Monday, January 31, 2011

on my desk monday

Sketches for "Li Na's Lily" have begun. I don't know why I started doing sketches at such a small scale but it's something I've done for at least the last few books. I like it though!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Chinese School

Welcome to Sunday Chinese School, where we learn a Chinese word (or phrase) a week with my mom!
Today's word is:
piào liang

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

book talk tuesday

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS by Richard and Florence Atwater

IndieBound Description:
Mr. Popper's Penguins is one of the handful of American books for children that has attained the status of a classic. First published in 1938, this story of a housepainter who is sent a male penguin by the great Admiral Drake, and who, thanks to the arrival of a female penguin, soon has twelve penguins living in his house, has amused and enchanted generations of children and their parents.

My Thoughts:
I actually did not read this book as a child, but I think as a child I would've loved it. Just a lot of sillyness and fun that you can read to the whole family and enjoy! One of the timeless classics that deserve never to go out of print.

Monday, January 24, 2011

on my desk monday

It's for real! I received my official notice that I am one of the US's nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award!
Check out the other nominees...Eric Carle! Jerry Pinkney! Yeeks!
I said it before, but I'll say it again--I really am just honored to be nominated!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Chinese School

Welcome to Sunday Chinese School, where we learn a Chinese word (or phrase) a week with my mom!
Today's word is:

Friday, January 21, 2011

fortune cookie friday

“It is harder to be poor without complaining than it is to be rich without boasting.”
-Chinese Proverb

Thursday, January 20, 2011

lights, camera, action!

Many students often ask me if Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is going to be made into a movie. Unfortunately, Hollywood has not called (or at least not yet, I can dream--right?) but thanks to a very cool project called the 90-second Newbery Film Festival, it could be a possibility!

But it's up to you. The 90-second Newbery Film Festival will be made up of reader-made videos that compresses the story of a Newbery award-winning book into 90 seconds or less. Selected films will be shown with much hoopla and excitement at an event at main branch of New York Public Library. Think of it as a kid-film Oscars.

Well, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a Newbery book. That means someone (hint hint) could make it into a 90-second movie for this film festival. And if someone (hint hint) does happen to find Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as an inspiration for a 90-second movie, I'll send you a free print from my etsy shop!

Not that you have to use Where the Mountain Meets the Moon(sniff), any Newbery book can serve as your 90-second movie inspiration. Here are the rules according to the creator of the contest, James Kennedy:

1. Your video should be 90 seconds or less. (Okay, okay: if it’s three minutes long but absolute genius, we’ll bend the rules for you. But let’s try to keep them short.)

2. Your video has to be about a Newbery award-winning (or Newbery honor-winning) book. Here’s a list of all the winners.

3. Just to be clear: we’re not looking for book trailers. We’re looking for full-on dramatizations, with mostly child actors, that manage to tell the entire story of a book in an ridiculously short amount of time.

4. Your video must condense the plot of the book in 90 seconds or less. Again, exceptions will be made for something really ingeniously bonkers, but it has to be related to a Newbery winning book.

5. Upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo or whatever and send the link* at kennedyjames [at] gmail [dot] com. Make the subject line be “90 SECOND NEWBERY” and please tell me your name, age, where you’re from, and whatever other comments you’d like to include, including whether you’d like me to link to your personal site. You can give an alias if you want; I understand privacy concerns.

6. Sending the link to me grants me (James Kennedy) the right to post it on my blog and to other websites where I sometimes post content (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and to share at public readings, school visits—and hopefully the “90-Second Newbery” Film Festival at the New York Public Library in the Fall of 2011.

7. Deadline is September 15, 2011.

(*if you do happen to use Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as your movie inspiration, please send me the link too!)

Just to note, I am pretty sure this is a film festival for students (ages 0-18) though, of course, teachers, librarians and parents are encouraged to help and guide (I think this great idea for a project!). Here is a 90-second film of A Wrinkle in Time as an example and inspiration:

Hope to see your 90-second film soon!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

dear friends

For those of you who read this blog, you can probably guess that the word "extrovert" would never be used in a description of me. Even though I do a lot of public speaking, it is not something that comes naturally to me. It's taken me quite a while to be able to talk fairly comfortably in front of group and I am only able to do that after preparing and practicing hours ahead of time.

Having this blog does allow me to share and communicate more than I would in person. This is sometimes good, sometimes bad. During Robert's illness and death, I chose to let my personal life and emotions seep into the cyberworld-- even harnessing its power to create a fundraiser.

I know that these are things that I put "out there" and I do acknowledge that I have blurred the lines of public and private. However, those very things that I have chosen to share are difficult for me to discuss in a public forum. Yes, I have moved forward with my life and I live each of my days as fully and with as much happiness as possible. But that doesn't mean I ever forget about Robert or wish with all my heart that he could've lived the life we so desperately wished for him. There is never a day where I do not think of him, that is not tinged with the sorrow of a love lost.

So, dear friends, this is what I ask of you. I'm so honored and touched if you feel connection to my story--real life or fiction--and I am always happy to talk to you. But please do not ask me questions about Robert in a public forum in front of a large group, consider saving it for a one-on-one conversation afterwards. Or if you wish for me to speak about Robert's Snow to a group, please ask me ahead of time so that I can emotionally prepare myself.

