What Editors Want You To Know…

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I posted, mainly because when I haven’t been working I’ve been out at book signings, and when I haven’t been at book signings I’ve been writing. Crazy, but awesome at the same time!

But I’m especially excited for this next post, because today I have a special guest. You’ve heard from an author, so I figured it was time to see things from an editor’s point of view. Because, as you know, it’s not just the writer that makes a book happen; behind every good writer is a talented editor. Maybe this post will give the aspiring writers amongst you some helpful tips. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Thank you so much for joining me today!  Can you introduce yourself?

Sure can! I’m Sarah Ruiz, mother, writing coach, and developmental editor (oh, and a writer myself, too!). I’m originally from South Florida, but live in Raleigh with my husband and two kids. While my own writing is adult contemporary with a focus on young mothers, I work with clients all over the genre and category spectrum. As a writing coach, I empower other moms to pursue their writing dreams through education and accountability.

When did you decide to pursue your passion for writing?

I always wanted to be a writer (typical, I know), and truthfully I always worked at it sporadically in one way or another. I wrote a short story collection in undergrad for my honors thesis, but after graduation only produced two or three short stories. It wasn’t until my daughter was born two years later (2015) that I became much more serious about my writing and what I really wanted: to write a novel. Since then, I’ve gotten my MFA in fiction writing (at NC State), wrote and revised my first novel, landed a literary agent, started my coaching and editing business, and am currently drafting novel #2.


As an editor, you work with writers with anything from looking over the manuscript to writing the query letter.  What project is your favorite to work on, and why?

My favorite editing projects are query letters! They are like a puzzle for me, and while most authors despise them, I enjoy crafting them. I love to see how precise and catchy I can make a story. 

My favorite non-editing project is coaching. There’s nothing like working 1-on-1 with a writer in the drafting phase and guiding them through the process of writing a book. I get to read their work as they write it, send them weekly craft exercises, and cheer them on through weekly check-in phone calls or emails. It’s really an exciting experience.


Editors see a manuscript in all of its rough draft glory; how can you spot when the story is a solid one? What is your favorite genre to edit?

As a developmental editor, my goal isn’t the same as a line editor or copyeditor. What I’m looking for is satisfaction: the characters feel real, their trajectory is believable, the stakes are high, and the ending has a great payoff. I love it when I read a book and can’t think of any other the plot could turn out—not because there aren’t other options, but because the one the author chose was so effective.


How important is word count?  Every genre has its own standards; should writers follow those, or are they more arbitrary? 

When it comes down to whether a wordcount works or not, it really isn’t about the wordcount itself. What really counts is the pacing. You should be able to articulate why each scene in your novel is necessary. Is there anything you can cut without making the novel less effective? 

And for those with shorter wordcounts: Where can you add some character development? What parts of the plot may be confusing because they aren’t fully explained? Is your character grappling with his/her demons enough?

But overall, I think it is safest to stay within guidelines, but if you have to be over or under to best serve the story, then the story comes first!


What is the one thing that you wished writers knew?

You can write your novel in ten minutes a day. Seriously, I talk about this all the time on my website. You don’t have to write for hours on end to be a writer.

If writers would like to get in touch with you, what’s the best way?

I’m pretty active on all my social media accounts! (Facebook, Instagram), but the surest way is to message me through the contact form on my website! www.sarahruizwrites.com

And there you have it! Special thanks to Sarah for sharing her insights; hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. I mean, writing just ten minutes a day? I think I can handle that! 😉 Anything here surprise you?

Belated Author’s Note

Consider this next post would be a belated author’s note, and it can be summed up in three words: Deh vs. Neh.


Three letters, but ooooooh how I struggled with them.  Namely, how to spell the word. One of the challenges in writing Hart & Seoul was getting the spelling of Korean correctly, made especially tricky since Korean is obviously written out in a completely different alphabet called hangul, and there are often several variations of how to translate those words into an English spelling. To those who know the Korean language, the word is typically romanized as ‘neh‘. However, to many native English speakers, the word actually sounds like ‘deh‘.  I have revision after revision with first ‘neh‘, then ‘deh‘, literally going back and forth between the two. But ultimately, I kept coming back to the phonetic spelling, for the simple reason that we are seeing everything through Merri’s point of view.  Because the book is in first person, we are limited to Merri’s knowledge, and she has no clue about the Korean language.  And since we are in her head, we see what she sees and hear what she hears.  So ‘deh‘ it remained.


