The Liebster Award

Thank you, Sophie @ Sophie’s Corner for nominating me for this award.  Do check out her blog when you can!  She writes many reflective and interesting book reviews, as well as other fun and engaging posts on reading, writing, and life in general.

The Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, provide a link to their blog, and display the award.
  • Answer 11 questions they asked you.
  • Come up with your own 11 questions
  • And lastly, tag 11 bloggers!

1.      Tea or coffee?

Definitely tea.  There was a brief period in my life where I drank coffee-like beverages, such as mocha, latte, French vanilla, but not actual coffee.  I tried black coffee once, and it sped up my thoughts and heart rate so much, that I couldn’t stand it.  It was also way too bitter, despite having a chocolate aroma.  But as I was suffering from insomnia, I dropped these coffee-like drinks altogether, and my insomnia improved—for a week—before my sleep worsened again.  Still, I saved tons of money simply by not having these beverages anymore.  Occasionally, I would drink milk tea or a fruity tea for pleasure, but the caffeine in them is so low that drinking them does nothing for my sleepiness.

I love drinking rose milk tea

2.      Dogs or cats?  (Or another pet species?)

Dogs!  Though I like cats too.  If bunnies were as playful and active as dogs often are, I would love to have a bunny for a pet.  Hedgehogs are cute too, but maybe a bit hard to raise.  A part of me wants a parrot, so I could train it to say all sorts of interesting things.

3.      Favorite place you’ve travelled to?

New Zealand.  I’m not very interested in travelling in general, but I did enjoy this trip, in spite of my carsickness from the long bus rides.  The mountains, grass, water, and all the landscapes were breathtakingly beautiful and grand.  No wonder the Lord of the Rings was filmed here!  We also went into a cave with numerous glow worms in the dark.  A glorious sight.  In fact, Disneyland’s Space Mountain ride reminded me of the glow worms in New Zealand’s caves.

New Zealand cave with glow worms

4.      Favorite book about a country other than the one that you’ve lived in?

I lived about half my life in Hong Kong (now a part of China), and half my life in Canada.  As for a beloved book set in a different country, I’m assuming that we’re not talking about the United States or the United Kingdom, right?  I ask because the majority of English language stories are set in those countries, and I live in neither.  Also, are we only including English books?  What about Chinese or French books?  Speaking of, I feel guilty that I haven’t touched a Chinese, let alone a French book for so long!  Will my Chinese and French reading abilities atrophy?  Yikes, multilingual problems. 

Just to clarify, though my Chinese reading level is virtually native, my French is probably just intermediate, but I can read French novels, including literary classics, as long as I can check the dictionary from time to time.  In fact, French was my strongest and favorite subject back in secondary school, but I dropped it before high school because I was taking French lessons outside, since high school French was too easy. 

Guy de Maupassant’s Une Vie was the first French literary classic that I read!

For those who think I’m bragging or bluffing, when I went to Montreal for university, I found French communication very challenging in the real world.  There is a huge difference between learning a foreign language at school, and applying it in real life to speak with natives.  (I’ve met some people who are better at real-life application than at in-school learning, though!  Partly because they aren’t as perfectionist about grammar and fluency as I am, so they have less to worry about.) 

In addition, I’ve always found reading and writing much easier than speaking and listening, for all languages including English.  I theorize that this is because I spent much more time with books than with people when I was younger.  Nowadays, I spend more time with people than with books, and I already see a visible improvement in my social skills.

Sorry for the tangent, but I figure that the aim of these questions is to get to know your friends better, so I indulged myself a little up there. 

Back to Sophie’s question, I assume that we’re talking about a book that takes place in a non-English-speaking country.  It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, so I’ll go with Seidman by James Erich.

This is a gay fantasy romance set in Viking-age Iceland.  It was pretty romantic, and the author gave us a happy ending without being unrealistic about the society that they live in.  The magic in this story universe was intriguing as well.

5.      Favorite book that takes place in a country that you live in right now?

Okay, I’ll be honest and admit that I have not read that many books set in Canada.  However, one Canadian novel I loved was Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.

