Graduation Day

Graduation season has always been a tough time for me. Since I left high school under the cloud of a deep familial loss, it’s often gone hand-in-hand with more tragedy.

On March 11, 2011, I’d just watched my first class of junior high school students in Japan finish their graduation ceremony and go home to their families. That afternoon, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Tohoku and triggered a tsunami that claimed the lives of almost 16,000 people. My prefecture was land-locked. We were at no risk from the waves, but the images we watched on the news as the waters rose will always be etched in my memory.

In Japan, on certain occasions of celebration, a tea is served from the pickled blossoms of cherry trees. The tea is clear and has a salty taste, very unlike the more well-known green tea. The cherry blossom tea, or sakurayu,  represents new beginnings.

sakurayu

Sakura yu” by Suguri F投稿者自身による作品. Licensed under CC 表示-継承 3.0 via ウィキメディア・コモンズ.

We didn’t have sakurayu that day, but on graduation day the next year I found a cup on my desk with a single pink blossom. As I drank tea made from the previous year’s flowers, reminded of what had been happening while they bloomed, and watched the current year’s new flowers swaying on the trees outside, I remember thinking that the salt of the tea tasted something like tears.

It was a complicated feeling, one that I’ll probably have better luck unpacking in a story rather than in a blog post, but by the time I’d finished my tea I’d arrived at a decision.

I’d dreamed since I was young of writing the kind of books I grew up loving. I’d studied, practiced and planned, and yet I hadn’t summoned the courage to make that dream a reality. Reflection is easy, and action is scary. But cherry blossoms don’t only represent spring and new beginnings, they remind us that our time here is too short not to bring our dreams out into the sun.

Two years later, I sent out my first query letters on the cusp of another graduation day. After the duds I’d had in the past, a few manuscript rejections didn’t seem that dire. And if I was lucky, maybe I’d have some good memories of graduation day for a change.

By the end of the week, I spoke with my new agent on the phone for the first time. This year, I sent a signed contract to my publisher for my first novel. And by next spring, that book will be out in the world, with many more to follow.

It’s scary to take chances, especially if you’ve been burned before. Whether you find success or failure, remember that you had the courage to try. And every time you do, celebrate your own graduation day.

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Second Season Renewal

Cue the dramatic movie trailer music, get ready for the gravelly voice-over, and prepare yourselves for the epic continuation of last season’s debut novelist blog series. This summer, coming soon to computers near your…

The Blog Returns

Spirited Away celebration

An Announcement

Today will be a short post because it’s mostly here to herald a more detailed post to come later. For now, I can simply say that I am thrilled and honored to announce that my work will now be represented by the incredible Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Full story to follow after I return from my Golden Week holiday in Seoul. In the meantime, always remember:

follow your dreams sloth

Winter Wrap-Up Part 2: Vacation Theme Reading

In December, I put the winter cold on hold for a little while and spent my holidays in sunny Australia. I’d never been before, and since it’s a rather out of the way sort of place, I wanted to make sure I could squeeze in as many Australian experiences as possible in only two weeks. Anticipating all of the long plane trips, airport layovers, and lazy lounging on the beach, I queued up an Australian-themed reading list on my Kindle so that I was ready to dig in the moment I left my apartment in Japan.

Gotta say, vacation theme reading was pretty awesome. My list wasn’t too ambitious, consisting of two public-domain classics and one recommendation from an Australian friend, but it was fun to get to see things I’d read about only days after I’d read about them. The bush setting in each book was a bit far removed from the city-scape that we toured, sort of like going to Manhattan and reading books set in the Appalachians, but it also gave me a window to a few of the more remote places we were only able to see from the airplane.

sevenlittleaustralianscoverSeven Little Australians (1894) by Ethel Turner

This classic children’s novel is set in Sydney the 1880s and features the misadventures of the Woolcot children, their strict army father and their young stepmother. The episodic stories are both funny and occasionally bittersweet, especially the tearful ending. The book is similar to other family-centric dramas and feels very much like a meeting of The Sound of Music with Little Women.

The book’s original manuscript is kept at the State Library of New South Wales, and though we passed the building on our walking tour of Sydney, we were there too late and it was already closed. Oh, well.

