A Note About Us and Our Work
The thing about being legally blind is that we mostly see the world in fragments and general impressions.
My twin sister and I were diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition at a young age, and so, for as long as I can remember, we've relied on our imagination to fill in the gaps and interpret what we see. Perhaps because of this, we've always been drawn to stories about magic and other worlds, and this love of the fantastical has had a great influence on our writing and artwork.
On this website, you will find some of our individual and collaborative projects.
25 Random Things
Of all the self-introduction prompts I’ve seen while working with students, the one that yielded some of the most interesting results was a college application essay prompt that asked students to list 25 random things about themselves. We decided that something similar would be more fun than a simple bio, so here we go.
Alaena Hope is not the first penname I’ve used, but I do plan for it to be the last. I use pennames because I like to.
As a legally blind artist, I use a powerful CCTV magnifier when I draw by hand. I’ve always found it ironic that that means some of my work includes very tiny details.
One of my favorite tools for drawing with is the ballpoint pen. They are portable, affordable, and surprisingly pressure-sensitive. You can see some of my artwork in my FAA Gallery.
I am a Pokemon fan. My favorite Pokemon is Charizard. My second favorite is probably Garchomp.
I do not have a favorite color. My mom told me that I once said that I liked all beautiful colors, but I don’t remember the conversation. She thought it was a good answer, but, looking back, I kind of feel like it’s a moot point.
I enjoy origami, though the only thing I’m good at folding is the crane. I’m quite proud that I can fold very tiny cranes completely without looking.
I do not believe in love at first sight.
Biology was my least favorite class in high school. I couldn’t make myself eat mushrooms for a whole year after learning way too much about them in biology. My favorite class was physics.
I am a coffee person, though I do also like tea.
When my sister and I first started learning to play music, our parents re-drew all our sheet music by hand to make them large enough for us to read. One line of music would be almost four feet long. They used thick, black markers and rulers, and they taped sheets of paper together to make them long enough. I really appreciate everything that they’ve done for us.
I started writing stories in fifth grade.
I used to prefer dogs with pointy ears. But then my sister got her guide dog, a lab/golden cross, and now I can’t imagine a cuter dog.
I enjoy taking walks with my family.
Though I have visited many places with my family, I’m not big on travel because I get motion sick easily (carsick, seasick, airsick—you name it). I’d say seasickness is the worst of the lot.
In my opinion, one good thing about being legally blind is that you don’t care much about what people look like.
Another good thing about having low vision is that it forces you to develop a good memory.
I got my B.A. at UC Berkeley, a place for which I will always have fond memories. Someone I met there (I can’t remember who now) said, “You can’t throw a rock without hitting an interesting person”, and I found she/he was right.
I enjoy the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game.
Taboo and Uno are two of my favorite games to play at gatherings. Though I’m really not a party person.
Being a tutor taught me to dread smelly feet.
One of the most exciting and unexpected things that ever happened to me as an artist was having one of my drawings included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
People often ask me what it’s like to be a twin. I often wonder what it’s like to have a sibling who is not my twin.
I don’t mind talking about my vision and how it has affected my life, and I’ve spoken on a few panels about it. But I’ve found that, for some reason, offering to answer questions about it often made my classmates and others uncomfortable. I still don’t understand this phenomenon.
I was introduced to the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge by a lady who worked in the disabilities office at my high school. I have been participating in the challenge most years since then. I use it as a way to motivate myself to get chunks of ongoing drafts done.
I like to let my sister try new books first. Then I read the ones she recommends.
The first hot, coffee drink I learned to love was Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte.
When I read a story or watch a TV show, how much I like the characters is more important to me than how much I like the plot.
Spoilers don’t bother me. Sometimes, I will skim the end of a story first to help me decide if I want to read the whole thing.
I learned to dread those old-fashioned clocks with the two brass bells on top. Mom got me one when I was working in Taiwan, because she says she’s always loved the way they look. It was the noisiest and most obnoxious alarm clock ever, and I started waking up extra early just so I could turn it off before it could shock me awake instead. It was the main inspiration for my poem “Alarm On” in Everyday Magic.
I used to collect rocks whenever our parents took us out to places like the beach when we were children, and I’d keep the egg-shaped ones in a box of napkins in the hopes that one would hatch. Preferably into a dinosaur.
My old violin teacher and I used to play sound games where we’d listen to things going on around us like the hum of a laundry machine and then play the matching notes on our violins.
I am a huge Pokemon fan. Mew, Gardevoir, Gallade, Lugia, Lucario, and the Eevee evolution family are some of my favorites.
I enjoy playing the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game, and my current favorite deck to play is based upon the Shiranui archtype.
Since purple has always been my favorite color and no one else in my family really has a favorite color, all of them take extra note of purple things.
During class presentations as a student, I often received the comment that I had good eye contact. This was always very funny to me, because being legally blind, I can’t even tell that someone has eyes, let alone make actual eye contact.
Curry is one of my favorite foods, even more so because I can make it by throwing all the ingredients together in a steamer and pressing “go” (and it still tastes good). This was extremely important information when I was a graduate student.
While participating in a journalism camp as a student, I once stood up in a restaurant to ask a room full of strangers for interviews. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
I do not believe in love at first sight.
I generally prefer poems that rhyme.
My favorite high school subjects were physics and chemistry—physics because it explained things like how I tune my violin and chemistry because of its emphasis on problem solving (i.e., use anything you want in this classroom to measure and tell me how much water there is in this tomato).
Since it’s difficult and time-consuming for us to read print, even with the help of a powerful magnifier, we relied heavily on audiobooks from the library to help us get through the reading we had to do for school.
I used to prefer dogs with pointy ears, but after I got my first guide dog from the Seeing Eye, I decided that floppy ears are incredibly adorable too. She’s a black, Labrador-Golden Retriever mix.
As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I majored in Rhetoric, because the department main page described it as the study of the relationship between author and audience. Those words encapsulated one of the things about writing that I found—and still find—most fascinating.
I enjoy quote-hunting and reading up on random subjects when I’m looking for inspiration.
I’ve tried out a few different pennames, but I like to keep the initials V and S, V because my given name begins with V and S because I like the sound and shape of the letter.
While I was teaching at an English immersion summer school in Taiwan, my students didn’t know that I was bilingual. As a result, the first time I said something to a student in Chinese, she almost fell out of her chair in shock. From then on, I could hear them warning each new student entering my class, “Be careful! Teacher speaks Chinese.”
One reason I enjoy working with students is that every day is different, since no two students are the same. Everyone is unique if you pay close enough attention, and for me, listening to students and their experiences is an integral part of being an educator.
I like creating PowerPoint presentations, because for some reason, it makes me happy to see lots of bits of information presented in a simple, neat, and organized way.
After getting my hair cut short my last year of high school, I never wanted long hair again. Short hair just makes things so much easier. The original reason for that first haircut, however, was Mom practicing her haircutting skills. Immediately afterwards, she decided to take me to a professional barber.
While interning at a science museum in Kaohsiung, my coworkers took me out to karaoke. Since I didn’t know any of the songs and I couldn’t read the lyrics on the screen, my supervisor taught me the words to a Chinese song that we both liked. I spent half the evening memorizing the lyrics, and then we sang the song together. When I finished the internship, all my coworkers sang that same song together and gave me a recording of that makeshift performance as a parting gift.