This was ridiculously romantic, and wow, the setting descriptions are superb and not boring at all!  Setting descriptions are my main area of weakness in my own writing, as I barely describe my settings at all.  So I admire authors who can paint the scenery in an engaging, delightful way.  Another author who is brilliant in his setting portrayals, is J.R.R. Tolkien.  Yes, I know the Lord of the Rings is a slow and heavy read, but The Hobbit has a much quicker pace, while still retaining the rich and luxurious descriptions that Tolkien is known for.  L.M. Montgomery’s Blue Castle is also replete with charming, gorgeous descriptions that don’t bog down the plot.

6.      Have you travelled somewhere just because you’ve read about it?

If you’re talking about a particular country, then sadly, no.  I might want to go to Iceland after reading Seidman, though.  However, if we’re talking about any appealing place that we’ve read about, then yes!  When I was a kid, some magazines I read introduced me to the Pokemon Centre store in Tokyo.  So when we travelled to Tokyo, of course I had to visit it.  Yet, as pleasant as the Pokemon Centre was, it was actually a lot smaller than I expected.  But it was still a pleasing trip, and I bought a few items from the store.

When I went to Tokyo, Piplup (the blue penguin) wasn’t a part of the franchise yet! I wonder how the Pokemon Centre looks like now.

7.      If you have all the time and money in the world and you don’t have to work another day, what would you do?

My answer may be astonishing, but my life would look mostly the same.  I love my day job very much—I’m training to become a psychotherapist—and I of course adore writing.  What’s notable is that, because my physical stamina is limited, I don’t want to spend too much time on any one thing each day, so I would rather have a mix of activities in my schedule, to avoid burnout.

When I was younger, there was a period of two years when I had neither school nor work, only a bit of volunteering, so I pretty much had all the time in the world.  I spent that time laser-focused on my writing, churning out 2000+ words of my story every day, without skipping a single day during those two years.  Unfortunately, I barely exercised at all, I seldom walked, and I had a very limited social life.  And thanks to my relentless concentration and “single-minded devotion” to my writing, I now have to deal with some awful health consequences.  If I could turn back the clock, I would rather give up on such prolific writing, and have a much healthier, more balanced life.  I have come to that stage in my life where I treasure my health and wellbeing more than I do my achievements. 

This focus on my physical and emotional wellbeing, doesn’t mean I don’t want to write well, though, because I am still very interested in learning new things, challenging myself, and getting writing projects done.  But I just want to do this in a way where I don’t need to make tremendous sacrifices to my health.  In the latter part of these gap years, I found out that I’m transgender, and soon after I began my grad school program, my gender dysphoria stacked with my health issues to make my life a never-ceasing nightmare, to the point where I was crying almost every day. 

Then, I broke my eight-year ban on video games (I had forbidden myself from playing video games so that I could concentrate on my studies), and I started playing Pokemon again to cope with the emotional pain and stress.  Simultaneously, I spent much more time reading novels and writing book reviews than I did in the past, and even started this blog sometime later.  Moreover, my social life became a lot more vibrant, as I joined many support groups and events for LGBTQ+ people.  I also went back to the gym, walked more frequently, and am slowly recovering my health.

At the gym, I like using the ellipticals best

As I had predicted, doing all of these things depleted my time for my writing, especially as I was back in school.  Yet, I had to admit that I was feeling happier.  I kept trying to deny this, but during those two gap years, despite my pride and joy in my daily, copious writing, I was beginning to feel bored with the sameness and routine of my life, and I was simply deprived of many healthy, regular human experiences in my monomaniacal pursuit of writing.

When I started playing video games again, socialized much more, exercised more often, and began this blog, I keenly felt that because I had hyper-focused on my writing, I had stunted my growth.  My mind and body feel much better and more satisfied nowadays, because I’m giving myself a much more varied and enriched mental life.  And of course, reading many more books exposed me to more writing styles and story types, and writing reviews for these books gave me a chance to reflect more deeply on each author’s craft.

So I truly appreciate the far more balanced life I live now.  With more time and money, I may be able to do more things, e.g. donate more money to support fellow trans folks’ surgeries, but for the most part, my life would look the same.  This is a surprising realization for me, that in spite of all the dissatisfactions I have with my life and the world, I am mostly content with my lifestyle and what I’m doing everyday.

