Friday, May 30, 2014

A Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity

edited to add: If you are having problems downloading cheat sheet as a pdf try HERE to get it in jpg form.

So, tomorrow is the We Need Diverse Books panel discussion! I hope to see you there!!

You may be wondering if I decided to make the cheat sheet I discussed earlier.

The short answer is yes.

download the sheet HERE

However, it wasn't without hesitations. I was very conflicted as I felt that, perhaps, by describing the books without the multicultural label it could be construed that I was ashamed of it. That, somehow, I was afraid of these books wearing their diversity label proudly. I'm still concerned about that.

However (as I wrote on the sheet), I do feel that these books are much more than their racial identities. These are all books with universal themes and emotions that all readers can relate to. But, the racial label, unfortunately, tends to blind readers to everything else that these stories are. And, that, in the end, make the books invisible. Which is an even graver issue, in my mind.

So, here is the Cheat Sheet! Due to my own time, it's not as extensive as I wanted (if people find this useful, I'd love to expand this into 3 or 4 different sheets, one for MG, YA, etc).  But, please download it and distribute it wisely as well as widely. Because we need people to read diverse books and they aren't going to without some help.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

creating their own mountain

With the Wheelock show in Boston  and the Starry River of the Sky production in MN now over, I thought it would be a long time before I saw any images of my books on stage again. However, the completely-awesome-Abington-Friends-School-third-grade-teacher Felix Chen, sent some new photos that made my day!

story of Jade Dragon

In the fall, the aforementioned teacher Felix Chen and his co-teacher Karolye Eldridge shared Where the Mountain Meets the Moon with their class. It was so popular that the class decided to put on a play of it--writing the script in January, rehearsing from March, making costumes and scenery last month and putting on the play in May!

Minli meets Dragon

Green Tiger attacks

Minli meets the Old Man of the Moon
They even wrote a song and played that!

All I can say is WOW!

I heard the performance had a standing ovation and from just the photos I can tell they deserved it. I'm on my feet for them all the way over here.

Thanks so much, third graders, for bring the book to life! You are amazing!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

and we begin again

It's finally spring here! We're starting our garden again! We're hoping to make this one better than last year's...our green thumb dreams spring eternal!

Monday, May 26, 2014

on my desk monday

 Global Kids, the traditional Chinese publisher of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and  Starry River of the Sky sent me a Taiwanese children's magazine in which both my books and my visit to Taiwan was featured:

Unfortunately, I have no idea what it says, but the photo of me and Rain Dragon cracks me up. I think she's very suspicious of photographers.

it's almost as good as this one

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tell me if this is a good idea...

So, next week, I'll be speaking on the WeNeedDiverseBooks panel at BookCon. As you know, I've been very gung-ho about the campaign. Even though this is an issue we've been talking about for over 15 years (yes, my first book was published over 15 years ago! eeks!), I am hopeful that maybe now the time has come for some real, concrete changes.  As I said earlier, I have some ideas...

My biggest concern about diverse books is that the general public does not realize that these books are for them

A million years ago, I was a bookseller at a children's bookstore. I was not a very good one (mainly because I was socially inept) but I did learn a couple of things.

1. A customer who doesn't know what she wants can decide in two nanoseconds what she does not want.

2. A bookseller has only one of those nanoseconds to change the customer's mind.

It was very easy for me to interpret "That's not for me," when a customer had only looked at the multicultural cover. Customers put books in different compartments in their mind to decide whether or not they wanted it and the books with diverse covers were immediately put in the "multicultural" box that they had already decided they weren't interested in.

However, a bookstore floor is no place to deliver a lecture. Moreover, these customers were definitely NOT racists or horrible people in anyway. They were wonderful, intelligent people who loved books. I'm willing to bet money most probably didn't even register why they had immediately felt that the book wasn't for them.

So,  what I thought would be interesting would be to create a "Cheat Sheet" for booksellers that would help them "refocus"the customer's view of the book.  It would be fast, easy, non-diversity focused descriptions for the customer to relate to. The idea is that it would help booksellers get consumers to put the book in a different compartment than the "multicultural" box that they've already decided they aren't interested in:

However, does this"refocusing" the sales pitches of diverse books make it seem like we are trying to hide it or are ashamed of it? That is NOT what I am trying to do. I think multicultural books are more than their ethnicity--in the end they are stories with universal themes. The point of this "cheat sheet" would be to be focus on those themes.

But maybe this is a slippery slope? Would it be a step backwards? What do you think?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Rain Dragon!

So even though we've been in our new house for over a year now, it's still very much a work in progress. This is evidenced by the lack of landscaping in our backyard with its dirt piles and sparse grass.

