Wednesday, July 31, 2013

summer school visit

I usually use the summer to catch up on writing and illustrating as there are no school visits to go to. However, this summer, I invited to return to present to the Rutgers Startalk program. I had presented to this group in 2010 and had such a good time that I was glad to visit again.

this backdrop is actually inspired by The Seven Chinese Sisters which is the book they used last summer. They had invited me to visit last summer too, but I was a little busy.
The Startalk program "cultivates qualified teachers of the Chinese language"with an immersive Chinese  language summer camp for students pre-k through 6th grade. It's a really neat program--by the end of two weeks the kids are speaking better Chinese than me (granted, that isn't too hard but still)!

This year, using The Ugly Vegetables, they created a neighborhood garden mural:

They also had an ugly vegetable farmer's market:

As well as grew the vegetables:

And created a shadow puppet play based on the book:

Isn't that amazing?

With all that, I felt like my visit might be a bit anti climatic:

But the students still seemed to enjoy it and their drawings were so great:

older kids drew dragons!

can you believe these tigers were done by kindergartners?
And I had a great time, again!

Rain Dragon had a good time, too!

Thanks so much, Rutgers!

Monday, July 29, 2013

on my desk monday

I was sad to hear, a bit belatedly, that author Barbara Robinson passed away. She was the author of one of the most beloved (and my favorite) Christmas books written, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

I had the great honor of meeting Barbara in 2011, when I attended the Plum Creek Literacy Festival in Nebraska. She was highly amused at my pocket pacy project  and was warm and funny and kind, just like her books. At the time,  I was thinking about starting a podcast where I'd interview legendary children's book authors and asked if she'd consider being interviewed in the future. She agreed heartily, but Rain Dragon arrived and extra projects like the podcast were postponed...and I sincerely regret that now we will never have that conversation.  

At least I can comfort myself with her lovely books. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

this week in our garden

Our strawberries are making a comeback:

But a small creature keeps stealing the fruit:

so we are placing our hopes on the tomatoes:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

on the way to the grocery story

there's a veritable jungle of tiger lilies lining the street:

it makes me want to paint with more orange.

Monday, July 22, 2013

on my desk monday

It's the New York Public Library's 2012  Children's Books 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing List! They used the cover art for Starry River of the Sky for their brochure!  The list came out a while ago, but moving drove everything else from my mind and it's only recently that I realized what a huge honor the NYPL bestowed on the book. I'm going to frame one!

Friday, July 19, 2013

fortune cookie fortune

"Love has its tides; before ebb tide you must take advantage of the flood."
-Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

garden update

After our Maine vacation, a blight has come upon our strawberry plants:

where are our red berries?

But our pumpkin plant has flowered:

and Rain Dragon's interest has not waned:

Looking forward to a happy harvest!

Monday, July 15, 2013

On my desk monday

On my desk are signed copies of my hardback Sharon Creech books!

If you remember, I experienced great disappointment in not being able to get a book signed be her when we met at NESCBWI. So, even though I knew it was a big imposition (I, of all people, should know how hard it is to get to the post office), I presumptuously asked her if I could mail her books to be signed. She, very graciously, agreed!

One of the reasons why I decided to ask is because the old owners of our house left a plastic cardinal garden ornament in the yard which fascinates Rain Dragon. The Sasquatch has taken to planting it in different places in the yard and the first thing Rain Dragon does when she goes out is run to it. It always reminds me of Sharon Creech's Chasing Redbird.  

Though, strangely I didn't send  Chasing Redbird for Rain Dragon. I only had it in paper and I always feel like I want my signed copies to be hardback.  But I did have the other hardback books signed for Rain Dragon--except for  Walk Two Moons which I had signed for myself.:

And with such a lovely inscription I can't even regret being such a selfish mama.  Thank you, Sharon Creech!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Next Big Thing Global Blog Tour

So, I was tagged by Ann Downer to participate in this blog tour. It's chain-letter tour of sorts where I answer questions about my books and then pass it off to other author/illustrator friends. I actually don't usually participate in these types of things (I always feel like I don't have anyone else to tag) but I am trying to get my baby-filled world a little more balanced with work and I thought this might help get me back into the right (write?) mindset:

1. What is the working title of your next book(s)?
 My most recent book is Starry River of the Sky (companion book to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), which came out last fall. My next book is  Ling and Ting: Share a Birthday, a sequel to my first early reader  Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same. It comes out in the fall. 

2. Where did the book idea come from for the book?
I guess I will talk about the book that is upcoming, Ling and Ting Share a Birthday.

