Friday, October 31, 2008

fortune cookie friday

"You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair."
-Chinese Proverb

Thursday, October 30, 2008

pumpkin party

My friends and I have continued our Halloween pumpkin tradition and carved our own brand of jack o'lanterns for the holiday. Jon and I also continued the tradition of switching subject matter. He carved cute children's book characters George and Martha:

While I did Quatchi, the sasquatch:

No one else attempted media-culture characters, though we did have an emoticon-pumpkin:

When we turned off the lights, we were all able to see the masterpiece qualities of Luke's squirrel pumpkin:
And how suddenly Quatchi was an evil demon:
While concerns for George and Martha being at the scene of a nuclear explosion grew:
But I feel confident all our pumpkins will bring a cheery welcome for Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

rabbit hill

Over eight years ago, a lady caught the eye of the director of the Westport Public Library.
"May I help you?" she asked the woman who was staring intently at one of the patron donation tiles on the wall.
"Oh, it's just that I so wished that we had been the one to sponsor this Rabbit Hill tile," she said, pointing to the decorative tile honoring Robert Lawson, "Because we live at Rabbit Hill, Robert's Lawson's old home and studio, now."

"Oh," the director said, "Well, maybe we can think of something else."

And that something else was the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature which is one of the best children's literature festivals I have ever been to. It was definitely an honor to be a part of it-- I was on the impressive (but intimidating) roster of:

Mo Willems, EB Lewis, David Wiesner, Steve Jenkins, Nick Clark (Founding Director of the Eric Carle Museum) and Barbara McClintock. Let's count the Caldecotts, shall we? I think there's about 7 in there, add a Geisel, mix it up with some NY Times Best is pretty amazing for me to be in the same sentence with them, let alone in the same picture.

But everyone was so friendly and nice that I quickly got over my intimidation and actually had a great time. And I got through my speeches, even a brand-new speech I wrote up just for the occasion (all about the inspirations behind my stories and art style). Yes, like a cat with a million lives, I survived public speaking yet again!

Read Elaine's write-up HERE for a blow-by-blow run-down!

Friday, October 24, 2008

fortune cookie friday

"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
-Chinese Proverb

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A to Houston

So I finished my 3-week Texas visit marathon...and it was a lot of fun! Here is a a little ABC (to H) of Houston highlights:

A is for Apropos:
Every school I went to did such creative activities with my books to prepare the students. At the Duchesne Academy, in the spirit of my book "The Year of the Dog," students looked up the traits of their Chinese zodiac animals and decided whether or not their corresponding animals were appropriate. The confessional cards were surprisingly thoughtful.

B is for Bookfair
As in the St. John's bookfair at Barnes and Noble, which I was told is the largest grossing bookfair of any B&N bookfair in the country. After being there, I believe it! It was packed! But I was able to meet some lovely students.

C is for Cookies (and cupcakes and cakes)
Okay, I overdid the desserts while in Houston. A lot. I told myself it was because I need the sugar rush, but really it was just because I couldn't resist the deluxe cookies from Paulie's, the homemade yummy gingerbread cupcakes from ROBS librarian Mary, and the delicious gourmet cake from the Dessert Gallery.

D is for Dragon
Not only was there this very creative Dragon activity, based on my book "Kite Flying" (the book asks the reader what they think the kite is saying to the wind, here the students have written what they think it might be saying):

I also had a great time making dragon kites with some of the students:

E is for Extra (ideas)
Another fun activity that the students did was come up with suggestions for "Olvina" sequels, they were quite excited by the possibilities. I didn't have the heart to tell them that unfortunately Olvina is not selling that well and therefore probably won't have any more sequels. But you never know!

F is for Fortune
And another activity which made me smile! Students wrote fortunes trying to foretell details of my visit. I love the way students spell when they are just learning-- sometimes I actually think their spelling is preferable.

G is for Gayle and Gus
When Hurricane Ike swept into Houston, I thought my visit there was going to be canceled. But librarian Gayle worked tirelessly and endlessly, rearranging and organizing--most of it while driving in the car with her pet rabbit, Gus--and my visit to Houston happened after all. Gayle is like an uber-superhero librarian and Gus is her super hero pet.