And I will sincerely thank you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

book talk tuesday

The Secret River by Marjorie Rawlings

IndieBound Description:
There’s just not enough…not enough money, not enough food, not enough fish for her daddy to sell at the market. Hard times have come to the forest, but Calpurnia wants to turn them back into soft times. With her little dog Buggy Horse and a tip from old Mother Albirtha, the wisest person in the forest, Calpurnia finds a secret river and uses the pink paper roses from her hair to catch enough beautiful catfish to feed the whole swamp land —with some left over for Daddy to sell. When she tries to find the river again the next day, Mother Albirtha tells her, “Child, sometimes a thing happens once, and does not ever happen anymore….You caught catfish when catfish were needed…you will not find the river again.” This story by the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Yearling and literary icon Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is about living in a time of want, yet it is overflowing with riches—stunning language, mystical happenings, wondrous, wondrous artwork. Beautiful in all ways that a book can be beautiful, this unforgettable picture book is a classic in the making.

My Thoughts: The text of this book won the Newbery Honor in 1956 and has just been reprinted with gorgeous illustrations by the Dillons as a picturebook. So this is one of those books that kind of bridge picturebooks and middle grade, in my opinion. Anyway, the reason why I love this book is because I adored the book Striped Ice Cream and in that book, the main character reads "The Secret River." So when I found out that "The Secret River" was actually real book, I was extremely excited. I'm so happy this book is back in print and it's the perfect book to read in honor of MLK day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Chinese School

Welcome to Sunday Chinese School, where we learn a Chinese word (or phrase) a week with my mom!
Today's word is:

Friday, January 14, 2011

fortune cookie friday

“So long as a man is angry he cannot be in the right.”
-Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

gathering snow

It's a winter wonderland here in New England and I love it. For traveling and all practical things it is a pain, but the sheer beauty of it is breathtaking.

I guess one of the reasons that I like it is because I've always kind of seen it similar to the writing process. Tiny snowflakes falling everywhere are like the ideas and experiences all around you. And when it comes time to write, you gather the snow and build.

So to me, it seems fitting that the snow is falling now because presently I am in the "gathering snow" phase of my work. Right now I am just trying to experience things that may inspire something in my writing later. Like seeing Cirque Du Soleil's Dralion:

And visiting the Peabody Essex Museum's exhibit on the Forbidden City's Treasures:
Next on my list is a Shen Yun Performance and then the Met's Special Exhibit on Chinese Art (though I have to figure out when I can get down to NYC). I don't know how exactly any these things will help with my work but if they do, I hope they help me create something beautiful.

silver is my new favorite color

So yesterday's official announcement of Geisel Honor made me all giddy. Instead of working, I got my toes painted silver in honor of the medal! The committee actually called me Sunday evening to tell me so I was ready to pop all night. True to form, I was particularly incoherent and spent most of my time concentrating on NOT jumping up and down while I was on the phone (I did that later).

Because I am so very thrilled that Ling & Ting, my very first foray into the early reader genre was noticed. It was also a first for my publisher, Little, Brown--it was the first trade (vs. movie tie-in,etc) early reader they'd ever published as well. (And Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was the first novel that my publisher printed in color, too, by the way!)

When my editor first brought early versions of L&T to publishing committee, they probably were not sure what to do with it. Would it be worth the risks? Worth trying something new, that they'd never done before? Because in general, my work has never been considered extremely marketable or a "sure thing" when it come to profits. But despite everything, the publisher believed in my work enough to make it happen and took the chance. I am so grateful for that...and that there's a shiny sticker to tell them they made the right choice!

So now on to the important things! What should I wear to the award ceremony? I'm leaning towards something silver, to celebrate the lovely silver stickers (someone on FB asked me if I felt any pressure for next year's awards considering the two honors two years in a row. No pressure at all--I don't have a book coming out!). I only have 6 months to think about it. ha ha! What do you think of this?

Just joking! If I'm going to have sit at a table with Mo Willems and Kate DiCamillo, looking like a disco ball probably is not a good way to garner respect. Also, I think the ceremony is a breakfast, not a dinner. You can't wear silver sequins before noon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

silver sticker!

Ling & Ting has been award the Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) Honor!

I love silver stickers!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Chinese School

Welcome to Sunday Chinese School, where we learn a Chinese word (or phrase) a week with my mom!
Today's phrase is:
How are you?
nǐhǎo ma?

Friday, January 7, 2011

fortune cookie friday

“One cannot refuse to eat just because there is a chance of being choked.”
-Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

book talk tuesday


IndieBound Description:
Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are twelve--old enough to do lots of things...even go downtown on their own. There they see their first horseless carriage, discover the joys of the public library, and see a real play at the Opera House. They even find themselves acting in one! Best of all, they help a lonely new friend feel at home in Deep Valley--the most wonderful place in the world to grow up. Ever since their first publication in the 1940s, the Betsy-Tacy stories have been loved by each generation of young readers.

