Friday, January 19, 2007

What's in a name?

I've had this post partially written for a few months now, but when someone drew my attention to this post and others I thought it would be timely to finish it--although I'm not really writing about the same thing.

When I was little, I hated my name. It was unusual, and people always pronounced it wrong: Al-VINE-a, or Alvin, or Alvinia, etc. (It's pronounced Al-VEE-na) And since I was already struggling with being an Asian American growing up in mostly white communities, it was just another thing to make me different. I always wished my name was Amy, or Alicia, or Allison (always names starting with "A" of course...). Of course, now I love my name. There are tons of Amys in the world, not that many Alvinas, and now that I'm comfortable with who I am, I'm comfortable fitting in my name as well.

My parents picked my name out of a baby name book. They had narrowed my name down to two choices: Alvina and Melody (which is why Grace changes my character's name in Year of the Dog to "Melody"). They ended up going with "Alvina" because they thought it was a beautiful name, and they also liked the meaning of it. In the book they had, it meant "Beloved by all." Nice, right? But part of me wonders, what's in a name?

When I worked at B&N as a bookseller, one of my coworkers got into a book called The Name Book by Pierre Le Rouzie (I think it's OP now--but I actually ended up buying it and still have my copy). This was one of those personality or astrology-type books, but this one explored "the ancestry of names and reveals how names define our personality." Part of the author's note says this:
a name can change an individual, and can affect one's personality and, to a certain extent, destiny. This helps us understand what at first seems unbelievable--that names can have a direct influence on people.
I don't really trust this book, because I'm skeptical about all personality predictors partially due to a story Grace told me about how in high school her class sent handwriting samples to a company to get a personality analysis back, and when the results came in the teacher passed them out and asked everyone how accurately they thought the results reflected their personalities, and almost everyone thought they were pretty accurate, and then the teacher revealed the everyone had received the exact same results.
But still, this book got me thinking. As we've found in Libby's post on names and faces, I think many people expect a certain type of person to go with their name. For example, I certainly get a picture in my head if someone's name is "Candy" versus "Katherine." And then there's the way people make their name fit--take the name "Jennifer." There are people who never ever ever want to be called "Jenny," whereas for some people it fits. I think people must sense subconsciously the expectations of the people around them, and expectations they have of themselves.

I've known my whole life that my parents named me because of the meaning of my name. Beloved by all. And not to say that I actually AM beloved by all, but I wonder if the fact that I grew up wanting to please everyone, wanting to be liked by everyone, is in part because I wanted to live up to the meaning of my name. Sure, to a certain extent it's just human nature to want to be liked by everyone, but sometimes I felt that the feeling was stronger for me, that my actions were more motivated by this than other's were. When I tell people what my name means, they think it's nice, some people say it's fitting. I know I'm not really beloved by all. I've had a few people I've known throughout my life who have actively disliked me, and I think that hurt me more than it might have hurt other people. I cared too much.

After googling myself last year, I came across a blog with the picture above. Could there be another person with both my first and last name in the world? As it turns out, yes. She's a teenager in Singapore, and she has a blog, too. Her email was listed, so I emailed her a while ago just to say hi. She pronounces her name the same way I do. I wonder if our personalities are similar at all. I wonder how much being named "Alvina" has shaped her.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My polar bear dream

I know hearing other people's dreams is usually very boring, but I had a somewhat interesting one that I thought I'd share. Last night I dreamed that I was in a huge house that vaguely resembled my parents' house, except it was probably 5 times larger. And I was with a group of people when all of a sudden we heard the most agonizing animal scream I've ever heard, not that I've heard many animal screams. It was coming from the dining room, so we opened the door and I saw a glimpse of some kind of firepit with an animal tied to a turning spit. One of the guys I was with instinctly ran in to save the animal, and right after doing that we all suddenly realized that there was a huge polar bear in the room. I just remember thinking, RUN! The adrenaline kicked in and we all ran for it. A friend and I ran up to the third floor thinking that the bear wouldn't come up there, but after a few minutes, we realized that the bear was indeed climbing the stairs, running after the guy, we had nowhere else to run, and were running out of time. So we climbed over the stair railing and jumped onto the second floor below.

