don’t make meaning based on where I live, what city I am in, or even necessarily what job I have, although all those have serious effects and consequences. I make meaning based on how I spin my past lives into something beautiful and apply the lessons I’ve learned from people. I can tell this is going to be an emotionally challenging month so I will be documenting. ❤

YA fever

For the month of June, I decided to branch out and read what I normally don’t read. This includes romance, contemporary YA, and mysteries! I have always wanted to read those genres but as a creature of comfort, it was easy to pick out the realistic and fantasy books I normally read.

Trying something different is good!

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds – What a wonderful debut!!!! This is much more than a teen romance. I love the time loops and the concept of this book is hard to pull off, but Justin did it and we wanted to follow Jack King wherever time takes him. I love Kate, and Franny and Jillian. My favorite thing about this book is that it could’ve become so many tropes and other things, such as winding into a large cast or become gimmicky, but it didn’t. The author showed a lot of restraint and the plotting was A+.

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi -I did not finish this because although the cover and premise are very promising, and looks like a very fun, teen romance read, the writing was not my style. Teen speak is tricky to master and too much of it is usually not a good thing.

Just South of Home by Karen A. Strong – The cool thing about this is that I follow the author on Twitter for a while before I was able to read the book! It’s so cool to know authors as real people who have emotions and witness the work they put in in order to make a book come to life. This was a good MG ghost story! I think ghost stories and horror are going to be the next big thing in kidlit and YA. It’s a way to deal with mature themes, and it’s totally appropriate and respectful too. I loved responsible protagonist Sarah, city girl Janie, cute Elis and mature Jasper. Really nice reading a debut and I can’t wait for Karen’s sophomore novel. Hopefully it will be another ghost story!

Miraculous Miranda by Siobhan Parkinson – This is kid speak done right! I loved Miranda and her fantasies, and I’m always a fan of Harriet the Spy-esque characters. Kids who are cynical and kind of battling life in their own snarky way, with really spot-on observations. Miranda reminds me of Ray from Uptown Girls. You will never catch them being hurt or sad, but inside their steely and sharp wit is vulnerability and fierce hope. I love characters like Miranda.

The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristen Levine – I love books composed of letters, e-mails, other documents, and look like a scrapbook. I did not love Claudia’s dad because what he did was so irresponsible, but I loved Claudia and her friend’s determination to get to the bottom of it. The format of this book reminds me that I would really love books about local history, consisting of documents, yearbooks, photographs, and letters!

What stories catch your eye this summer?

YA fever pt. 1

If I had to pick a genre for everyone to read (because I’m a dictator), I would pick YA. Young Adult themes are universal because whose life isn’t in flux?? And who doesn’t relate to life being out of control, learning about yourself, and going on a journey? I think YA is all of those things and it appeals to kids, teenagers, young adults, and certainly adults.

It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy – This is a great book for teachers! It talks about the traditional consequences, such as detention, and looks at another way to deal with misbehavior, restorative justice. The kids thought that justice circles are touchy-feely and not going to work. I still have doubts about restorative justice but the most valuable part of it is that there are rarely just perpetrators and victims. Also, the victim is rarely the only one affected by the crime. When I was teaching and even now, I often think about what is the most effective way to handle misbehavior and injustice (whether perceived or real.) Because whether it happened, who did it, or who it happened to, is not really the question you want to be asking. You want to move forward and for people to feel right again. I love this book and I’m thankful that the author looked at a tricky problem that has no perfect solutions.

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas – I loved this book! It was so funny and really captures Newport Beach well. It’s relevant today because Islamophobia is still real, and a lot of racist still can’t find Iran on a map. I related to Cindy because she wants to feel American, but her life is not at ALL American. When you aren’t American, you don’t get “Dream big and make it happen.” It simply doesn’t work that way for you. (Even when you ARE American, it hardly works that way.) This book wasn’t just funny– it has a lot of heart and I highly enjoyed it. It’s great for fans of historical fiction, immigrant kids, and anyone who wants to laugh at the absurdities of living somewhere and belonging nowhere. Thank you Firoozeh Dumas for writing this very important book!

The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis – I enjoyed this book because it reminded me of The Lighting Queen by Laura Resau. Both have to do with Central America and mythology. I love how Micay doubted herself and felt worthless, but she found her calling and pursued it. I want to read more books about non-western mythology like this one. Not to sound dramatic but society really does make women feel like if they aren’t pretty, they are worthless, from a young age. It is WORK to unlearn that kind of thinking. Micay went on that journey and found that she could heal people. It’s important to find your strength, but it’s also important to know that even if you haven’t found what makes you special, your life is still worth living. ❤

Things That Surprise You  by Jennifer Maschari – Middle school is the worst and it takes a middle school teacher-author to capture all the minor pains that go on at home and at school when you are 12. My favorite character has to be Hector! He is so wonderful and a friend you want, though not necessarily the coolest or at first. Middle school is subtly or outright painful!

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo – She is sooo good at writing YA! Despite the characters’ questionable choices, her books are always so much fun to read. I really love all the K-drama references and how Desi took the tropes literally. I will read Maurene’s books because they remind me of the first YA books I ever read, back in the early 2000s when they were “teen lit.” AKA The Princess Diaries! I love that YA hits serious themes and has become so sophisticated, but sometimes it’s really nice to read a book for fun.

What do you love about YA?