My Thoughts: During the winter, I always reach for this book out of Betsy-Tacy books. The characters always seem to be bundled up and walking through the snowflakes in this book; and I love to see the snow fall and read the book the same time. I also adore this book because this is the one where Betsy really begins to say she is going to be a writer-- she tries and fails to publish her "headless woman" story (I still laugh when I read it) but is surprised by the publication of her poem in the local newspaper at the end of the book. A real inspiration for aspiring authors!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday Chinese School

Welcome to Sunday Chinese School, where we learn a Chinese word (or phrase) a week with my mom!
Today's word is:

*fyi-- zǎo technically means morning, not good morning (which would be zǎo an) as the audio indicates. However, zǎo could still pass as good morning if you say it in greeting (which is what I think my mom had in mind)--like when you say "Morning!" to someone when you see them at breakfast, the "good" part is kind of understood.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Ack! Today is the the first day of the year (and also 1-1-11! That has to mean something!). Resolution time! 2010 was quite a wonderful and memorable year for me, So even though I had a lot of resolution fails last year (#5 and #9 were epic failures), I feel pretty content.

But I still hope to accomplish things in 2011! I have thought a great deal this year's resolutions, some are repeats from last year but with a different viewpoint (which I hope makes them more accomplish-able!):

1. Learn Chinese. I've been an embarrassing Chinese School failure for a long time and this is the year I plan on remedying that. I want to at least be able to have a basic conversation in Mandarin. My schedule doesn't allow for classes until the summer, but in the meantime I've plunked the money down for Rosetta Stone & dedicated lingual chats with my Mom.

2. Appreciate my readers. Ah, same as last year, but needed more this year! I said that if my FB fanpage ever reaches 1000 fans I'd give everyone cupcakes. I'm at 1337 fans now and still no cupcakes. I have an inkling of an idea of how to do it..hopefully it will happen in 2011!

3. Stop waiting. You know those people who keep plastic on their furniture to keep it good? Or have those nice plates dusting away on a high shelf because they are only to be used for special occasions that never happen? I'm kind of like that. During my Newbery dress search, I acquired a number of pretty clothes that lay unworn while I waited for something special. This is silly. What am I waiting for? In the Tao Te Ching, there is a line about how a cup is only valuable when it is holding something, when it is being used. That means not using items because they are so valuable actually makes them worthless. I'm going to stop waiting and use the things I own. And make everyday a special occasion!

4. Find peace with things outside my control. There's always going to be somebody who's going to find my books boring, my art unappealing, or my personality annoying. Things like that are pretty common for all authors--for all people, actually--yet, I let it get to me much more than I should. My job is to carve out my bit of happiness with the rock I've been given and that is what I need to remember.

5. Seize the day. This ties into #3 and #4. I have some ambitious dreams that I've done nothing about because I've hoped that an opportunity would present itself (#3) and because I've been afraid of others might think it's stupid or that I am getting full of myself (#4). For example, I would absolutely adore Ling and Ting to be PBS cartoon. And while I know it's a long shot, I feel like I should at least try and give it a shot. Anyone know how to pitch an idea to PBS?

6. Balance. This is something on my list every year and I've never achieved it. I regressed to blob state more times in 2010 than ever before. sigh. School visits, traveling, creating books, being healthy-- someday I will find a way to balance my life. Maybe this year?

7. Clean my studio once a month. I wanted to say every week but that resolution would be broken pretty quickly. I have to make realistic, achievable goals, y'know.

8. Figure out Social Media. Or at least what I am doing with it. Right now, I have a blog. This blog has posts that tweet, show up on my FB page and provide content for my newsletter. Maybe that is okay. Or should the newsletter have something special just for newsletter readers? FB something different just for FB readers? Tweets that are not just broadcasting my posts, but are bits of conversation? Do I want to do that? Do I have time to do that? I'm not sure but this year I'm going to figure it out.

9. Charity. In 2010, instead of one large project like smallgraces, I participated a number of small charity projects (with ATASK, Hyde Park Suzuki, Open Fields and 826LA) which I was proud of. I'm not sure if I will continue with small project participation or think up another large one, but I definitely wish to continue.

10. Write without sugar. I have a bad habit of ingesting sweet things while writing. Well, I have a bad habit of ingesting sweet things all the time, but while writing is particularly troublesome. Somehow I have connected the creative process with high amounts of sugar intake (perhaps this is why some of my writing gets overly sentimental!) and this is not good . Which is why I will not do it in 2011!

11. Have Faith. Every year, I have the same literary goal. But this year I am tying it into resolutions #4 and #5. For a while, I have been hearing and reading is how the book industry is dead or dying. There will be no more books and authors will be lucky to have any readers or make any money (much less make a living). It's been enough to tempt me to give up on the whole book thing and try to become a cupcake decorator (though now the cupcake trend is over too).

It's quite stressful. I don't want to bury my head in the sand, so I do plan to try put new opportunities if they feel right (#5). But if I truly grasp resolution #4 (make peace with things I cannot control) and create a story/art/book to the absolute best of my ability, I have to believe there will be an audience to share it with.

I have to believe what I do is of value and others value it too. Or else what's the point of making any resolutions at all, right?

Happy 2011, all!