Friday, October 29, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

rainbow luck

I've been really busy! My revisions for "Dumpling Days" are taking more time than planned, I need to start sketches for "Li Na's Lily" (as well as the art for "Dumpling Days") and my school visit schedule has begun. Ack! I'm not really sure if I can keep up. But on the morning of my recent school visit in Colorado, there was a rainbow to help guide me:



and when I turned around, there were two:



that has to be a good sign, right?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

book talk tuesday

A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR, by Laura Amy Schlitz

IndieBound Description: Maud Flynn is known at the orphanage for her impertinence. So when the charming Miss Hyacinth chooses her to take home, the girl is pleased but baffled, until it becomes clear that she’s needed to help stage elaborate séances for bereaved patrons. As Maud is drawn deeper into the deception, playing her role as a "secret child," she is torn between her need to please and her growing conscience —- until a shocking betrayal shows just how heartless her so-called guardians are. Filled with fascinating details of turn-of-the-century spiritualism and page-turning suspense, this lively novel features a feisty heroine whom readers will not soon forget.

My thoughts:
This is a little bit older than most of the books I recommend, but I think it is the perfect read for Halloween. It's gripping, melodramatic, a little creepy and you won't be able to put it down. You'll also never hear the word hyacinth and simply think of the flower again, either.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

my long-winded rant on why I will continue to write about shy Asian characters


Even though it takes me a while to answer, I do like to read the reader letters I receive as soon as I get them. Most of the time they are encouraging, which is always very appreciated when I am struggling with projects (authors have very fragile egos, recently I had a nightmare that the publisher published the advanced copies of my book using my horrible first draft). So, I admit I was a bit taken aback when I received a letter that was more concerned than complimentary about my book "Lissy's Friends."

Here is part of the letter:
Although the children love the book, I am writing you out of concern for how the character Lissy was portrayed. I recently read the article Not for Sale by Tracy Lai where the author write how racism is perpetuated on Asian American women through having them described as "being desirable" (in the work place) because they are cute (as in doll like), quiet rather than militant and unassuming rather than assertive...I read your press about being a multicultural book author, and in the end there is a paragraph that states you write about the Asian American experience, and that you believe books erase bias. In reading your book to children, I feel that I may unjustly perpetuating a stereotype that has been used to subjugate Asian American women; no matter how innocently it was portrayed. I do wonder if this book was written about a shy white boy or girl, if I would feel as strongly.

I admit, the grumpy part of me felt just like throwing the letter away (now that I think of it, this whole blog post is more on the grumpy side, which I apologize in advance for) and chalking it up to another learning experience. The truth is being a "multicultural" author/illustrator is always a slippery slope. Authors are human. We create books and characters with the hope that our words express our true intentions. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we make mistakes. I'm willing to admit to certain books of mine have even failed; I just have to live with it and try harder the next time around.

But the more I thought about the letter, I began to feel that, in this instance, I wasn't sure if I agreed that the character of Lissy was a failure on my part.

In the book, Lissy is very shy and creates friends out of her imagination with origami. When her origami blows away and is discovered by other children, she is able to make real friends. The character of Lissy is actually based on my niece, who used to be extremely shy among strangers, often hiding when addressed by one. In fact, most of the characters in my books are based on myself and I was definitely more shy than outgoing as a child (and still am). And one of the books I have swimming in my mind for the future features a shy, Asian protagonist. Should I change her because of the fear of perpetuating a stereotype?

And my answer is no. Because before I am a multicultural author/illustrator, I am an author/illustrator without the adjective. I am aware of the adjective, I am sensitive to it, but I also know that I need to write a story that is authentic to myself first. I'm not saying I won't write about a boisterous Asian character, but I do have to write the voice of the character that is true to me. To me, it seems unfair (and not to say stifling!) to think that I have to be limited to what kind of characters I wish to write about because of my/their race.

And it also seems to be asking a lot of any author for the character in their book to be indicative of an entire race. As I mentioned in my booktalk of Little Pear, No one book is supposed to be representative of a culture.

So this was my response:

To address your concerns about perpetuating stereotypes--personally, I only feel that the book perpetuates the stereotype if it is the only book with an Asian character in your library. Just as there are shy white children, there are shy Asian children (I was one of them). One book should not and cannot define an entire race. My suggestion is to include other books with Asian characters in your children's reading--which would then show Asians with a range of personalities. Just like how it is in real life.

I didn't have the time, but if I did I would've included a list of books with unshy Asian characters, like Jenny in Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding, and books with non-Asian shy characters, like Disappearing Desmond. That is a great book, by the way. If "Lissy Friends" offends you, please go get that one instead. Unless shy cats offend you too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

book talk tuesday

MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

IndieBound Description:Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service.

My Thought:

This is one of those books you can read over and over and again and enjoy each time. I read this book as a child and remembered it so fondly that I bought a copy while I was in college. Even though I was older, it had not lost any of its charm. It's a true timeless classic, well-deserved of the Newbery medal. I have to say, I like the new cover better than the one I have!