In general, I want the Ling and Ting books to address the unique experience it must be to be a twin. I, myself, am not a twin (I did long to be one when I was younger) so I interviewed a half dozen set of Chinese-American twins when I was writing the first book. During one interview, one of the mothers mentioned something about making two cakes for one birthday and even though I didn't know how I was going to use it at the time, I knew it was something to remember. Slowly, I realized that sharing a birthday is an experience pretty unique to twins and decided to make the next Ling and Ting book about that. 

3. What genre does your book fall into? 
early reader

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I'd definitely want it animated with an unknown voice actor.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Ling and Ting share a twin-tastic birthday!

6. Who is publishing your book?
Little, Brown & Company

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
3-6 months. But early readers are HARD to write. They are faster for me to write than novels (which take me 2-3 years), but they are brain- squeezing-like-the-last-bit-of-toothpaste hours. Novels are like marathons, picture books are like sprints and early readers are like running hurdles. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'd be honored if people compared my book to Frog and Toad or George and Martha.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Well, I've written about the inspiration of Ling and Ting before, but I will repeat it. 
Just like how Year of the Dog was an homage to the Betsy books, this early reader began as an homage to the Flicka, Dicka and Ricka books I used to read.

(I had to paint Ling and Ting in the same dotted dresses!)

But even though my vision was for identical girls, I felt a tad uncomfortable-- would I be encouraging that whole "All Asians look alike" stereotype? So I put the story away and let the idea sit and sit. For years.

And then in 2005, a group in Portland, ME put on a play of the Ugly Vegetables. There, I met the cutest Asian twin girls I've ever seen. As I watched them share cookies but eat them in completely different ways, a light went off in my head. Suddenly, I knew how the book should be written and that I needed to give the early reader another shot.

So I went home and scratched and rewrote and resketched, with a different outlook. The shift was subtle, but important--as it finally justified (to me) why the characters had to be identical.

Because, whereas the theme of many of my other books have been how even when people look different, there are many similiarities--the theme of this book is how when people look the same, there are many differences. This is a theme that I continue in Ling and Ting: Share a Birthday

10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
I'm working on a third Ling and Ting book! Right now it's called "Ling and Ting:Twice as Silly!" It is a little less about Ling and Ting being twins and more about them just having fun as twins (though I resisted the typical "switching places" story line). I'm hoping this can be a series!

So now I'm suppose to tag someone else...and I tag my good friend Libby Koponen who's newest book, Mmm, Let's Eat! is one of Rain Dragon's new favorite books:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

one year later

We are starting to make a  tradition of having little Maine vacation every early summer!

 The first thing we do is take a photo on the beach, like we have in the past.

This is me one year and ten weeks ago:

This is one year ago:
And this is now!

 Can't wait until next yet!

Monday, July 8, 2013

on my desk monday

My old glasses:

Have you noticed I have a new pair of glasses? This is what happened to the old ones! Baby has a strong grip!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Last school visit of the year!

With Rain Dragon, I haven't been able to participate in as many good causes as I have in the past, which makes me sad as I really do believe in charitable giving. I feel like so many people helped me during rough spots, I should try to give back. While I don't think I'll ever take on a project like Robert's Snow again, I would love to do another project like small graces. Maybe when Rain Dragon is old enough to go to school!

In the meantime, I've had to participate in charity in smaller ways. Which is why I was delighted that my last school visit of the year was for the United Way.  To combat summer reading loss, the United Way hosted bookfairs in Lynn, MA giving at least one book to each grade K-5 student. I visited the 4th and 5th graders at the Hood Elementary School where my awesome publisher Little, Brown and Co donated Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

My own donation was an original piece of art from Dim Sum for Everyone! I plucked it out of the art designated for my trunk sale and as it's exactly what I'm hoping for all the pieces--to be displayed, shared and enjoyed by many (instead of being under my bed).

Rain Dragon is not sure she wants to let it go, though!

And what a lovely new home the art has! The students were great-- they were so attentive while I did my reading:

And had lots of great questions:

And easily mastered the tiger drawing:

I think my painting looks right at home, don't you think?

Thanks so much Hood School! Thank you, United Way!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

work in progress: the new studio

One of the caveats of our move was that I had to have a new studio. And what was more, the new studio had to be dream studio, a new oasis...or at least better than my old one.

So, when I saw the top floor of our house, I was smitten. The previous owners used and staged the room as a master retreat:

But I knew it was made to be my workplace! All it need was a change of paint:

And some bookshelves...okay, a lot of bookshelves:

my favorite storage idea--the staircase bookshelf! Idea stolen from HERE (thanks, pinterest!)

with a window seat! this helps take the sting out of leaving the old bookshelves

 and my favorite anthropologie knobs:

I like the bird ones the best!

And the studio transformation has begun. Stay tuned for more...