Right now, I am in the midst of the latest revision for my new novel "Dumpling Days." Not only has my schedule gotten rather full, recently this novel has filled me with anxiety. When I met the lovely Karen Hesse at the Literary Lights event, she asked me, "How are you doing?" in a concerned way and talked to me briefly about how winning an award changes things. At the time, I thought she meant speaking engagements and school visits and I breezily told her things were fine. Things were busy, but not in a way that was extremely unusual or unmanageable. Just an extra stir in soup, so to speak.
But now, I realize she meant the actual writing. I hadn't thought too much about it, but slowly as each revision goes by I've become more aware of my personal phantom hanging over me. "Dumpling Days" is a continuation of Pacy's story from The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat, and, like those books, it is highly autobiographical (this one is about my first trip to Taiwan as a child) and light-hearted.
And in the shadow of the Newbery Honor I start to worry--maybe this book is too light, not ambitious enough, not "Literary" with the capital 'L.' But as I begin to let myself get paralyzed, I see that the award only amplified worries and thoughts I've had my whole career. The only difference is my shielding mantra of "Just do the best you can!" has run a bit thin.
So, it was with great comfort that I recently discovered (okay, I know I am really, really late to the party) Just One More Book's podcast of Eva Ibbotson. In her interview she talked about how she knows books about things like escaping the Nazis and suicide are important but she was not the one to write them. She considered her books as personal gifts to her readers and would always work and work to give them what she felt they deserved. In fact, she said she wanted her tombstone to read, "She Took Trouble."
Listening to her was extremely heartening and inspiring to me. It was the right message at the right time. It helped shake away my doubts and transformed the begrudging revisions into acts of love. With any luck, "Dumpling Days" will be a book I will hold proudly and give to my readers with the same warmth as she did.
I'm ashamed to say that I've never read any of Ms. Ibbotson's work--something I intend to remedy immediately! I've already purchased Which Witch? from my local bookstore, but I wasn't sure if that was the best one to start with. Any suggestions?