Monday, October 18, 2010

on my desk monday

really, it's on my floor monday because there just isn't enough room on my desk:
to organize all the photo references for my new picturebook "Li Na's Lily"!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

at the grocery store...

Potatoes were on the shopping list. So I bought these: I have never seen potatoes so small before! They were just so cute!

So, when Squatchie made dinner, he made me a steak and a baked potato. A teeny baked potato:


I guess I do have to cut down on my carbs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

RISD sale

Being an author/illustrator, I don't get out of the house much. So, it's been a personal tradition of mine to have a booth once a year at my alma mater RISD's Alumni Sale. There are three sales--Fall, Winter and Spring. This year, for a change of pace I decided to do the Fall sale.

There were a couple changes this year. The Sasquatch, after dumpster diving, made me a display board that I thought showed off my wares quite well. And whether this was due to the wonderful fall weather or my new display, business was very brisk. Usually there are slow patches that allow me to browse at the other tables (and spend more money than I make) but this time I was so busy I stayed put the whole time. It was great fun, meeting readers and signing books--the main reason why I do it! But that also meant I missed the great tables of friends Liz Dubois, Karen Bessette, and Jeanne & Ian Wells. Boo! I guess that is what online shopping is for.

I did get this sweet little potted plant from Clam Alley Pottery:


but only because they were right across from me and I could run over at the end before they packed up. I was staring at those pots all day, I was so happy I got one!

But now it's back to the sequestered indoors! "Dumpling Days" is in its painful revision stage and demands attention. Sigh. It was nice seeing people for the day, at least!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

book talk tuesday

FROG AND TOAD by Arnold Lobel

Indiebound Description: Frog and Toad are always there for each other -- just as best friends should be. From sledding in winter to eating ice cream on hot summer days, these two friends have fun together the whole year round!

My Thoughts: These are WONDERFUL books! I was extremely honored when the School Library Journal review compared Ling and Ting to these books. Even though they are early readers(a little younger than the books I usually recommend) these books really can be enjoyed on all levels. If the single books seem too babyish for your young reader, try handing him or her the Frog and Toad Treasury which is 3 books bound in one--so it looks like a thick, meaty book yet won't discourage a reader who might struggle.

Monday, October 11, 2010

on my desk monday

My brush painting 6 classes later! It's fun, but I don't think I will continue it (at least not now). Brush painting is more about spontaneous expression--one just starts a new painting over and over again until it satisfies. For me, used to being able to sketch, erase, paint over and fix, it can be frustrating. I don't like to cut my losses and start over, I like to doggedly work on something until I get it right.

But I am glad I did it, I remember what I needed to know to write "Dumpling Days" and maybe I'll go back to it someday!

Friday, October 8, 2010

fortune cookie friday


“Only one that has traveled the road knows where the holes are deep.”
-Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

revision

So, I have a lot of work to do. I have "Dumpling Days" to revise, a new picturebook to sketch...sounds like the perfect time to clean the studio, don't you think? Strange how squalor doesn't bother me until I have a deadline for something else...procrastination techniques at its best!

I have to admit one of the things that inspired this cleaning frenzy was seeing posts on where other fellow author and illustrators work. Check out Jenny B Harris's and Liz Dubois's studios. Finish it off with where Laura Resau works, and I have some serious workplace envy!

My studio, which used to look like this has had to change since the arrival of my Sasquatch. Making my mess of a studio into more of an oasis has been a work in process. But at least now it is a clean one!

Because after a good 24 hours of organizing, decluttering, dusting and vacuuming, the studio looks like this:
You can see the floors! You can see the tables!

It does still look a little cluttered though:
(but you should have seen it before)

My favorite studio revision is that I now have a little reading corner:

with our wedding cranes hanging overhead:

One of which is watching over my Newbery award!

So my clean studio will probably last...a week? maybe two? I guess it depends on how much more work I have to procrastinate do.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

book talk tuesday

FARMER BOY, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

IndieBound Desciption: As a young man, Almanzo Wilder will meet a brown-eyed, brown-haired girl named Laura Ingalls and fall in love. But as a young boy, Almanzo has no time for girls.

His life is about farming and chores, and most of all, about wanting his own horse. Before his dreams can come true, Almanzo must prove to his father that he is ready to take on more responsibilities - and this is harder than he ever imagined.

My Thoughts: I grew up with all the Little House books, often imagining myself as Laura. I was a little sad that they reissued the books with different covers (I read the "classic" cover on the right) but anything to get them in the hands of today's readers!

Because, I loved those books. I loved reading about the houses, the farms, the clothes and the FOOD! I have to admit, I really loved reading about the food. That is why FARMER BOY ranks pretty high as one of my favorites in the series. That boy can eat and, oh, how I loved to read about it. That might be a reason why I write so much about food in The Year of the Dog and the The Year of the Rat! Those food descriptions have stayed with me since I was a child, so much so that as an adult I even made apples'n onions!

Monday, October 4, 2010

on my desk monday

I'm cleaning out the studio and purging all the printed drafts I went through for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. They stack higher than the book!

Friday, October 1, 2010