8.      If you find $100 on the ground and couldn’t find the person who lost it, what would you do with the money?

I would give it to some nearby lost-and-found, or quickly donate it into a charity box.  I have no idea if someone deposited the $100 on the ground to spring a trap on the hapless finder, and I don’t even know if the bill is genuine.  I don’t know how to check for fake bills, and I might get arrested if I use it to pay; $100 bills look suspicious to us anyway, as barely any Canadians use $100 bills anymore.  (Unless you meant finding five $20 bills on the ground, which would be a different story.)  It’s also possible that the $100 note is poisoned, but let’s hope that the “trap-springer” won’t go so far.

Yet, I feel that the question was asking about something else.  So why don’t I rephrase the question into: “If you won $100 at a raffle, how would you spend it?”  This rephrase implies that I can’t just dunk the cash into my savings account and not spend it, and I suppose using the money for food, stationery, and other daily supplies would be too mundane for an answer.  Yet, $100 is not enough to pay for the gender-affirming surgeries not covered by my provincial health insurance.  And if I donate the $100 to charity, how do I choose which charity or whether the organization will make good use of the money, as opposed to secretly keeping it for themselves?  A mere $100 clearly won’t cover my rent ether.

Yes, I do have a tendency to turn a simple question into an increasingly complicated treatise, but that appears to be my natural thinking style.

So I still can’t decide what to do with the $100, and I suspect that I’ll just end up spending it on groceries.  Yeah, I know that I’m pragmatic to a fault.  Sorry!

9.      Mood reader or non-mood reader?

To those who are unfamiliar with the terms, mood readers are people who choose books according to how they feel in the moment, while non-mood readers pick according to some other criteria.

For me, I seem to be a mix of mood and non-mood.  I specify a category of books I want to read now, but I can hearken to what I feel like reading within that category.  For instance, I’m now reading either books that fulfill one of the 2019 Toronto Public Libraries Reading Challenge categories, or an LGBTQ+ romance. I try my best to find books that are in both the LGBTQ+ romance genre and within the criteria of the library challenge, but I’m not always able to.

Before I started the library challenge, I focused on the category of LGBTQ+ romances as well, and further specified that I would, as much as possible, read the older books I bought first.  Aside from a fiction book, I would also read a nonfiction book, which is presently always psychology or therapy-related.  Beyond these category specifications, however, I am free to read whatever book that catches my interest.  At the moment, I’m reading Cop Out by K.C. Burns, a gay romance that fits a category in the Toronto libraries challenge; as for nonfiction, I’m reading Smart but Stuck by Thomas Brown, a book on ADHD.

10. If you have to lose one sense of your choice (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell), which would you lose?

Touch is my favourite and my strongest sense, so I’m keeping it.  Sight and hearing are the most useful.  Taste is delightful when it comes to great food.  So smell would be my choice.  My sense of smell has always been weaker than the average human’s, except when it comes to odors, which I cannot tolerate.  Since my sense of smell has caused me more pain than pleasure, I pick smell!  Sophie, I’m curious what sense you would choose, and why!  This is my favorite of your questions.

11. What do you like to do as a hobby (other than reading and blogging)?

Does playing Pokemon Go count?  I’ve been very into this game lately.  Previously, I was playing Pokemon Platinum too.  Yes, I know I’m behind the times, now that Pokemon Sword and Shield are coming.  But I try to keep up with the generations by reading up on the newest games and Pokemon species.  Oddly enough, though I have a positive view of video games in general, I’m only motivated to play Pokemon games.  This is funny because I used to play all sorts of games when I was younger, including non-Pokemon ones.

Aside from Pokemon games, I also like listening to music, drawing (though I rarely do now), and chatting with people both offline and online.  A friend of mine remarked that I’m very extroverted for a writer and he’s right.  It’s seems that on average, most writers are introverts.  So when some writer friends post about us being introverts, I chuckle at the stereotype.  Maybe I’m like those introverts who love talking to people.  Social interaction energizes me, and solo time generally drains me, so it’s curious why some of my favorite activities in the world, reading and writing, are solitary activities.  Yes, I can technically write or read with friends in a library or coffee shop, but unless we’re in the quiet zone of the library, I get distracted by the urge to talk to my friends.  Sometimes, I can’t even focus in the quiet area with friends around.  I really need to be either alone or with strangers to concentrate on my work.

