On procrastinating better

Today’s world has plenty of distractions that can easily be shut out on a good day. But when your energy is low, even a single notification on a quiet afternoon can kick off a solid 20 minutes of farting around!

I’ve been procrastinating lately. Like, a lot. So much that people around me have begun to worry. This NYT article about procrastination belying hidden psychological problems rings way too true. Don’t worry, this isn’t a doom-post. I will be fine. However, I am fascinating by how easily a little innocuous procrastination can creep up and become a big, looming beast standing over one’s shoulder.

The question today is more about how we can procrastinate better. When we don’t have the luxury of putting life on hold while muddling through our psyches, how can we avoid missing important deadlines or stressing the hell out?

I asked a professional PA, Karisma Carpenter, to help me out. Here’s what she advised:

A dedicated workspace to avoid psychological contamination:

“Well for starters try to give yourself a designated space to get your work done that’s away from distractions like the TV and snack cabinets.”

A clear, easily reference-able organisation system:

“Set up something visual like a large calendar. This way you can put due dates and any other things you have going on in one central place. Try breaking up your task into sections so it’s easier to manage and not so daunting.”

Social accountability:

“Share your progress. Tell a friend or even post on Social Media what you plan to accomplish, so that you have someone or somewhere to check back in with about your progress.”

Hacking your brain’s reward circuits:

“Reward yourself! Everyone deserves rewards for doing things they need to, even you. However make sure you rewards are comparable, for example for 20 minutes of productive work give yourself 5 minutes to relax or do something fun.”

Mindful and deliberate self-care:

“Know when to call it quits! I know, I know, we’re talking about being productive here but, if you have been putting true effort into getting work done and nothing productive is coming out it’s time to take a time out. Trying to struggle through it will only make you frustrated and make your task at hand suffer. So do something relaxing like take a 10 minute walk, or grab a bite to eat and come back to your task. Sometimes being distractible means you need a break, so remember to look after yourself too.”


Karisma Carpenter is a full-time PA/VA I met on Facebook while struggling with some of my research. Based in USA, she’s a nerd of many fandoms who helps authors with things like design, administration, social media management, book promotion, project management, scheduling, and more.

Chasing that first book deal (the guide sheet)

My first book, Chasing Sisyphus, came out in 2017. It’s a suspenseful sci-fi romance and, well, there was nothing romantic about getting that book written. For years, I’d tried and failed to finish a decent story, let alone getting one published. If I wanted to achieve my goal of being a published author, I’d need to put the romance on hold until I sorted out the rest of my shit.

This post is a guide, based on the path I took, which will hopefully help new writers get their first book into the wild. You can read my full story here:

You don’t have to read it to understand this guide, but for context, it’s better if you do. So, grab a drink, pen and paper (or word processor and keyboard) and follow the prompts.

Mindset

Let’s look at the ideas, habits and obstacles that might be standing in your way…

What are some of your ideas about what it means to “be a published author”? Do you have any high expectations that could possibly be unrealistic? Do you have any prejudices that prevent you from acting on good opportunities? Given the resources available to you today, which of those ideas, expectations or prejudices could you tweak in order to get closer to your goal of getting published?

Which of your writing habits might be stopping you from finishing your manuscript? Are you a perfectionist? Are you time-poor? Do you despise research? Are you dealing with chronic illness, injury, mental health issues, children, unsupportive friends…? You don’t have to feel bad about any of this, but you do have to be honest. None of this is your fault. Your habits are the way they are because they served you in the past, but you’re looking to the future now.

Finally, how willing are you to change your mindset to get your book published? And why do you feel this way? It’s OK if you’re not willing. The world is full of possibility and people just like you may be achieving that goal you want without having to change. But if you are willing, then great! Here’s what to do next:

  • List 5 things you can do/change/address/learn this week to make your goal more achievable.
  • Of those 5 things, pick 1 to start doing today.