This book is in the public domain and can be found for free at Project Gutenberg.

bcareercoverMy Brilliant Career (1901) by Miles Franklin

Another classic, about a headstrong girl from a newly poor family who is sent to live with her more well-off relatives. Sybylla is intelligent and imaginative, but she spurns romantic attachments and resigns herself to a lonely life in pursuit of her “brilliant career,” though the novel ends without any indication she’ll be able to do this.

Sybylla was an intriguing character, but very hard to like at certain points. For its time, the unconventional fate of the heroine would have been a shock and the early feminist breadcrumbs in the story are certainly present. That was one thing that was refreshing, in spite of my personal distaste for the narrator; I didn’t always like the choices she made, but she was usually the one making those choices. It was also a treat to see this book referenced as a school assignment by a character in the next novel I read…

This book is in the public domain and can be found for free at Project Gutenberg.

tomorrowwhenthewarcoverTomorrow, When the War Began (1993) by John Marsden

Ellie and her friends leave their homes for a camping trip and come back to find their country invaded by a foreign power. Every resident of their small town has been gathered up by the invasion force, so Ellie and her friends must not only survive on their own, but stay undetected if they want to stay free. Yet with their families gone and no way to reach them, the group quickly comes to a decision that they need to be doing more. With only their wits and the things left behind in the aftermath of the invasion, Ellie and the others begin small-scale guerrilla sabotage against their invaders, in hope of someday returning to the normal life they’d taken for granted.

Since it’s publication, the Tomorrow series has been a perpetual favorite among young Australians. I was recommended this book by a good friend, who read it in school, and it’s easy to see why the book is so popular. The narrator has a voice that draws you in and makes you care about the characters so much that by the twist at the end, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. While the distopia trend is running its course in YA literature, I found this book a refreshing departure in that it focuses on the beginning of the change from normal, as we and Ellie understand it, to something so beyond our everyday experiences.

So, there you have it! I enjoyed this so much that I’ll probably try to do it for every longer vacation I take. Have you ever done something similar?

Winter Wrap-Up Coming Soon!

So, I did it. Or rather, I didn’t do it. “It” being updating for a while, even though I’d planned the entries out in my head while doing something else, they never seemed to make the jump from my brain to the keyboard when I actually sat back down to my computer. This is both good and bad.

THE GOOD: Instead of writing blog posts, I was writing novelly things. A whole big novelly thing, in fact. My NaNoWriMo project that I was furiously outlining as of my last entry has stumbled out into the world as a first draft, awaiting the appropriate amount of time to pass before there’s enough mental distance to begin editing. Also started on yet another project, because there’s no rest for the wicked and as of current calculations, it’ll still take me 20 years to give page space to all the ideas I have jotted down in my “Writing Ideas” file.

THE BAD: I am a completionist at heart and I feel like I need to actually finish all of those posts I began in my head.

To answer this conundrum I will be walking myself through all of my winter accomplishments, in sequence. Maybe it’ll be boring. Maybe there will be pointless .gifs. Maybe that’s okay because, hey, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.

Hello World

I have a paralyzing fear of introduction posts, so please bear with me. If at any point during the program I sink to the floor and curl up underneath a desk, I promise I’m not having a panic attack. That’s just how I deal with tense social situations.

This cat may be watching ping pong.

Overstimulated and under prepared. This is the story of my life.

Oh, look! A cat! Phew. Well, at least now the pressure’s off.

I’m Kathryn Tanquary, currently of Midori City, Japan and formerly of Portland, Oregon. I write novels about fantastic creatures, mysterious powers and characters who are both flawed and fabulous at the same time. As of this posting, I have finished two manuscripts, one of which I am polishing for submission.

Though I’ve been a longtime denizen of the internet, lurking has been my primary specialty. I’m really good at that. Like, scary good. But I’m trying this blog business so I can finally start posting those comments I only ever compose in my head, which I feel is a far better option than saying them aloud to my empty room like a crazy person. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things, I want to stalk them all and learn their magics. And thus I poke my head out of my comfy blanket of anonymity and crawl into glaring light of the internet.

Look on my words, ye many, and… uh… maybe drop by and say ‘hi,’ I guess?

– K.