Now, in hindsight, I had an #oops moment when I realized that in my eagerness to get information about mental health issues in the author’s note, I completely forgot to explain the language choices (the same argument can be made for ‘Bo‘ vs ‘Mo‘, as the ‘m’ sounds like a ‘b’ to many English speakers).  Talk about newbie author flubs! So, consider this the special edition author’s note!  And rest assured, the second book will have one as well. 


Yes, that’s right, there’s going to be a second book.  There is a lot more to Lee and Merri’s story, and I can’t wait for you to share in their zany adventures!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I better get back to writing said sequel. *cue epic K-pop music*

My Hart & Seoul

After three years of drafting and revising and drafting and revising and querying and praying and hoping and praying and drafting and revising (I literally could go on and on), I am VERY happy to announce the following:

Hart & Seoul is officially published!

This day seemed so impossible for so long, so now that it’s actually here I’m in a state of disbelief. It’s both exhilarating and humbling, and I can’t wait to see where I go from here!

And with that, world, I am happy to introduce you to Hart & Seoul.

P.S. Check out the Events page for info on the Launch Party later this week and book signings!

Release Date

I told you that this post would have all the things, and my friends, it most definitely has all the things. To my GREAT excitement, it is FINALLY time to share the release date with you. That’s right, the release date. Cue epic music (bonus points if it’s K-pop)!!!

Hart & Seoul will be released on June 4th, and is currently available for pre-order from these beautiful wonderful retailers:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Books-A-Million

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, there is going to be a launch party, and it is going to be amazing. The amazing folks at one more page books are hosting it, and we are going to have an AMAZING afternoon. Apparently everything is amazing right now. And if YOU want to be amazing, you can support this awesome independent book store and pre-order here. Here’s what you need to know about the launch party:

Hart & Seoul
Book Launch Party

Saturday, June 8th, @ 3 p.m.
Hosted by One More Page Books
2200 N Westmoreland St
Arlington, VA 22213

It’s finally here! You’re invited to join in the fun as Kristen celebrates the debut of her K-pop inspired novel Hart & Seoul! There will be tasty treats, the ultimate K-pop fan giveaway, and a brief Q&A with the author, followed by a book signing. Books can be purchased from One More Page Books. And of course, K-pop fashion is highly encouraged!

More details will be coming as we get closer, so stay tuned!



The Art of Promotion

Speaking of art, welcome to my new site! Isn’t it pretty? I’m having a little too much fun playing with this (for those that are new, let’s just say that there were some growing pains to get here). When I first started this blog, it’s safe to say that I had NO idea what I was doing, although I had a lot of fun figuring out just how little I knew. Seriously, the hours just fly by when you’re doing this, don’t they? Anyways, I finally decided to take the plunge and upgrade seoulofawriter, which now has a lovely .com after its name. Besides the fantastic new layout, this also means that it’ll make my site that much easier for people to find. And for an author (especially a debut one), that’s really REALLY important.

One of the most surprising things that I’ve learned on this journey is just how important having a platform is. I mean, I knew that authors should be in touch with their readers, but there’s a difference between being online and having a platform. Publishers expect authors to be in control of their social media marketing, and they look for that already established platform when considering debut authors. It’s all very well and good, except if you’re like me and so focused on, oh I don’t know, writing the book that you don’t have time to build that platform.

