Hi! I’m Charmaine :) I list my surname first in my bylines. You can call me Charmaine or Sharkii, which is the nickname a friend gave to me in Grade 6 that has stuck.
Since I was three, I’ve lived on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples , otherwise known as Vancouver, British Columbia Canada.
If you don’t know what “unceded” means, check out my explainer, but in a nutshell, much of B.C. was never formally given up to the Canadian government during colonization. Today, many progressives, artists, academics, and writers do land acknowledgements to respect this.
What It Means to Write on “Unceded Coast Salish Territory”
A brief explainer for visitors to my Medium profile.
I don’t play hockey, but I do the awkward Canadian thing where I’ll hold a door open for the next person even though they’re far away and have to run. I also apparently pronounce “about” like “aboat” and “bag” like “beg,” but I think I just sound normal.
My family immigrated from Hong Kong and landed in the Toronto area where I was born in 1994. I speak English, conversational Cantonese, and bits and pieces of French and Mandarin. My Chinese isn’t as good as I wish it could be; this is something I think (and write) about a lot.
How I Got into Writing
I learned to love books from my mother, who was always reading around me. She was a high school teacher at one point and an ESL instructor at another, and she would read me kid-friendly versions of classic novels like The Secret Garden and Great Expectations.
I’m an only child, so I also relied on books, TV, and movies for entertainment as a kid. Stories were oases of escape, discovery, freedom, and fun. At some point, I decided to make it my job to make people feel how I felt when I was engrossed by stories as a kid.
I’ve been writing for most of my life. I remember making picture books as soon as I could string words and sentences together, and in Grade 4, I began writing my first novel. It was a rip-off of The Sight except with talking eagles instead of talking wolves, and although nothing came out of that project (yet!), I became addicted to the creative flow of writing.
Years later, I completed a BFA in Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of British Columbia. Since then, I’ve done a variety of copywriting and communications jobs. I’ve also published fiction and non-fiction in literary journals and magazines.
These days, I work part-time for a local non-profit organization, freelance, write on Medium, and chip away at personal creative projects.
Last year, I parked my ass down and wrote a YA contemporary novel about queer, Asian skater girls coming of age in Vancouver. I’m super excited about this project because it’s a culmination of stuff I’ve been working on for years. Looking for representation, by the way, if you know any agents ;)
My goal — on Medium and elsewhere — is to write emotionally resonant stories that impact people. Whether those are deeply personal essays about OCD, social justice commentaries, cultural criticisms, or fiction. Ideas are what change the world, and imagination is what gets ideas across.
How I Got into Everything Else
Outside of reading and writing, I have several hobbies.
Music is something I’d rather die than give up. I started playing piano when I was six — not because my parents made me, but because I saw other kids playing the piano and I wanted to be like them.
I ended up really liking piano. By the time I graduated high school, I had an Associate’s diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music. My favourite composers to play include Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Satie, Mozart, Chopin, and Poulenc, among others.
I also play guitar (electric, acoustic, and classical) and write music when the mood strikes me. When I was 14, I made a “band” with two friends and performed an original song in front of the whole school. Twice. (There are very embarrassing videos of this somewhere on Facebook.)
How to Use a Musician’s Work Ethic for Writing Success
Practice techniques writers can borrow from musicians
When the pandemic ends, my plan is to hit up as many live music shows as possible — rock concerts are one of the things I miss most.
My life mostly takes place indoors these days, but I genuinely love the outdoors. A true British Columbia, I love mountains, old-growth forests, lakes, and wildlife; I also volunteer for a local wildlife rehabilitation centre. Before Covid, I would try to camp at least once a year and hike several times each summer. In winter, I go snowboarding as much as possible.
I’m a hardcore INFP introvert, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like hanging out with people. I’m a little shy at first because I like to observe the room before participating in it. But once I’m comfortable, I can be chatty and go off the rails if you hit a topic I happen to obsess about. Did I mention I can be a little obsessive? I do have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which I write about quite a lot on Medium because it disappoints me how misunderstood this condition is.
That’s about it! Follow me if you’re interested in articles about culture, social justice, mental health, writing, and more. Better yet, subscribe to my newsletter and you’ll get friend links to read my stuff for free. Or just stalk me by visiting my website.
I’ll end this autobiography with a list of favourites:
- Favourite colour: Blue
- Favourite food: Cantonese-style steamed fish
- Favourite drink: coffee
- Favourite band: the GazettE
- Favourite album: “Buckingham Nicks” by Buckingham Nicks
- Favourite book: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
- Favourite movie: Spirited Away
- Favourite TV show: Broad City
- Favourite animal: doggo
- Favourite quote: “I have measured my life with coffee spoons.” — T.S. Eliot