At this point I started to wake up, but forced myself to stay asleep and continue the dream, which proceeded to be different scenes of me running from the bear, finding trap doors and hiding places. At one point I was in an attic-like space, found a beehive and a bee buzzed into my hair and never came out.

And that's about it.

This morning I did some dream dictionary research and found the following here:


To dream that you are being pursued or attacked by a bear, denotes aggression, overwhelming obstacles and competition. You may find yourself in a threatening situation. Alternatively, bears symbolize the cycle of life and death and renewal. It may signal of period of introspection and thinking. The dream may also be a pun on "bare." Perhaps you need to bare your soul and let everything out into the open.

To see a polar bear in your dream, signifies a reawakening.


To see bees in your dream, symbolizes good luck, harmony, and bliss. Bees are also symbolic of work and industry as represented by the common phrase "busy as a bee."


To see a beehive in your dream, denotes that there are many opportunities for you to get ahead in life and to not let them escape from your grasp. It symbolizes hard work and the importance of teamwork. A promotion may be in store for you.

I'll welcome any other interpretations, but I kinda like the reawakening meaning.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What Kind of Reader Are You?

I snagged this from Stacy Whitman's blog:

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Connections and coincidences abound, my appearance on the Tonight Show, and my weekend adventures

After reading this post, Rita emailed me and informed me/reminded me of a few more coincidences that I'd like to write about. I love coincidences, like this one, and also love hearing about how people know each other, especially if the connection is a tenuous one, which is one of the tiny reasons why I love my group of friends I call the Randoms.

So, here are the Rita stories. First of all, we first met because of coincidences. I was a speaker at the LA SCBWI conference last year, and after my talk people lined up to talk to me (I felt very popular). When I got to this one woman, she looked embarrassed and said something about how she didn't really have a question, but she wanted to say that she thought we had two people in common. The first was a friend of hers named Calvin who was doing consulting at my company--yes! I knew him! (I remembered sitting in meetings and watching him taking notes in between nodding off.) And the second was that she was married to Damon, who I was friends with in college. I think he lived on the same dorm floor freshman year as one of my high school friends, and coincidentally one of HIS high school friends lived one floor below me in MY dorm. And that high school friend turned out to be one of Rita's best friends (Rita and Damon also went to high school together). It's all connected, right?

So Rita and I saw each other a bunch at the conference, kept in touch, read each other's blogs. My post on things I want to learn/try spurred her to email me about the Fiesta Bowl parade--she had marched in it, too--senior year of high school, as the clarinet section leader, front and center, setting the pace for the whole band. And you know what? ME, TOO! ME, TOO! Senior year of high school I was also the clarinet section leader, and also marched front and center, setting the pace for my marching band.

But that's not all:

About five or so years ago I was home for Thanksgiving, playing pool with my brothers in the basement, and the TV was on (but we weren't really watching,) and it was tuned to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I actually think it may have been a repeat of an old show, because I don't think it was that late, but I'm not sure. Anyway, he was doing a skit about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with one other person, and there was some generic parade footage playing behind them. I kinda glanced at it and after seeing a banner I realized that the parade footage they were using was the Fiesta Bowl parade.

"Hey, that's the Fiesta Bowl parade!" I said to my brothers. We started to watch.
"Wait...omigod, that's Diamond Bar!" (our high school)

Sure enough, it was the purple-and-gold Diamond Bar High School marching band--my band, and I slowly realized that it was my band during the time that I was in it, during my senior year, and wait...

"Hey! There's me!!!"

They showed the front of the band a few times, and I got a glimpse of myself marching along in my purple-and-gold uniform and playing the clarinet (not a pretty sight, I should say). Now, I hardly ever watch the Tonight Show, first of all, and that it would be that exact parade footage, from that exact time that we marched that's a coincidence.


