Wednesday, September 29, 2010

rubbing elbows

So I was incredibly honored to be one the authors at the Boston Public Library's Literary Lights Event this past Sunday:
One of the best things at this event was something that Jerry Spinelli noted in his speech, it was an event where there were more children than adults:
Which made it wonderful. Also what made it quite wonderful was that I got to rub elbows with literary greats such as Karen Hesse, Neil Gaiman (!!) and the aforementioned Jerry Spinelli.

See how happy I am?
They were extremely nice to me, especially considering how awkward I felt during certain star-struck moments. Thank goodness for the the children and everyone involved who helped smooth things out for me for the rest of the event, making me feel like I wasn't quite akimbo next to the other authors. I think this is the first time where I can honestly say my hand did get tired from signing. Never has a muscle cramp caused such happiness! Ha ha!

And with that, I will leave you with the little speech I said upon receiving my lovely award:

When I asked what they’d like me to talk about in my five minutes, they said any tips or advice that would be helpful to a young writer.

Well, I like to think I am still a young writer but I guess according to the actual calendar I am not. I remember one of the first stories I wrote. It came to me like magic, as if the gorgeous rainbow the sky ended at my brain. The words poured out of me like a fountain and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. When I was done, I knew it was great. It was best story ever.


And because it was the best story, I decided it should be published. I sent it to a publishing company and waited for them to make it into a book.


Instead, I got a rejection letter. “We’re sorry, we cannot offer publication of your story,” they said. “Well, what did they know?” I thought and I sent it to another publisher and got another rejection. And then another publisher and another rejection, again and again.


Finally, I put the story in a drawer and, this is very, very important, I wrote another story. And I wrote another story after that and another after until over ten years later, I am now here at the Boston Public Library with my stories being honored alongside Jerry Spinelli, Karen Hesse and Neil Gaiman.


So, recently, I opened that drawer with my first story in it. And I read it. And you know what?

It was absolutely awful.

No wonder it wasn’t published. Reading it was like 1,000 raining clouds inside your bedroom while you are trying to sleep. I was so, so embarrassed that I had thought it was the best story ever.


So when I was trying to think of advice for young writers, I came up with this:


Be humble. Know that what you have written is not the best.

But, also, be confident. What you will write will be better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

book talk tuesday

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster

IndieBound Description: Illustrated in black-and-white. This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth's gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets such characters as the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, and the not-so-wicked "Which," Faintly Macabre, who gives Milo the "impossible" mission of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom.

My Thoughts:
One of my favorites! It's fun and nonsensical, yet also full of allegorical wisdom. As an author, I realize how hard this kind of book is to write without being annoying--and this book never is. I remember loving the word marketplace and the idea of "eating your words." When this book hit it's 35th anniversary (in 1996), the publisher reissued it in hardcover which I, very luckily, got autographed! One of my treasured possessions!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Moon Festival!

Tonight is officially night of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and though I plan on celebrating it again this weekend with friends, I already had a lovely time celebrating it with my book this past weekend at the Museum of Chinese in America. Not only did I get to meet awesome author Lenore Look for the first time:
It was a great turn out and Thanking the Moon was very warmly received by the audience (people even tried the mooncake with the egg inside it!):
And, appropriately, I am very thankful! Not to just all who came, but to all who read my books--especially those who have stuck with me all these years, those wonderful readers who have grown up with my books! One such reader came to my event this past weekend and while Mom hasn't changed at all, look how much this reader has grown:

On the night of the Moon Festival, you are supposed to send a wish up to the moon that you want granted. But when I see photos like above, I kind of have a hard time thinking about what more I could wish for.

Happy Moon Festival, all!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

book talk tuesday

MANY MOONS, by James Thurber

Indie Bound Description:Princess Lenore is ill from eating too many raspberry tarts. She believes that possessing the moon is the only thing that will cure her. Despite a command from the King, neither the Lord High Chamberlain nor the Royal Wizard nor the Royal Mathematician can get the moon for her. Only when the clever Court Jester consults the Princess herself is the problem solved--with characteristic Thurber wit.

