We all have our ups and downs, and it’s only natural that we’d like to share most of them with our family and friends, our so-called support network. It’s especially more fun and exciting to share those moments of triumph, big and small, with the people who always stand by us.
From a writer’s perspective, my most rewarding moment comes when I’m finally able to share the product of my effort with readers at large, beginning with the readers in my life. They, the latter, are the ones who have been supportive of my pursuit from the start, who have encouraged and nurtured the dream from a germ of an idea to a physical book in hand. Of course I would want them to be the first ones to read and critique it.
But sometimes that simplest of gifts, the gift of sharing, can also be the most elusive.
Looking back on how it all started for me, this endeavor called writing, I can think of two special people who had an early and profound influence on my desire to pursue it.
The first one was my dad. As far back as I can remember, he had always been a true book lover. We had an attic in our house filled to the rafters with books of all types, in Vietnamese, French, and English—an inexhaustible treasure trove that we kids began rummaging through as soon as we discovered the joy of reading. And on those weekends when Dad took us downtown (in Sài-Gòn), we all looked forward to a must-visit to our favorite ice cream parlor—but also to a long stop at one of the bookstores there. It became a fun weekend routine for us, until we all grew up and wanted to do our own things. By then, in various degrees, he had imparted his love for books to us, a wonderful gift that has lasted us a lifetime and still keeps on giving. Dad himself continued to read avidly well into his later years, until his eyesight began to desert him. I also learned that in his early life he had finished translating an English book into Vietnamese and had even managed to have the first volume published. But then the war happened and disrupted everything, and then with us kids on the way, Dad set it all aside to concentrate on earning a living for his growing family. I’ve always had a gut feeling that my own desire to write at least stemmed in part from him.
In the late 70’s, fresh out of college and just starting work as an engineer in the U.S., I got sucked into the world of high technology where one pretty much lived to work and compete. Remember the 80’s when Japan’s technology surged ahead of the rest of the world and the country seemed unstoppable? Well, I remember working 60- to 80-hour weeks back then and reading almost nothing but technical journals and research papers, as Silicon Valley hustled to play catch-up. And it appeared my life would remain indefinitely on that single fast track, if not for a great friend and mentor.
My friend Roger was the person who reminded me of the notion of a balanced life, having acquired it through his own living experience. A camping enthusiast and an avid reader, he introduced me to the great outdoors, and to “real” books once again. Under his friendly tutelage, I discovered first-hand the wonders of the Sierra Nevada—and was made aware again of the beauty of the inner world, through the works of great contemporary authors of all genres. It helped rekindle my desire to write, and poor Roger had to serve as the first critic of my sophomoric attempts at poetry and short story. These fell way short of even my own modest aspirations, but I knew then I was going to keep trying.
Since then, there have been many other people who have encouraged and assisted me in my pursuit, and I can’t begin to express my appreciation for all of their support. But I often think of my dad and my mentor Roger because, you see, I never got to share with them my first completed novel, Once upon a Mulberry Field. During Dad’s final year, I was able to talk with him about the book outline and to show him the unfinished manuscript, but that was all. Roger, on the other hand, had passed away over ten years earlier, long before I even dreamed of the story that would become Mulberry Field.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to place a copy of my book in their hands and say to them “Thank you, with all my heart!”