Respect the Process

I recently moved to DC and celebrated my birthday in September. It’s expected that in your late twenties, you should have your shit figured out: have a boyfriend/fiance, career, masters, job, maybe a kid (or two), traveled the world, on your way to owning a home, have a car, start saving for your retirement, have a designer couture bag, and a couple of pets for good measure. And if you are “Desi” all of those should happen in your early twenties (or teens even). By 30 if those are not done, you’re pretty much a loser. There is something wrong with you.

But even in American society the pressure is real. Girls these days must develop so fast. They are not given time to grow spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, sexually, morally, intellectually, socially, let alone physically. Get a career, get a boyfriend, get a car, get, get, get. And for guys, the pressure is even worse. I sometimes wonder why it took so long for me to move and come to DC. The process was a slow one. But I sincerely believe that all of my experiences facilitated my move to DC and created a space for me in this city. I finally feel that I can have a sense of community.

That being said, 2014, so far, has been pretty phenomenal: I went to London and Paris, got to see my cousins again who live abroad, I moved to a new city, I work in a wonderful organization, I got invited to the White House and got selected to sit front row to former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama as they spoke about how important service is for American society on the 20th anniversary of Americorps. I have the wonderful opportunity to do research for the Library of Congress’s publishing office. And most importantly I live closer to my best friend from middle school! The universe has a process. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I’m not going to worry about it. Peace!

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Ramadan 2014: how to stay productive

Ramadan 2014 is slated to begin sometime next week, and with the heat of summer that means long days of fasting with no food or drink from dawn to dusk. How to stay productive without feeling dehydrated, sluggish, and generally lethargic? It all starts with the morning meal before dawn.

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The month of Ramadan is good time to start good or break bad eating/drinking/personal habits. For instance, one Ramadan I gave up caffeine entirely for the month and it felt great! As such I suggest having little to no caffeine for the morning meal. Why? Because caffeine is a diuretic (meaning it will make you pee) and thus will counter effect the hydration process. I would also avoid surgery or sweet breakfast items as well as very salty foods or heavy meals with meat. Salt too will dehydrate you while raising your blood pressure, while sugar packed pastries and donuts will digest quickly and make you hungry again (resulting in a crash later)! So what should you eat for breakfast to keep you full, hydrated and energized for most of the day at least? Here’s a sample breakfast menu that works:

Oatmeal cooked with soy milk or milk, dashed with honey, nuts, fruit

Greek yogurt with granola, berries, and nuts

Eggs (any style you like) with whole wheat bread

Protein bars (I prefer Luna bars: http://www.lunabar.com/products/luna-protein)

Pure Orange juice and/or Coconut water

2-3 glasses of water

For people who have actually met me I can eat like three meals during the morning meal before my fast. I suggested these items for your morning meal in particular because they almost all have some fluid intake and/or protein. Oatmeal gives you energy for hours, and juice and/or electrolyte enhanced water (like Smart Water http://www.coca-colacompany.com/brands/glaceau-smartwater) keeps you hydrated for hours. Chugging glasses of tap water will just make you pee all morning and by afternoon you’re thirsty and drowsy. Drink water after eating all your food (there is a hadeeth about this mentioned somewhere as well) and after having juice, then drink as much water as you can. If you have a full feeling (I hate the full feeling!) don’t lay down or rest for at least 2 hours. That’s another thing I must repeat: after eating your morning meal Do Not go to sleep! You will get indigestion and feel ‘clogged’ for hours totally ruining any chances of productivity. Instead, read, pray, hang out with the family, get some work done. If you must catch a wink, put pillows up behind you and rest in a sitting position. This can make a world of difference.

As someone who has been fasting every year since she was a kid, I hope these measures can help make your Ramadan or anyone who fasts (during Lent for instance) a more pleasant and therapeutic experience, because Ramadan isn’t about starving or stuffing your face (when it’s permissible to eat) its about being grateful for what we do have and learning to overcome our bodily desires. Peace!

Writing Contests

The importance of writing contests was hinted in one of my previous posts, but I must reiterate.

Writing contests are great because it can help a writer get recognition for a work in progress (or completed work). This can help grow readership and increase exposure of your work. Not only that, but writing contests keep you focused, giving you actual deadlines to complete, edit, revise, and proofread your work so that it doesn’t just sit in your computer or notebook.

Writing contests offer other bonuses: offering awards, fellowships, admission into a writing workshop, your work on print, and cash prizes! Different contests have different readership, awards, and type of writing they accept. Do you research. Go to the library, or book store (or get a subscription) to read literary magazines that offer contests.

Here’s a few resources to get you started to finding the right writing contests:

http://www.writersdigest.com

http://www.pw.org

http://www.thereviewreview.net

Know of any other resources for finding writing contests? Post and share!

Lessons for writers from a comic book.

The manga (Japanese comics) industry in Japan is wide and varied. There are comic books for all ages, fetishes, and interests. Comics in Japan are read by just about anyone, unlike in America where comics are mostly for kids (or dorks). And many anime (Japanese cartoons), Japanese dramas, and movies had their start from a comic book panel.  Japanese comics and animation have become a world-wide phenomenon and even the Japanese government has taken notice and has decided to support this industry (could manga be a form of soft power, for a country to exert its culture and thus create world-wide influence?). I actually lived in Japan for a while and if you go to any bookstore, convenience store, kiosk, or retail store you can find yellow page thick, manga serials readily available for the eager customer. But on to the main topic, or how a comic book from Japan called Bakuman can teach a young writer about writing, publishing, and not giving up.

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The manga, Bakuman, is a story about two young Japanese boys, one a talented artist, another a gifted writer, who team up together to make comics. Their goal is to create a best selling manga and for their work to become animated. They begin to slack in their studies, but stay in school and go on to graduate from college anyway just to have a back up career, just in case. Surprisingly, the story is fast paced and pretty tense, you cant help but feel pumped when their work wins popularity contests and art awards. There are setbacks and slow periods where it seems nothing is working, but no matter what, they do not give up and find their own style which makes them popular. They aren’t good with mainstream stories, instead they’re really good with dark, twisted worlds, dangerous lead characters, and stories with serious thoughts about society. I haven’t read the end yet but I can expect great things from these two. This comic, consequently, became an anime of its own (there must be a literary term for this). I really enjoyed reading Bakuman: it inspired me to focus on a career while working on my writing and to never give up (too late to turn back now anyhow). Did I mention that Bakuman was made by the same duo that brought you Death Note? Enough said.

For the aspiring writer

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I’ve read many books about the publishing industry, how to get your books published, and about the routes people took to becoming a writer and author. By far, the book ‘The Business of Writing’, is one of the best: with many stories for the aspiring writer or people just curious about the writing industry. In journalistic form, various individuals in the writing and publishing industry are interviewed so you get the first word on this ever changing field. At the very least in humanizes the whole process of idea to paper to print. Read for yourself!