Audience

All right, now let’s look at who’s gonna be reading your work…

What does “writing for yourself” mean to you? What do you love about writing? What factors matter most to you when it comes to telling stories? What kinds of stories are satisfying for you to tell? What feeling of reward will you personally get from telling this particular story?

Who do you want your book to appeal to? You don’t have to be clear about this yet—just “(insert genre) readers” and “(insert genre) publishers” will do—but you do have to pick a target audience that’s more specific than “everyone”. Reason being that when it comes to writing and publicising your book, you’ll burn yourself out trying to please everyone. Do yourself a favour and establish some boundaries at the start. You can always change this later if you want to.

What does your target audience (yay, you have one now!) want to read? What are the norms, expectations and tropes in the genre you’re aiming for (eg. epic space battles, happily ever after, graphic sex, particular prose styles)? Do the things you enjoy writing fit this framework, or do you need to pick a different framework? Or do you need to learn to enjoy writing in the framework you’ve chosen? What story elements do audiences appreciate today? What story elements are no longer enjoyable to read?

  • With all this in mind, make your list of things about your target audience and genre that you can go research.
  • From that list, pick 5 items that are most immediately relevant to you.
  • And now pick 2 that you can start researching today.

Publisher shortlisting

This section can come before or after the next section—it’s up to you and where your head’s at in terms of story and market awareness.

Here’s what to consider if, like me, you prefer to take the non-agented “direct submission” route.

  • Who are the publishers (or imprints) that play in your space (genre, audience, etc.)?
  • What sorts of content do they publish?
  • Do they have any specific requirements for story content?
  • How comfortable do you feel adhering to their submission guidelines?
  • What can you learn about them from their website and social media profiles?
  • What are people saying about them? (check online forums and social media)
  • How do they compensate their authors?
  • What would be expected of you if you become a signed author?
  • How do you feel about the other authors contracted to them?

Note that some considerations are worth caring a lot about (ie. don’t waste energy on a publisher who doesn’t do your genre), while others will be open to negotiation (eg. you don’t like a particular author signed to that publisher, but you might still be open to having your name next to theirs). This is totally up to you and will likely determine who makes it onto your shortlist.

Drafting your story

This is a huge rabbit hole, but this guide aims to get your idea out of your head and onto the page, in a format you can query with. So, with that in mind…

If you’re a pantser… Use what you know about storytelling, genre and any recommendations from your shortlisted publishers to determine the critical story elements you just can’t do without. List them in the order you’d like to see them happen and commit to writing your story down. Tell your Inner Editor and Inner Critic to take a recess while you sprint your way to The End. Promise them their time to shine during your revision process.

If you’re a plotter/planner… Choose the simplest and quickest planning system you can find. While the likes of Snowflake Method and StoryGrid will help you come up with an amazing piece of work, if you don’t already know how to use them, you can really get lost in the nuts and bolts of figuring them out. For your first draft of your first book, go quick and simple. You can always refer back to whatever system you adore once your first draft is done.

My very basic chapter-by-chapter outline template is available via Google Drive if you’d like to pinch it ☺️

Query checklist

This one’s straightforward—or at least, it should be.

For each publisher you submit to:

  • Review their submission guidelines
  • Check that your story content aligns with any requirements
  • Check that your manuscript is formatted (fonts, margins, spacings, etc.) to their specifications
  • Prepare your synopsis according to any requirements
  • Write your query letter, addressing it to the acquisitions editor (if applicable)

Tl;dr: follow the publisher’s instructions.

