Tuesday, December 30, 2008


2008 is almost over! The number 8 in Chinese culture is lucky, so 2008 was supposed to be a lucky year. Looking back, it was rather a good year for me. I fulfilled some dreams--like walking on the Great Wall of China and visiting Taiwan with my parents. I also finished my novel which definitely took some luck.

The number 9 is synonymous with longevity in Chinese culture (hope that bodes well for the longevity WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON!), so 2009 is a year to think of long term ambitions. Here are 9 of my personal goals for the year (some are a little less aspiring than others):

1. Write a new good novel. Make books without any excuses-- work that I know that I have done to the best of my ability so that it doesn't matter what anyone says.

2. Grow my hair at least 3 more inches so I can donate it. This is actually kind of hard, because my hair is driving me a little crazy. I haven't had it this long for a while.)

3. Charity. Robert's Snow is a project that I am proud of but, not only is it too much responsibility for me to take on again, it is also a project of the past that, for now, I want to leave in the past. But I feel strongly about my art and charitable giving...so I'm working on a new project that will be revealed in the new year. Stay tuned!

4. Make dumplings. This is something I haven't done since I was a child with my mother. If I remember correctly, they were far superior than store-bought ones. I think this is a good year to find out if that is true.

5. Participate. I read a fair amount of blogs and lists but I never comment. I rarely even respond to comments on my own blog. I guess I am still in a weird-shy-lurking phase...that I will get over this year.

6. Do every school visit to the best of my ability. I've booked quite a few visits this spring, and I am SO grateful and honored that schools have requested me. The only problem is that sometimes my introverted nature takes over and students, schools, librarians and teachers begin to blur. I am going to make a special effort to check myself this year.

7. Learn how to make a frosting flower. I really want to get some impressive cake decorating skills down!

8. Embrace marketing, but know my limits. In this current climate, I need to give my books all the help they can get. I don't want to be QVC salesperson, but I'd like to get as many people who might be interested in my new book know about it.

9. Be thankful. No matter what this year brings, I know there will always be something to be grateful for. With thankfulness, nothing is ever that bad and the best things are even better. And that is something I hope stays with me for a long, long time.

Friday, December 26, 2008

fortune cookie friday

"If you fill your head instead of your pocket, you cannot be robbed."
-Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Cookies

I have been having a bit of a cookie addiction this season. As I mentioned earlier, in my crafty Christmas post, I began this year's holiday baking with Martha's honey gingerbread recipe, which while enjoyable did not have the "zing" I love. So instead of waiting until next year, I began experimenting with spicy gingerbread recipes. There was a lot of experimenting...and a lot of eating.

I tried many ways to wean myself off of eating all these cookies, including drinking vanilla tea, until finally I decided that my tree which was decorated mainly with origami needed cookie ornaments. And cookies covered with acrylic glaze cannot be eaten!

I've kept them for tonight to decorate. I thought at Christmas Eve, I'll paint them pretty and put them on the tree. Maybe it will be my new Christmas Eve tradition!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

RISD sale

Last Saturday. I had a craft booth at the RISD sale--thanks all that came out (especially Natalie who came with a suitcase of books for me to sign! Wow!). It was a fun time, though I do think it was a little slower than sales past. This year I had new items at my booth besides books and prints:

Ki-Ki's Merbunnies! Aren't they cute?
I also wanted to sell cookies or cupcakes but as I was recruited into the Merbunnie factory, it was a dream not meant for this year's sale. Next year!

But other than that, this years sale was very much like the sales I have attended in the past. Ki-Ki, as usual, was repeatedly assumed to be me. I have come to the conclusion that she just looks much "artier" than me. It must be my advanced years:
And I spent just as much money buying other peoples' goods than selling my own. Though it is a good deal, usually artists sell their goods cheaper at these sales than they do in the retail market. And the money goes directly to the artists...and all artists need money. (See how I try to justify my frivolous spending?).
This year I bought a painting from Gregory Poulin. If you remember, last year Anna traded him for painting of garlic. Well all year, every time I went to Anna's house I would see that painting and think--I should get one. So I did. Of course, I went for the opposite end of the tastebud spectrum. I do have a bit of a sweet tooth.

