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Tips For Finding Work

I remember in my last semester of college, one of my fears were “would I get a job”? Would I be able to make enough money to support myself?

It has now been about 14 years since I graduated, and let me tell ya, I’ve had at least ten jobs. Come to think of it, I was already working 3 part-time jobs even in college. I had even started a side job in high school. I’ll go through them briefly here because in this economically difficult situation, more than a couple of people have come up to me asking if I have work (jobs) for them. I know it must be stressful and scary, but I hope my experience will help you get some tips for finding work.

From Librarian to Counting Wildlife, to Cleaning Toilets

High School

  • Teaching piano lessons for kids.

Undergraduate years in college :

  • Staff in the Dining Hall. This includes helping the cooks, lay out meals in massive amounts for the student population (hundreds would eat in the Hall during meal times), dishes duty, mop and clean floors before and after meal times.
  • Observe in the Nature Preserve. This was easily one of my favorite part-time jobs in college. I was an environmental science major, and I signed up to walk 2-3 times a week in the nature preserve (sometimes everyday during Spring / Winter / Summer Break). My duty was to observe the wildlife that I saw during the walk and write them all down. CAN YOU BELIEVE I GOT PAID TO DO THIS? I loved those walks.
  • Maintainence Crew, aka cleaning crew. This was the job almost all international students did because it paid the most per hour and was the least glorified job available on campus. I regularly cleaned toilets, rooms and apartments (after students moved out), laundry rooms, take trash out from dorm public rooms, you name it. Yep, I cleaned toilets to help me get through college. I say this with pride now.

Graduate school years :

  • Music Librarian. Oh this was fun, not too difficult, and I got to be with books. Old, music books. This was my first library job, and I really enjoyed everyone I worked with.
  • Teaching Assistant to my piano pedagogy professor, which allowed me to build a great relationship with her and learn a lot from her.
  • Piano Teacher in the Music Academy. This paid really well, and I got to meet some awesome kids and families, some of whom I still keep in touch with until now via Facebook!

After graduation I did many many music related jobs, everything from on stage to behind the stage to preparatory work to marketing work. This helped me really understand the ins and outs of the industry.

It’s the Attitude

Okay so, this post isn’t supposed to be a CV, you say.

What I want to share is that if you take a look at the various things I have done for work (and the various things I’m doing now to stay afloat in this pandemic induced economic crisis), you’ll see that it’s not really about the job. It’s about the attitude.

I was willing to do anything, from counting birds to cleaning toilets to organizing up my professor’s cabinets to archiving hundred year old music books. All of those jobs I did for the span of at least 1 year. That, folks, is what matters most – that you’re willing to hustle, and willing to give it a shot not just for a month or two.

With that attitude, I’m sure you’ll be able to find work no matter how difficult the economy condition is.

Another inhibiting factor is sometimes our internal voices. Take a read of my post on dealing with toxic voices.

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Nisha 3 Title and Release Date Reveal

Who’s excited for the last installment of the Nisha trilogy!!!

In this post I will reveal the TITLE, the DATE OF RELEASE, and a short excerpt!!! If you are ready…

Drumrolls…

Yes, the third book will be titled Elements. What are the elements? And how will the Elements help Nisha, Saad, and Faris to defend their beloved little kingdom?

You can find out on 31 January 2021.

Excerpt of Elements Chapter 2 : Trade-Offs

Nisha watched silently as Elian and Ademaro began to set up three small tents in the middle of the woods. They were resting the night here, having just left her aunt, General Char, Faris, the Outer Movement Wizard, and everyone else at the Border. Ademaro and Elian had volunteered to accompany Princess Nisha in her journey to the Lair of the Order of the Witches and Wizards. Their mission was to convince the Order to send mages to support them in the fight against the Aklumites. 

This journey was about a week by horse. At the end of the first day, Nisha’s guardians chose this location of the forest to sleep. Nisha wanted to help them set up camp, but she had no idea where to even begin. In the end, she opted to watch silently, not wanting to be a hindrance. When Ademaro and Elian were finished, the Princess automatically cringed. 

“Your bedroom for the night,” Ademaro gestured with his deep voice. His kind face looked a bit sorry for her, but circumstances allowed no time for luxuries. 

“I’m sure the earth is, ah, great to sleep on,” sighed Nisha. No complaining, she reminded herself. “I suppose if I could manage sleeping on those hard bunks at the Border, I can handle sleeping on the ground.” 

