Wednesday, March 31, 2010

school visit fun

It always makes me happy to see the projects students do with my books. At a recent visit some students wrote their own haikus, based on Our Seasons:

Others, inspired by The Ugly Vegetables, creatively wrote about their own imaginary ugly vegetables:


The older students researched their Chinese zodiacs, just like in The Year of the Dog & The Year of the Rat:



And others, inspired by Fortune Cookie Fortunes, wrote their own fortunes:

I particularly liked this pink one:
Because it came true! Thanks so much, Mount Prospect School!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

talent

Last weekend, I "performed" at The River's Family Music Meltdown & Book Bash (which was organized in part by Lunch Lady author Jarrett Krosoczka). In between musical acts, authors gave a book reading. It was a loud, fun & energy-packed event, with great authors and rock bands.

But it was also a bit challenging for me--not because the kids or people were rude, but because the venue was so large with so many other things going on (vendors & food in the back, lots of people walking around). Enormous crowds are not my forte.



But, I think I did okay. I've done so many school visits that I'm not really nervous onstage anymore. I was able to get about 30% of the audience's attention, which was still pretty good.

However, after me, came Mo Willems, who commanded 100% of the crowd with awe-inspiring mastery:


It was quite impressive. And it reminded me of Meghan's thoughts about talent and Libby's post about what it takes to succeed as a novelist. The truth is, I've worked and worked to become a better public speaker. And I've gotten much better at it. I'm proud of that. But when I see a speaker like Mo, I realize that no amount of practice will ever make me a public speaker like that. It is a pure talent that sets him apart.

Just as I feel when I am faced by another author's amazing book, it is impossible not to acknowledge a superior talent. But strangely, this doesn't cause me great despair nor will it stop me from continuing and trying to get better at it. I think Mo will always be a great speaker, in any environment, continually and without exception. Me, maybe, once and a while when all the right elements combine & I keep working at it, I feel I can get a glimpse of creating that myself. And that's enough.

book talk tuesday

PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren
IndieBound Description: Tommy and his sister Annika have a new neighbor, and her name is Pippi Longstocking. She has crazy red pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, a horse that lives on her porch, and a flair for the outrageous that seems to lead to one adventure after another!

My Thoughts: Another great classic that has aged very well. The description does not do justice to this book which is a cornerstone in children's literature! I remember my 4th grade (maybe 3rd grade) teacher reading this out loud to us in class. When she finished reading it, I went to the library and took it out to read all over again! My version is the same as the one my teacher read to me (I had to wear stripes in the photo in honor of the book, too.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

my wedding things (on thursdays)

When one has to get married within 90 days on a limited budget, there are things that you let slide. Or you let others take care of. I am truly fortunate that my mother is an award-winning floral designer, as well as flower show judge...which meant she did the flowers!

While that made things much simpler for me, it wasn't easy on her. After our wholesale flowers arrived, my mother was constantly at work. We had to tear her away so that she wouldn't be late for the ceremony. But it was true artistry at work. My cousin Austin described how she would move a flower an inch, step back and then move the flower another half inch...and did this for hours. Suddenly, I am beginning to understand where I get my painting patience/particularities from:



But it was worth it!

Baby Maia thinks so!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

thank you

Recently, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was awarded the Josette Frank Award for fiction by the Banks St. College of Education. I was thrilled to accept at the awards ceremony, especially when I saw the impressive list of books that were also honored.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Red Sings from Treetops, Almost Astronauts, Moonshot

It was also great fun to meet and catch up with the other authors as well!

pic 1: Pamela Zagarenski, me, Joyce Sidman, Alvina Ling
pic 2:Tanya Lee Stone, me


However, the only thing I wasn't exactly thrilled about was that I was expected to make an acceptance speech. I was told it didn't have to be anything too formal, but I know that I have a tendency to stutter and blather incoherently if I try to do anything off the cuff. Also, I truly wanted everyone to know how much I appreciated the attention and honor they had given my book. So, I was a bit nervous.

But I did it.