You don’t have to go all SEO crazy (search engine optimization) – or at least not just yet – but if you don’t have social media, I highly encourage it. I personally love Instagram, which was great to share photos of my research trip to Asia, and think every writer should be on Goodreads. I’ll admit, my publicist had to drag me to agree to sign up for Twitter, but I’m on there! Not very active yet, but still there. 😉

It’s quick and easy to set up the accounts, and the best way to put you in touch with people who share your same interests…and hopefully reading/writing interests! And if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about marketing, at least from the social media aspect, I found this article to be a good start in learning about optimal times to do online boosts. Not sure what to share? Here’s are some more sites that will help you get started:

Blog Post Ideas

Instagram

Twitter

Mailchimp

Set aside an afternoon, sit down with your laptop and drink of choice (Thai Bubble Tea for me, every time), and have fun exploring the exciting world of social media marketing! As always, feel free to comment below and share what you’ve been doing/what works for you.

And I’m VERY EXCITED to announce that in my next post I will have all the things. Remember that: ALL THE THINGS.

COVER REVEAL

The title of this post says it all; it’s time for the Hart & Seoul cover reveal! I’ve been looking forward to sharing this with you guys for months, but it has so been worth the wait. So without further ado, here it is! And as a bonus, below is the official blurb. 😉

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Merilee Hart has been doing her best to keep things together since her mother left, her art a welcome escape from her depressing new reality. But things seem to go even more awry the moment her next door neighbor’s enigmatic and mysterious nephew arrives from South Korea. Lee is moody, cocky, and utterly infuriating. But when Merri’s closest friends betray her and her father crushes her dream of going to art school, Merri finds herself drawn to Lee, who seems to live within even greater shadows than her own. And just when she thought things couldn’t get crazier, Merri’s world is upended when she discovers Lee’s big and bizarre secret…he is none other than a runaway member of the K-Pop mega-group Thunder.
It’s not long before Thunder’s fans, the Storm Chasers, begin to close in on Lee, ready to do whatever it takes to return their favorite idol to his rightful place in the band. Faced with the prospect of even more heartbreak and caught up in an international whirlwind that has a life of its own, Merri realizes that she must find a way to mend herself, gain control of her life, and pursue her dreams – her heart and soul depend on it.

Isn’t. It. GORGEOUS?!?!?!? SIIIIIIIIIIGH.

I’ll have some even more exiting news to share with you this Friday, so stay tuned!

Door #3

my post

Happy New Year!  How many of you have made resolutions?  Last year I went planner happy and filled up a whole page with resolutions…it didn’t end well.  Or successfully.  But the fact that I’m getting published trumps anything else that didn’t get done, or so I tell myself.  And now I’m yanking – that’s right, yanking – back the curtain on that journey to share with you just how Hart & Seoul (H&S) is making it to the printed world, mainly because I’ve been getting this question a lot and want to share it with any potential new authors.  It’s a bit of a long post, so bear with me…

Traditional vs. self-published, that’s the dilemma that every author faces.  And I think, for most, it’s one that you don’t actually face until you’ve tried traditional.  Emphasis on the word tried.  Because these days, for a debut author to get picked up by an agent is akin to catching lightning in a bottle while riding a unicorn over a rainbow and high-fiving a sloth on your way down – or at least that’s how it felt to me.  They say that writing the book is the hardest part, which is true, but getting an agent is pretty dang close to it.  The agent is that magical being that reads your query letter (basically a short letter that begs for them to take you on as a client) and, if you’re lucky, the first few chapters of your book…then your full manuscript…then signs you on as one of his/her clients.

Oh yeah, it’s a process.  And now I’m going to tell you aaaaall about my process.  A note before I begin my tale: my experience is through the YA lens of literature, so it very well could be completely different for someone who writes mysteries or romances, for better or for worse.  Now, on to what basically consumed me for the past three years…

I began querying H&S about two years ago, having worked on the manuscript for a year prior to that.  Terrified, that’s what I was.  Absolutely terrified.  Although I’d dreamed of being published for years, when the time came to actually, you know, share what I’d written, I froze.  It’s bad enough to share with a writing group, who are there to help you, but to an agent?  One who will either accept it or reject it?  The idea was enough to make me freeze in cold fear.  It took listening to K pop music at full blast before I actually garnered up the courage to hit send to the first agent.  And then I literally ran around the house in celebration, before plunking back down to do it all over again.  Best cardio workout ever, let me tell you.