Final thoughts…

  • Committing to your writing doesn’t mean you have to become a workaholic. It means engaging your Rider just a bit more, rather than waiting for your Elephant to stumble upon the path.
  • A good story is both satisfying for you to tell and satisfying for your readers to read. You’re not a sellout for writing what an audience wants to read.
  • Respect the people you’re querying, whether they’re agents, publishers, other writers, readers or critics.
  • You don’t need to be perfect on your first go. You just need to have a go.
  • You don’t have to be an amazing writer on your first go, but you must be willing to learn.
  • If you discover along the way you’re not enjoying this, it’s perfectly OK to stop ❤️

Status Update — May 2020

CampNaNoWriMo was a success. And by that, I mean The Dragon’s Den WIP is finally in a usable first draft state. It still needs so much research and revising before it’s even close to becoming a book, but I was very happy anyway and celebrated with a couple of new videogames (tell you about them in a tick).

The Basilica Conspiracy

The Dragon’s Den is book 2 of The Basilica Conspiracy, a sci-fi/retrofuture mini-series that follows the development of Rhys and Adria’s romantic relationship after they accidentally stumble on some business they weren’t supposed to see.

The first book, Chasing Sisyphus, came out in 2017 and while book 2 should have started as soon as book 1 was finished, now that I’ve reached this point in the WIP, I realise I just wasn’t ready to write The Dragon’s Den back then. The story was too complex, character motivations too intense, and my writing nowhere near strong enough to tell the story needing to be told.

But I’m ready now…I think. And after a short break, I’ll be starting the first proper revision of The Dragon’s Den as well as the first draft of book 3, Sins of the Other.

Sunset on a Distant World

…is back on the worktable after almost a year of sitting in a box. There are a lot of problems with the first draft, but a lot of interesting ways to fix them. There is a plan for this book and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you when it’s done.

Shop talk

I hope you enjoyed reading about the revision process for It Starts With A Kiss, as there’ll be more where that came from. “Shop talk” is a new category of content I’ll be sharing in my newsletter and on this blog, talking about writing craft, mindset and “the trade”. I know most of you also write, so I hope you’ll find the information useful in your own creative endeavours.

Short stories

So, the writing I started “for no reason” ended up as short story, Playing Trades. This 2000-word piece was sent out to my dear readers in the April/May issue of Dot Club, and has since been accepted into Crystal L. Kirkham‘s Where the Sun Always Shines Anthology, coming out soon.

There’s a new microstory going into next month’s newsletter. If you’d like to see it, you can subscribe on my website.

Oh, and I gave up on “MOAB”. About two-thirds of the way through, it stopped feeling right, so back in the box it goes.

Projects (still) on hold

  • Project H
  • Project D (yep, there’s another unnamed project floating around)

Self-care

There’s a lot I can’t control right now, but also a lot that I can. Getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight a day is one of them. Drinking 2L of water a day is another. I still slip sometimes, but for the most part, minding these two things sets me up to be able to do other things. Like exercising and catching myself before I get too emotionally invested in ignorant hot takes on Twitter. Everyone handles stress differently, and where I can help it, I’m trying not to let some stranger’s stress tantrum become the reason I have one too 😅

Other self-care activities that have helped a lot:

Moisturising my forearms… Maybe I have a sensory thing going on, but supple forearm skin seems to be a real mood lifter 🤔

Nice smells. I’ve burnt all my smelly candles, but found a tiny vial of peppermint oil on a cluttered shelf, so we’re all candy cane country this month!

Curating my feeds. Nuff said.

Reading

  • Forgotten Storm by A. R. Vagnetti, after longingly staring at the paperback on my shelf for months.
  • True Refuge by Annabelle McInnes—I had to stop this one, as the incredibly powerful first chapter moved me more than I was ready for. But I’m ready to come back now.
  • Also beta reading for some writer friends.

Recently finished: The Way Home by Stefanie Simpson. Night Life by B.K. Bass.

Watching

  • Family Guy
  • Parks & Recs
  • Luis Miguel: The Series—Diego Boneta is a snack, even with a mullet

Actor Diego Boneta holds a cigarette between his soft lips
Diego Boneta via IMDB

Recently watched: Devs (brilliant).

