Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's almost 2010! Unfortunately, unlike last year, 10 is not a particularly lucky number in Chinese culture. However, it is not unlucky either (tremble for the year 2014!) so perhaps it's a good time to look over the last year and make realistic, attainable goals for the upcoming.

Hmm, so how did I do in 2009? Not too bad. I learned how to make a frosting flower and donated my hair. I even made dumplings, though not as many as I wanted to (I didn't do the Lin family recipe as planned). I tried to write my novel to the very best of my ability as well the promotion of it. Of course, in hindsight, I can always see where I could've done better, could've done more but I guess that is what 2010 is for!

So with that, I'll try to look forward. Here are my ten, hopefully attainable, goals for 2010:

1. Preserves. And I mean jam and marmalade! I want to learn how to make jam. Really! It is something I have always wanted to do since reading Anne of Green Gables. And you know how much I love that.

2. Be the change I want to see. This, of course, could be very lofty but since I want to keep things attainable, I've decided that to focus on smaller scale ideals. A while back, fellow blogging author Kimberly Baker asked the blogosphere "Where's the MG?" bemoaning the fact that while YA books generate a lot of online "buzz," younger novels are, on the whole, overlooked. After embracing promotion for the last year (see #8), I'm inclined to agree with her. So, I've decided that this next year I'm going to start featuring MG books that I like. They won't be reviews because there won't be any scientific rhyme or reason to it except that I like the book (and I have particular taste which is probably best described as old-fashioned). And, I think I will talk about old classics as well as new favorites. So look forward to Book Talk Tuesdays 2010!

3. Board Books. I love writing novels, illustrating picturebooks and in 2010 I'll be publishing an early reader too. I think the greatest moment in my career so far has been when a mother told me, "My kids grew up with your books." It was such a neat feeling, that by writing different genres, my books were keeping up with the kids' reading levels & interests. In 2010, my main focus will be on the genres I have already established (most particularly a new novel, hopefully) but I want to start thinking of new ideas for the other ages. How neat it would be for a baby to start with a board book by me and then slowly move up to the other books as he/she grows? What a lovely dream!

4. Progress. These past couple of years I've tried really hard to create the best book I could. And for my abilities at that time, I think I did okay. But as I said earlier, now looking back, I can always see where I could've done better. I want to take everything I've learned and create something even better.

5. Schedule. And to achieve #4, I want to create a better writing schedule for myself. I tend to write in the "binge & purge" method, which is not very practical. In 2010, I'm going to try to write everyday, even if it is only a paragraph.

6. Fondant. I learned the frosting flower, now I'd like to learn how to make beautiful fondant this:

7. Relax. As some of you may have suspected, I'm in a really happy relationship (with a Squatchie) but I've been very reluctant to mention it acquaintances and even friends. I guess I have been shy about people knowing about it because I'm scared of judgements, like it being "too soon" after Robert. But this year it will be three years since his death; and since I know Robert would be okay and happy about the new direction of my life, I'm going to start believing everyone else will be too.

8. Appreciate my readers. Not that I don't appreciate them now (THANK YOU!) but this past year has been a whirlwind of promotion for me, from the thrill of the Parents' Choice Award to the excitement of the Today Show. It's hard not to get caught up with ambitions, hopes and dreams of bigger and better prizes. But the truth is while accolades are flattering and promotion is necessary for a book's survival, I think true greatness is found elsewhere.

9. Balance Better I do quite a few school visits to pay the bills (little known truth--most mid-list authors such as myself support themselves through school visits, not books!), and while I truly do enjoy them--they also wipe me out. There is also usually a lot of traveling involved as well. It's really hard for me, someone whose natural state is introverted, to do large amounts of visits, be creative, and try to be healthy as well as be a normal person (I've regressed into a blob more times than I like to admit in 2009). In 2010, I want to balance all of it (especially the being healthy part) better.

10. Charity. Just like last year, I feel strongly about continuing the spirit of charity. While I am finished with the small graces project and am happy to pass the reins to other artists, I still want to contribute to the world in my own small way. How? Not exactly sure yet, but will let you know!

So that will be my 2010, at least I hope so. We shall see! In the meantime, may you all have a great New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

on my desk monday

These are the books that I am giving for the holidays! As my cousin Austin said, "So you are trying to save the book industry singlehanded?" Why, yes. Just trying to do my part.

My new favorite book to give friends? The Tao of Pooh! I bought an extra one for myself.

It was also this holiday season that I realized the greatness of graphic novels. For the kids on list who really struggle with reading, I felt like I struck gold when I remember Babymouse and Lunch Lady. Suddenly, I felt like I had some books they would go for...and like!

