5 things that NaNoWriMo taught me about being a writer

Did you do National November Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) last month? It’s a month-long sprint that challenges writers to produce 50,000 words between November 1st and 30th.

Despite being involved with creative writing for my whole life, I’ve only participated in NaNo for the first time this year. (I know!!) Though I should note: Because Novembers are uncharacteristically busy for me—I prioritize a lot of family celebrations, which entailed traveling for almost half of the month—I set my personal word count far lower than 50,000.

So while I can’t speak to meeting that lofty goal, I learned a lot about myself as a writer, the creative process, and writing at airports.

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What’s in store for December on La Pia en Rose?

Every year, I’m dumbfounded by the pace of Novembers. The rapidity was most distinct when I was living in New England: At the start of the month, the gold-crimson leaves crown the tops of trees and litter the sidewalks. By December, the leaves are gone, and the tree branches cut emaciated silhouettes against a gray swath of sky.

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La Pia en Rose is Going Dark for November

Happy November, everyone! Just chiming in with this image of a black abyss to say that the blog will be dark while I pursue more writing projects. Specifically, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, lovingly known as NaNoWriMo. This means that all of my free time will be devoted to the rigorous pursuit of my creative writing projects outside of this blog.

I’ll try to check in a handful of times this month. Until then, read that novel you’ve always been meaning to read (or write it yourself!). Go to a museum. Hug a puppy. I’ll see you on the other side.

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Celebrating Filipino Art & FilAm Identity

Ceremonial deity (bulul), Ifugao people of Luzon, approx. 1930.

Earlier this month, I took my mom to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to see their Filipino American History Month celebrations. (By the way, happy FAHM, fam!) I’m abashed to say that it was the first time that I had ever seen Filipino art on display. On top of that, I was visiting with my mom, which deepened another, far more personal and meaningful dimension to the exhibit.

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My First Hackathon

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

Every day last week, I came home from work and crammed online HTML/CSS and JavaScript tutorials late into the night. I took neat, color-coded notes in a spiral notebook. Hunched over my laptop tapping out simple lines of code, I imagined myself painting black streaks below my eyes, like an athlete in preparation for the Superbowl of intellect.

That’s right. My company hosted a 24-hour hackathon. I don’t have a computer science background, but I do have drive and a lust for victory. And all of these pretty colored pens.

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Magic in the City

I think cities are the most beautiful places in the world. As a kid, I used to walk through airports with my parents and just marvel at the churn of lives in motion. In my short years, I had the privilege of living in a handful of major cities around the world, a fact that I find astounding and deeply humbling.

Here, I thought my first time living on my own in a big city, is where so many stories converge. Where each path I could take is less predictable than the last. Everyone and Joan Didion tell me that I’ll outgrow the fascination. New York, Didion writes, is “a city for only the very young.” But at dusk, when the sun hasn’t quite set and the urban light-scape flickers to life, all I see is promise.

Last week, I explored Golden Gate park with my mom and discovered even more reasons to be enchanted – figuratively and literally.

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In Brief: Dealing with the world right now

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

If you live anywhere a source of news media, you will know that this has not been the best week for the world. You don’t even me to link to the events that have cast long shadows over the past few days. While bright things are happening every day – much of which I want to share with you – it feels disingenuous of me to share them without first addressing things that for all I know could be affecting you directly.

So this is me checking up on you. You ok? What’s helping you reorient?

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For the Love of Learning After College

The evidence arises spontaneously: Like this past weekend, when I arrived at the public library minutes before it opened on a Saturday morning. I lingered outside with the doors with a small crowd of retirees. Or a few weeks ago at the grocery store, when I compulsively reached toward the community college course catalogue.

But Pia, you protest, aghast. You’re done! You’re free! Graduating undergrad is your first major possibility for radical self-determination – why do you do this to yourself?!

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At the San Francisco Urban Air Market

This weekend, my friend So Yun and I meandered through the crisp, perennially sweater-weather air of San Francisco. We were in Hayes Valley for the San Francisco Urban Air Market, a marketplace that features independent artists and sustainable design. Vendor tents lined several blocks of the neighborhood, with a free painting party in the center and live musicians tucked into the corners. So Yun and I weaved through wares from jewelry makers, illustrators, alpaca fleece weaversand a surprising number of handmade baby clothes makers.

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My Fall Fashion Alter Ego’s Shopping List

Photo by Victoria Bilsborough on Unsplash

My Fall Fashion Alter Ego reads the New Yorker on cafe terraces, against a backdrop of autumn foliage. She speaks French better than me. She has clear skin, and, like a true cool-girl, her beauty secret is drinking plenty of water. (Ugh.)

Of course, I’m well aware that Fall Fashion Pia is a veneer, a fiction constructed by my irrational perceived shortcomings, etc. I’m pretty cool with my own life, flaws and all. On the other hand, I’ve always been a believer of faking it until I make it – at least in terms of charm, wit, and having-my-life-together-ness.

So while I don’t want to be my Fall Fashion Alter Ego, I do want to dress like her. And as autumn lazily descends on the Peninsula, my mind is on big ambitions and achieving my goals… or at least the semblance of it.

Thus, I present the pieces that I’m coveting for fall, the ones that glamorous Fashion Pia would wear. Sidenote: Fashion Pia has a much bigger budget than Real Pia.

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