Thursday, November 4, 2010

She Took Trouble

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?

8 comments:

::Sylvia:: said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
::Sylvia:: said...

Just remember that people love your books because of the way YOU write them. I'm sure the award has put on the pressure but I hope you don't let that affect your work. Your books are perfect and we love them just the way they have always been. :) Can't wait to read Dumpling Days!

Toby Speed said...

Hi Grace, the Plot Whisperer encourages me when I feel what you've described. Here's one example of her affirming posts: http://plotwhisperer.blogspot.com/2010/06/fiction-author-reaches-climax-of-her.html

"See it as a process. Be patient. Continue to show up and write. And, at the same time, continue to challenge yourself as a person and to grow into who know you are meant to be." (excerpt)

Wish you well with revisions, and I look forward to your next book.

Beach Mama said...

I love your books. My girls love your books. We can't wait for "Dumpling Days." My daughters are from China and your books offer them a glimpse into a world they do not know. We do our best to blend their culture/heritage into our southern culture. Your books are a blessing to us. Just remember Dory! Just keep swimming (writing), swimming (writing), swimming (writing)!

Jillian RV said...

I can't wait until Dumpling Days comes out! I'm sure it will be fantastic!

Mrs. Mordecai said...

I love Eva Ibbotson's books! (And yours too of course!)

Which Witch? was lots of fun. I also enjoyed The Dragonfly Pool, or if you want to go into teen territory, she's written a bunch of great ones. I like A Countess Below Stairs. Once you get started it's hard to stop. I've read almost all her books by now.

purple glasses club said...

Great post, Grace! I second Sylvia's comment.

I love Eva Ibbotson and have read most of her books. My two favorites are The Star of Kazan and Journey to the River Sea. Hope you like them too.

Grace Lin said...

Thanks everyone for your kind and encouraging words! The final revision has been sent to copyediting so, for better or for worse, "Dumpling Days" is on it's way!

I'm going to order the "DragonFly Pool" and "Journey to the River Sea" immediately!