The books (MG means middle grade book, YA means Young Adult):

Winne Dancing on Her Own
(kind of a deeper Ivy & Bean -MG)
Blow Out the Moon (sweet, nostalgic story about an American girl who moves to England for a year -MG)
Penderwicks on Gardam Street (ok, I just realized that it's Gardam St, not Garden St., but another sweet story-MG)
Any Which Wall (great update on Edward Eager, fun kid book w/magic-MG)
Niubi: The Real Chinese You Weren't Taught in School (Chinese swear words! -Adult)
Lunch Lady (perfect for reluctant readers- MG)
BabyMouse (perfect for reluctant readers that want something girly! MG)
The London Eye Mystery (great mystery written from the point of view of a boy with Aspergers MG)
Graceling (when I asked for something to give other than Twilight, YA)
Charles and Emma (bought for science-brainy friend- biography on Darwin & his wife YA)
Esperanza Rising (MG)
Fortune's Magic Farm (magic, fantasy fun! MG)
The Tao of Pooh (Taoism taught using Pooh! YA, Adult)
The Te of Piglet (Taoism taught using Pooh! YA, Adult)
KiKi Strike (I have a sister named Ki-Ki, how could I resist? YA)
Cabinet of Wonders (I liked the cover a lot! YA)
Stitches (bought it for my cousin who like depressing things YA)
Storm in the Barn (bought for a friend who studied animation MG/YA)
Abigail Spells (for those just starting to spell! preschool)
You Read to Me, I'll Read to You books (for girl just starting to read pre-school)
The Girl Who Drew Phoenixes (beautiful art! pre-school)
The Boy Who Painted Dragons (ditto above)
Pigs Make Me Sneeze (for girl just starting to read pre-school)
Fortune Cookie Chronicles (sister who likes food! Adult)

And there are more...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

giving books

Give books for the holidays! Its no secret that the book industry is weak and struggling. As I said last year 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 enrich your life in a way that is timeless. They are important. And we need them to stick around.

Me, I've been doing my part. Thanks to the Books with Flair program I am participating in (fyi-last chance to get your orders in for an autographed book is FRIDAY, I'm going out of town after that) I go to the bookstore very often and buying lots' o books (I'll show you the list one Monday)!

However, for some people I was planning on giving a copy of my own book...which I am a little hesitant to give by itself. But thanks to the MotherReader: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon post I found inspiration.

I might actually give my book with some:

goldfish! but only to those local friends.

For those farther away (and wishing a less splashy present) I think I will send the book with this sweet necklace:

or these rabbit rice bowls:

Those match pretty well, don't you think? Of course if I really wanted to coordinate, I could always send stuff from my own store!

But I love the way MotherReader has thought of these creative ways to give books for the holidays. In fact, she has 105 ways to do it! So, you can do it too!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

small graces...the LAST painting

This proverb has always been a favorite of mine, but it took me quite a while for me to truly puzzle out the meaning. To me, I finally realized, this proverb means "remember, feeding your soul is just as important as feeding your body." It is a reminder to value your spirit.

Which I thought was apropos for the December painting, this very last painting I am doing for the small graces project. This project is has been very valuable to my spirit and I hope to yours too!

This painting goes on auction on NOW! So go and BID, BID, BID!

And don't forget you can also purchase small graces prints from Child At Heart! They are the perfect holiday gifts--I keep thinking the Sept. one would be lovely for a child's teacher--but timing for holiday shipping is waning so get your order in soon(like now)!

Monday, December 14, 2009

on my desk monday

Remember those peppermint trees?

I used them for my the labels of my homemade holiday gifts! This year my schedule has not allowed for as many of the fun crafts I like to do, but I was able to squeeze in some time for a little holiday fun.

But instead of cookies, like years past, I made peppermint bark! It was great fun and thanks to A Baker's Field Guide to Candy I learned how to temper chocolate. Plus, I got to make these cute little packages (I'm so proud):

Friday, December 11, 2009

fortune cookie friday

"A collection of good sentences resembles a string of pearls."
-Chinese Proverb

Thursday, December 10, 2009

on the way to the grocery store

I'm still participating in the BOOKS WITH FLAIR program! So, slightly disheveled (can you tell I'm still a bit tired from my NY trip?) and on my way to the grocery store, I went & signed the books waiting for me at the Porter Square Book Store.

I really love this Books with Flair program! For just a tiny bit more effort, you get the book autographed and you support a small business. Me, personally, I love getting autographed books for the holidays and it's fun to give them too--it just makes the gift that much more special. So it's very much worth the effort.

Just to recap for your own personally autographed copy of one of my books:

1. Simply call the Porter Square Bookstore at 617-491-2220

2. Ask for a signed or personalized copy of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon or any other book I've authored. Tell the bookseller to whom you want the book(s) autographed to, as well as pertinent shipping & payment info.

3. A day or a couple days later (I live very close by) I will come by the store, sign the book(s)

4. The store (really the above Ellen Jarrett) will mail it right out to you. (You do have to pay the shipping, but the store will gift wrap!)

5. And you have made someone especially happy!

Timing for holiday shipping is getting shorter--so get your order in!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

vote for my book!

Hey look, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has been nominated for a 2009 Goodreads Choice Award in the Children's category! Vote for me! (scroll down to poll #8, that should be lucky, right?

coming down

So after weeks and weeks of Today Show anticipation, what does one do when it's all over?

Well, one could do what I did which was:
-visit the ORIGINAL Pooh Bear and consider illegally liberating him so he can live here, instead.