And now more coincidence and connection stories from my weekend. This turned into an account of almost everything I did this past weekend, so please stop reading now if you don't want to be bored:

On Friday night I went to happy hour (well, a happy hour that turned into a 10-hour, 4-bar, 2-food establishment night), and Tracy's friend who was visiting from out of town came out, and he brought a friend who bore an uncanny resemblance to Hugh Grant. The next morning Rose and I were talking about the resemblance, and not ten minutes or so later I got a text from her. She was walking in Central Park and saw the REAL Hugh Grant walk by! I kid you not.

And more about that happy hour, it started as a work thing, but as I often do, I extended the invitation out to others. Now, usually when I do this, maybe one or two people end up coming out, but this time, maybe it was because it was a Friday right after the holiday, I had a ton of friends from different walks of life come out. Rose and her friends, my skydiving buddy Craig and his girlfriend, some of the Randoms, and of course my coworkers. And people kept asking how everyone else knew each other, and it was fun remembering. (One example: Eleanor's coworker Annabelle was roommates with Charlie, who interned with James, who went to school with Miguel, whose brother Jorge dated Jen, who went to college with Eveline, who I worked with.) We took over the Salt Bar for a good 4 hours. And if you've never been there, you must go just to try their bacon-wrapped-dates which are so good that we have dreams about them. Oh, and in honor of making the year 2007 two-thousand-and-risk, I tried a drink called the Bullshot that had beef bouillon and horse radish in it, and I liked it, dammit!

Saturday day was spent at brunch with my cousins Nate and Ingrid, and then a nice long walk in the park on a 70-degree day in January. Now, you'd think that connection is easy--cousins, right? But Ingrid is actually my step-cousin, as Ingrid's dad married my aunt about 4 years ago. And I guess Nate is my step-cousin-in-law. Right? So, what am I to their 2-month old baby Owen? His second-step-cousin?

Saturday night at Pete's housewarming party in Brooklyn was more of the same in terms of how people knew each other: Pete's originally a friend of a friend of a friend. There were other friends-of-friends there. And friend of a friend of a friend's coworkers. And friend of a friend of a friend's coworker's friend's friend. But hey, now we can all just say we're all just friends.

And on Sunday night, as I was heading out to watch Pan's Labyrinth (amazing movie), I got a call from a friend with a random question, and it turned out we were both heading to the same Times Square theater to watch movies (they were seeing Children of Men which I just saw last week), so we got to say hello in person outside of the theater. Another coincidence.

And I truly did not set out to tell you everything I did this weekend, but, well, there you go. A weekend in the life of me.

So that's the story of my Tonight Show appearance. And stories of coincidences and connections. I have more up my sleeve that I'll save for another day, but I'd love to hear your stories, too.

Oh, and I answered the anonymous query from the last post yesterday over at the Blue Rose Girl's blog.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Why do I blog?

In the comment section of my last post KT asked these questions:
I am curious. Why do you choose to blog? I am not a blogger, but I am a blog reader. I love your blog. I work alone and enjoy listening in - well, and procrastinating. Hoping this question doesn't stop your blog writing - but wondering, nevertheless - why aren't you writing that book?

This was actually supposed to be addressed in a discussion over at the Blue Rose Girls blog, but we never got our act together. So, well, here's how I started blogging, and why I blog still.

I had been aware of blogs for a while, although hadn't really been a reader of them. But I recommended blogging to my older brother a few years ago when he was casting around for how to get his thoughts/opinions out there. Although I’ve always kept a personal journal, I had never really thought about blogging myself. But about two years ago I was browsing friends’ blogs on myspace, and found a list meme and decided to fill it out, and that was my first blog post on both myspace and friendster. Then I thought, hmm. I don’t even ever really tell my friends about the books I work on, but I that’s the least I can do to help spread the word about these books. So I wrote a post about Flight of the Dodo by Peter Brown and have since written about other books I’ve worked on as well (see the sidebar for links).