Playing

Recently on the socials…

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAEn942AIwS/

Status Update — Mar 2020

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d hoped. A week-long trip to Japan in the middle of February waylaid a lot of plans. In the days before flying out, I had my first major bout of pre-travel anxiety. Seriously my first since… say, childhood? Not even last year’s longer, less familiar UK trip did that.

It’s all this mania over COVID-19. I wasn’t scared of catching it, though. The WHO Situation Reports—just facts, nothing more—did a great job of curbing that stress. My fear was that I’d get caught up in some sort of racist panic on the way home and get sent to off-shore quarantine.

I mentioned this to a few of my friends, but I don’t know if many of them understood what that feeling is like. Heck, I never understood what that’s like until now. If I’ve ever had real actual racism levelled at me before, I sure wasn’t savvy enough to pick it. Live and learn, hey?

Getting home, having the customs officers be friendly and nice as I rolled straight through, and then seeing N waiting for me in Arrivals was such a relief. And this is me, a white-collar Australian person, having a smooth and comfy ride all the way back to my white-collar life in a multicultural city. I think about people who have it way worse; realise that no matter how anxious I get, I will never even begin to fathom how much more anxious they must be.

Well, I’ve been home a few weeks now. And despite the low word count, I’ve managed to get a lot done. Here’s what…

This blog looks different…

IT SURE DOES. In preparation for the new website, this blog now has its own home and a new theme that does what I tell it to. In case you fancied it for your blog, it’s called Uncode and was worth every penny.

The new website…

…is coming. The whole process reminded me why I love web and why I changed careers. But it’s coming, friends. jlperidot.com will look different soon.

The Dragon’s Den

After chipping away at this manuscript, I’ve finally hit that scene. Every manuscript has one—the one that’s been over-thought to oblivion and now I just can’t even. Focusing on web stuff has been a good break, but I’ve done my soul searching and am almost ready to come back to it.

Camp NaNoWriMo

April’s camp is only three weeks away. I was tempted to skip this one, because of how much still to do ahead of the big event in July. But I have some things I’d like to write. Short stories, manuscripts, other things… so hey, let’s go camping.

Short Stories

About Her, the follow-up to About Henry, is coming back from my editor this week, with plans to go live on 6 April 2020. Watch this space.

I’m also working on a new short story: “MOAB”. It’s not romantic and not erotic, though the protagonist does get to have a fling. It’s been a long time since I’ve written something that’s not a love story. I have doubts about this draft, but will give it my best shot and see what happens.

Projects (still) on hold

  • Sunset on a Distant World
  • Project H

Self-care

As of last week, I started working from home as a precaution, just in time for a minor COVID-19 scare upon finding out that a friend went to get tested.

We were only in our self-imposed lockdown for a day before she forwarded the all-clear, but it did bring to light a few significant concerns to be mindful of if lockdown becomes a thing in Perth. Getting enough sunlight, for one. And exercise. Checking in with friends. And playing games with friends, because it’s important to have fun.

I’ve started writing for no reason again. As in, writing without intent to publish. I may publish them if they turn out all right, but that’s not the goal at this point. Sometimes it’s fun just to see how things go.

Reading

Night Life by B.K. Bass. Heart Stuck by Laina Ruff. True Refuge by Annabelle McInnes. And The Way Home by Stefanie Simpson… hnnnng, I promised myself I wouldn’t buy her amazing-sounding new release until I finish all the Simpson books I already have (but there’s a very good chance I’ll cave and buy it anyway).

Recently finished: The Devil’s Work by Demelza Carlton. Dead Town by Anthony D. Redden 💀

Watching

Parks & Recs. You. Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City (again). Family Guy. Broad City.

Recently watched: The Naked Director (so good). Devilman Crybaby (awesome soundtrack).

Playing

Merchant RPG (pixel-art crack). Dead Cells (wonderful art style; try a turret build).

Recently on the socials…

That life-changing resolution

I’m visiting Viviana MacKade today, talking about the (not New Year’s) resolution I made in 2014 that changed my life. Through my late 20s, I knew I wanted a career change in my 30s. I was a few years behind my deadline and, for a while, it looked like it was gonna happen at all.

