Thanks so much for being here and making Four Days A Week
a special place since March 15, 2010. Although today's post marks the closing of my Monday Musings blog
, the spirit of following our dreams and doing what we love lives on.
Stepping out into the sun and on a different path. Come. Take a walk with me. Let's go to my new home online at www.miatstarr.com
~ where I'm building a treasure chest of moments, musings, and inspiration from behind and beyond my desk, sharing and creating.
To my regular readers, or perhaps those just passing through, here's to a wonderful year following your dreams. May each step forward be filled with unforgettable moments, inspiration, and joy.
It's a new day. Dare to reach beyond your grasp. I hope to see you out there. And for those days when you need a little lift and inspiration, or a room with a view, please stop by my home. The door is open
Do. Dream. Believe.
Writing from the heart ...
On one of my visits home to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2001, I asked my seventy-year-old father to write a journal about his life and days in Viet Nam.
I said to him in English and part Vietnamese:
"Write whatever comes to mind. Don't worry about time and having things in order. Write from the heart. Write in Vietnamese. Don't worry about the language, or the form. I will figure it out later."
My father did not ask questions or why. He simply nodded and said, "Okay."
Two years later my father gave me his seventy-five page, handwritten journal and said, "My memory is good ... sometimes too good that it can be bad. My writing is not so good. It can be better."
I thanked my father for giving me what will later become the voice and inspiration to MORNING SUN
, a historical fiction about a Vietnamese boy coming of age in wartime.
Clouds. A visible dark mass lingers in the air, lowers and threatens and destroys. Spring arrives.
from 14 December 1944, Thursday
to 2 March 1945, Friday
My parents say I am stronger and smarter than I appear. They have known this from the moment I was born on 8 April 1932 and stretched out my long fingers to touch my father's face. My brother before me was not strong. He died on the second day. My parents do not talk much about my brother's death. When life is difficult, my parents often call out my name, Manh, which means strength in Vietnamese. They say Manh with tenderness and a quiet defiance against the hardships of life.
I am twelve years old. I never doubt my strength and intelligence when I am with my parents, not even when sheets of gray skies linger in the air like today on 14 December 1944. It's that time of the year when the sun fades and disappears, sometimes taking as long as six days to return to Mong Phu, my little village on a low hill, forty-eight kilometers northwest of Ha Noi in Viet Nam. Two hundred people live in Mong Phu, and we have not seen the sun in four days. I know it's impossible, but sitting with my family near a stream, I wonder if the clouds, out of hunger, have eaten the sun.
by Mia T. Starr Listening, I hear my father's voice ... his story in the dark and in the light. I am writing my MORNING
SUN, a historical fiction set in Viet Nam and inspired by my father's journal
. Today, sharing a new scene from MORNING SUN— It is the last day of March 1963.
I am in my new home, a grove away from Heaven’s Pavilion and a short walk from my mother’s house. Today I am with my wife, Lam, and our daughter, Nguyen Thi Hien, our first child together. Hien will be two years old in eighteen days. I swing her around in celebration, my hands secure on her waist. She laughs, dipping her head back to feel the rush of flying high in the air.
“More, Ba,” she says, her arms stretched out as wings, the yellow ribbon in her hair in a swirl of joy. She bends back farther, laughing harder. “More, Ba!”
I twirl my daughter around, going faster and loving her laughter. I do not want it to end.
“Careful, Manh,” Lam says, watching us from our bed, watching us spin. Her small frame curls into a shell. She tries to smile, tries her best to not think about my leaving.
“More, Ba,” Hien says again, the sound of Ba melting me. She claps her hands.
I give my daughter another twirl, raising her up and down on a wave. I swing her to the bed, landing her softly next to her mother. I pull them close to me and take in the scent of their skin. I want to remember this moment.
Lam interlocks her fingers with mine, wanting to stay this way forever, wanting to shut out the war that has brought in America’s advisers, 3,000 elite soldiers, a handful of Air Force pilots, and weapons to aid South Viet Nam against the North, stop our country from falling into Communists hands.
