Untitled New Writing Project

If you have about 10 minutes to read, I would love your feedback and input.

I’ve written two other fiction pieces in my life. The first was in 10th grade English class and was truly awful. The second was the summer after 11th grade and I liked it (as did one other person in my creative writing class) but the teacher tore it apart.

After that, I just accepted that I wasn’t good at fiction, that I didn’t have a mind for it, and I would stick to the essays, thought pieces, and non-fiction I seemed to excel at.

But I LOVE fiction. I live in the world of fiction. When people ask me what books I read to learn, expecting me to say things like “Leaders Eat Last” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” my answers were always Hunger Games, Harry Potter, the Grisha Universe – books that taught me to be brave. Women lead characters who taught me that being liked wasn’t the goal, but living with integrity and courage was.

And then a story idea started brewing. So I started poking around, trying to teach myself how to bring it to life, and I quickly realized that I was just never taught how to write fiction. That there is a structure to it I didn’t realize was there. That character and plot development is a craft you can learn.

So I’ve been diving in. And, if you have time, I’d really love some feedback on the very initial beginning of my story.

Here’s what I’d like to know:
– Do these first 1000 words pull you in? Do you want to keep reading? Are you intrigued by the characters? By the world?
– What do you want to learn about these characters and this world? What exactly is pulling you in that you want to know more about?

Completely ignore any editing issues you see, there will be plenty of time spent on that down the road. But as I start to build out the actual story, I want to make sure I’ve gotten the very, very initial “draw you in” element down.

Thank you for your time!


Prologue 

My people are healers but sometimes that leads us to break. From what I’ve observed, there’s a tipping point. When done right, Roga feels like being in a slow moving river. It’s a lazy afternoon bathed in summer light, banana leaves passing over your head as you float along to where the river meets the sea. You go into your patient’s mind to help them process, help them heal, and it’s like seeing the slow-moving light refracting through the water’s surface onto the smooth sand. It’s a muted dance, flowing and beautiful.

Even though we’re born with this, we have to train to do it right, going into someone else’s mind. Without learning to put up proper boundaries, it can be hard to tell what emotions are ours or someone else’s. It becomes too easy to battle things that aren’t our own.

When something breaks, when we don’t perform Roga the right way or ensure all boundaries have been set before we go into someone’s mind, we become trapped. A raging waterfall appears where there wasn’t one before, slamming us into the rocks below. We hit the sea only to find 30 foot shore breaks crashing over our heads, pummeling us deeper into the churning water we can’t escape.

There’s all sorts of ways to break. That’s when it all goes dark in our minds, our patients and ours.

It’s what happened to Cace and Axelle.

It’s why I can’t perform Roga on Isana anymore, we’re too close. Our minds may as well share one skull anyway.

But it’s what has kept our society going for hundreds of years, being able to help one another like this. Because as our people have learned since the Before Times, pain of the body is torturous but for the most part, predictable. Pain of the mind? That’s what made the the world burn.

Chapter 1
1 year prior

“Liiiiiiiiiviiiiiiiiii,” Isana sings. “Pass me the fruit salad?”

We’re sitting around the old wooden table in Evin, Isana’s mother’s, kitchen. The wood grain on the table is slightly rough, the sealant stain worn away from decades of use.

From years of Isana, Dema and I huddled in the small kitchen with the single oven light on, practicing our Roga in preparation for our yearly exams.

From the past 3 years of early morning status checks with Evin and her brother Cace, ensuring Asali, our community, was running efficiently with adequate supplies. From the decades before when Evin and Cace were studying for their own exams.

This table has seen us all grow up, witnessed change as our power grew. Change to ourselves and to our people. And was now witnessing Isana’s persistent morning routine of being somehow completely unable to do anything herself.

“It’s closer to you than it is to me,” I point out.

“Sure, but I’d have to stand up to get it.”

“As would I, and then I would have to take more steps just to pass it back to you. Get it yourself.”

Isana lets out a heavy sigh, over-dramatizing the amount of effort it’s taking her to get out of her chair, the small wooden one she and I decided to paint green when we were 12. Misshapen yellow flowers climb up the chair’s back, the paint starting to chip. I know every detail of this house, its messiness, its imperfections. It’s always had a feeling my house never has. A warmth. A feeling of home.