After I gave my little speech, Alvina suggested that I post it online. At first, I thought I wouldn't...but then I realized that my thanks were incomplete; that there were so many other people I was grateful to.

So, even though this speech was addressed to the Bank Street Committee, it is also for Newbery Committee, the Indies Choice Booksellers, the Parent Choice Reviewers, the teachers, parents, librarians, and kids...this is for anyone who read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and loved it:

Thank you so much for your great honor.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was a labor of love for me and everyone involved—from the wonderful editing of my friend Alvina Ling & Connie Hsu to the production and design by Alison Impey and the marketing efforts of Victoria Stapleton & Zoe Luderitz. I am truly grateful for this award.

And I suppose it is apropos that gratitude is the emotion that I feel, standing here, as it is a primary theme of the book. It is, in fact, what Where the Mountain Meets the Moon claims as the secret to happiness. Minli travels long and far to discover this; and looking back, I realize that I, too, journeyed a distance to be here today.

Because this book was perhaps a book of destiny for me. Even though it was inspired by stories I read as a child and travels to Asia as an adult, I only began to write it when pushed by my late husband Robert. Even while terminally ill, he enjoyed hearing my writing and asked me to write a fantasy—something to help him imagine he was elsewhere. And so I began.

But midway through, Robert’s life journey ended and, at my lowest points of grief and sorrow I believed that that was end of the book as well. It was suppose to be a book about hope, a book about overcoming and accomplishing the impossible—just as I had fantasized about Robert’s illness. But as his death became unflinchingly real, the unfinished story was, to me, lost.

Until one day, a friend of mine, the poet Janet Wong came to visit. She asked about the story and I shook my head.

“I couldn’t finish it before Robert died,” I said, “Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”
“No,” she said, “It’s better that you didn’t finish it because now you can change the ending.”

And the truth of her words struck me. The story, my story was not finished. It didn’t have to end because Robert was gone. It was up to me change the ending for the book, and really my life.

So, Minli’s journey is a search to change her fortune and to find happiness just as mine was as I was writing. Minli is not perfect, but she tries her best and at every point she learns and grows until finally she realizes that happiness is not a prize that can be bought or won. Happiness is a gift that is cherished, something that one is truly grateful for. Just as I am to all of you, today.

Thank you very much.


Robert Mercer, 1972-2007

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

book talk tuesday

THE PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale

IndieBound Description: Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.

Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.

My thoughts:This is another book that I am impressed that I share the same sticker with! The title makes one think that this is going to be some sort of infuriating someday-my-prince-will-come story, but it isn't. There is real depth, personality and feeling in the story and character.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

spring!

It's spring and it's the worst time of year to live in an apartment without a balcony or a deck. However, on such a shiny day, I refuse to be thwarted and have decided to resurrect my homonym garden. The gorgeous garden center lures me to attempt it on a grand scale:


which I cannot resist:

So now I'm off to search for vintage flour canisters! Ah, Spring!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

first review of Ling & Ting!

Ling and Ting doesn't come out until July, but it's gotten it's first review! And it's a really nice one from highly esteemed & famous blogger fuse8! phew! so glad she liked it. I'm crossing my fingers tightly that others think likewise so the publisher will be willing to make a Ling and Ting series. please cross your fingers, too (though you can wait until July!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

my wedding things (on thursdays)

At both my friends' Anna's wedding and Alison's wedding, the decorations were gorgeous. Both of them hung papel picado, strings of paper cut-outs with Mexican designs. I adored the way it looked and paper cutting is also a popular Chinese folk art so I thought I would attempt my own Asian-inspired version of it.

First I designed it, with the double happiness symbol (the traditional Chinese character for a lucky marriage) as the focus. In Chinese culture, magpies are harbingers of happiness and cherry blossoms are symbols of love. So I tried to intergrate those images into the design as well:

(the design is halved as the paper will be folded when it is cut out-- like a paper heart. By the way, feel free to use my design if you ever feel crazy enough to make your own Asian papel picado.)