I also made a huge splurge and got these beautiful waterlily earrings from the jeweler Elise Moran. I really wanted the necklace too, but restrained myself.

There were about a dozen more artists that I wanted to buy things from as well, like the beautiful gingko leave pottery from Three Wheel Studio:

The cool cookie belts from Glitterlimes:

and the sweet collages from friend Karen Bessette:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

all is bright

While no one in my neighborhood has more than a string of lights, the house around the corner has more than enough to make up for it. It is brighter than the street lights. It makes me smile thinking of how much enthusiasm must have motivated such a display. I hope the family never loses their holiday spirit, not that it looks like there is any danger of that.

Monday, December 15, 2008

my crafty christmas

This holiday season I have given into my inner Martha. Usually, I only do one of the holiday activities that I dream of in my head, but this year I have done almost all of them. This year I made teacup candles:

I don't know why, but I am so proud of them. Every since my friend Libby's tea party, I've been visiting thrift stores and antique shops and collecting pretty teacups, it was fun to do something with them. I gave each teacup candle to my blue rose girl friends (which is why they are blue candles).

And (for those of you that get my newsletter know), I also made Christmas cookies with special labels for the tin. Here is the label:

and here are the COOKIES:

This year I used Martha Stewart's honey gingerbread recipe which was quite good but more of a milder, sweet taste. Next year I think I will do more of a spicy gingerbread, have to do some experimenting.

The other culinary activity, which was a first, was the creation was truffles and fudge:

I put candied ginger in the truffles. The cookies and truffles I gave(as well as books) to friends and family...not really out of generosity but more out of self-preservation. If left to my own devices I would have eaten everything and given myself an extra 5 pounds for Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008


My younger sister Ki-Ki is visiting to help me at the RISD sale tommorrow. We've done this sale for many years, and I'm starting to do it more for kicks than for profit. Time, however, is having the opposite effect on Ki-Ki and she now wants some profit.

Which is why she is now making product. And what product? She's making MER-BUNNIES!

Tell me these are not the cutest things you have ever seen! My photos are not doing justice to them. But they are based on the idea that everyone, deep down, harbors a secret desire to be a mermaid (I wanted be a unicorn...maybe next year). The tail comes off, by the way. She's making them from old sweaters, discarded fabric from the recycling center and fabric samples I had bought as reference material. So lots of green, good earth mojo too.

Please come to the RISD sale and buy one (and my books too):

RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale
Saturday, December 13
10am to 5pm
Rhode Island Convention Center
1 Sabin St, Providence, RI
Booth #310

Or if you'd to order one, e-mail her at alice@ki-ki.net (she's also a really good website designer, she did mine). They are $25.-$35.!

In the meantime, instead of making cookies or writing a new novel as I had planned, I am now a worker in Ki-Ki's Mer-bunnie sweat shop. I think I get paid in product.

fortune cookie friday

"Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time."
-Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

early gifts

I had tea with fellow author and neighbor Ann Downer, who gave me the wonderful gift of her son's discarded Ruth Chew books!

I LOVED these books when I was a child. They are all about witches and magic in a fun and exciting but not scary way. I wonder why they didn't make a comeback with the Harry Potter craze? I wish they would. They are all out of print, which is what makes this little bunch of books pretty priceless. Except now I want to get all of them and am spending hours on eBay trying to track them down.

Monday, December 8, 2008

oh, christmas tree

While my cousin Austin put up a rather modest Christmas tree,
I decided on something a little more elaborate.
But it is still humble in its own way. Having a slight dearth in Christmas ornaments and a reluctance to buy any, I decided on origami ornaments. In a way it's tribute to my Lissy's Friends book--an opportunity to re-use those folding skills!

Though I have to admit, during the painting of Lissy's Friends the only shape I really mastered was the crane. So it was with great pride that I finally managed the origami lily,

and goldfish.