Tip #1:  When getting ready to query, organize your list of potential agents into your A, B & C list, and contact a few of them at a time.  If none of them are responding for full manuscripts, chances are there’s something off with your first few chapters and/or query letter.  I created a spreadsheet of agents, noting when I queried them and how long they said they took to get back to people (6-8 weeks, on average).  And then you have to wait, which is the worst part.  You don’t want to query them all at once, because if you do need to revise your work you’ve blown your chances with a ton of agents, but if you do it just a couple of agents at a time you’ll be waiting until kingdom comes for any results.  There is a balance, and you have to find what works for you.  Me?  I looked at any and all agents accepting YA contemporary novels, paying special attention to new agents who would be looking to boost their clientele.

Not sure where to look for agents?

Tip #2:  In addition to looking online, your local library may have the answer.  Writer’s Market annually publishes a beautifully thick book chock block full of agents; plus you’re in the perfect place to pick up books in your preferred genre and look at the author’s  Acknowledgements page to see who the author’s agent is.  I found a lot of agents this way.

I’ll be upfront with you: querying is a great way to be humbled, unless you are one of the few lucky ones that gets picked up almost immediately.  That occasionally does happen, so there’s hope!  But in my case, agent after agent either wouldn’t respond at all, would send back an automated response turning me down, or would request my manuscript and then disappear off the face of the earth.  Two beautiful, wonderful agents gave incredibly helpful feedback as to why they were saying no, feedback which I used when I went back to revising.  But it was beyond frustrating as I watched book after book being published, every author thanking their agent for taking a chance on them and seeing the potential of their idea, while I was left twiddling my thumbs and wondering why agents couldn’t see my potential.

After about a year of querying, sending in the full manuscript to some agents, taking a break to revise, then starting all over again, I faced the fact that I may not get picked up by an agent, and began to consider the other option: self-publishing.  Self-publishing is something that many authors shy away from, for a variety of reasons.  For starters, everyone dreams of being published by one of The Big Ones in NYC.  There’s a level of prestige that comes with getting published by an established publishing house.  And then of course there’s the matter of money; when you self-publish, it’s all up to you.  Editing costs, printing costs, cover design – you name it, you’re paying for it.  Depending on what kind of printing you do, the book may be of good quality, but then again it may not.  And, the hardest part of all, it’s up to you to advertise/market/distribute your books, which may/may not end up on a book store shelf.

BUT, at the end of the day you are actually published, and you have full creative rights over your work, something that traditionally published authors usually sign away when they get the contract with a publishing house.  It varies per contract, of course, and some authors have more rights/subrights than others, but for the majority this means that the publisher has complete control over the cover (oftentimes authors are asked for some input, but they don’t have final say), they decide on the title, and there can be a lot of confusion over who owns what, such as foreign, e-book, or dramatic rights.  The upside is that you don’t have to worry about upfront costs, plus you get an advance.  Keep in mind that it’s an advance, which means that the publisher takes the majority of profit from your book sales (royalties) until that advance is paid back.  When you self-publish, you keep 100% of the profit, but you have to pay for all the costs that traditional publishers handle.  So, either way, you’re paying for your book to be published.

And there are your two options…or at least so I thought.  But was I ever wrong!  Let’s look behind door number three for the option that I didn’t see coming:

Hybrid publishing.

Never heard of it?  No worries, because I certainly hadn’t either, not until one summer day when I went to a meeting hosted by Mascot Books.  I walked in prepared to take down info for the festival that I was representing while battling with the depressing thought that I may just have to give up my dream of being published (since there was no way I could afford self-publishing), and walked out filled with a dazed expression and the tentative hope that there may be a chance that H&S be published – and as you already know, that hope came to fruition.

Hybrid is, as its name implies, a combination of traditional and self-published.  With hybrid, you pay the publisher to cover publication costs (printing, mainly, but also editing, which is crucial), but you have a publisher’s resources for cover design (if the hybrid publisher includes that) and marketing.  For instance, my publisher is Mascot Books; with the publishing plan that I decided on, H&S is going to be available in bookstores as well as Amazon, have a professionally done cover, and be promoted online and via bloggers/podcasts/etc.  I’ve been working with a team to make sure that the manuscript is edited, the cover is just right (I just saw a draft on Friday, and oh my gosh, guys, it’s GORGEOUS), and soon we’ll be creating a promotional schedule.  Mascot Books hires people who know what they are doing; I’m getting creative control, with the advantage of the advice and support of a publisher.