I live down the mountain, closer to the government buildings, with my parents, my mother Nuada and my father Troi. They’re pensive people, always in their heads. With no use for bright colors and random weekend painting projects. Our house is practical, useful. Mostly shades of gray.

Nuada and Troi study brain waves and neural pathways, working on behalf of the Asali council to ensure we’re understanding how to best use our Roga without harm to ourselves or others. It’s never been a perfect science, but calling Roga a power has always particularly infuriated Troi.

“We did not one day wake up with a blessing from some all-seeing god in the form of radioactive exposure,” I can hear him say. It’s something he says often. To anyone who dares say “power” in his presence.

I snap back to the moment as Evin walks in from the living room and flicks Isana on the shoulder.

“Stop being dramatic before you break my chair.”

“Livi won’t get me the fruit salad.”

“Good job, Livi, she’s lazy in the morning,” Evin says as she winks at me, walking by both of us to grab the fruit salad bowl, then doing an about-face to carry it back into the living room with her, where she and Cace have their morning report papers spread across the floor.

“Mooooooooooooooom,” Isana fake cries as she folds forward in her chair, putting her forehead on the table and folding her long arms over the back of her head.

Isana has always been a force. Taller and broader than everyone in our class, always pushing her strength. There was rarely a time when we were little that she didn’t have a broken this, a sprained that. She’s sturdy, physically and mentally. But her mind is so strong that she sometimes forgets her body is fallible.

I watch her mutter to herself with her head still down, the copper of her draped arms highlighted by the sun streaming in the window, the thick waves of her chestnut hair, highlighted by so much time at the beach, cascading over her end of the table.

There were times when we were little that I would look at her and wonder why I couldn’t be as full of fire. But in the past few years, we’ve gotten to a place where we know what strengths and weaknesses of our own complement each other. She leans on my strength for detail, for strategy. I lean on her strength to get things done. When she wants to.

“You’re being impossible, Isana,” Evin chuckles from the other room. “And you two are about to be late anyway.”

Isana’s head snaps up. She does this every morning, switching from her morning lethargy to work mode. She pushes back from the table, scraping the chair legs along the floor, standing up and shooting her arms above her to stretch her long torso.

She leans left and twists, leans the other way and twists, rotates her head left to right, does a quick jumping jack, snaps her fingers four times, puts her right hand over her left to stretch her left wrist, does the mirrored move on her right, then stares down at me.

“What?” she says, like this ritual she does every morning is normal.

“Love you, Isa,” I say as I get up from the table quietly, lift my chair back toward the table so the legs don’t scrape, and walk into the living room to say goodbye to Evin.

Cace is sitting on the couch to her left, picking out mango from the bowl in Evin’s lap with his thumb and forefinger as they both look at the morning report papers strewn across the floor.

“You do know that you can get all of these on the tablet, right?” I didn’t even know there was this much paper available. I can’t imagine how we’ve been able to recycle enough for them to keep printing these stacks every day.

“I never feel like I can get a full view of everything on one screen,” Cace says as he picks through the bowl for a piece of pineapple.

“Here’s a thought – multiple screens,” Isana says as she walks into the room. “And where’s Dema? He’s usually here by now.”

“He had to take Malu to his class orientation, he starts academy next season,” I tell her.

“Aw little Malu! Do you remember how ugly he was when he was born? Looked like a little alien. And now he’s all grown up and handsome and starting academy.”

“I’ll be sure to tell Dema that you think his brother looked like an alien, Isana,” chuckles Cace.

“Dema said it first, this is not news,” Isana says as she makes her way through the maze of papers to give her mother and uncle hugs goodbye, then gingerly steps back through the stacks toward where I’m standing near the front door.

I’ve always been a keen audience to how they interact, the ease they experience with one another. The openness they enjoy, even in the harmless quips they toss each other’s way. Observing them is how I learned how families could interact, were family time not just another study in human minds.

Isana grabs her satchel from one of the wall hooks and loops her arm in mine to forcefully guide me outside, both of our shoulders bumping against the door frame as she uses her foot to swing the door forward.

