I’ve Been Away Too Long

I’ve been away from my blog yet I haven’t gone anywhere!

People say that we have to journal our days in the pandemic, but have you find that it’s difficult to do so? I have different journals for each book I’m working on, a prayer/spiritual journal and a general planner one. I checked my planner one and for the most part, I’ve avoided journaling about the darkness of the pandemic. I think one reason is that there’s no escape from it. No sitting down at a favorite coffeehouse to break up your day. No wandering into a movie theater and ordering a big tub of popcorn for a matinee. Even for my regular walks with Tulo, I have to remember to wear one of the masks that are hanging by the door.

So journaling about the pandemic doesn’t seem helpful. Yet it is everywhere, literally everywhere around the globe. This is our shared reality.

Recently I’ve been starting to write about the pandemic for two fiction projects. One is for a new web serial that I’ve created for Discover Nikkei. The other is for the second book, AN ETERNAL LEI, in the Leilani Santiago Hawai’i mystery series.

In the web serial, “Ten Days of Cleanup,” the story revolves around a Marie Kondo-ish “cleanup” expert who agrees to clear out the storage unit of a mystery customer during the height of the pandemic in May. And in the book set in Kaua’i, my protagonist saves a stranger who is unconscious in the waters of Waimea Bay in October when the island was open again to visitors without a full quarantine.

Unlike writing about the pandemic in my personal journal, writing fiction seems to be the way to access my reality. The limitation of sheltering-in-place, social distancing, communicating on phones and Zoom, dealing with masks and sanitizing has a defining role in the plot. In a strange way, I’m able to record my pandemic experience more honestly in this format.

Whether anyone will want to read these accounts, especially after the height of pandemic, is anyone’s guess. But for now, I write and build worlds. In this context, I have full control.

To read the first installment of the web serial, go to http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2020/12/4/cleanup-1/

New installments will appear on the 4th of every month.


How to Pivot

I just sat in publicist Dana Kaye (love her!) free one-hour Q&A on Crowdcast. I asked her what was the one thing she’s learned regarding marketing during this pandemic outbreak. She said that the clients who pivot tend to do better. I keep hearing about pivoting, but what is that really? Since I’m a former point guard, I started thinking about pivoting and basketball. I even watched a Facebook Live video of a basketball instructor going over different aspects of pivoting. Here are two things I noted:
1) You have to practice pivoting. So even if you know that you have conduct book marketing differently in this season, you can’t magically switch strategies and have it work seamlessly. If you are going to do more virtual programming, practice with Google Hangouts, Zoom and Crowdcast.
2) Depending on your unique challenges, you are going to have to pivot differently or perhaps pivot multiple times. A nonfiction author will have to pivot differently than a novelist. A novelist with a large following on Facebook will have to pivot differently than an author with hardly any social media presence at all.
There are a couple things from Dana’s session that made me think. One was that people’s schedule has been affected due to the pandemic. Those with children are busy overseeing their education during the day–so perhaps holding a Facebook Live for parents should be scheduled in the early evening or weekends. (This is just an example.) Also that you should not seek to get people on one social media platform to follow you on another. You will be spreading your readers too thin. Instead, if you don’t have that many followers on a certain platform, perhaps you need to figure out ways to create content that will specifically interest them. And social media is not about getting people to directly buy your book. It’s more about nurturing your readers and slowly increasing readership, one reader at a time.
I’m currently working to complete my Chicago novel but I can’t wait to experiment with videoconferencing. I also need to consider what I’ll be including in my new newsletter that I’ll send at the end of May. A lot of pivoting will be involved, but in some ways, pivoting has been part of my life for a long time.
Photo: My now 10-year-old nephew before the pandemic. Can’t wait to play basketball with him again!

Breathing Life into a Character

(This is a continuation of handouts that I recently distributed at a writing seminar.)

–a part of us is in every character

–who are we called to write about?

(Could be someone in our life, could be someone we see in a news report, someone in a dream/imagination)


Who do you personally root for?

What kind of people do you root for?

How do you or people around you feel misunderstood?

Elements of Voice:

POV and tone

Revealing Relationships:

Co-workers, Team Members

Naming your character:

Something unique and personal
Something meaningful
Something cultural appropriate
Something with a good rhythm
Google to check

Running a Writing Workshop

I’m posting a series of handouts that I’ve prepared for past writing seminars. Here’s one on forming a writing workshop. A workshop can help you to be accountable to other writers and regularly produce pages.

Naomi’s Guidelines for Running a Writing Workshop

  • Determine goals and purpose with first the organizers and then the group.

Is it to help people get their creative works in better shape?

Is it to make them feel more emboldened and encouraged as writers?

Is it to build community?

(It also can be a process—you can start with one goal and then move into another.)

  • Meeting place: safe, neutral, convenient, well-lit with little noise distractions. Should be around a table.
  • The facilitator needs to control and direct the discussions. Set the ground rules and the time. Try to end promptly at the time stated. If people want to hang around, that’s their choice.
  • Ground rules:

People need to treat each other in respectful way.

What is shared in the group, stays in group. (Even domestic partners should not be told about details of someone’s story before its time.)


Should people e-mail or snail-mail their essays before the group? (Usually a week ahead of time is sufficient.)

If you distribute writings before the meeting time, have each person write his/her name of his/her copy and write notes in the margins i.e. good, effective, confusing, etc. If someone is so inclined, they can even make proofreading marks.

During the workshop, you can either have the person read the entire piece or else immediately launch into comments. After the reading, the writer should be in the “cone of silence.” The facilitator should then direct the discussion about the piece.  Always open with the work’s strengths and then move into the weaknesses. After people have made their comments, the writer is released from the “cone of silence” and can respond to comments.

Facilitator should make sure that certain people don’t dominate the conversation. Ask silent people if they would like to comment.

The facilitator can even make a list of questions that will apply to every piece or even individual pieces.

After workshopping a piece, everyone returns his/her copy of it to the author.  Individuals can request copies, but it’s up to the author’s discretion. Otherwise, everyone should erase/delete digital submissions.

How to Find an Agent

I’ll be speaking to the Stanford Club of Pasadena and the Stanford Professional Women this Sunday on the topic, Writing and Publishing in a Text(ing) World. For more information, go here:


I’ll be distributing a number of handouts. Here’s one of them:

How to Find an Agent (updated June 2019)

HOT TIP: Find 10 recent books that are similar (but not exactly like yours) and identify who the author’s agent is.


  • Look at a book’s acknowledgments.
  • Google author’s name and “agent.”
  • Look up Publishers Weekly reviews on bn.com (Barnes and Noble) or Google author’s name and “Publishers Weekly” and “review.”
  • agentquery.com
  • Publishers Marketplace publishersmarketplace.com(You now have to subscribe to receive deal details.)

Find the latest information as many authors change their literary representation.

Publishers Lunch (free) http://publishersmarketplace.com/lunch/subscribe.html


Bookends’ Jessica Faust on bad literary agents: http://bookendsliterary.com/2018/08/14/bad-literary-agents/

Once you’ve identified a potential agent, do your due diligence.

  • Research on querytracker (querytracker.com), Absolute Write Water Cooler, and Writer Beware.
  • Subscribe to Publishers Marketplace (or find someone who does) and pull up that agent’s deals over the past year.
  • Find the agent’s list of clients and find a fellow writer who is either on that list or knows someone on that list and get feedback.

Authors Guild’s advice on agency clauses and agency agreements: https://www.authorsguild.org/member-services/writers-resource-library/all-about-literary-agents/authors-guide-agency-agreements/


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