Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Yep, ten. Ten years that is. Charlesbridge, the publisher of my first book "The Ugly Vegetables" has just agreed to put out a 10 year Anniversary edition of the book! The book is going to be redesigned with a new cover, some new spots and backgrounds. Very exciting!

For the new cover, I want to do a throwback to the work I did for Weekly Reader. These pieces are what caught my editor's eye and inspired the whole book:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

conversations with Barbara McClintock

Last night, Elaine and I went to the Foundation for Children's Book talk with Barbara Mcclintock. These foundation events are great fun, the more I go to them the more I enjoy myself. And I am a big fan of Barbara McClintock's work as well so, of course, that was a large part of the enjoyment factor. She is just like her books-- lovely, elegant, tall...okay, her books are not tall but they are lovely and elegant:

And this is just a snippet of her lustrous body of work. Her work is also very shiny because of all the awards she has won: four New York Times Best Books, two Time Magazine Best Books, six NY Public Library 100 Recommended Books, two Parents Choice, an ALA Notable Book, a NEBA and probably many more stickers and trophies that are too redundant to mention.

The conversation was extremely interesting. I loved hearing about her process,her path, the ideas behind her work. In fact, talking about Adele and Simon set in Paris gave me a squirt of water for a set-in-China book idea that has been blossoming in my head...so these events are good for personal work as well!

However, my favorite anecdote from the conversation was how Barbara learned how to be a children's book illustrator. Nineteen years old and in North Dakota, she called Maurice Sendak on the phone(!) for advice. Which he gave her(!). This brought her to NYC, where she called up publishers from the yellow pages and met with them (!). Then, after having her book dummy rejected sixteen times(!), it was accepted. And it received a NY Times Best Book Award(!). All I can say is...wow.

I think times have changed(or at least Maurice has, from what I've heard!). Ironically, the only thing that is timeless from her story is that almost every publisher she met with told her that children's books was a nearly impossible field and it was extremely hard and competitive. Hmm, I guess things really haven't changed that much. I'm realizing more and more, going into this industry is truly an act of faith.

But I am glad that I have found fellow believers.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

the fold

Fellow Fusion author, An Na's book "The Fold" just came out today and I look forward to reading it with great interest. In it, an Asian girl is offered the chance to get plastic surgery done on her eyes to give it the coveted caucasian eyefold.

And this surgery is quite common across Asia, especially in Taiwan. Having those eyefolds are mandates of beauty; something I experienced up close and personally.

Because at my photo shoot for my new author photo (my new novel is a Chinese folktale-inspired fantasy--since it takes place in an imagined reality, I thought it fit to have the author photo be a bit of a flight from the imagination as well), my eyes were the first thing that were changed. The make-up artist, after taking off my glasses, cut pieces of thin plastic and glued them to my eyelids and, voila!, I had eyefolds. I had misgivings about the entire procedure but was persuaded by the studio workers' coos of admiration.

And that is how they took me bouncing into the studio looking like this:

and changed me into this:

Yikes! (I also was instructed not to smile in the photos which is why I am smirking in all of them). Obviously, I have regrets.

Because now I, the me I know, am unrecognizable in the photos (the only good ones were the ones where I was looking down when the fake folds were not as noticeable). I realized, in that moment I allowed myself to choose between being "beautiful" and myself, when the original goal of the photos was to achieve both. I hope the character in An Na's book realizes the same.

Monday, April 7, 2008

author photo: take II

I realized that my dissatisfaction over my previous author photos had really nothing to do with the photos or the background, but my own author photo envy. The truth is after seeing fellow blue rose girl Linda's author photos, I realized how much more these photos could be. Not just a standard snapshot of a robotically-smiling author, Linda's photos are amazing--artworks themselves, they are a true extension of her creative self. See, like this:

and this:Can you blame me for having some author photo envy? They were such an inspiration that I was determined to do more with my pictures. However, since I have no Ophelia or Amelia Earhart tendencies in my blood or art, I obviously needed to think of something else.

So in China, when I saw this package of Old Calendar/1910-1940 postcards, the bells began to whistle in my head. Wouldn't it be fun to have an author photo like this:
or like this?But when I asked my mother if she had any qipaos (the Chinese dresses they wear) that I could borrow and told her why, she laughed. "Come to Taiwan," she said, "They have studios with costumes for people to do that in. It's very common and inexpensive."

So, last week, in Taiwan I did what they call a "glamour shoot." It is VERY common there and it is not very expensive (less than $100. US, though it depends on what package you want--some packages were crazy fancy--bound albums, posters, etc., I got the cheapest one). Apparently, engaged couples and teenagers do these fantasy glamour shoots fairly regularly--they are everywhere. Any store that seems to sell formalwear also offers these shoots.

And these shoots are not your run-of-the-mill come in, throw on a costume and get a poloroid either. I had kind of pictured it like the single shots you get at carnivals, when you put on old western clothing and get a fake sepia tintype. No, these are elaborate, complicated affairs that they ask at least two hours for.
So what do they do? Well, at my photo shoot, they covered my face with a mask of makeup so that I couldn't smile, stuck these strange transparent stickers on my eyelids to make my eyes larger, and shellacked my hair so that it could be snapped into two. When they finally allowed to take a peek through my glasses (I was not allowed to wear them so I was pretty blind to what was happening the whole time) it was actually quite a horrifying experience. "Don't worry," the make-up artist said in very broken English, "under camera light, looks very natural."

Well, at that point I just had to take her word for it. So I was pretty scared when I finally got the photos. And for good reason--they WERE scary! There was only one or two that I felt I could live with.

But luckily, one is all I needed...
to make my brand-new author photo! I hope they let me use it for the back of my novel. What do you think?