Then along came this thing. I wasn’t even searching for it—a dear friend living overseas just happened to drop a mention while we were chatting. Only months later, I was on a completely different path to a totally different place.

What things did you stumble upon that changed the course of your life forever? Tell me here, on Vivi’s blog, on social media, or email me or whatever. I’d love to hear your story.

Status Update — Nov 2019

Since my last update, N and I had our UK trip, which was bloody good fun. We got to see family, indulge in pub food, take short walks in the countryside. England is a beautiful place. It’s also a freaking chilly place this time of year. I burned a ton of calories just shivering in my grundies.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4ZkJkKArJq

We got home last Monday and it’s been an uphill slog to get my gears turning again. Partly from jet lag, partly from still just wanting to be on holiday, despite the fact I was severely missing writing and home and my mechanical keyboard.

Funny how context can make you switch gears like that. But I’m back in the swing of things now, hacking away at The Dragon’s Den. Turns out I need to redo all of Act 2, which then means changes to Acts 1 and 3 to accommodate the changes. I’m sure builders had an easier time constructing the house I live in. Next mailing list update has a preview snippet from this WIP. Subscribe here if you wanna see and you’re not already in the club.

Project H is technically not on hold, but if this week’s anything to go by, that’s gonna be a slow burn project. Luckily, the story is straightforward and I don’t see it needing many revisions, just a lot of tweaking throughout the creative process. It’s still too primordial to discuss at length, but I can tell you it’ll be more supernatural than scifi. More to come.

Reading: Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald. Boston Patriot Mermaid by Paulo Da Silva (short story version).

(Re)watching: The Office, again. We just got to Phyllis’s wedding—oh, the cringe!

Playing: Blueprint Tycoon 🤓

Status Update — Sep 2019

I’ve been terrible with falling into rabbit holes this year. When my mind fixates on things—projects, drafts, games, etc.—I tend to shut myself off and not post as much as I’d like to. Left unchecked, the habit can fall away entirely, and then I’m just an unshowered recluse in a suburban study.

Well, I promised myself I’d try to be a real actual professional writer this year, so here I am, attempting a somewhat structured blogging schedule 👍

It Starts With A Kiss launched this month — yay!

A small stack of paperbacks of "It Starts With A Kiss" by JL Peridot

Book 2 of The Basilica Conspiracy, The Dragon’s Den, is in the second-draft planning stages, following a thorough review of the first draft (read: crying and eating chocolate). I don’t fancy the chances of completing this manuscript before new year, but the story, the characters and the underlying conspiracy are coming together quite nicely. Would you like a sneaky peek? It’s rough, it’s first drafty and may change, but here it is:

Text in image: De Vries rose to his feet again. Adria suppressed a flinch, bracing for another ‘accident’. But he stepped around and sat on the table, beside her, casual and close.
“Maybe we can help each other.” He spoke gently. “We’ve got some cases to close, some families who want peace. Detective Carver’s report said you saved his life, Ms. Yuan, but with a file like yours, there’s not a lot we can offer you. But you work with us and maybe we can do something for your brother. A nurse tells us he thinks you’re a writer. Learning the truth about his big sister will be plenty to deal with, let alone how he’ll manage without you in his condition.”
Detective Wong’s smirk was as loud as a horn over by the door. Adria shrugged it off. Next to her little brother’s welfare, playing posture games with smug cops barely registered. No doubt they’d be bragging to the team later about how they cracked another bounty hunter. Everyone had a weak spot—not even Basilica City’s most wanted was an exception. All they had to do was lean on it. Some bullshit like that. Well, they could have it.
All of this text may change over the course of writing 

I’ve also been working on a story I can’t talk much about yet, as it’s still in the primordial stage. I’m about 70% through an early outline, and I promise I’ll tell you more about “Project H” as soon as I can.

