Thursday, September 18, 2008

Inspirations Abound

These last couple of mornings, I've been getting up around 4:00 a.m., my mind already working over the revision for my next novel. This way I can sneak in two hours of work before the family wakes (or rather, I wake them). I received the most amazing notes on the first draft of a YA fantasy series I've been writing--fifteen pages of insight and questions, challenges and suggestions. Ever since reading the critique, I've being going to bed lost and waking with new directions.

To be honest, all of this brainstorming made me too tired to make it to the famous Shanghai Biennale contemporary art festival this last weekend. I wish I had; I heard it was awesome.
Not to worry. I've been having my own Biennale celebration...
After writing and thinking all day Tuesday and most of Wednesday, I hit Red Town in the afternoon to interview Xiaojing Huang, a very talented product designer with the hip design group, Y-Town. (More on XJ and Y-Town soon.) Without even knowing it, she gave me a ton of new ideas for my novel. (Hopefully, you'll read them in two years if my series sells!)
Anyway, Red Town is yet another artists' enclave in Shanghai. Once a steel mill, it was rehabbed two years ago into a fantastic showcase for sculptures,
both indoors and out. This was one of my favorites, a fu lion like the two protecting our home in Seattle. Its paw lies atop a roll of newspaper, protecting the words. Or at least, that's how I'm interpreting this piece of art.
Here's another sculpture that could have sprung directly out of this week's early morning brainstorming. Fantastical, isn't it? Don't you wonder what story the artist was telling?
A few years ago, I collected antique abacuses (abaci?) as a gift for my husband who is a finance whiz. Just look at this enormous one:
Of course, where do I find myself in the midst of all this wonderful art? Lured into the tiny bookshop inside the sculpture center, that's where. I could have spent hours perusing the gorgeous coffee table books on art and design. Words--they are my eye candy.
Luckily, instead of eating words, I had crepes. (Waah--they were a little dry. Note to self: next time, try the panini sandwiches.)
So today, I got up before 4:00 a.m., knowing that I had to give up all my writing time during the school day since I had another research interview booked. This time, my research took me to Taikang Lu. From the busy street filled with tiny shops with a bewildering array of mismatched products (flyswatters to socks) and dives of unknown smells, you'd never know that just down the intersecting narrow lanes, you'd find this:Pedestrian alleys filled with boutiques and cafes and galleries. I arrived early before the shops opened. Imagine this place hopping with the older generation, chatting, strolling, eating, selling vegetables. I'm not sure where they disappeared to at ten, but I missed them.
I made my way to my destination: Shokay, the world's only store that sells goods made out of surprisingly soft...yak down. Sarah Kong, the publicist for Shokay, and I spent half of our hour together laughing. About yaks. I nearly capsized the cup of crysanthemum tea she prepared for me. The details she was able to provide me about harvesting yak down has already helped me immensely. (More on Sarah and Shokay soon!)
After my interview, I met up with Maile Roundtree, a fabulous jeweler from Seattle, who had blown into town on business. Her designs, such as this:are sold throughout Nordstrom and eclectic boutiques. Oprah, the oracle of all that is good, herself has worn Maile's designs on her show. As beautiful as Maile's work is, her grand masterpiece is her daughter. Let's just say Baby Roundtree was a rockstar today. I swear, every single Chinese grandmother within a two-kilometer radius of us emerged mystically from their homes at first coo. And that doesn't count all the young, hip waitresses, edging each other out for the chance to hold the baby.
Maile invited me to source gemstones with her tomorrow... Oh, how perfect is that for my book where one of the characters is a jeweler...but I can't. My son has a day off of school, and I am planning an Adventure Day for him. Somehow, I don't think looking at gemstones is his idea of an adventure. Ohhhhh...why can't I clone myself?
I think that's going to be my problem in Shanghai this year: wishing I could be in two places at once. I want to be at my computer, working on my novels. But I also need to be out in the world, experiencing Shanghai, which feeds my work.

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