Now I just need something for the top of the tree. Maybe I should make the Lissy doll an angel outfit!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

last day

Today's the last day of my Bookplate Promotion! Get your request in, bookplates will begin to get mailed on Monday.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


So the holiday season has arrived and I've found it hard to stay focus on work. This is the time of year that I love and hate being a freelancer. I love it because I can make my own schedule--I can dedicate a day to make the cookies and crafts that I am dreaming of--and I hate it for the same reason. It is hard to make myself do "real work" (meaning something that I will get paid for!) when there are so many other things I'd rather be doing.

This is something even more evident as I've embraced the writing side of my career. Becoming an author has been more a result of persistence than calling. I rarely have characters whispering in my ear or find myself in a dream-like reverie of mystical creation. My writing is usually just me, unromantically pegging away.

In the past, I used to wonder if this sort of non-magical creative method was somehow a reflection of my work. If the trumpets did not blare while I wrote, was what I wrote unworthy? However, as time passed, I slowly accepted that this plodding process was just my way, for better or worse.

And right now,unfortunately, it is for worse. It is hard to face trudging through writing when I'd rather decorate cookies. I've gotten so self-indulgent that I've decided to try Linda Sue Park's method of writing two pages a day, without excuse. We'll see if it works. If not, I'll have to ask for some discipline for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December Newsletter

I just sent out my December Newsletter, which included a free, downloadable cookie tin label and the reminder that my bookplate promotion ends DECEMBER 7th.

Please sign up for my newsletter HERE.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

gobble, gobble

This Thanksgiving, I discovered the gastronomic deliciousness of homemade cranberry sauce. YUM! Before, I had always had cranberry sauce from a can--that circular-shaped red jell which we tried to disguise by mushing with a fork, even though the slightly metallic taste gave it away.

Not this year! Why didn't I ever make homemade cranberry sauce before? It's so good! It's so easy! And my secret ingredient? A handful of chopped candied ginger. Candied ginger makes everything taste better.

Friday, November 28, 2008

fortune cookie friday

"One cannot refuse to eat just because there is a chance of being choked."
-Chinese Proverb

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In the spirit of Thanksgiving

Somewhere I read the quote, "Love is simply wishing another to be happy."

I've thought about it a lot over the last few years, and with the true meaning of the holidays being wrapped with the two emotions of love and happiness I thought I would share this video with you. It is a little long and a bit intellectual, but what I took from it was that you can find happiness in almost any situation if you allow yourself. And that is something to be thankful for, is it not?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

santa claus parade

My visit in Montreal coincided with their Santa Claus Parade, which I was excited to go see. Even the cold Canadian morning weather could not freeze my excitement. And how could it? My first glimpse of the parade was the float with... unicorns! (Did I ever mention I was a big unicorn girl in grade school?) Anyway, the parade was the perfect harbinger of my holiday cheer. And now, I want to do a book about a Santa Claus parade. It was such fun to see children's book characters like Alice, come to life,

a walking Christmas dinner,

oompa-loompa-ish ornaments,

and, of course, Santa!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

window wishes

I'm in Montreal, Canada now for a bit of a break (just saw a Bob Dylan concert last night!) and for some reason, the holiday window decorations in the department store fill me with great joy:

Isn't it great? If I did not have such a dismal track record with Christmas books, I'd allow the hundred of ideas the window inspires turn into a book. Maybe I can look at it as a second career--what would be the job title? Window Displayer? Christmas Window Decorator?

Monday, November 17, 2008

my in-progress holiday list, part one

So in keeping with my I'm buying books for the holidays post, I've been brainstorming ideas for the people on my list. I want to give a mixture of my own books (for the personal touch) as well as books that I think they might enjoy. In the off chance that people on your list might be similiar to the people on mine, here is what I am thinking:

For the toddler whom the parents want to grow up bilingual:
The Round is a Mooncake and Red is a Dragon books by Roseanne Thong and that I illustrated as a primer on shapes, color and Chinese culture along with Richard's Scarry's Best Word Book in CHINESE and some Chinese baby flash card books.

For the toddler's slightly older sibling:
The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker that I illustrated, and this new book The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann that I just discovered-- it's a great book incorporating Chinese calligraphy and a fun story--not a primer to teach Chinese writing, but more of a book to get one excited about Chinese writing. And I guess to keep with the "dragon" theme I will add my book Bringing in the New Year.