I press my lips to Lam’s forehead knitted with tension.
“I do not want you to leave,” she says, her voice breaking as it always does hours before I return to my base, my duty as a soldier. Her brows crinkle, the underlying fear always there—What if you do not come back?
Hien rolls away from her mother to me, calling out: “Ba? Ba?” In eighteen days she will be two years old. She does not know what is happening, but she knows something is changing. “Ba?”
I kiss my daughter’s forehead and cheeks, kiss her in the same places where my father had kissed me when I was a boy and afraid. I hold my family and clasp tight to Lam’s fingers shaking in the fold.
I want to tell my wife and daughter not to worry, not to be frightened. But I cannot, because each day the rumblings from the North is growing louder with the rallying cry for our country to be one nation under North Viet Nam’s rule.
Hien cries out for me. This time I tell her, “My little one, I’m here. I am right here.”
Thank you, readers, for encouraging me to share the new scene above from MORNING SUN
, my historical fiction in progress. -Mia
MOVING PAST THE FAILED CHAPTERS, hearing Maya Angelou's words of wisdom:
| || |
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Listening and writing my story, my MORNING SUN
, a historical fiction set in Viet Nam and inspired by my father's seventy-five page, handwritten journal.
Moving forward in a new light, I hope you'll join me the next two weeks on June 18 and June 25, 2012 here at the blog for one new scene and a reading from MORNING SUN. Thanks so much for being part of my writing journey.
-Mia COVER ART ABOVE by Janet M. McEwan: WRITING FOR OUR LIVES is a periodical which serves as a vessel for poems, short fiction, stories, letters, autobiographies, and journal excerpts from the life stories, experiences, and spiritual journeys of women. The poem, OF THE SEA, by Mia T. Starr was published
in the 1995 Winter, Volume 3, Number 2 issue of WRITING FOR OUR LIVES
A top story in Anita's Finding Inspiration Daily
and The Becoming Daily
. June 2012.*
I said to my father in English and part Vietnamese:
Write whatever comes to mind. Don't worry about time and having things in order. Write from the heart. Write in Vietnamese. Don't worry about the language, or the form. I will figure it out later.
Listening and trusting the voice. Am writing my MORNING SUN.
No matter how dark the morning, the sun always rises. -Mia T. Starr
THE BEAUTIFUL PAINTING, Self Portrait of a Bear
(featured in the photo above), sits in my home and reminds me I'm on the right path. It was a gift and sage painted by the talented, lovely Jade Webber
. It arrived on one of those days when doubts were creeping into my writing, halting my progress with questions. The familiar critic was sounding off, deafening in my ears:Sure, you can write a few good scenes, but it's another matter to be able to write a good story and hold a reader's interest to the end. You already failed twice with MORNING SUN. You know that, right? Two completed drafts, and now you're attempting a third. Can you be taken seriously when you're a woman writing in the voice of a boy, son, soldier, and father? Even with your dad's journal and inspiring life to guide you, do you really believe you can save the story you're trying to write? Save yourself from more failures and put away this work of fiction.
The Bear—so regal, wise, and calm—had something different to say. On the other side of him was a note from Jade, bringing me back to a place of trust: Think of this bear as a sage or a guide who will provide wise council at need.
On that day I placed the Bear on my desk and in front of the computer screen. His presence, embodying the spirit of a sage and friend, encouraged me to write and not worry about getting each sentence in a perfect state. Keep writing. Keep going. For a long time my fingers remained frozen on the keyboard, my eyes staring at the messy page on the screen. The critic, retreating, was still there. The
Bear, a steady force, pushed back the doubts with inner calm and strength. My fingers started to move across the keyboard
, deleting the unnecessary scenes, connecting letters, forming words. A sentence appeared, then another. This time I did not judge what I had written. I looked up at the Bear and felt the presence of
Jade, family, friends, followers, and readers. I listened to their council and kept going, kept writing. Each day I answered the critic. Word by word.