This website has a redesign on the way. Yes, another one. A good friend asked me why I don’t use some of my old skills to try and do more than what WordPress can give me. I haven’t been able to get the thought out of my head since she said it. She’s one of the most highly respected web developers in my city and an internationally recognised industry face. If she believes in me, I feel like I can believe in me too. So, yeah, some webby things may be on the horizon.

Reading: (as opposed to what I’m not reading but plan to be reading soonNasu by Jet Lupin, Fairy Tale Lies by DK Marie, and Tequila by Sarah Smith.

Watching: The Loudest Voice — it’s a gut punch with every episode. It’s not hard to see how cleverly Roger Ailes plays the game in this show. It’s hard to swallow, yes, but very, very apparent.

Playing: Untitled Goose Game  honk honk 😂

We’ll collect the moon and the stars

I’m a little annoyed with this year. Happy that I’m making progress with my work, but miffed that everything is so locked in. If I stacked my projects end to end, I’d be fully booked until I turn forty. And what a slog life is when there’s no room for new, exciting things.

We’ve still a way to go before 2019, but I’m already thinking about what I’d like to achieve next year. I don’t know exactly how this looks, but the wheels are turning. Here’s what’s been happening lately, though. Busy busy busy…

In the rearview

  • The Only Question That Matters came out in August 
     
  • I’ve released the Danica story, The Beating of Our Hearts, on Wattpad. The first chapter, “Smoke and Aural Pleasures”, is live and ready to read. Second chapter starts in a couple of weeks. This is the third celestial dream story out in the wild, but certainly not the last  Read it now.
     
  • I’ve signed a contract with Kyanite Publishing. New book, It Starts With A Kiss, comes out later this year. Stay tuned.
     

What I’m working on

  • Publishing prep for It Starts With A Kiss. Cover art, blurb, all of those things.
     
  • “The World Laid Out For Him”, aka. chapter two of The Beating of Our Hearts.
     
  • The Dragon’s Den, aka. the sequel to Chasing Sisyphus.
     
  • Sunset on a Distant World, another story in the AMS Celestial Dream collection.
     

Coming up

  • NaNoWriMo… Yeah, I’m thinking of joining as a rebel this year. The energy and camaraderie is just so good for getting shit done.

The year is almost half over 😭

So, after ten months, I’ve finally finished that space romance. Two frustrating attempts in previous years left me skeptical of NaNoWrimo, but I may have to eat my words now—it was April’s CampNaNo that got me over the line. ☺️

The manuscript is with my beloved beta readers now. This afternoon, I’m pausing for a breath and a cup of tea before getting on with the next project 

In the rearview

  • The CapriLuxe Chronicles. We’re almost up to 1000 reads and I’m humbled by the response. My Perth-side mates have asked exactly where in King’s Park About Henry‘s steamy action took place. Maybe we’ll take stroll one evening, friends 
     
  • My first Wicked Wednesday hot flash, The Rhythm and The Drum. I really enjoyed putting that together.
     

What I’m working on

  • It Starts With A Kiss, a lighthearted office romance now with beta readers. More sweet than sultry, but still with sex, swears and Brit-Aussie language style. Excerpt coming soon.
     
  • Smoke and Aural Pleasures, aka. the Danica story.
     
  • The Dragon’s Den, aka. the sequel to Chasing Sisyphus.
     
  • The sequel to About Henry.
     

Coming up

  • More little hot flash stories 

Stealing from other cultures

Ever since the whitewashing controversy earlier this year, I’ve been thinking more about issues of non-white character portrayal in film and books. I know the controversy didn’t start with Ghost in the Shell, and Lionel Shriver’s infamous speech certainly kicked up quite a fuss in 2016, but it’s only recently that the smattering of feelings I’ve had about this seems to be taking shape.