“Do you mean you’ve never slept outdoors before?” asked Elian, surprised. The young archer had spent most of his childhood hunting and trekking. It was almost inconceivable to him how one could spend their lives trapped inside buildings.

Nisha blushed. “I was sheltered,” she explained pointedly. “It’s not like I had a choice in the matter.” 

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Elian said softly, taking a step closer to Nisha. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She noticed that either by training or simply by the way he was brought up, Elian did not even rustle the leaves as he approached her. 

Ademaro tactfully walked away to take care of their horses, leaving the two youngsters to their discussion. Oh, to be young, the hardy warrior reminisced with nostalgia. 

“So what did you mean?” the Princess asked. She kept her voice steady, although the fluttering in her chest had picked up in speed and volume.


Can’t wait? ME NEITHER!!! Subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak peek scene of Saad, Ged, and the mysterious girl they picked up.

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Recommended Podcasts

Hey hey hey! Here we are with a post about the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, which I definitely recommend!

English-based

  • Business Unusual (Barbara Corcoran). Listening to this podcast always gives me great insights on business, and also life. Barbara just gives it as it is without any sugar coating, which I appreciate.
  • Happy Writer Podcast (Marissa Meyer). As a fan of this author, “meeting” her through her podcast is always fun. She also brings in other authors and we have the same taste! Yes!

Indonesian-based

  • Janda Becanda (Widow Jokes with Tania). A great listen for everyone who has the experience of being widowed. Tania gives tips and jokes on how to thrive widowhood.
  • Abjad Tersirat (Yunita). Totally taboo. If you like those topics that everyone else shies away from, this podcast is for you. I love how Yunita is so raw in discussing these everyday matters!
  • Sahabat Buku (Book Friends with Rastiti Era). Rastiti is a podcaster from Bali, and you gotta love her Balinese accent! She talks and reviews the books she has read. Bookworms will find great recommendations here.
  • DipidiffTalks (with Dipidiff). An official book ambassador from Bandung, Dipidiff sends encouragements to her listeners via insights she learns from books.

Of course, I also have my own podcast, in which I interview cool women around me. What podcasts do you listen to? Or perhaps you’re familiar with some of my recommended podcasts? Let me know in the comments!

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Reading Aloud

Reading aloud is something I have naturally done since a young age, without giving much thought to it. I suppose I had been lucky enough that someone at some point of my growing up had taken the pains to read aloud with me.

I remember in junior high I used to enter storytelling competitions where I would memorize short stories and perform them live (from memory) in front of a jury panel.

Benefits of Reading Aloud

As it turns out, reading aloud has tons of benefits!

  1. According to psychologist Colen MacLeod, reading aloud helps memory. People consistently remember words and texts better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This effect is beneficial for younger kids to the elderly.
  2. Reading aloud helps detect memory issues earlier, such as Alzheimer’s disease (source: National Center for Biotechnology Information). From someone whose grandmother had memory issues and died without remembering anyone anymore, I am a bit concerned about this in my genes. Thus if I can detect it sooner, it would be better for me later on.
  3. For young minds, reading aloud helps to sharpen focus, improve vocabulary, and increase levels of comprehension (source: Learning Loft). This means, if you have a young child, encouraging them to read aloud to you is a practice of great value!

Recently, I’ve started reading aloud performances on my Instagram channel. There is a lovely section of Anne and Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables Series), the iconic first meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (A Study in Scarlet), and also some of my writings. The prologue of Sacred Rituals is there along with the beginning chapters of Nisha.

The more I read aloud, the more I like it. Another book influencer that reads aloud is the highly popular Jaysen, dubbed “king of booktok” from Ezeekat Library.

If you like to listen to read-aloud (aka audiobooks), you can also out Nisha audiobook at my shop, which I narrated. If you’d like to read aloud something of mine, let me know! It might be fun.

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Book Review: Rule of Wolves (Grishaverse)

Well, well. Many a twist happens in this last installment of the Grishaverse. Rule of Wolves is quite epic in comparison to all the other previous books. The plot unfolds in poor decrepit Ravka with our dears Nikolai and Zoya. At the same time it incorporates matriarchal Shu with Tamar and Princess Ehri, and of course Nina and Hanne in cold cruel Fjerda.

First of all, I am glad we don’t spend too much time in Ravka. As I said before in King of Scars, I think Ravka’s getting old. It seems Leigh knows it because that last bit at the ending was certainly breathing in new winds of change to the conservative country.