As I sat through the discussion, my excitement grew even as I wondered if it was too good to be true.  Really, all I had to do was query one of their agents, and I’d get a response back right away?  And if they did accept me, my book would be sent to the same printers that traditional houses use?  AND they would register the ISBN with Library of Congress, make sure that I owned the copyright, and make sure that it was available to purchase in store or online?  There had to be a catch, probably with the quality of the work that they produced.  Contrary to my suspicions, however, they don’t accept every submission sent their way, which I found reassuring because the last thing that you want is a publisher that takes anything and everything.

It took me a week or so to gather up the courage, but I finally queried Mascot Book’s agent, and THREE HOURS LATER she got back to me – yes, you read that right, just three hours.  Not six weeks.  Not eight weeks.  Three hours.  She set up a phone meeting with me, and by August 10th I had signed a deal with a publisher.  Why?  I think one of the things that stuck out the most to me was that Jess, the agent, believed in the story.  She saw its potential right away, despite the flaws, and was excited at the idea of working with me.  And as any author will tell you, when you find an agent who gets your story, who believes in it as much as you do (probably even more so, since they are not riddled with the insecurities that plague writers), everything clicks into place.  I spent the rest of the month going over final edits before I sent everything in, an editor was brought in, and you guys know the rest.

Ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you.  I’ve known from the very beginning that I wanted to share H&S with the world, dreamed of being published, and was determined that somehow it would happen.  As I quickly learned, though, it can be very difficult to break into the publishing world.  But just when I was starting to believe that it would never happen a different way was shown to me.  Hybrid might not be the best option for some authors, but it’s just right for this one.  Here’s hoping it pays off!

Have any questions?  Ask away!

 

JAKOTAKONG PART 4 – aka The Finale

South Korea.  Oh South Korea.  For years I dreamed of visiting you, eaten up with curiosity to discover if K dramas were a load of baloney or if you were really as magical as you appeared (any fan of K dramas understands 1001% what I’m talking about).  I disembarked from that plane a wide-eyed tourist, and left ten days later a giddy writer with a notebook full of ideas.  I mean, you know that it’s going to be an amazing finale when a Swiss Symphony Orchestra is on your flight.  Downside was that MC, Swag Master and I had to wait FOREVER for our luggage because of the instruments that were unloaded first.  But on the bright side, I had plenty of time to suspiciously eye the helpful/creepy airport robot and finally manage to ascertain that he would not go rogue and try to conquer humanity – I know, you can all breathe sighs of relief.

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By the time we got our luggage and made our way through Customs, it was dark outside, so we hiked aaaaallll the way up a hill to get not one but two taxis to fit all of our suitcases plus us so we could arrive at our hostel in one piece.  And it is on this terrifying ride that I discovered that Korean streets are about the width of a piece of licorice.  For reals, the side streets are, I’m convinced, designed to lure cars in and destroy them.  We came to at least one standoff with a car coming the opposite direction, and I’m pretty sure the driver dented his car at one point when he was forced to back up.  He was so relieved when we got to the hostel (which was tiny, by the way) he nearly drove off with our suitcases; I had to lunge at the car and pound on the window as I frantically pointed to the trunk.  Between all the cab rides and the hostel clerk actually dropping my luggage down the stairs, it’s a wonder I still have any luggage left.

One thing that I learned while in Korea, a lesson that started the next day, is that you don’t mess with Koreans, specifically Korean women.  We set out on the subway to explore Seoul (their transportation system is SO MUCH better than ours) and I had a lovely one-sided conversation with a lady determined to talk to me.  She wasn’t the least bit deterred by the fact that I could only say, “My name is Kristen” in Korean, and managed to boss the three of us into sit together in the priority seating.  Then, at lunch we were emphatically ignored by the restaurant owner when we tried to order something that she didn’t want us to order.  And later on that same day we got kicked out of a cafe because, well, we’re actually not sure why:

Swag Master: “I’d like to order blah blah drink.”