My 11 Questions:

  1. If you could be an animal, what would you choose to be, and why?
  2. If you only had one year left to live, what would you do in your last year of life?  Assuming there are no possible magical, sci-fi, or other means to prolong your life.
  3. What were some careers and aspirations you had when you were younger?  This includes careers that have become a living reality, or aspirations you had to let go of for whatever reason.
  4. What is something about you that nobody knows?  It doesn’t have to be a secret.  It could just be a quirk, trait, or interest that you never had the opportunity to tell anyone about.
  5. What are your current life goals, if any?  Have any of them changed over the course of your life?
  6. What is a skill that you lack but wish you had?  (For instance, I suck at cooking, but it would be awesome if I were good at the culinary arts.)
  7. What is your personal definition of “success”?
  8. What do you prefer?  Rain or snow?  And why?
  9. What is your favorite superpower to have?
  10. Follow-up to #9: What superpower (or superpowers) best represents your personality?
  11. If human beings gained the ability to move to another planet, would you move?  Even if the planet Earth was still perfectly livable?

I nominate these lovely folks!

Malanie @ Malanie Loves Fiction

Haidan @ Haidan Writes

N.B. I have more than three blogger friends, but most of them unfortunately don’t do tags, so I can’t nominate them for these posts.

What about you?  How would you answer some of Sophie’s or my questions?  Also, if I haven’t nominated you, but you would like to do this tag anyway, you are now nominated!

4 thoughts on “The Liebster Award

  1. Hey Sieran!!!
    Yay I am so glad that you did this tag! I enjoyed reading your answers! I tried rose milk tea at a bubble tea shop last weekend ago and really enjoyed it. I definitely want to try making it on my own in the future 🙂
    I am forever impressed by your language skills. That’s great that you can read novels in French and Chinese. I definitely relate in that I read and write easier in general, compared to listening and speaking, even when it comes to English!
    I remember you mentioning before about the period in your life when you’ve spent a lot of time writing, though neglected other aspects of your life. Even though you don’t write as much now, it sounds like your life is more balanced and in general you are happier. I think having a variety of experiences makes us better writers. There is definitely more to being a writer than holing up and writing all day! And above all I don’t think we will be happy doing literally nothing else but writing 🙂 When I was in high school, I also focused 100% of my attention on homework and writing, while I neglected my friends and my mental health. I got really good grades and wrote some novels, but I wasn’t happy (and my novels weren’t too great hahahaha XD)
    It was actually a girl that I met in passing in university who first asked me which sense I would choose to lose. Back then I had once said “touch” because I didn’t think that sense was very useful hahaha. Of course now my answer is different! I agree that sight and sound are very important for our daily function, and I love food too much so I would keep taste as well. Smell might be my choice as well- especially since not all scents are pleasant haha :’)
    Thank you for participating in this tag 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh speaking of, I heard that some bubble tea store in Toronto started selling Pokemon Go bubble tea! (With Pokeball bubbles.)

      Haha thanks! I worried about my language skills getting worse, because it’s “use it or lose it”, right? But recently I re-downloaded some French and Chinese books I read before (some were French books where I had only read the English versions before), and I’m pleasantly surprised that I still remember most of the vocabulary! Maybe it’s almost like riding a bike for me. It’s definitely easier for me to read a French book than to listen in on a French spoken conversation, LOL.

      Yes, I definitely feel much happier nowadays, and I’m thinking: Why do I need to write that fast? Who am I aiming to please? My friends? My parents? Myself? Also, how many books minimum do I want to get published? I definitely want more than one out there (unlike the brilliant Emily Bronte!), but I think 20+ books might be unrealistic. Well, I’ll try my best, but I don’t want to sacrifice my health and learning for the sake of my publishing goals anymore. I’ve come to that stage in life where I value my health more than I do my achievements.