A top story in Anita's Finding Inspiration Daily
and VirtualDavis Daily Digest
. May 2012.*
For readers interested in purchasing a limited print edition of Self Portrait of a Bear
by Jade Webber, follow us here to Etsy
. For more paintings from Jade, join us here at Art to Save Trees
. Also visit Jade and her husband, Stephen Lloyd Webber, at their Wellness Immersion Retreats in Italy, Bali and the Caribbean
, bringing together creative writers, painters, yoga practitioners, and those interested in sustainability, nature and self-development. These wonderful retreats give you time, space, and structure to work creatively. *
The sun is rising.
The ocean is speaking.
The moon is dreaming.
* THE MOMENTS BEHIND THE PHOTOS ABOVE
(sun, ocean, moon, and wind from top to bottom)—Mia at the Shadowcliff
in Grand Lake, Colorado for the 13th Annual Lighthouse Writers Retreat in 2010. She steps out to meet the sun. * Stephen Lloyd Webber
(Mia's fantastic writing teacher at the Writing Immersion Retreat in Tuscany
in 2011 and 2012) shares a breathtaking photo of the ocean near Heaven Hill in Big Sur, California, where he and his wife, Jade Webber
, are building a private sanctuary for writers and artists. *
At night walking with the moon, dreaming and imagining. *
Mia remembers the moment from September 2009. She is on the mountains of Boreas Pass in Colorado, holding a prayer arrow. The wind is whispering. Mia closes her eyes and makes her wishes, trusting all will come to be.**
A top story in Anita's Finding Inspiration Daily
and The Becoming Daily
. May 2012.*
Matt with his classmates at Northwestern.
we reach the last installment of my chat with Matt, Part IV, which includes Matt's featured articles, video assignments, and a special photo slide below.
We remember the words of Henry David Thoreau:I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
From here to there, wishing you all the best as you move forward in your endeavors and dreams. Thanks for being here and celebrating Matt's inspiring journey. I hope you will
join me again next week on Monday, May 7, 2012, for a special photo post
It will be the first in a series of moments from my writing journey, leading to a new post here each Monday from May through June 2012. There will be a few surprises, including a new scene from my historical fiction in progress, MORNING SUN.
-Mia MIA'S CHAT WITH MATT, PART IVWhen you are not studying or working on your next story, interview, or feature, what do you like to do most? Where can your family and friends find you?
I think I'm a pretty typical guy in my down time. I like to sit on my butt and watch TV—sports (pretty much everything but soccer), go to sporting events around the city (Dad is Bears, Bulls and Sox season ticket holder). I also love to watch any type of comedy, TV show or movie—Parks and Rec is my favorite show at the moment.
I like to go out to the bars with my friends on the weekend and chill with a few cold ones. I also enjoy exploring Chicago with my girlfriend or just staying in and watching a movie with her.
I also love to sit down and play piano every now and then. Played for 14 years growing up so I still can remember some of my old songs. Finally, my new goal is to be a journalist who doesn't have to worry about living in a cardboard box, so I've just started investing my money in the stock market. I find it to be pretty intense and exciting.
What projects are you currently working on in your pursuit of a full-time career in journalism?
I'm covering the housing and neighborhood issues beat. They don't offer a sports program here at Northwestern
, so I'll have to settle for becoming a well-rounded journalist for now. But I've still been able to work a little sports into my coverage. I've written stories about Wrigley Field and videotaped a story about Chicago Housing Authority kids hanging out with the Blackhawks
. I even got to do a one-on-one interview with Hawks goalie Ray Emery
, which was a pretty cool experience. This quarter I am taking Chicago broadcast and am focusing less on print journalism and more on the area I want to go into. A year from today, what would you like to see happen in your life?
