I'm not going to lie

I wanted to write something beautiful and a bit philosophical today. Trouble is, I'm exhausted.

Some people say writing a book is like having a baby. I have all kinds of thoughts and opinions on that, but I'll leave them for another day. For now it's taking all my energy to do both. It turns out that publishing a book while pregnant isn't easy.

It's rewarding, though. And worth it — both the publishing and the pregnancy.

So please forgive my few words. I must attend to all of the preorder customers who have done so much these past couple of weeks to encourage me.

That is, if I don't fall asleep first.

why read this book?

"sometimes the emotions are too much
the words spilling onto the page
may only be understood
by the heart that bled them out"

...at least, that's what I thought
before I shared those words.

The book my heart poured out is full of poems that I wrote for myself. I had no any idea that others would benefit from reading them until I published them on a blog and began to hear from readers. They told me that my poems broaden their perspective and make them reconsider the way they see things. Reading my words even inspired them to write their own; if my poems were making a difference, theirs could too.

This book is about connection — real, deep connection. The kind that comes unexpectedly over a simple cup of tea, when one person says something that makes the other realize “I’m not alone.”

I hope this book brings that same sort of feeling to you.

Preorder special available for one more week! (Through September 14.)

the reason I wrote this book

The words of the poems in the book my heart poured out were a lifeline to me, lifting me up into beauty and light when I felt like I was drowning in the dark ugliness of this world.

I was working for a non-profit at the time, talking with young people about the painful circumstances surrounding abortion. I heard story after story of the traumatic events leading to unplanned pregnancies, the heart-wrenching choices surrounding the fate of those pregnancies (whether terminated or not), and the throbbing pain that continues long after those choices were made. I came home and cried. Then I turned to pen or keyboard and wrote.

The poems I wrote aren’t about abortion. Only a few flowed directly from any particular story I heard. No, these poems were simply how I kept myself from thinking that this abortion-centric world that my work steeped me in was the only world there was. They reminded me that there is beauty that transcends pain.

I'm sharing them now in the hope that they will do the same for you. Pain screams and demands attention, but there is always a quiet beauty somewhere behind it. Always, even when it’s almost impossible to see. Maybe some of the words that helped me to see it will help you to see it too.

guest post from cover artist Eric Lin of Café Watercolor

my_heart_pour_out_cover.jpg

Art has many forms. A painting, a piece of music, or a poem. When two forms of art collide, something great can happen. Like one artist inspired by another. I've been painting watercolor for several years now, mostly from my own choice of subjects and references. However, illustration is something I studied during my college years, and I have been wanting to produce one with watercolor. It is always a challenge and exciting process to draw visuals out of words and thoughts. So I approached Jordan for an opportunity to do an illustration for her poetry book, which turned into the cover of her book.

English is my second language. I grow up in Taiwan until I was 14. Now I consider myself a fluent English speaker after years of living in the US. However, reading is still something that doesn’t come natural to me, especially long forms of text. I remember struggling through my high school summer readings. However, there is a form of writing that I like, and that is poetry. Like a skilled painter who paints a powerful picture with simple brushstrokes, Jordan’s poetry is how she uses simple wordings to convey a complex emotion and image. I am able to submerge myself into her state of mind very easily despite my lack of reading discipline. I personally believe that’s what makes good art. A good piece of art is something that speaks for itself for the audience to enjoy with ease, while having enough substance to remain in their thoughts.

eric lin sketch.jpg

The challenge of doing a visual piece for Jordan’s poetry book is the interpretation. People always say “a picture is worth a thousand words”. However, that’s definitely not the case for this project. I’m really afraid of cheapening Jordan’s poems into an ordinary picture. Therefore, having her involved in the creation of the image every step of the way is vital. I realized the role of this book cover is not to be a direct representation of the poems themselves but an invitation into Jordan’s poetry world. Through our conversations, I learned about her poetry gathering. Where she and her friends come together to have a cup of tea and share poems. So, the idea of a pair of tea cups came into my mind. By releasing her poems as a book, Jordan is extending her invitation to you into her tea gathering. Each cup of tea represents a person. And she bridges the connections with her poems. That is what the image is about. An invitation of a connection through poetry. Jordan came up with a perfect title for her book — my heart poured out. Knowing she has beautiful handwriting, I asked her to write the book title by hand. It became a perfect touch as part of the illustration.

Jordan and I have never met in person (not yet at least). Yet it is amazing how we were able to come together to collaborate on this project. I imagine people who pick up this book will have the same experience. To experience her stories and emotions without meeting her in person. I am very happy to see her sharing her heart with the world, and am honored to be part of it.

Visit cafewatercolor.com to see more of Eric's beautiful artwork!

discovering the freedom of iteration

I used to think editing was for bad writers. That is, until I started writing every day instead of only when I felt like it.

When I wrote every day I didn’t have time to mull over the words in my head until they were just right; I had to just write. At first it was hard to take the abstract process that found far too much freedom in the vast expanses of my brain space and put it onto two-dimensional black-and-white. I’m still learning how to do so, in fact. Sometimes it’s a real struggle — I have a few poems that attempt to express that in the book my heart poured out — but the struggle has been worth it. It has meant that I’m forced to put ideas down someplace physical instead of leaving them in my head where they were liable to be lost.

Writing every day made me realize that I’d been editing all along. I had kept the process in my head and only let the words out when I was sure they were near finished. Maybe they would need a touch of polish, but generally they were in the form they would take when published.

Sometimes I fall back into old habits. I wait until I have a complete idea before setting pen to paper. But usually I have had half a dozen other ideas in the meantime that I do put down in some form or fashion, whether it be a few-hundred word document, a sentence fragment in the notes app on my phone, or a few rambling phrases in my journal. Writing every day made me comfortable with all of these. It forced me to experiment — to write something — and discover the value in processes I wouldn’t have otherwise tried.

Most of all, writing every day showed me how much I have to say and helped me express it instead of letting it sit stagnant in some corner of my brain. Allowing myself to go back and edit (and delete!) frees me to write anything that comes to mind, no matter how seemingly stupid it is at second glance. In fact, I’ve found that plenty of the words I had expected to be stupid actually aren’t and I don’t delete them after all. I refine them, or file them away for later. It is only in letting them out that I can see their unexpected beauty.

So many of the poems in my heart poured out were this way. I wrote them simply for the sake of writing. Some I mulled over more than others before writing a first draft. Some I continued to edit right up until I finalized the book. Most of them would never have come to be, though, without the freedom to iterate.