Second of all, it’s fascinating that the title “Rule of Wolves” is not about Nikolai and Zoya, but about Nina and Hanne! Wolves refer to the wolves in Fjerda, and I love this! Talk about winds of change coming for Fjerda. This part was brilliantly done, in my opinion.

Lastly, going into Shu Han territory was…interesting. So far, Leigh has never taken her readers into Shu Han territory. Thus I enjoyed getting to know this country with its vastly different cultures and customs. I’d love to read more about Shu Han because I think Leigh is just beginning to set up this area – introducing the culture and customs to her readers.

Predictions for what’s after Rule of Wolves

The ending opens a lot of possibilities for a new adventure. It hints at the return of our favorite protagonist Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows, so I don’t think this is goodbye.

In fact, my prediction for the next installment is that Kaz will have to go into Shu Han to steal what Zoya needs, while Jesper will face up to the full measure of his true self in Ravka and die a valiant death. Inej’s ship probably will be settling scores with the slavers in Kerch, while perhaps being backed up by the ministers of Novyi Zem.

Nina? Oh Gosh. Who knows with Nina. I feel her story arc has been the most unpredictable throughout this whole series, it’s as if Leigh treats her like a wild card. Beware the Heartrender turned Joker.

In the meanwhile, I await which actor will be cast as Nikolai in Season 2 of Netflix Shadow and Bone. Ruairi O’Connor, pretty please. Also, while waiting, why not check out my Grishaverse fanfics.

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Book Review: Strings Attached

Through the Mad Tea Book Club, I’ve been so pleased to meet more Indonesian readers and writers (especially women writers). One author I have really enjoyed reading is Firnita. She has two books published by Pop and Ice Cube: Strings Attached (2020), and Shorter Stories (2021).

Twitter Lift

I first met her through the #writerslift which is something fun that happens on Twitter where writers boost each other. I think this is a wonderfully supportive gesture, so we tried it on our book club’s twitter account. That’s where Firnita dropped her most recent book and how Sherry, Krisan, and I got to meet her. Then, funny as things can be sometimes, in the book club meeting that month (it was August), Krisan and I both (coincidentally) brought up Shorter Stories! That’s a sign. A good sign.

So, we decided to start a new segment on our bookclub’s Instagram which is discussion with authors, and Krisan started it off by doing an interview with Firnita. You can check out the whole interview here.

Strings Attached

Strings Attached is written in a genre of which I had never heard before called flash fiction. It’s a collection of many short fiction stories surrounding the theme of romance. The book also has some really modern illustrations which I LOVED. They totally added to the atmosphere of reading the stories.

The first and second section is the fluttering and bliss of being in love, so it will suit you if you are a helpless romantic. To be honest, I’m not a romantic person anymore, so I liked the third section better which was about the despair of break-ups and rejections. Yes, me likes this. Much more realistic.

Despite my personal tastes though, the stories (written in English) were well written and had a lilt to it, something like a slow dance. Firnita did say in the interview with Krisan that she loves music, so this is where it shows.

Q and A with Firnita

To make this article more fun, I decided to ask Firnita several questions about Strings Attached. Here they are.

Airin: How did you get the ideas for the flash fiction stories in strings attached? were some from real-life observation, or from experience, or?

Firnita: The stories in strings attached are mostly my train of thoughts in class for 6 years (haha). The idea is whatever I can finish in that one sitting, that’s it. It’s a collection of pieces from my notebooks: science, English, Bahasa Indonesia, everything. Some of them are real-life observations, movie-watching observations, and experience. It’s a mix of all~

Airin: Why do you find writing in English easier than Bahasa Indonesia?

Firnita: I always feel bad for writing in English because I know I do love Bahasa Indonesia too, but I guess it’s the matter of upbringing. I attended a semi-international school where most of the materials were taught in English, so I got to familiarize myself with English since kindergarden. I do write in bahasa too btw!! Haha.

Airin: I have noticed in my own writing, where I write something from my imagination, and then couple months after then it happens. It’s CRAZY! I am wondering if this has ever happened to you, like suddenly one or two of the stories you wrote happened in real life.

Firnita: OH I’ve heard this too! I can say that some pieces in Strings Attached are my manifestations, but I don’t know whether it will happen in the near/far future. But it happened to me too, just not the pieces in Strings Attached! Nothing specific, but when it happened I felt like I think I wrote this a while ago in my journal. And BAM when I trace back to my old journals, I see that piece manifest in the event that just happened, lol.

Way cool!

To support Firnita, purchase a copy of her books by contacting her.