“Later, loves!” she calls back to Evin and Cace before turning back toward me. “Allright, quiz me. I know you remember this stuff better than I do.”

We have a surprise quiz later today, although it’s hard to surprise any of us when Blaz, our instructor, radiates stress whenever she’s planning out tests. She knows memorization does little for us when Roga is such an experiential craft, but the council insists we spend our final year in academy grounding our practice in history and neuroscience theory.

“The original name for Roga in the Before Times was?”

“Empathic influence. Give me a harder one.”

“Emotional processing takes place in which part of the brain?”

“Amygdala.”

“Which is part of the?”

Her chin shifts toward me, her eyebrows furrowing. “The brain…” she says slowly.

“Right but what system?”

“Oh, the limbic system.”

“Correct, which is part of the?”

“Lobe. Temporal lobe.”

We go back and forth like this for a while, meandering down the gravel road away from her house toward Asali’s center, the ocean beyond remaining in our sight as our elevation decreases.

We’ve been walking this way for ten years, ever since we entered the academy together right after our tenth birthdays, mine just a month before hers. We were both summer children, born when the sun was at its hottest and the sea at its calmest.

 

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Choosing your 2019 word.

I don’t do new year’s resolutions because they hold no real importance to or impact for me. I already put so much pressure on myself to succeed that they feel like yet another source of pressure and – let’s be real – ones that are rarely stuck to.

So after college, I shifted. Instead of resolutions, I started choosing words – one word per year – to guide my intention. They become my theme, my gut-check:

“Does XYZ serve this intention I’ve set? Yes or no?”

And if it’s no, it’s out. For me, it’s both easier and bigger. Setting a one-word intention is far more about who I want to be, rather than what I want to do.

It shifts my value from what I can produce to what kind of human I aim to be. Continue reading “Choosing your 2019 word.”

Youth & beauty are not accomplishments.

It is one of my favorite Carrie Fisher quotes, stated in her frustration around the public debate on whether or not she had aged well.

“Youth and beauty are not accomplishments,” she said. “They’re the temporary happy byproducts of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”

We do others a disservice when we only celebrate the things they have no control over.

For kids, for friends, for strangers, we often point out the things that will inevitably fade or pass, and things that – because they were applauded for so long – these people will fiercely hold on to, then be terrified of losing.

When youth or beauty were the things that were elevated as the person’s value, what happens when they are gone?

I have a slightly manic obsession with being the first/youngest person to do something. When I go into classes/conferences I automatically look around the room and try to figure out if I’m the youngest and, if not, how many other people are “beating me.” Continue reading “Youth & beauty are not accomplishments.”

Doctors: How do you best help patients? Try asking questions.

In the early 2000s on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, a healthcare group was having trouble improving health outcomes for certain populations of native peoples.

The problem they were trying to solve was not unique – this population of native peoples tended to be obese, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and died young – 30s to 40s – from complications of all. The healthcare group wanted to help these native peoples fix the problem.

izTo paint the picture, you may know the remake/mash-up of “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World,” sung in a soothing manner by a man with a high voice playing a ukelele.

The song is by Bruddah Iz – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. He died at 38 from complications of obesity – he was 6’2″ and at one point, 757 pounds. He is of the group of native peoples the healthcare group was aiming to help. Continue reading “Doctors: How do you best help patients? Try asking questions.”

Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem.

lalaI’ve seen a lot of posts on IG from women along the lines of “other girls are just mad they don’t look like me” or whatever else. There’s a ton to unpack there, but I’ll say this:

If you feel as though your best accomplishment is your looks, you’re missing the bigger picture of who you are. I promise there are more interesting things about you. Your value is not based on your ability – perceived or actual – to make others jealous of your looks.

I think you’ll find that when you’re busy growing and developing your mind, your abilities, your character, your spirit, you start to realize there is no competition physically. It’s just not where the real work exists. That contest stops mattering.

I am with you that I love being called beautiful by a partner or a close friend – but it’s because when they say that, I know they’re saying it based on knowing the whole me. When they comment on my beauty, I know it’s for the whole package. Continue reading “Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem.”

What you focus on, grows. (aka, maybe your perspective sucks.)

