Friday, April 27, 2012

Honored with Teaching Award from Purdue!

Exciting news! I've been honored with a Committee for the Education of Teaching Assistants (CETA) Teaching Award from Purdue! I am humbled and thrilled for this recognition. Four graduate student teachers were chosen out of the entire English Department, and we were honored at a ceremony with other graduate student teachers from all across the university. It was a very special night! I truly love teaching and I feel very blessed I get the opportunity to teach undergraduates while pursuing my MFA at Purdue. 

I'm currently teaching English 205: Introduction to Creative Writing and English 106: Academic Writing and Research (a basic composition course all freshmen are required to take.) Next semester I've been accepted to teach English 420: Business Writing. I am looking forward to "paying forward" and hopefully inspiring Purdue's business students in the same way the terrific professors Patrick Henry and Tommy Knapp inspired and encouraged me when I was an undergrad student in the Entrepreneurship program at USC. 

This was our last week of classes at Purdue, and some of my wonderful students asked to take a picture with me after our last class. Here we are in the hallway outside our classroom:

I believe teaching is a symbiotic learning relationship with my students, and I am certainly inspired by their hard work, intelligence, creativity and kindness every day!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Words of Advice from Ann Patchett

I fell in love with Ann Patchett's writing when I read her amazing, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novel Bel Canto. She is the author of many other novels including Run, The Patron Saint of Liars, and most recently State of Wonder.

I was thrilled to read an interview with her in a recent email newsletter from the literary magazine One Story. Here are some snippets of advice from Ann that I think all writers can hold dear:

  • Show kindness whenever possible. Show it to the people in front of you, the people coming up behind you, and the people with whom you are running neck and neck. It will vastly improve the quality of your own life, the lives of others, and the state of the world.

  • Buy your books at independent bookstores and tell your friends to do the same because if we don’t take the lead, no one else will. 

  • [My mentor] Allan Gurganus taught me how to write, which was extremely helpful. I tried to follow his example of hard work, though never came close to matching his sense of elegance and style. He is a very generous soul. I didn’t match him there either but he taught me a great deal.

  • My favorite piece of Gurganus advice was that I must always steer the ship of my own career and not assume anyone else was looking after things as I would. If my name was on the book then I must agree with every aspect of it. This has been hugely important to me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Write On's Summer Writing Camp!

This year is the FIFTH ANNUAL Write On! Summer Writing Camp!

What: Students will have FUN while learning how to improve central components of their writing, including dialogue, characterization, plot and setting, through various creativity-inducing writing exercises.

Who: Students ages 8-18. Poets, playwrights, short-story writers, future novelists – all are encouraged and welcome to join!

When: May 19 & 20 and May 26 & 27. There are two time sessions available: mornings from 10am-noon or afternoons from 1-3pm. It is perfectly all right if you can only make one of the weekends, or even just one day — I’d love to have you join us!

Where: In the conference room of Jensen Design & Survey in Ventura at 1672 Donlon Street (near Target).

How: If you’re interested in getting signed up, simply download, print and send in the PDF of the registration form at There are early-registration and returning camper discounts available! Proceeds benefit Write On! For Literacy, my organization that empowers youth through reading & writing projects including an annual Holiday Book Drive for underprivileged kids.

Hope to see you this summer!

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Blog: Day-by-Day Organization

Exciting news: I've started a new blog project! It's called Day-by-Day Organization and the web address is

I'll still be keeping up with this blog, which will as always be my home for all things reading, reading, Write On! For Literacy, and creativity related. But lately I've been reading a variety of organization blogs -- some of my favorites include i Heart Organization and I'm an Organizing Junkie, and I also love general-interest happy blogs like my friend Lauren Cook's The Sunny Girl. These blogs add a dose of sunshine to my day and inspire me to tackle those stress-festering projects in my own life that I've been putting off.

I've posted on here before about the importance of being organized -- how it can help clear away stress and de-clutter your mind so your creative subconscious can shine. I always feel happier, more calm and less stressed when my space is neat and free of clutter. I once read that the average person wastes 40 minutes a day — 40 minutes every day! — looking for things they have misplaced. I don’t know about you, but I for one don’t want to waste my time that way!

But up till now, my organization has tended to look like this: a day-long cleaning phase where I’ll get my apartment straightened up pretty well, but two days later it will start to look cluttered again, and the hectic pace of daily life will sweep away any progress I attempted to make. It’s been difficult for me to find the time or money to get organized in a meaningful and permanent way.

Well, I want to change that! Now is the time. I know I will be a happier writer, teacher, and overall person if I get my space organized once and for all. I'm creating Day-by-Day Organization to chronicle my journey!

Being a grad student means I don’t have much spare time — or spare money. It would be impossible to try to organize my entire apartment in one day. Just thinking about it is overwhelming. That’s why I’m planning to focus on little, inexpensive changes, one day at a time. Day by day, I am going to organize my life. I hope that my progress might inspire you, too! I'm also planning to share quick and healthy recipes, happiness-boosting reflections, and any resources I find that help me make the most of daily life.