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Why I Create

I stared at the black and white keys of the piano. They blurred in my eyes. I tried to remember what I was supposed to play, which notes I had to press, but everything left my mind. My brain could only feel one thing: burning shame. I was supposed to perform a piece by Bach at a concert during my student days, and I absolutely failed. I forgot everything on stage.I pressed the last chord, forced myself to make the most awkward bow in my life, and walked off dejectedly.

I was 20 years old.



An email popped into my inbox, from an international competition I was waiting to hear back from. My ensemble and I had prepared hundreds of hours, used our own money to make the music videos, and submitted the recording of our playing to the committee. I didn’t want to read the email. If we were rejected, it would be hard to deal with the disappointment after all those hours of practicing. When I gathered enough guts to look at the screen, I saw the apologetic words. Fuck. We failed again. We were not good enough.



The above two are examples from my earlier years of some of the grandest failures of my life. Several weeks ago, I had a discussion on my Instagram channel about what we fear most as creators, whether it’s musicians, actresses, auditions, or writers sending drafts, or illustrators sending drawings, or any type of creators.

From the fear of failure, rejection, not being good enough, to fear of wasted time, energy, and effort, all of those are very real daily inhibitors of creating.

Oh, not to mention, economic pressure. HA. I bet 99% of creators on this whole planet are not making enough money to get by just from their creations.

What’s the whole point?

So why then, do we still create at all? If it’s scary; if it’s not going to give us enough money; if it’s just going to make us feel bad about ourselves, then what is the whole point?

I struggled a lot with this, trust me.

What gave me clarity of mind was one of my mentors, who told me about his cardinal rule of life which is to HAVE FUN. He would only do something if he was sure that it would be a fun, enjoyable ride for him. If not, then he would not do it.

Reflecting upon myself, I analyze again and again if I am having fun while creating. Did I enjoy myself? Did I have a good time? If I did, then it was worth it. At the heart of it, the act of creating is not about the receiver, it’s about the creator. It’s about me spending the most precious asset I have (which isn’t money, by the way, it’s TIME) doing what I like to do.

The most precious asset we have is not money, it’s time.

Whether other people like it or not is secondary. Whether they would pay for it or not, is also secondary. I am not saying it’s not important to be sellable, to make money, to be able to price your creations/artwork/time. I am saying that for me, it is secondary to the creating process. That’s why it’s different when you’re doing a commissioned work versus when you’re just doing it for yourself.

When you’re performing for a specific audience, writing for a specific target group of readers, or say cooking for a designated person with certain taste bud preferences. In those times, I believe the focus is the receiver, the client, the audience.

But I believe creating starts with yourself, and will end with yourself. So my advice: make sure you’re having a good time while you’re creating. If you’re no longer having a good time, then just stop and do something else.

That’s okay too.

A great book to read for creators is Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.

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Series Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches is essentially a forbidden romance between a vampire and a witch, based on All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. My first reaction: groan, cliché. I am not one for cliché and tropes. I gave A Discovery of Witches a shot though, because our protagonist witch Diana Bishop is a brilliant history professor. Well, that’s an uncliché heroine profession, and she does all these cool things like rowing, yoga, running…

I like heroines that exercise.

Okay, fine. I like heroines that exercise. I’m a deep believer of exercise. Turns out the further I watch and get into the story, the more I like it.

The Story Gets Better and Better

And the main reason is that it gets less and less cliché . I am not sure how the author did this because all the plot devices used are all “old” – in season two the vampire Matthew and the witch Diana travels back in time to Elizabethan England. I mean, isn’t time travel annoying by now? Apparently not in this series.

The time travelling in Season Two is used to build and strengthen some very important relationships, and I think that’s why it works. There was also a beautiful part in which some characters from the past sent messages to characters in the future and WOW. I’m speechless.

Despite the premise of witches and vampires, I find Diana and Matthew (the protagonist blood sucker)’s romantic relationship to be very realistic, and actually rather an ideal relationship to strive for. They’re not toxic like Edward and Bella in Twilight (I think that’s where my ban of the species started). Matthew’s got some trippy things going on due to his genetics, but everyday he tries to handle and manage it. Diana is right there next to him and she never leaves him. Bad days, good days, she’s there. They can count on each other.

I also love how Diana is such a powerful character – she never lets Matthew be too overbearing or overprotective, she reminds him of his place – and of hers.

