Monday, February 28, 2011

on my desk monday

I've put work for "LiNa's Lily" on the backburner to do the interior illustrations for "Dumpling Days." This is a bit more complicated than usual because "Dumpling Days" is all about my first trip to Taiwan and I've drawn pictures with lots of Chinese words in them and I don't know Chinese (I've been struggling through lesson one in Rosetta Stone, I've been unable to pronounce the word 'juice' correctly enough to move on to lesson two).

That is where my new acquaintance, Amie steps in! A Taiwanese native, she spent a whole morning going through my sketches and correcting all the Chinese:

It was a very amusing breakfast as she looked at my drawings, sometimes staring in puzzlement and shaking her head. But she got through and, now (as long as I copy her words correctly) all the Chinese should be right. Though, the book is supposed to be all from Pacy's--a girl who doesn't know Chinese--point of view, so if there are mistakes it just makes the book more authentic, right? I hope so!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Chinese School

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

dragon: lóng
snake: shé
monkey: hóuzi

Friday, February 25, 2011

fortune cookie friday

"If you are a deer-hunter, do not waste your arrows on rabbits."
-Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My six

Even though I've just finished up Dumpling Days, I'm already making plans for my next novel "Return to Sky." I admit I've been a bit scared to begin this one, even though I have been thinking about it for quite some time. Truthfully, I'm afraid my ambitions for it are greater than my abilities. But, I'm trying to take courage just like I did before when I first began work on Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I had said I was going with Samuel Beckett's quote "Try again. Fail again. Fail better." I'm still going with the "fail better."

But a new quote has also crossed my mind. Recently, I read this post by Brenda Bowen where she excerpted Virginia Wolff's speech at the National Book Awards. In that speech Virgina Wolff talked about "Faulkner's six"--the six things writers should write about. Here's an excerpt:

Faulkner said in 1949 in the Nobel speech that if we are not writing about these six things we are not doing our job. They are love, honor, pity, pride, compassion and sacrifice. I think of them as Faulkner's six.

I thought that was interesting and quite moving, and it made me think of the things that are important to me write about, especially for this book. Right now, I think my six would be:


But I think I'll keep tweaking and changing it. What would your six be?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

book talk tuesday

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech

IndieBound Description: Twelve-year-old Rosie and her best friend, Bailey, don't always get along, that's true. But Granny Torrelli seems to know just how to make things right again with her interesting stories and family recipes. It's easier to remember what's important about love, life, and friendship while Granny Torrelli makes soup.

My Thoughts: I wanted to wait a little while before I recommended another Sharon Creech book but this is the perfect remedy for these cold winter days, when things feel dreary and you are a bit sniffly. This book is just like the soup it describes--cozy, comforting and nourishing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

on my desk monday

The first pass-pages of my upcoming novel "Dumpling Days!" All those pink post-it notes mark the pages that have my requested changes on them...and there are a lot! I am double crossing my fingers my publisher will be able to do them all!

This is actually a good lesson learned for me. Previous to this pass, I'd been editing and making changes on the computer, reading onscreen, and I thought things were looking fine. But when I was sent a hard copy and read it on paper, I found a lot of very-needed changes! I guess this is why I do not have an e-reader.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Chinese School

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

rat: lǎo shǔ
ox: níu
tiger: lǎo hǔ
rabbit: tùzi

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

local book buying

So I adore my local bookstore, Porter Square Books (they almost always keep a supply of my books--love the "on our shelves now" listing!) but before they were my local bookstore, I lived near Harvard Square and shopped (and worked) almost exclusively at the Curious George Goes to Wordsworth. However, now, I have some pangs of regret not shopping (and working) here:

Though I am glad I don't have to experience this anymore (amazon had just taken off when I stopped being a bookseller):

Ah, the memories!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

lovely local visit

While I enjoy seeing students out on the road, I also enjoy visiting local schools. What one local school has done for a while now is have me visit the kindergartners in the Fall with The Ugly Vegetables and the 4th graders in the Spring with The Year of the Dog. This is wonderful not only because The Ugly Vegetables has a cameo appearance in The Year of the Dog, but because I've been visiting this school for so long that I am now seeing 4th Graders who I saw as Kindergartners! A true growing up with my books!

And every year, the 4th Graders prepare storyboards illustrating their favorite "small story" in The Year of the Dog. Here are some of them--aren't they great?