See this tweet: https://twitter.com/jennyhan/status/888475968112803840

Admittedly, if I saw an ad for this film without having seen this tweet, I probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid about the Asian representation thing. Maybe it’s because there’s so much racially charged emotion in the debate that I find it hard to take stock of my own feelings independent of external influences.

But this recent post by author Elizabeth StevensWhite Writers Writing Non-White Characters: Why I Vote Yes, For Commercial Fiction, hit very close to home, and helped me find some structure for my own feelings on this.

I am Asian. Chinese, to be specific, maybe with a little indigenous Southeast Asian thrown in the mix too (one time I was told yes, another time I was told no, so who the hell knows). As a reader, I consider myself somewhat colourblind (“colour agnostic” might be a better term), in that I don’t often think about fictional characters in terms of their race, though I have often felt a sense of novelty or piqued interest when presented with non-white main characters – maybe because it’s unusual, I don’t know.

Recently, my partner and I compared notes on how we would cast the characters from The Quantum Thief in our ideal hypothetical movie. While we agreed on Orlando Bloom or Luke Evans as Jean Le Flambeur, we had very different ideas for Mieli. For starters, he pictured her as a ScarJo type, where I’d always thought of her as more of a Tessa Thompson – quite different, huh?

I don’t tend to read character descriptions in fiction, so his depiction is probably more accurate than mine. But how someone looks has always seemed less interesting to me than how they behave.

So, personally, I don’t mind white writers writing non-white characters. Just having a variety of characters, cultures, issues, turns of phrase, etc. makes a story so interesting. That’s not to say white characters and their problems are uninteresting, but that they’d be even more interesting when contrasted against colourful elements.

But Stevens highlights an interesting point in her piece: respect.

Are you a white author trying to tell the story of a disenfranchised Mexican immigrant? Maybe reconsider.

However, are you a white author of erotica looking to cast a dark-skinned black woman as your leading lady? Please, write on!

If someone who’s never walked in my shoes started telling me what it’s like to walk in my shoes and how I should feel about it, I’d find it hard to stay immersed in the story. That’s the kicker for me. If an author has done their homework well enough, such that any racial/cultural elements in the story don’t clash with what I know from experience, then I couldn’t care less what race they are. At the end of the day, people all experience the same frustrations and feelings. As a reader, I just want characters I can relate to.

I don’t mind a little cultural appropriation. To use a non-fiction example, if a friend showed up to a costume party in a black bob wig and a cheongsam, I don’t expect I’d get offended. Cheongsam dresses are nice on the eyes, and I like seeing them around (even if it’s just a costume). If they pinned their eyes back and did yellowface, though, I’d start wondering about what they were trying to accomplish.

It’s not that I’m offended by yellowface. It’s that it’s kind of cringey and tacky. So if the rest of their costume was overtly tacky, and I knew that person to have a cringey sense of humour, I’d probably find it in character for a well-executed joke. Context is important here, I suppose.

Where I grew up, we laughed at our own little Asian eyes and accents and penchant for haggling. It was all part of appreciating our own culture in a multicultural society; all part of coming together and sharing a joke. So, I’m OK with non-Asian cultures doing it too, cos why shouldn’t we share funny moments together when we care about each other?

If the joke fails, though, all bets are off. I know it’s harsh to expect everyone to nail comedy, but jokes are a gamble. Every joker knows this deep down; if they don’t, I’d wonder if respect was ever on the table to begin with. I agree with Lionel Shriver’s point about writers being cultural pickpockets, so if someone’s going to pickpocket something for a joke, it better be hilarious to make the theft worthwhile!

What makes me uncomfortable is when a stereotype is laid on real thick and laboured like no one’s gonna get it unless you beat them over the head with it. That’s not only disrespectful to the people you stole from, but disrespectful to the audience you’re presenting it to. That poor delivery makes the joke unfunny. Who’s coming together then? Was it worthwhile?

Well, that’s just me as a reader. As a writer, I have more thoughts, but this post is long enough already and I really need a cup of tea.