Imagine what you’re doing to your brain if, for days, weeks, months, years, you are repeating the story – I am sick. This is hard. I’m tired. Everything hurts.

Imagine how much it fucks with your brain to HAVE to repeat that story to doctors in order to get them to believe your symptoms. To explain to your friends and family, over and over again, why you’re not up for doing XYZ thing.

Imagine how much, in the struggle to know your experience is valid, that this isn’t just in your head, that what you’re going through is real, you have to ground yourself in that reality.

In having to tell your sickness story over and over again just to be seen, heard, or understood, how many times have you emphasized to yourself just how sick you are? Continue reading “What you focus on, grows. (aka, maybe your perspective sucks.)”

Just saying hi

lalaLooking like it’s time to do a new hello, nice to meet you!

I’m Lala 👋🏼 I’ve lived in Brooklyn for a little over two years but I grew up bouncing between Hawaii and Seattle, went to college in Miami, and did my baby adulthood in Atlanta.

Having type 1 diabetes since I was 10 and a whole host of other autoimmune issues since my mid-20s has taught me courage, to be incredibly in tune with my body and its needs, and sent me toward a lot of really fascinating research on neuroscience as a way to understand our thought patterns, nutrition for immune health, ACTUAL self care (not just Instagram’s version of a bath and a face mask), and other awesome things to help us be well.

I pay that forward with my book Beyond Powerful, all about the superpowers we gain from a life with chronic illness, as a one-on-one personal chronic health coach for people who need a bit of extra help navigating a rough time with their health or want to reach a next level of sustainable wellness (LalaJackson.com/Coaching) and by working at @jdrfhq
Continue reading “Just saying hi”

My superpower is transparency

Speech HugVideo from my keynote below! This past weekend, I had the really wonderful opportunity to give a closing keynote at the Students with Diabetes national conference. I spoke about the superpowers we gain from the challenges we go through. I shared some stories from others and a few of my own –

– At the start, I taught hula, because that’s how I wake people up at 8:30am on a Sunday.

– At 12:34 I tell a story about how my mom taught me to use my superpower of voice.

– At 20:30, while talking about the superpower of vision, you’ll see why I think some of my superpowers are transparency and vulnerability, because I share an incredibly tough and personal story from last year.

– And at 42:02, Continue reading “My superpower is transparency”

Exercising isn’t my weight loss key.

Because I’ve lost 50 pounds so far, I get a lot of questions about my workout plan. Truthfully, I don’t have one. At all. I just go with what sounds fun at the time.

Because while nutrition has been 98% of the key for my body getting healthier, exercising – even if it’s as simple as an hour walk around my neighborhood – is the biggest factor in my mental health. I eat well mainly for my body, but I have to keep moving for my mind.

Not only does moving my body help boost endorphins and serotonin, keeping me calmer and able to better deal with stress (and helping my immune system deal with stessors too!), but reminding myself what my body can do reminds me that I’m a strong – physically and mentally.

I was a major athlete up until a persistent wrist injury took me out after my sophomore year in high school. I was gunning for the Junior Olympics US Rowing team and, in the summer before my injury finally made me have to give up the sport entirely, I spent 4-6 hours a day, 5 days a week on the water. Continue reading “Exercising isn’t my weight loss key.”

On not being allowed to love.

My earliest memories start around three or four. In one, I have climbed up a wooden fence, trying to balance my weight against the top while I reach out to feed a neighbor’s horse, that I have named Cow, a piece of my apple.

In another, I am wandering down the street back toward our mobile home, having just returned from the post office a half mile away. I had told my mom I was going and she had said yes, but when I asked to go to the post office to mail Mema some leaves I had burned holes into with a magnifying glass, she assumed I meant the “post office” that I had imagined in my bedroom. The leaves did not make it to my Mema; I had remembered a stamp but the address “Mema, Raleigh” was not specific enough.

In one of the most vivid young memories, I am on our home phone, sometime in the evening because I was in my soft, pink footie pajamas. I was about as high as the counter, my eyes just barely reaching to see its top. I was speaking to my dad – my biological dad whom I wouldn’t know I looked like were it not for pictures – and I was about to hang up the phone to go to bed. Continue reading “On not being allowed to love.”