My Thoughts: I decided to talk about this book to continue the moon theme (Moon Festival is officially tomorrow!) of the last week. I loved this story and used to read this book over and over again. Of course, my version was different-- it was the classic one illustrated by Louis Slobdkin. But this new version, illustrated by Marc Simont, looks lovely as well. It might be interesting to get a hold of both copies and compare and contrast the two!

Monday, September 20, 2010

on my desk monday


Mooncakes from Mam Nom! Do you still need mooncakes to eat with Thanking the Moon? Then, I suggest ordering from Mam Nom. You can choose between Lotus, Red bean & pineapple (my particular favorite) and your money be used to support a lovely mentoring program. Also, the cakes are made without lard (which is actually hard to find) and are so, so pretty:


I'm saving mine for the official date of the Moon Festival, Sept. 22nd. Isn't your mouth is watering?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Come tomorrow to the Mid-Autumn Moon Family Festival!

Don't forget to come and celebrate my new book Thanking the Moon & the Moon Festival with me tomorrow in NYC at the MOCA's Mid-Autumn Family Festival! I'm on the train now!

WHEN: Sunday, September 19th, 12pm reading and signing (other activites will be going on all day from 10-5)

WHERE: Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013

I'll have moon cakes to share, so I really hope to see you!!!


Friday, September 17, 2010

Moon Poetry


In my book, Thanking the Moon, you'll notice one of the elements the family brings to their night picnic is a book of poetry. Traditionally, it was during the Moon Festival that one waxed poetic--inspired by the beauty of the moon. If you read any Chinese poetry, you'll notice that a great many poems mention the moon. In fact, a legendary Chinese poet from the 8th century, Li Po (also known as Li Bai), is said to have died while trying to catch the image of the moon reflected in the waters of a lake. Here is a translation of one of his most famous poems, Drinking Alone With the Moon (See other translations HERE):
I take a bottle of wine and I go to drink it among the flowers.
We are always three–
counting my shadow and my friend the shimmering moon.
Happily the moon knows nothing of drinking,
and my shadow is never thirsty.

When I sing, the moon listens to me in silence.

When I dance, my shadow dances too.
After all festivities the guests must depart;
This sadness I do not know.
When I go home,
the moon goes with me and my shadow follows me.
But for your own Moon Festival Celebration, you might want something more child-friendly (and not about getting drunk!). You could try reciting my good friend Elaine's poem from her wonderful THINGS TO DO poetry collection (which is looking for a publishing home--hint, hint to any editors reading this!):

THINGS TO DO IF YOU ARE THE MOON

Live in the sky.
Be bold…
OR
be shy.
Wax and wane
in your starry terrain.
Be a circle of light,
just a sliver of white,
or hide in the shadows
and vanish from sight.
Look like a pearl
when you’re brim-full
and bright.
Hang in the darkness
and dazzle the night.

But the best thing would be for you to write your own. This would be a fun activity for you to do during or in preparation for the Moon Festival celebration. An easy way to begin is use the simplified haiku format (5-7-5 syllables per line). I've found that this is a great way to take the intimidation factor out of writing poetry, especially with kids. Here is a poem I wrote, inspired by a night canoe ride on my vacation:
PADDLING A CANOE AT NIGHT

My canoe follows
the rippling silver path.
Will I reach the moon?

Try it yourself! Let the moon and the night inspire you!



In honor of my new book Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (now available!!) I'm running a week-long series of posts on the Moon Festival. Don't forget you can celebrate the book & the festival with me this Sunday in NYC at the MOCA's Mid-Autumn Family Festival!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

tea eggs


In my book Thanking the Moon, you'll notice that part of the night-time picnic meal includes eggs (eggs are also eaten in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, too!). That is because eggs are round--symbolizing harmony and fullness--just like the moon! So eggs, are a customary snack during the Moon Festival. You could have them simply boiled or even deviled, but a traditional preparation that is easy, delicious and also quite pretty is to make tea-stained eggs:

Chinese Tea Egg Recipe
Ingredients:
6 eggs
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tablespoons black tea (or 2 tea bags-stronger tea, the better)
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon pepper
2 strips dried tangerine or mandarin orange peel (optional)


1. Gently place the eggs in a medium pot and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1-inch. Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the eggs (leaving the water in the pot) and let cool under running cool water.