Also, two years ago was a transitional period for me—I was starting a new chapter of my life, and wanted an outlet for my experiences, found it somewhat therapeutic to write, and having a blog gave me more incentive to write regularly. I also traveled a bunch that year and participated in a few “events” (skydiving, bike races, etc.) and I found it easier to post about each event, and then when friends asked me “how was your trip” or “how was skydiving?” I was able to just direct them to my blog. And also, since I’m not a writer or artist myself, it was nice to delve into the process of writing an “essay” of sorts, and writing something other than business correspondences or editorial letters.

The actual process of blogging felt very natural to me, as I've been in the habit of writing in a journal consistently since I was young, but realizing that people were actually reading what I was writing was harder to get used to. I eased into it by starting to blog in friendster where only my friends read it (and therefore those posts are a little more personal). But this year I made the jump to blogger, partially because some of my friends who weren't on friendster weren't able to comment or access it as easily, and partially because I was getting more used the the idea of having a public blog, and wanted others to read the posts about the books I've worked on, in the off chance that it might appeal to them and buy the books!

As most of you know, I've been struggling about how personal to be in this blog. Some of my friends have complained that I don't really talk about the "juicy" part of my life, which I interpret as the specifics of my personal life, dating, etc. Whereas other friends have praised me for being able to be so personal in this blog. I guess the basic feeling is that I don't feel comfortable giving too many details, because I don't know how the people involved would feel, and also a lot of people I don't personally know are reading the blog, and also a lot of children's book people. But it's my instinct to be very open and honest, and it feels unnatural censoring myself.

After realizing that people, including strangers, were actually reading my blog, another attraction to keeping writing was the whole "kindness of strangers" thing that made the marathon such a pleasure. I love communities, and strangers supporting strangers, and the idea that all of these people who I've never met were reading what I was writing and being supportive and kind, really appealed to me. I love being part of the online community.

In case anyone was curious, I do want to say that I've never had any intention to use my blog to solicit new talent for work, and I don't think I'll ever accept query letters via the blog. But I do want to be more "transparent" (the buzz word in my company right now)--to show people that "editors are people, too," to answer questions, to help people understand more what the industry is about (although these posts for the most part have been moved over the the Blue Rose Girls blog now).

And why am I not writing that book that I say I want to write? I know it's something I'd like to do someday, but to be honest, I don't think I have the true talent, drive, or the time right now. I know I could do it with hard work, but it would be a big commitment. I also think that the writing might detract from my editing right now, which is what I love and feel that I am equipped with the skills for. So for me, writing a book would be something I did after I retired, perhaps. Or if my company every decided to grant their employees a sabbatical or something. Or if I were in a different stage of my life.

Anyway, I thank you all for reading my blog and being so supportive. I don't have any intention to stop blogging any time soon. So keep reading!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!!

New Year's is probably my favorite holiday. Not as a night of celebration, which generally is a letdown (although I had one of my better celebrations last night), but in terms of it being an opportunity to reflect on the last year, make resolutions for the new year and look forward to the future. I'm big on making resolutions, as is evident here. Resolutions help me push into action, to actually DO things that I probably wouldn't have done otherwise, like skydiving, and running a marathon, and eating less candy, and being more committed to blogging.

I listed my New Year's Resolutions from last year here. Speaking of that post, which is more personal that I normally am in this blog, I've been thinking about this blog lately. I do realize I reveal a lot more about myself here than I sometimes intend to, although much of the details are veiled so that my friends can read between the lines and ask me about things. Then again, I think anyone can read between the lines and know what's going on with me personally. I'm not sure if I'm going to change anything overall about how I post, but it's just something I've been thinking about.

And I guess along those lines, I'm keeping my resolutions for this year private (although I'll be repeating many of the resolutions from last year), except for one: Do a triathlon! My friend Dave suggested two triathlons that would be good for a beginner. I've always balked at triathlons because of the swimming leg--I get exhausted so quickly when I swim. But then again, isn't it the point to challenge myself? Anyone want to try one with me?

Happy New Year, everyone! Here's to a wonderful 2007. Or as Rose's friend Paula is calling it, Two-thousand and Risk. Here's to taking risks--calculated ones, at least.