I really don't have high expectations for coming out. I feel like I'm trying to be more realistic. Getting a job in journalism these days is extremely tough. So I'll be happy with any job as a sports reporter or anchor. I have a friend who I interned with at CBS who is now working in Grand Forks, ND. While North Dakota doesn't sound too glamorous, he tells me he loves going to work every day, and that's all I really want. So if I'm living in Montana next year covering Buffalo pies, I won't be upset. I know I need to start somewhere before I can work my way up to my ultimate goal—which is being a sports anchor in a major market.ARTICLES by Matthew Michaels: *
For more articles by Matt, follow us here
. Below is also a selection of Matt's video reports, including Man on the Street - Ban Eating (Matt's first video assignment), 2011 Carl Schurz Girls' Basketball Shoot-A-Thon, Job applicants get 'suited' for interviews (Bridge to Success
), and Samson Adams Profile.
Previous installments of Mia's Chat with Matt:
CONNECTING AND SHARING OUR JOURNEYS, we welcome you to Matt's photo album highlighting moments from his childhood when he had dreams of being a broadcaster and sports journalist to where he is today: following his dreams and surrounding himself with people who believe he can. We celebrate the joys and success that will always come from trying and doing our best.
Mike Wilbon and Matt Michaels.
IF YOU DON'T LOVE IT, don't do it. -Michael Wilbon
Continuing my chat with Matt, we meet another special person, Michael Wilbon, who was in town last year in November for a Northwestern football game. On that same day he volunteered to host a Q&A with 50 students. Matt was one of those students, listening and taking in an inspiring session. Below is a video highlighting moments from the Q&A with Mike Wilbon.
Thanks so much for being here. -Mia
MIA'S CHAT WITH MATT, PART III Last year you met Michael Wilbon, the former sports columnist at The Washington Post, who is now with ESPN. How was it meeting Mr. Wilbon and what do you remember most from that event?
Mike Wilbon is one of the most down to earth people I've met. When you see people on TV, you always wonder if they are a completely different person off camera. But that is not the case with Wilbon—what you see is what you get.
He was in town for a Northwestern football game and volunteered to host a Q&A with 50 students in the football press box after the game. I was lucky enough to get on the list because I responded to the email invite right away. Anyways, he spent more than two hours answering our questions—everything from Michael Jordan to diversity in the newsroom. He was extremely candid and didn't shy away from any questions.
I even worked up the nerve to ask him if the Cubs would win a World Series in his lifetime, and whether or not he thought the Billy Goat curse was real?
He just shook his head and said "No chance in hell they win a world series in my lifetime." He went on to say the curse is real and he doesn't think he can suffer much more as a die-hard Cubs fan. He spent a good 10 minutes going on about all of the heartbreak he's experienced, and as a Sox fan, it was fun to hear.
The best thing about the entire Q&A—it was his birthday! And instead of going out with his kid and wife right after the game, he took time to take and answer all of our questions and then pose for pictures afterwards. He was an incredible person and it felt like I was just talking to a regular guy—not a celebrity. And that's the kind of person I hope to be one day.
Matt prepares to meet his dream.
AT THE CENTER OF YOUR BEING
you have the answer: You know who you are and you know what you want. -Lao-Tzu
This week we continue our journey from last week when we met Matt in Part I of my chat with him
. In celebrating Matt's courage to follow his dreams to be a broadcaster and sports journalist, we celebrated the part of us that believes no matter how crazy or out-of-reach our dreams seem to be—they are worth the risk (the leap) it takes to give them a chance to soar, and because there's never been a dream that ever failed from trying. In this spirit, we come to Part II of my chat with Matt. Thanks so much for being here. -Mia
MIA'S CHAT WITH MATT, PART IIYou applied to several graduate journalism programs, but your "dream school" was Northwestern University. Tell us about your application process, including the interview you had with
Anne Penway, the Director of Graduate Admissions at Northwestern University. What were your fears and expectations?