H is for Hospitality
Everyone in Houston was so warm and friendly. All the librarians went out of their way to make sure I felt welcomed (and fed!) and the all the students were so excited to meet me. It was truly a delight meeting everyone. Thank you for a wonderful trip in Houston!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

meeting the ambassador

So I am in Houston for another week of visits (which I will blog about in my next post) which is lucky enough in itself, but what makes my trip even more fortuitous is that it gave me and opportunity to meet the new Ambassador of Children's Literature Jon Scieszka! Yes, Ambassador. I didn't know we had one either but whomever chose Mr. Scieszka made a fabulous choice.
The wonderful Blue Willow Bookshop gave the event all the pomp and circumstance that an ambassador requires. Not only did they drive him up in a snazzy convertible, they had trumpets announce his arrival as he walked on the red carpet. There was also a cub scout flag ceremony as well as a presentation of the keys to the city, er, bookstore.
Then after a hilarious talk about his new book KNUCKLEHEAD, I joined the long, long book signing line. They told us not to take pictures with the Ambassador for security reasons (no, really because it would be too time consuming) which is why I am trying to sneak a photo in on the side here.
But as I got my book signed, my lovely librarian companion Gayle informed Ambassador Sciescka that I was Grace Lin, a fellow author and illustrator. Surprisingly, he seemed to know who I was and I got to take a photo with him after all (with ambassadorial medal).
I was quite shocked that he recognized little ol'mushroom me, but maybe that is why he is THE AMBASSADOR. They probably have to know all those kinds of things for diplomacy reasons.

finishing Frisco

So, last Thursday I finished up my first round (I am returning in the Spring) of visits in Frisco, TX. It was a great trip, special thanks to all the teachers and librarians whose warmth and hospitality made Frisco a lovely twelve-day home. As I caught my flight to Houston, I made a little list of all the things I learned in Frisco:

1. If you go to Frisco, stay in the Homewood Suites. My trip included a weekend stay--all the librarians were so kindly worried that I would be bored and stuck and kept offering to take me out. No need. Did you see the pool? It was like a resort paradise, and the perfect place to unwind after a week of visits.

2. I CAN present to really large groups. I've always tried to put a limit on the number of students I present to--in the past it's been at most 150 kids at a time. In Frisco, the school were so big that every group was at least 350 kids. Yikes! It was a definite trial by fire! But by day 3, I got the swing of it and now I feel pretty confident about it. Of course, it helped a lot that the students were very well prepared for me by the super-librarians of Frisco.
3. Lisa Yee is afraid of birds. I met authors Lisa and Carl Deuker in Frisco (they were presenting to the older grades) and were amazed and impressed by their ability to speak to the audience without any visual clues or pre-planned speech. Public speaking is something I have had to really work on and while I have been able to fake it to an extent, it will always scare me. As birds in Frisco will always scare Lisa (she said it was something about symmetry in nature, but I think it's really that Alfred Hitchcock movie).
4. Chicken-Fried steak is just a sample of what they fry in Texas. I had my first chicken fried steak experience which was coronary-killingly delicious. As my mouth rejoiced and my arteries clogged, I was informed that there was a plethora of other deep-fried dishes that I could try--including deep-fried jellybeans, deep-fried bacon and deep-fried twinkies. It's like Japanese tempura gone wild.
5. If you but a penny in a bag of water and hang it in the sun, it will scare away flies. Apparently, something about the way the light reflects the copper in the water does something to the eyes of a fly that freaks them out, which is why this restaurant has those bags hanging on the porch. Anyway, if the pennies in the bags don't scare the flies, I'm sure the enormous bear will.
6. The best nighttime indulgence is a glass of pinot noir and a Little Debbie nut bar. This combination was sworn to me by Debra (seen below), the tireless and wonderful CRM of Barnes and Nobles who followed me to each school carting and carrying loads of my books. After trying it myself, I am inclined to agree. I may buy myself a case of each when I return to Boston!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

half-way point

So I am half-way through my three-week school visit tour of TX. For the last week and a half, I have been visiting the schools of Frisco where the first five episodes of the TV show DALLAS (remember, "Who shot JR?") were shot.
Apparently, the producers of DALLAS rented the house and location from a Frisco owner who had built the house for his wife who was a fan of GONE WITH THE WIND. Unfortunately, after the first five episodes were shot, the house burned down and before the owner could finish rebuilding he and his wife got divorced, she took the insurance money, the producers went elsewhere and he was stuck with an unfinished house. And it is still unfinished to this day. I think that is the story. It sounds like something from the DALLAS soap opera itself, doesn't it?

However, the drama that I have been experiencing at the schools has been on the very pleasant side. There is nothing like hundreds of students calling out, "GraceLin, GRACELIN!" as I walk through the halls. Suddenly, I feel like a rock star.

And that is only because the wonderful Frisco librarians have prepared the students SO well for me. The librarians not only read my books to the students but did my book crafts and activities. Like my coloring pages,

my kite making activity, and

the dim sum
and fortune cookie lesson suggestions.

It was amazing! And it made all the difference in my presentations. Without the students' excitement fueling me, there is no way I could keep up my presentations. Yay, Frisco students! Yay, Frisco Librarians! Yay, 1.5 weeks!