      In fact, I read an article recently about Danielle Steel, who published 170 something novels in her lifetime. She said that she writes for about 20 hours a day … (Including potty breaks and meals). She apparently doesn’t need more than 4 hrs ish of sleep each day. She also has nine children and had I don’t remember how many husbands (multiple divorces.) While I respect her dedication, I also think that most people can’t live on so little sleep in the long run. Plus, if she works such long hours, when does she ever have time to exercise?? What an unhealthy lifestyle! I learned the hard way that you can quickly smash your health to pieces if you barely exercise for years. (I’m still going through my recovery, tbh. Guess I’m lucky that I’m still young, or else I’ll heal even more slowly.)

      What bothered me even more, is that Danielle Steel said that because she spends so much time writing, she almost has no time to read books!! I firmly believe that writers have a duty to read tons of books; otherwise, how can you improve? As with most other fields, writing involves lifelong learning. Some readers complained that Danielle Steel’s books were very formulaic, or that if you read one of her books, you’ve read them all. That said, I have never read any of her books before, and she does have a big fanbase, so far be it for me to slam her accomplishments. (I also don’t want to be mistaken for being an envious writer, since I don’t envy her ascetic lifestyle at all!)

      Nevertheless, it’s one thing to write some formulaic books, but it’s quite another for 100+ books to all follow the same formula… That sounds a bit extreme, doesn’t it? I also don’t know what kind of formula the readers were talking about. But I’m guessing that because she reads so little by other authors, that might have restricted her stories. (When I made this point, some other person said that since Danielle Steel has tons of readers who love her books, why should she change her style? LOL my reaction is that it depends on what kind of author you want to be. It’s fine to have preferred themes and storylines or even characters. But again, having 100+ books all revolve around the same kind of plot, sounds quite monotonous to me, like you’re aiming too low, lol. Really too much quantity and not enough quality.)

      Back to my own writing, I would be amazed if I even manage to publish 10 books in my lifetime. But who knows, maybe I’ll think differently in the future. I certainly don’t want to skimp on the quality and learning!

      Thank you for nominating me for this tag! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pokeball tapioca sounds really awesome 🙂 Let me know if you ever give it a try! Although I am not living in Toronto anymore I am very curious about it.
        Yes you talked about this writer on WhatsApp haha, I didn’t realize you were talking about Danielle Steel! I am amazed that she’s written so many books and spends so many hours writing, although I have to agree that it sounds like there isn’t much balance there. For me, having diverse life experiences is crucial for inspiring my writing.
        I think ever writer is different, some publish a book every year (like Danielle Steel and Stephen King), and some only publish one in their life time (like J. D. Salinger.) I heard that there are a well-known writer who only writes several words a day! There are different ways to be successful and success means different things to different people 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. About Danielle Steel, recently I realized that exercise takes up SO much time. As you know, I’ve been walking much more than I did ever since I got into Pokemon Go. On the one hand, I feel stronger, fitter, and physically better nowadays. On the other hand, I have much less time to work on my writing and practicum stuff… Some say that life is not about making progress on our goals, but rather about choosing what trade-offs you want to make. :/ That sounds cynical to me, but I get their point.

        Regardless, I still like that I’m more physically active and healthier than before. Why should I be so fast anyway? Especially as I don’t have strict deadlines?

        Oh yes, I heard that James Joyce only writes a sentence (or another small wordcount) a day, but he spends a TON of time scrutinizing and polishing his words.

        I ought to write about the different definitions of writing success one day. Even if we’re talking about fame and commercial success, there are different levels. Alessandra Hazard is fairly popular in the gay romance genre, but she’s not that well known to readers of other genres. Charlotte Bronte might be very famous to me and other English lit buffs, but a dear friend of mine has never heard of Bronte and only knows Shakespeare… There’s also fame in a certain culture vs fame worldwide. Jin Yong is very famous in the Chinese culture, but is lesser known in the Western world.

        Some authors are also much less famous than their landmark works, lol. A lot of people have heard of Lord of the Flies, but how many folks remember William Golding?

        Aside from fame, we can think in terms of writing speed, writing quality, number or average star ratings of book reviews, and other measures of accomplishment.


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