2. Using the back of the teaspoon, gently tap the eggshell to crack the shell all over. The more you tap, the more intricate the design. Make sure to keep the overall shell intact:
the eggshell should be cracked but still whole


3. To the same pot with the boiling water, return the eggs and add in the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil and immediately turn the heat to low:
I like extra star anise in my eggs--feel free to add more or less of the ingredients for your own personal taste


4. Simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, cover with lid and then let eggs steep for a few hours to overnight. The tea eggs will become more flavorful and with deeper patterns the longer you let them steep:


5. Remove the shells from the eggs:This is always the funnest part.

And you are done! Enjoy! They should be fragrant and flavorful and patterned--a joy for the mouth and the eye. Yum!



In honor of my new book Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (now available!!) I'm running a week-long series of posts on the Moon Festival. Don't forget you can celebrate the book & the festival with me this Sunday in NYC at the MOCA's Mid-Autumn Family Festival!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

bunny lantern craft

No Moon Festival is complete without the soft glow of a lantern. Children often parade their lanterns of different shapes and colors. Nowadays lanterns can range from modern cartoon characters to rocket ships, but usually they are round (like the moon) or in the shapes of rabbits (because of the Jade Rabbit that lives on the moon).

Which is why I decided to create a bunny lantern craft! This bunny lantern is easy, fun and (I think!) extremely cute:

When I was a child in school we had a paper lantern craft, but I was never quite satisfied with it because those lanterns could never be lit. So when I created this bunny lantern, I made sure it could really GLOW:


Isn't that fun? But before it glows, it has to be made. To make this bunny lantern you will need:


1. a sheet of tracing paper at 8.5 x 24 inches (my sheet is 19 x 24, I cut it to the right size)
2. a ruler
3. a pencil
4. a pair of scissors
5. scotch tape (invisible/not shiny is better)
6. markers, colors of your choice (mine are peach, black, brown, light blue)
7. 4 inch lightstick necklace, any color (mine is yellow)
8. cord (should come with your light stick necklace)
9. a chopstick
10. bunny template, download and print HERE




STEP 1. Fold your tracing paper in half, to make an 8.5 x 12 inch rectangle:

STEP 2. Using the ruler, measure and make a line .75 inches from the edge of the long (12 inch) side. Fold on the line:

STEP 3. Repeat on other long side:

STEP 4. Tape both folds down. Make sure you tape down the entire length:

STEP 5. All sides of your paper except one should be closed (like an envelope). Fit the bunny template under you paper, making sure the opening is at the top. Trace the thick black lines:

STEP 6. Cut out your markings, as indicated by the template:

STEP 7: Draw your bunny face. My bunny face uses 2 simple black ovals for the eyes, a brown circle for the nose, blue whiskers and a peach color in the ears. But you can make your face anyway you wish!

STEP 8. Poke a hole through the top of your bunny's head (both layers of paper). You can use a small hole punch if you have one. I did not, so I just used my pencil:
STEP 9. String your lightstick inside the bunny using the cord. Tie it loosely:

STEP 10: Tie the other end of the cord to a chopstick. Tie this tightly, perhaps wrapping around the chopstick a couple of times to keep it secure:

And your bunny lantern is complete:

Now all you have to do is wait until nightfall, activate the lightstick according to the lightstick's instructions (you may have to untie & retie the cord) and let your lantern GLOW:
Make one for all the kids on your street and have a Moon Festival lantern parade!


In honor of my new book Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (now available!!) I'm running a week-long series of posts on the Moon Festival. Don't forget you can celebrate the book & the festival with me this Sunday in NYC at the MOCA's Mid-Autumn Family Festival!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is the Moon Festival?


Thanking the Moon is a book that celebrates the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. While not as well known in the United States as the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year), the Moon Festival is an very important holiday in many Asian countries. The Moon Festival is rather like an Asian Thanksgiving.