I applied to Maryland, Syracuse, Madison, Illinois and Northwestern. The only ones I really cared about were Maryland, Syracuse and Northwestern. I considered Maryland my #2 choice because it was in DC, one of the professors was Kevin Blackistone from ESPN and it is a top journalism school. So when they were the first ones to accept me, I was ecstatic.
I will always remember where I was. Oddly enough I was driving back from Madison with a group of friends when my friend got pulled over for speeding on the highway. But at the moment the cop started walking up, my phone started ringing with a Maryland area code. It didn't feel right to pick up so I let it go to voicemail. I then listened to the message telling me that I had gotten in. It was a tremendous moment of relief and it was at that moment that I realized my dream was becoming a reality. So the mood in the car quickly went from dejection to rejoicing.
But in the back of my mind, I still wanted to be a Wildcat. They were the premiere journalism school. If I could get accepted there, then I knew I had a chance of going places. Also, I had grown up rooting for Northwestern University football so I always had a fondness for the campus.
Waiting for the day. Excruciating.
Anyways, Northwestern made it clear they wouldn't tell anyone about admittance until March 15, two months after the application was due and my in-person interview. So needless to say, the two month wait was excruciating.
Northwestern was the only school that made me do an in-person interview, so I was a little nervous about that. What was I going to say? I really love journalism but I don't know much about it—Please accept me into this top-notch program? Basically, I just felt under qualified going in.
My interview was with Anne Penway, the Director of Graduate Admissions. She asked me a wide ranging set of questions such as:
- "If I could drop you off from an airplane to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?"
- "If you could eat dinner with anyone from any time, who would it be and why?"
- "Describe the the most unique person you know in under two minutes."
The kangaroo didn't destroy the chances.
I thought after I told her that I wanted to go to Australia because kangaroos are pretty cool, my chances were over.
But apparently, I didn't embarrass myself too much. It was a tough and exhausting interview, but still was a great learning experience. Tell us about the day you learned Northwestern University accepted your application?
I was heading down to my car to drive to the gym. I had been anxiously waiting by the phone all day not knowing if I'd find out by phone call or email. My middle brother had me braced for the worst. He told me that he doubted I'd get in and not to be too upset if I didn't because the standards are so high. So when I sat down in the driver's seat and my iPhone lit up with an unknown number from Evanston, my heart started pounding. I knew this was the moment of truth.
My initial reaction was, "They wouldn't call someone to tell them they were rejected, would they?" Luckily, I was right. I don't remember who called me, but it was a woman from the admissions office who told me I had been accepted. My mouth dropped and I think I let out a girlish "wooo!" on the phone. I probably said thank you 100 times, which the woman got a big kick out of, but she sounded genuinely happy for me.
I immediately called my Dad to tell him the good news. I then spent the rest of the days calling friends and family and soaking it all in. I may or may not have also made a Facebook promise a few months earlier that I would throw a kegger if i got into Northwestern. So I celebrated that evening by following through with my promise (responsibly of course). Just an incredible day and feeling I will never forget.
Mia's email exchange with Matt in celebration on that day—
| || |
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mia T. Starr
Date: Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 4:24 PM
To: Matt Michaels
Matt, I just heard the news. So happy for you! Congratulations :-) ... When are we getting together for lunch to celebrate? -Mia
From: Matt Michaels
Date: Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 6:19 PM
Subject: Re: CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!
To: Mia T. Starr
Thanks Mia!!! I am on cloud nine right now. I have to thank you for pushing me into this. If it wasn't for people like you, I would have never given it a chance ...
I will be back in town later next week, so maybe we could do lunch sometime then? Looking forward to catching up! Thanks again!!! -Matt
Michael Wilbon and Matt Michaels.
Join us here next week on April 23, 2012 for Part III of Mia's Chat with Matt ~ meeting Michael Wilbon
. Or subscribe
to receive Part III (and all our Monday posts) via email. If you missed Part I from last week, click here
. You'll come away more than inspired. *
Thank you for being here and making this corner of the World Wide Web a special one. -Mia