-stop by a palm reader for "research" (and realize what a bunch of phooey it is! At least this one was, though she did tell me I was going to live until I was 91. )

-eat soup dumplings at Joe Shanghai's! (oh how, I love soup dumplings!)

and sing bad karoke! Well, I sing very badly (my song="Flashdance:What a Feeling"). The others (Melanie, Meghan, TS and Alvina) were pretty good.

And then collapse on the train home where everything that was avoided, pushed aside or ignored for the last couple of weeks is waiting...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

4 minutes, 58 seconds of fame

So, Thursday night, the night before my Today Show appearance, I slept very badly. I had a bad dream that I was on my way to the TV studio when I tripped and fell into a muddy pond...and then had to go on air with half covered in mud. Also, Mo Willems was the guest before me. Yes, it was a nightmare and not a very subtle one.

But, luckily, it was just a dream (though I had to repeat that to myself a couple of times in the morning), and any part of it that wanted to come to fruition was thwarted by my trusty accompanying entourage:

my publicist (well, not my publicist but rather my publisher's) Ames, my editor (well, not just my editor but other people's too) Alvina, and my agent (also shared) Rebecca. That's me in the red dress and the jade bracelet. If there had been any muddy ponds to be had, I feel confident they would have safely steered me away.

And if I had gotten muddy, the hair and make-up people would've taken care of it:

And when I met the kids from the book club, they were so sweet and enthusiastic that my anxiety about not being a super-famous author (like Mo) disappeared. They peppered me with questions that, under strict rules by the show, I did not answer. Apparently, if I answer the questions in the green room, the kids don't ask the good ones on TV (the kids' questions are not pre-screened, no one knows what they are going to ask). But I was allowed to sign the books.

and then we all got the call to the set...
and we were LIVE!!!
It went by so quickly! According to the youtube clip, it was exactly 4 minutes and 58 seconds. I was a bit surprised at some of the questions (they were not the ones they were asking in the green room) and I spent a good portion of my time thinking that I had to stop my legs from jiggling. However, in those few moments that my mind was calm, I marveled at the group.

The truth is, I think I have always put limitations on the appeal of my books. I've always thought my books were "Asian-niched" or "for girls" but for the first time, I realized how close-minded I've been about the audience that I write for. As we waited on set, the kids' excitement and enjoyment of my book was honest and real. "This book should be made into a movie," one boy said. "This book and that other blue cover book were the best ones we've read!" another said, the others echoing their approval. And then live, during the show, when one boy HAD to say, "By the way, I liked your book," before asking his question something clicked.

None of these kids were obviously Asian (I think one might have been a mix) and the boys were just as, if not more, enthusiastic than the girls. They did not think of my book as a Chinese book or a girl book. Those things didn't matter or even occur to them. This was just a book they enjoyed. It was perhaps the most truly multicultural moment I have ever had in my writing path so far-- a moment where the race and gender melted away, a moment that was so multicultural that the label faded away.

So, even if I never get my remaining 2 seconds of fame, I will always cherish the quality of my 4 minutes and 58 seconds.

Thanks, Book Club Kids!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

good luck charm

So, in an effort to prepare myself for Friday's TODAY Show interview I have been focusing on the "important" things. You know--what clothes to wear, getting my bangs trimmed, cleaning my shoes...yes, the very, very important things.

And while I was getting the very important bang trim, I noticed my hairdresser had on a jade bracelet. It reminded me of my trip to China, one of the inspirations of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and the jade bracelets I saw there. And then, suddenly, I felt like I HAD to wear a jade bracelet with my outfit. It was quite irrational.

But what to do? There wasn't time for me to go down to Boston's Chinatown. I could, perhaps, get one when I was in NYC but the schedule looked packed. In fact, the only time I had to shop was right then. I'd just have to hope I could find one locally on the way home from the hairdresser.

And it didn't seem promising. Libby, who was visiting (we always seem to do hair escapades together), was with me and we walked from one store to the next--Tibetan shops to thrift stores. Finally, at the very last store before home, we found one!

It was like fate! I hope it will be my good luck charm for the interview--in fact, Libby bought it for me because she thought it would be luckier if it was a gift. I really hope so...

9:45 AM on Friday, Dec. 4th
The TODAY Show on NBC


winner of very yummy jam!

I was going to do a very elaborate drawing of the jam winner from my Choose My Today Show outfit post but it stalled. It was going to be fun, involving buttons but I was not able to find enough buttons in my house. Strange how that works. When you don't need buttons, they are everywhere.

So rather than go out an buy buttons or think of a new scheme--my brain is not functioning well these days--I thought I would just pick a number at random and go from there.

Well, not exactly at random. I'm feeling in need of luck (I am starting to get a bit nervous now about the interview) and the luckiest number in Chinese culture is 8, because it is a homonym with prosperity. I could use luck and prosperity so commenter #8 wins the extremely yummy jam and that is....


Martha, please e-mail me your address at and I'll get your jam out to you. Um, don't expect it until after the 4th though...