To help understand the holiday, today's post is a little Q & A about the Moon Festival. I hope this helps you plan a Moon Festival celebration of your own!

Q:
When is the Moon Festival celebrated?

A: Just like Lunar New Year, the actual date is different every year. It is celebrated the 15th day of the 8th month in the Lunar calendar, which is late Sept. or early Oct. by our calendar. The moon is supposed to be the roundest and most full at this time. This year, the Moon Festival is on September 22nd.

Q: Why is the Moon Festival celebrated?

A: The Moon Festival probably began as a harvest festival, to celebrate and show gratitude for a successful harvest--similar to Thanksgiving. However, as time went on, many myths and symbols became intertwined with that.

Most myths involve the Moon Goddess, Chang-O. According to one version of the legend (there are many), Chang-O was the wife of a Houyi, a man who performed heroic acts. After an act of great heroism (shooting down extra suns that were scorching the earth) he was given pills of immortality. Unfortunately, after his heroism, he became arrogant, selfish and unkind. Chang-O could not bear to think of him being immortal and took the pills herself. She flew up into the moon and became the Moon Goddess. On the night of the Moon Festival, people pay homage to her and send her a secret wish in hopes that she will grant it.

Q: How do you celebrate the Moon Festival?


A: Like Thanksgiving, the Moon Festival is the time when families gather together. Usually, families gather for a night time picnic, light lanterns, and admire the moon--sometimes singing songs or reciting poetry. The picnic consists of many foods, most of them are round, like pomelos or eggs, to emulate the moon's shape. Even the tea is served in round cups!

However, the food that is always eaten at the Moon Festival (like turkey at Thanksgiving) is the mooncake. Traditional mooncakes are round, baked pastries with a dense, rich filling inside them and intricate molded designs on top. The filling is usually a sweet bean or lotus seed paste with a whole salted egg yolk (signifying the full moon) in the center. The molded designs are usually Chinese characters such as harmony (which is what the round moon has come to symbolize) or Chang-O, rabbits or decorative flowers.

Q: Why rabbits?

A: More mythology! In most Chang-O myths, her companion on the moon is the Jade Rabbit, who is making more pills of immortality. One version of the Moon Goddess myth claims that Chang-O never gives up hope that her husband will reform and if/when he does, she wishes to have pills ready for him so he can join her on the moon. In Chinese culture, rabbits are synonymous with the moon.

Q: Why are the mooncakes at my bakery square?


A: Traditionally, mooncakes are round to emulate the moon's shape. However, in contemporary times, the mooncakes has evolved. Mooncakes have become popular gifts to give and bakeries have capitalized by making a variety of mooncakes-- from different shapes to different fillings. Nowadays, it isn't unusual to see a mooncake in the shape of a rabbit or even a popular cartoon character.

Modern mooncakes also come in a great variety of flavors. As well as the traditional bean paste filling, mooncakes can now be filled with taro, pineapple, chocolate or even ice cream! Now there's a mooncake for even the most timid of eaters. Choose some for your own family for this year's moon festival!


In honor of my new book Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (now available!!) I'm running a week-long series of posts on the Moon Festival. Don't forget you can celebrate the book & the festival with me this Sunday in NYC at the MOCA's Mid-Autumn Family Festival!

Monday, September 13, 2010

on my desk monday

It's a book!
Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is here!! This is a companion book to my Lunar New Year book, Bringing in the New Year so I hope people enjoy it! This is also the book where I painted the likenesses of my long-ago contest (using their photos).

The Moon Festival is one of the most important holidays of the year. While Bringing in the New Year focuses on the exuberance of the Lunar New Year, Thanking the Moon is about the harmony and peace of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. This holiday is rather like Thanksgiving, where families gather together in honor of the moon. Here's a sneak peek at some of the interiors:



In honor of my new book Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival I'm running a week-long series of posts on the Moon Festival. Don't forget you can celebrate the book & the festival with me Sunday the 19th in NYC at the MOCA's Mid-Autumn Family Festival!