I hope I get to see them again next year!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

book talk tuesday

The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin by Micheal D. Beil

IndieBound Description:
When there are mysteries to be solved, the Red Blazer Girls are on the case! The discovery of the Ring of Rocamadour has secured the girls' reputation as Upper East Side super-sleuths, bringing many sundry job requests (no mystery too small, right?) and some unwanted attention from crooks. This time the girls must follow a trail of cryptic clues, involving everything from logic to literature, to trace a rare violin gone missing. But nothing is as it appears, and just as a solution seems imminent, the girls find themselves scrambling to save the man who was once their prime suspect. Bowstrings and betrayal, crushes and codes abound in this suspenseful companion to the Red Blazer Girls' 2009 debut. Recent clues indicate that there'll be more mystery and mayhem to come!

My Thoughts: Very, very fun! You might want to start with the 1st Red Blazer Girl book, The Ring of Rocamadour, but I thought this one was better. My minor quibble was that the girls seemed much older than 12 to me, but I think it might be that I am showing my age--kids ARE a lot more sophisticated these days. Regardless, it doesn't effect the reading enjoyment at all and you won't want to miss these books!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 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, February 11, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

School Visit Photo Album, MS

From Chicago, I flew to Jackson, MS for another week of visits. This was great fun because at the start of the week I taught the kids how to draw tigers:

But by the end of the week, we were drawing rabbits!

That is because I spent Chinese New Year in MS! And while doing a school visit is not the traditional way to celebrate the holiday, it was still quite festive and fun.

One school welcomed me and the Chinese New Year with a little performance inspired from my book Bringing in the New Year:

And at another school, a real rabbit had her home decorated for the new year:

And students were wearing in their good-luck, Chinese red outfits:

But, of course, the most fun for me was seeing how much the students liked my books:

And the great projects the teachers and librarians did to prepare them for my visit:
This says: "I would ask the Old Man of the Moon, 'Can I get an iphone 4?'"

This says, "I would ask the Old Man of the Moon if my brother would ever be nice to me."

Unfortunately, on the last day of my visit, school was canceled due to the weather which made this student-written fortune extremely apropos:
This says, "You will soon meet Nature's destructive powers."

Luckily, it didn't continue to stay true and I was able to make my airplane flight home...Thanks so much for having me, Jackson, MS!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

book talk tuesday

How Tia Lola Came To Visit (Stay) by Julia Alveraz

IndieBound Description: Moving to Vermont after his parents split, Miguel has plenty to worry about! Tía Lola, his quirky, carismática, and maybe magical aunt makes his life even more unpredictable when she arrives from the Dominican Republic to help out his Mami. Like her stories for adults, Julia Alvarez’s first middle-grade book sparkles with magic as it illuminates a child’s experiences living in two cultures.

My Thoughts: Lovely book and I adore this cover! The contrast of Tia Lola's colorful clothing against the white snow--an image that perfectly sums the book and is just wonderful.

Monday, February 7, 2011

on my desk monday

On my hotel desk in Jackson, Ms...

delicious, delectable half-moon cookies just like I remember them!
The lovely librarian, Jeannie Chun, read about my fondness for them and saw the recipe and made them for me! So yummy and such a sweet welcome to Mississippi. Thanks so much, Jeannie!

Sunday, February 6, 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:
tián xīn

Saturday, February 5, 2011

School Visit Photo Album, Chicago area

So, I've just finished a week of school visits in the Chicago area (left before the big storm!). I try to schedule my non-local school visits in chunks so that I don't have to keep switching back and forth from creative silence to public speaking too many times. In theory this works, but it does make those school visit stretches extremely exhausting. Thankfully, however, the schools, librarians and the students in the Chicago area were so welcoming and enthusiastic that I was able to ride their energy and have a great trip!

The libraries did such great publicity and outreach that there was a great audience for all my talks. While it is was a little embarrassing to see my big head smirking at me on all the posters, I did think it was kind of amusing to see that each library used a different author photo.

And one didn't use an author photo at all:

But all the images seemed to work because the students came and I had a marvelous time. Some showed up with homemade dragon kites, just like my book Kite Flying:
And others seemed to really enjoy learning how to draw a lucky tiger:
The librarians feted me with lots of yummy food, including a cake with an edible version of my book cover on it:
And I always love seeing student work inspired by my books!

And a highlight of my trip? Meeting and spending some time with librarians Linda Zeilstra-Sawyer and Holly Jin, judges on the Geisel and Newbery Committees (respectively). So neat to meet (and thank in person) two of the people responsible for changing my favorite color to silver!

Friday, February 4, 2011

fortune cookie friday

"Do not wait for the storm to pass, instead, learn to dance in the rain."