Kristel Yoneda grew up in Hawaii, went to college in Washington DC, and now lives in Los Angeles where she works as a Promotions Manager by day and a writer…later in the day. We sat down with her to learn how she pursues her passion:
1. What helped you realize that writing was your thing?
I’ve always loved writing. I’m sure my math teachers disliked me because I never paid attention in class. I would scribble poetry and song lyrics in the margins of my homework instead.
It’s crazy how words can convey an emotion or memory so sharply that it knocks the wind out of you. I love that feeling when you read something and you could have sworn it happened to you, word for word. In high school I loved creative writing, but I never thought it was a profession I could actually have. Then during my senior year, my English teacher and I were having a discussion one afternoon about a short story I wrote for his class. He paused, then looked right at me, and said I was a writer. It was the best compliment I’ve ever received and it was the first time I believed it might be true.
2. What projects are you working on/most excited about right now?
Right now I’m attempting to write a novel. I’ve been working on it off and on for the past few years and it’s finally taking shape. It’s about the quarter-life crisis, which I’m currently suffering through, and the dilemma a lot of people have reconciling who they are and who they thought they’d become by now. I’m hoping to have a completed manuscript by the end of this year and then it’s time to revise, revise, revise!
I’m also really excited because I found out two of my pieces (a poem and short story) will be featured in Hawaii’s Bamboo Ridge Press 100th anniversary issue. I grew up reading Bamboo Ridge’s work, so it’s a real honor to be included in this issue with my local literary heroes and mentors.
Next week I’ll be at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles for an event called Honor Thy Children. They’ll be showing the film Honor Thy Children, plus Al and Jane Nakatani will be there to share their powerful story and discuss the great work they’ve done for the LGBT community in terms of bullying and teen suicide. I’ll be there to discuss my struggles during high school and my recent contribution to the It Gets Better Project.
The It Gets Better Project has drastically changed my otherwise quiet life and in the best way possible. Since being featured in the book, various organizations have asked me to talk at their events and I’m always surprised that they even want me there. I don’t consider myself an activist by any means, but I’m really grateful they think I’m worthy enough to represent the Asian-American LGBT community. I’m proud to be a spokesperson for our teens, especially if it reminds them that things will get much better in their own lives too.
3. What has been your biggest learning while running your solo biz, your favorite part or biggest surprise?
Be prepared for anything. You never know when an opportunity will present itself, so be ready for it and be ready to work for it. In my career so far, I’ve been blessed with some wonderful, unexpected opportunities. When one comes along, I’m always unsure if I’m good enough to take it. Like when the best looking person at the bar waves hello in your direction. I’m the one turning around to see if the person is actually waving at someone behind me. I’m learning, however, to just run with it. If an opportunity arises, seize it. Put more trust in your abilities.
Despite the stereotype of writers being anti-social hermits who write all day in their pajamas, an important component of the job is networking with other people, which I really enjoy. They are always infinitely more interesting than me and I love hearing about their lives.
4. FreshBooks may or may not be known for whacky things, what’s the whackiest thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t know about the whackiest, but I’ve done some pretty dorky things in my lifetime. Awhile back, there was this girl I really liked and I wanted to ask her out in a creative way. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but I showed up at her job with my acoustic guitar and waited outside until she finished work. When she finally came out to her car, I played every cheesy song I knew and asked her out to dinner. I remember I played “Grow Old with You” from the Wedding Singer because it sounded cute and the chords were easy enough. Looking back now, it probably wasn’t the best song choice to ask someone out on a first date, but she said yes anyway.
5. Who inspires you?
My family. They’ve been such a strong support system in my life and I’m extremely grateful for it. They’ve inspired me to be there for those in need, whether it be friends, family, or even strangers.
The editors at the Hawaii Women’s Journal are also an inspiration. They are all such talented writers. It blows me away. Working with them has been such a wonderful experience and I hope that one day I’ll have even a fraction of the talent they have.
6. What’s next for you?
I’m not sure what’s next for me, but whatever it is, I’m ready for it!