Strong Side Characters

Aside from Diana and Matthew, this series has a whole lot of very interesting side characters and strong female characters. Other witches and vampires, the demon species (demon congresswoman Agatha Wilson is a rock star!), and some of the humans (Phoebe, damn girl) were kick-ass and really pulled me in.

All in all, I am very glad I gave this series a shot. By the way, if you’re looking for another show with kick-ass heroines, do check on the hit series Shadow and Bone.

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Book Review: King of Scars (Grishaverse)

Did someone say handsome, witty, funny, kind? Yes, he said it himself. Nikolai Lantsov, the current ruler of Ravka, and as the title suggests: the King of Scars.

King of Scars is the 6th book in the Grishaverse series, and if you follow this saga from Netflix Shadow and Bone then you will know that the second season is coming out soon. Which means we are all awaiting who is going to be cast as Nikolai. My absolute plea is Ruairi O’Connor from The Spanish Princess. Please, Sankta Alina, please.

Update : Sankta Alina has answered my prayers in the form of bookstagrammer @yourstrulyjulietta. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this reel she made for Mad Tea Book Club.

Back in Ravka

Sorry, got sidetracked by the King (and Ruairi). To get back to the book, King of Scars brings our adventure to Ravka with Nikolai and the Squaller Zoya Nazyalensky who is now Commander Nazyalensky, General of the Ravkan army. So, I have this little theory which is that whenever Leigh Bardugo goes back to Ravka, it feels like we enter into a very religious, conservative place governed by “shoulds”.

Zoya thinks she should behave a certain way. Nikolai thinks he should be showing a certain aura, which is problematic due to the darkness growing inside of him as a souvenir from the Darkling. Should, should, should. I love the two characters and their budding relationship, but “shoulds” always annoy me. That’s why I loved Six of Crows duology, which I think are the best two books of this series – because the characters were free of “shoulds”. The Crows just did what they had to do to survive, and that was it. Simple.

Ravka is always so unnecessarily complicated, sigh.

The highlight of this book was Nina Zenik’s adventure over in Fjerda. Nina’s character in this book is fabulous. She goes through so much and faces it, then takes it further by moving with it. Leigh Bardugo’s brilliant plan to host the two separate adventure lines worked well, because a whole book centered again in Ravka would be too similar to Shadow and Bone and would thus frankly be boring.

I got Game of Thrones vibes from this book, especially how it starts with the perspective of a minor character. The political intrigues, deceptions, and trickeries really remind me of GRRM’s writing. Not a bad thing. Just an observation.

All in all, I did enjoy Nikolai and Zoya, and even made a mild smut fanfic on these two!

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Nisha Trilogy Journey

Nisha trilogy journey, which started as a little project, has really developed into something quite delightful and fantastical. The original fantasy novella is well, novella-length (70 pages), and it was something I scribbled down at the end of March 2020. Technically, I “scribbled” it on my iphone notes app with my poor thumbs. That’s when the lockdown was first implemented in Indonesia. I think it was my way of coping with the world which was screeching to a halt.

Surprising Reception

Some of the first readers including my dear friend and editor Chriswan encouraged me by saying they enjoyed the read. I was honestly pleasantly surprised because wait people ACTUALLY LIKED the craziness sprouting out of my imagination? Is this true, or are they just being nice, says my inner critic. Even if they’re just being nice, so what, I replied to that doubtful voice.

Is this true, or are they just being nice, says my inner critic. Even if they’re just being nice, so what, I replied to that doubtful voice.

I then wrote two backstories for the supporting characters in Nisha: Faris and Saad. After about 6 months, I started writing Sacred Rituals based on the backbone of the two backstories. Sacred Rituals presented some challenges: namely my first battle scene. My too enthusiastic self also got hand injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome). That sucked, but I learned my lessons.

Again, some of the first readers encouraged me by assuring me that they liked Sacred Rituals, and that the writing grew and the sequel exceeded their expectations. This meant so much to me because I am honestly a newbie writer and have no proper training like I do in my music.

At the moment of this writing, I’ve finished the draft for the last installment of the trilogy. It is in my editor’s hands, and it is finished and written – without me getting another carpal tunnel relapse – so I’m super proud about that! I expected the back and forth editing process will take a couple of months, as does the cover illustrating process with Inez. If everything goes well, the last installment will be released sometime in the beginning of 2022.

Fingers crossed everyone stays well and healthy till the last part of the Nisha trilogy journey.


UPDATE! I’ve finished editing: we took much shorter than I predicted YEAY. So everything is on track for a public release early 2022. For impatient readers, here is a sneak peek of the cover.