If you have a couple minutes to spare, please check out my new blog and let me know what you think! You can even subscribe by entering your email address in the sidebar on the right-hand side, right under the photo of me. Hope you like it!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lessons from Pablo Neruda

I am reading an amazing book right now called The Dreamer that is a fictionalized retelling of the childhood of Nobel-Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. (I'll post a review of the book on here when I'm done reading it!) For now, I wanted to share with you some quotes by Pablo Neruda and some quotes by author Pam Munoz Ryan about his writing and life that I found incredibly inspirational -- hope they inspire you, too!

Neruda wrote to the common person and about the common thing. He thought that when people touched an object, their fingers left a bit of presence upon it and that a bit of their being was somehow absorbed in the object's memory. He believed that all the stories he ever needed already existed and that their inspiration would be found in the simplest things and the most minute details: in the garden tool, the rolling pin, or the uneven table on which bread was kneaded. Neruda was fascinated by what he called "the permanent mark of humanity on the inside and the outside of all objects."

He said, "It is very appropriate ... to look deeply into objects at rest. ... They exude the touch of man and the earth as a lesson to the tormented poet. ... The flawed confusion of human beings shows in them ... the prints of feet and fingers. ... That is the kind of poetry we should be after, poetry worn away as if by acid, by the labor of hands, impregnated with sweat and smoke, smelling of lilies and urine, splashed by the variety of what we do."

Neruda even applied emotion to his pen, preferring to write in green ink, because he thought it was the color of esperanza -- hope.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Post by Sean Gray

The Most Enjoyable and Practical Business Books of All Time

by Sean Gray

More and more because of today's economy, people are starting their own businesses. However, the money problems that plague them personally will follow them in their business lives unless they learn how to manage their money differently. For these folks, some basic money 101 is in order. Fortunately, there are a number of books, which not only teach the principles of personal finance, but give readers some ideas about how they can apply these personal lessons to their business's bottom line. These books are both enjoyable and practical.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

"The first hurdle is Ignorance. In a culture that worships knowledge, to say ignorance about money is an issue makes some people defensive. Don't be defensive. Ignorance is not a lack of intelligence; it is a lack of know-how." Pg 78

No business can succeed for long without sound finances to keep it afloat. Unfortunately, many new business owners are not equipped to deal with the financial aspects of their businesses due to their ignorance about how money works. But according to Dave Ramsey, it's not something they need to feel badly about; it's something that they need to do something about. In this case, they should educate themselves about the principles that govern wealth and the flow of money in their lives. As Ramsey says in his book, no one expects a baby to be born knowing how to drive and yet people are expected to know how to deal with money without being taught. This isn't sound wisdom for personal or professional financial growth.

The Total Money Makeover gives people practical baby steps that will help them learn to think about their finances differently. Ramsey himself is a businessman, who knows personally how ignorance can damage a person's bottom line. Ramsey went broke, because he knew little about how money works. He was able to regain his wealth and rebuild his business and then some, because he learned the principles of how to take care of money. The book is easy to read and offers simple, but effective principles for taking control of one's finances once and for all.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

"Algamish, you are very rich man. Tell me how I may also become rich, and all night I will carve upon the clay, and when the sun rises it shall be completed." Pg 12

This is the answer to the unspoken question of the previous book recommendation: Where does one learn how to take care of his or her wealth? Most people grew up in households where money wasn't discussed nor were they around people who truly knew how to make money. As a result, they have gotten their knowledge of how money works and have taken money advice from someone who's broke.

However, the best money and business managers don't do this. Instead, they seek out the advice from people who have considerable wealth—not the conspicuous wealth—think luxury cars, big houses and designer clothing that often has nothing behind it—but rather from people who have investments and money in the bank. This is one of the key principles in the book The Richest Man in Babylon.

The financial principles in this book are revealed through a series of parables that make the lessons enjoyable. The book arose from a series of pamphlets that banks and insurance companies distributed. Although, the book does not give the specifics of where to invest, it does offer basic sound advice that everyone must follow before they gain any kind of wealth, regardless of the types of investments they involve themselves in. Its principles work regardless of whether a person applies them to his or her business or personal money matters.

Elizabeth I CEO by Alan Alexrod

"Elizabeth, a leader of great spiritual force and personal magnetism, devoted a large portion of her personal genius to creating and maintaining her popular image as the Virgin Queen, an almost unnatural presence of earth. She was eminently practical, a hard-nosed pragmatist with an eye on the bottom line and absolutely no tolerance for waste, for excuses, or for the airy and endless arguments of theoreticians." Pg 203

Once the new business owner has mastered the basics as taught by the previous two books, he or she is ready for some more advanced lessons. Elizabeth I CEO teaches business principles through the lens of one of the greatest leaders in world history. Elizabeth herself inherited a broke and crumbling kingdom. The kingdom she left upon her death had been completely turned around and the country was thriving.

This book deals with the idea that the business person is not separate from the private person. The good queen held herself accountable and recognized that she could not effectively rule over others until she learned to rule over herself. The lessons in the book include financial ones, but there's also sections on leadership and perseverance and often the principles are demonstrated through the queen's own words.

Bio: Sean Gray operates his own business called we buy cars San Diego, and uses information from various books to do so.