Designing was the easy part, however. Cutting it was far, far from easy. I gave myself a blister.

But it was soooo satisfying when I finished and unfolded the paper: And I think it added a lovely, subtly Asian touch to the whole room:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

school visit fun

At a recent school visit, I was thrilled to see that one of the ways the teacher had the students prepare for my visit was to have them storyboard their favorite parts of my book The Year of the Dog. It was great fun to see what they did:

The Story of Uncle Shin and the Cake was extremely popular:
As was the Story of Mom's Haircut in School:


I was glad to see that my favorite stories were also favorites of the students' as well, like the Story of The Paper Piano:


And the Story of Mom's First Day of School:

Aren't these great? What a talented bunch! Thanks so much, 4th graders!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

book talk tuesday

THE CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE by George Selden

IndieBound Description: Tucker is a streetwise city mouse. He thought he’d seen it all. But he’s never met a cricket before, which really isn’t surprising, because, along with his friend Harry Cat, Tucker lives in the very heart of New York City—the Times Square subway station. Chester Cricket never intended to leave his Connecticut meadow. He’d be there still if he hadn’t followed the entrancing aroma of liverwurst right into someone’s picnic basket. Now, like any tourist in the city, he wants to look around. And he could not have found two better guides—and friends—than Tucker and Harry. The trio have many adventures—from taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway to escaping a smoky fire.
Chester makes a third friend, too. It is a boy, Mario, who rescues Chester from a dusty corner of the subway station and brings him to live in the safety of his parents’ newsstand. He hopes at first to keep Chester as a pet, but Mario soon understands that the cricket is more than that. Because Chester has a hidden talent and no one—not even Chester himself—realizes that the little country cricket may just be able to teach even the toughest New Yorkers a thing or two.

My Thoughts:
This is a truly wonderful book! I am incredibly honored that my book has the same sticker as this one. Usually I cringe at older books with Asian characters, but Mr. Fong didn't come off as a stereotype, each human as well as animal/insect had their own personalities. The most masterful stroke was the subtle introduction of the myth of Orpheus in the beginning and then how Chester the cricket made that myth come true in New York Times Square. Just lovely. My paperback edition has a slightly different cover, but is well loved!

Monday, March 15, 2010

on my desk monday

sketch of a picture I did for Shelftalker's post about "The Elephant in the Room: the need for true racial diversity in children's books and in the publishing field itself in what is still an overwhelmingly white world." The finished illustration & the article should be posted sometime this week, HERE.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

my wedding things (on thursdays)

After the cupcake display, my other pet project was what I affectionately called "the sweet table." In a lot of Asian traditions, having sweet food symbolizes sweet wishes-- the New Year tray at Lunar New Year is filled with sweet things, the tea served during the tea ceremony is sweet to symbolize sweet relations, etc. So, a table full of sweets seemed appropriate for a wedding...as well as my sweet tooth! Here is my sketch:

And here is how it turned out:

Isn't it lovely? I cannot take credit for it, however. This table was truly made of sweet wishes from friends and family.

Along with the personalized cupcakes, I made pink flower cupcakes (extras, in case people wanted two!).
These pink flowers were made ahead of time (royal icing!) with the blue rose girls, but especially with the help of amazing illustrator and friend Alissa Imre Geis:
The delicious fudge was made by Squatchie's aunt:


and the raspberry, plum jam and chocolate surprise cookies were made my Squatchie's mother and sister. This was particularly appropriate because in Chinese tradition, the groom's family is suppose to supply cookies for the bride's cookie day!

My dear friend (and co-author of Our Seasons)Ranida made the double happiness cookies. The character she frosted on the cookies is the Chinese character double happiness--the traditional Chinese symbol used to wish couples joy in marriage:



The vintage material table runner was made by dear friend and extremely talented Anna Alter (more about the table runners later) and flowers arranged by my mother (more on that later, too!)

I know that everything on the table was made with a great deal of love and affection, which makes the table that much more beautiful...and sweet!

And I know at least one guest agreed!