Cafe Lady: “Here or to go?”

Swag Master: “Here.”

Cafe Lady: “No.”

Swag Master: “No?”

Cafe Lady: “No. To go.”

Swag Master: “Um, okay.”  We sit down to wait for her drink.

Cafe Lady hurries over with drink order. “Here you go. Now, leave.”

Swag Master, MC & Me: “Excuse me?!”

Cafe Lady: “You get discount to go.  So go.”

We look at the near empty cafe in disbelief. “We have to go?”

“Yes. Go.”

And that was that.  Swag Master offered to pay the difference so we could sit and rest our feet, but she wasn’t having any of it.  We left befuddled, although I was armed with determination to somehow include this adventure in my next book.  SO THERE, CAFE LADY.

There was so much to do in Seoul: we oohed and ahhed some more at the lantern festival, explored dusty nooks and crannies at one of the royal palaces, bought way more socks than we should, and even took a few days to visit Jeju Island (similar to Hawaii).  Check out the photos, which speak for themselves:

 

There was so much that happened, I could easily write five more blog posts about it, but given how long it’s taken me to get all caught up I don’t think that’s a good idea.  So, instead I’ll conclude with a list of my expectations and what I learned:

  1. Korean fashion is 90s inspired – True, and they all look fabulous.  Absolutely fabulous.  I felt like the Hulk as I tiptoed around them.
  2. Korea smells of kimchi – False, although maybe it was the time of year that I visited?  I’ve been told that America smells like dairy – and given how much ice cream I alone consume I can see that – but I barely got a whiff of kimchi while there.
  3. Korea is expensive – YES AND YES.  My credit card is due this Friday.  And I am dead inside.  Moving on.
  4. Korean men carry women on their backs – I never once saw this.  Not once.  K dramas, you lie!
  5. Korean driving is terrifying – oh, how this is oh so true.  But, to be fair, I find all of Asian driving terrifying, so it’s not just Korea.
  6. Koreans bow – yup, yup and yup. I have yet to break the habit of doing it, and I was only there for ten days.
  7. BTS is everywhere – oh yeah.  Really, BTS is everywhere in Asia; there were loudspeakers set up in Japan blasting out the group’s songs.
  8. Koreans eat ramyun a lot – True.  It’s not right how much they can eat and manage to stay so skinny.
  9. There is more to see in Korea than you can fit in just ten days – that is definitely so true.
  10. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget – TRUE.

And thus concludes JAKOTAKONG.  Three unforgettable weeks, oodles of gorgeous photos, and countless memories…huh, maybe I should start writing greeting cards on the side, because I’m getting downright sappy.  Needless to say, I know that my writing has been made better for having gone, and I am so grateful that I was able to go!

And thank you for joining in the journey with me, you avid travelers you! 🙂 🙂 🙂

P.S. Those annoying yellow bumper things that were absolutely everywhere?  Turns out they are meant to help sight impaired travelers.  I finally have answers!

PSA

Well, it HAS been a while since I’ve last written, hasn’t it?  In my defense, the jet lag struggle was real – so very real – and the to-do list at work ever growing.  Throw editing into the mix, and you have one very harried Kristen.  But here I am, in my somewhat exhausted and tattered glory, happy to be back and even happier to announce that, as of last night, my edits are done.

MY EDITS ARE DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Oh my goodness, what a relief!  I kid you not, I’ve stared at those pages until the words all blend together and I can’t make any sense of what I’m reading.  I’ve reached the point where I absolutely despise the story, mainly because I’ve read it a bazillion times and can only see its flaws.  The good news is that most if not all authors feel like this, so I’m part of the club!

Last night I forced myself to accept the truth: the story is never going to be perfect, because that’s impossible.  Last week I attended an event where Shannon Messenger was promoting her latest book, and she admitted to the crowd that she mistakingly gave one character two different last names, something they didn’t catch until the first two books had been printed.  The fact that she can laugh about it was so encouraging, especially to a perfection-seeking debut novelist.