For the foodie friends with a new baby: Dim Sum for Everyone! and Fortune Cookie Fortunes for the baby, and The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China Because it's never too early to start a love of Chinese food!

The younger sister who likes to make things: Lissy's Friends and doll, Fold me a Poem by Lauren Stringer and an origami kit.

The slightly older brother who is a picky eater: The Ugly Vegetables and Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating by Alice Flaherty (a hilarious story about how the Loch Ness Monster grew from a small worm eating oatmeal that a picky eater kept throwing out the window). I will probably add Meghan's Astronaut Handbook in as well.

That takes care of most of the very young on my list. Next, the "I'm too old for picturebooks, I can read on my own" crowd. (PS, if you suspect that you are one of the people on my list, act surprised at Christmas, please!).

Friday, November 14, 2008

fortune cookie friday

"The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."
-Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm buying books for the holidays!

The holidays are coming and with these not great financial times, this is my overly-earnest plea for you to consider a gift that will truly leave a long lasting meaning to the people in your life. Yes, baby clothes are cute. Yes, video games are cool. But books are timeless. Books are remembered forever. Books enrich your life. They are important. And, after being alerted by Jama Rattigan, the book industry is in trouble.

As Moonrat says in her post about supporting the book industry:
Buy your sister a book instead of a sweater for her birthday; buy your friend who can't even make toast or boil water a beginner's cookbook; buy your company's receptionist a novel you liked because most people probably ignore him/her (it's always a her, though, isn't it?) and you'll make his/her day.

Buy your holiday gifts now. Instead of a CD for your brother, buy him a book on his favorite recording artist.

Instead of going to the library this one week buy the book you were going to read--it might only be a difference of a couple of bucks in the end. One day this week, make a peanut butter sandwich, skip going out for lunch, and buy a paperback.

Got an anniversary? Skip chocolates; fiction is sexy.

Got a non-reading friend with a birthday? Buy them a book and tell them it's high time they got over it. Or, more kindly, that you're doing it to sponsor your own future writing career. Or blame me if you must; I can take it.

It doesn't matter what. It doesn't have to be a literary fiction hardcover. If could be a $5.99 mass market nutrition guide, a $4.99 young reader chapter book, a Harlequin romance. Your money will still prevent returns of other books--literary fiction is usually the first to go--and will trickle down to the publishing companies, who will then be more likely to be able to afford to publish unprofitable literary fiction. Even if it's not by your favorite author or your favorite publishing house, your favorites will be indirectly affected.

Do you have reluctant readers on your list? Change the adjective with your gift. I firmly believe that there is at least one book for everyone that can transform. It's a different book for each person and you can find it! The bloggers at BUY BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS would be thrilled to help you. The girls and I, here, would be happy to as well.

I know that this might seem self-serving considering I am an author (especially after I offered free bookplates to those who order my books) but I would not make books if I didn't consider them important (and I am honestly urging you to buy any book, not just mine!). On the aforementioned bookplate, I designed it around the Chinese proverb A Book is like a Garden in One's Pocket. In this cold financial climate, during this chilly holiday season, plant the seeds and let books blossom for you and the ones you care about.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

newsletter promotion

I've just sent out my new-and-improved e-mail newsletter (please sign up for it!) and amongst the other tidbits I am offering this promotion:


I'm honored by the number of book-lovers who choose to give my books as gifts for the holidays! To make these holiday presents even more special, I've designed a new bookplate (see to the right) that I will personally autograph and send to you FREE. All you have to do is send an e-mail to gracenotes@gracelin.com (you can also send to Alice at manager@gracelin.com), with the following:

1.To WHOM you wish the bookplate to be autographed to.
2.WHICH book the bookplate is for (I have different messages and drawings for each of my books)
3.Your name and MAILING ADDRESS

and you will get your bookplate ready to put in any book of mine which you have purchased.

This is a limited-design bookplate, which means this design is only for this promotion, but there is NO limit on how many bookplates you can request.

Promotion ends December 7th, 2008. All bookplates will be sent out that week (if you need it earlier, please make a special request when you send your e-mail)