The truth is that I’m always going to look for ways to improve my writing, am forever going to want to fiddle with the story.  But there comes a time when you know that you just have to let go, even if it means that you are essentially baring your creative soul to the world and opening yourself to any and all criticism.  If you don’t, you run the risk of never actually fulfilling your dream.  For me, that dream is publication, so I have to swallow my fears and plunge ahead.  Am I feeling vulnerable right now?  Heck yes.  But did I let it keep me from sending in the manuscript to the publisher?  Heck no.

Now that edits are done, next post will be our final destination in JAKOTAKONG: South Korea!

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P.S. Me + MC (my sister).  And yes, I know that we look nothing alike. #myfathersdaughter

JAKOTAKONG PART 3.3

No trip to Taiwan is complete without visiting the capital Taipei, aka the shopping spree city.  So.  Many.  Market.  Stalls. 8)

Taipei, located at the tip of Taiwan, is, like Taichung, mercifully cooler than our first stop – but then again, I think every place north of Kaohsiung is cooler –  and just as crowded with mopeds and buses and drivers that manage to not collide as they barrel towards you even though you are in a cross walk…no, I’m not bitter about that.  Or traumatized at all.  Please, what an idea.

I didn’t think that a hostel could get any better than Stray Birds, but that was before we checked into the Star Hostel.  One point against them is that they don’t have an elevator, meaning we had to lug allllllll our suitcases up the stairs while wearing the mandatory slippers that are NOT a good match with slippery socks.  However, when you have an eating area like the one they do, you can forgive the lack of stairs:

 

Add a free breakfast into the mix, and you have one happy Kristen.  Definitely worth almost falling and breaking my neck on the stairs, thanks to those blasted slippers.  You can bet that I wore my best walking shoes for when we headed into the city for some sightseeing.

First up, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, which honors the former president of the Republic of China.  The area is beautiful, and I was only slightly disappointed that the day was overcast and I didn’t have the best lighting for pictures.  But I think they turned out okay. 😉

 

 

And, once again, I was hit by inspiration for that college story that I’m convinced I have to write. What, might you ask, brought on this second round of creative cranial activity?  Trees.  More specifically, these trees:

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Oh yeah, trust me, this will be good…when I actually begin penning the story.  But one major best-seller at a time (heehee).

After wandering around the grounds surrounding the memorial, we made our way to Taipei 101, a huge tower/mall that houses the MOST AMAZING restaurant in the world: Din Tai Fung.  Din Tai Fung, now a chain, originates in Taiwan, which is probably why the food always tastes better in all the Taiwan locations.  You’ve heard of soup, you’ve heard of dumplings, but have you ever heard of – wait for it – soup dumplings?  That’s right, mini dumplings filled with rich broth and a variety of meat/seafood.  And there’s a process to eating them, one that the restaurant outlines in a handy dandy guide, although our waiter personally explained it to us: you have to pick up a dumpling in a spoon, use your chopsticks to poke a hole in it to release the broth to slurp up, and then you can eat the rest of the dumpling.  Or, you can bite into the whole thing and scald your mouth on hot soup, your choice.  I followed the waiter’s instructions because I REALLY didn’t want to burn off my taste buds, especially when I saw the dessert menu and realized that there exists in this beautiful world chocolate soup dumplings. #heavenonearth

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Delicious, absolutely delicious.  Any place that puts bacon on green beans is, in my book, a genius.

Last for the day was shopping in a local market.  And that’s where the shopping spree started; we descended on this one stall that sells waterproof bags, our delight apparently hilarious to the stall owner, who kept laughing and running around to grab us more bags.  She even threw in a free bag for me, her new most loyal customer, and we left with bags filled with bags filled bags.  VICTORY!!!

We were planning on going out again the next day, but unfortunately MC got a migraine because of the weather, which was yucky due to the Typhoon Yutu, so we couldn’t have gone out anyways.  So I spent the day hunkered down in the hostel room, hunched over my computer as I alternated between working on edits (productive) and watching Netflix (uhh, not productive).

Thankfully, the weather didn’t impact our flight to our final location.  Drum roll, please, because next (and final) stop is…