But Rain Dragon's birthday wasn't going to wait for the grass to grow or for us to plant bushes. This was particularly troublesome as I had promised her an egg hunt for her birthday.  Even before Easter she's been enamored with egg hunts and with all the Chinese traditions about red eggs it seemed appropriate to me. 

So, the Sasquatch and I had to get creative...and I really mean that literally. We landscaped with bushes of our own creation:

As well as adding animal friends:

I painted everything, the Sasquatch cut them all out, and we both decorated the yard and hid the eggs:

We had to rope it off so that the kids didn't sneak in ahead of time:

Because once the egg hunt started, it went really fast:

But Rain Dragon loved it, which is what mattered the most to us:

Unfortunately, I spent so much time on the egg hunt preparations that I didn't get the chance to do any special decorations like last year; and I also had to rush her special Maisy cake (it's also why I look so haggard in all the photos--we were up late!). I'm not that happy with how it turned out:

But luckily, at two years old, Rain Dragon isn't that picky...I can't believe she's two!

Happy Birthday, Rain Dragon!

Monday, May 19, 2014

on my desk monday

On my desk is a Where the Mountain Meets the Moon t-shirt, a departing gift from Wheelock's successful production, which closed last week.  Thanks so much to all that went to go see the show!

I was lucky to get to see it once last time. I'm a little sad that these characters won't be onstage anymore:

But while I was there, I raved and raved about the Starry River of the Sky production in MN (which just closed yesterday--I hope it did well, too. It definitely deserved to!)...and I was given some hope that Wheelock would consider producing that too! Everyone cross your fingers!

Friday, May 16, 2014

fortune cookie friday

"The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth."
- Chinese Proverb

Thursday, May 15, 2014

on the way to the grocery store

I was driving along when I saw a rainbow and a half:

I don't remember seeing that many rainbows when I was younger, but recently I've been averaging a rainbow sighting about once a year. It's so neat and makes me very happy.

I had to stop to take photos, I wish Rain Dragon had been with me:

but you can never complain about seeing a rainbow!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The World Agrees

I'm so, so honored to be a part of the WeNeedDiverse panel at this year's BookCon! Yes, BookCon realized (after the WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign went viral) that diverse books and their authors are a vital part of book culture and made changes. The campaign organizers were invited to give a panel and they very graciously asked me to be a part of it.

It's a bittersweet victory for diverse books.  As I mentioned earlier, we've been having this conversation for years. The Ugly Vegetables was first published in 1999 and, while there have been some strides, I realize there's been very little ground covered in these last 15 years. But, maybe, with the WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign unleashing the power of social media, we can have this conversation again with some more substantial changes. We have to try, at least!

But we also need everyone to partake in the discussion and act. My worry is that this issue becomes an "Us" vs "Them" issue--each person confused on who the "us" and the "them" are. Authors vs Booksellers? Readers vs. Publishers? People of Color vs Caucasians?

Well, it's none of the above. We ALL need diverse books. And I hope we can all work together to so that everyone can have them.

How? I have some ideas and thoughts that I'll start sharing here...and maybe we can figure things out at the panel! If you can, please come to the panel discussion and help pack the house. Let's prove to BookCon that we care beyond our keyboard and that a group of diverse authors can get a standing-room-only crowd, too!

Monday, May 12, 2014

on my desk monday

On my desk is the March/April edition of the Horn Book:


Let's zoom out:

Does anything look familiar?  Yes! The cover is a photo of my actual desk! I'm on the cover of the Horn Book! (or at least my stuff is, ha ha)

I've been putting off posting about this because I was hoping to set up the "New Studio" section on my website at the same time, but, unfortunately, updating my website has dropped on the priority list. But I hope to get there someday...

Friday, May 9, 2014

fortune cookie friday

"Criticism must be used lightly. A gentle wind kindles, while a strong wind kills the fire."
- Chinese Proverb

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Belated Hong Kong post: Pocket Pacy in Hong Kong and around the world!

Remember those pocket pacys I made before Hong Kong?

Well, I brought them for the students of the Hong Kong International School. Apparently, Pocket Pacy is quite a celebrity there. The lower elementary school  made some Pocket Pacys out of paper and students took the paper ones on vacation:

to places like Cambodia:

Hokkaido, Japan:

And the Madives:

this boy laminated his pocket pacy bookmark and took it underwater!

And if that wasn't enough, the upper elementary school showed off their artistry and creativity but drawing where they would take pocket pacy:

The landscape around Great Wall  never looked so green:

I admit, I have a soft spot for drawings inspired by Where the Mountain Meets the Moon! I think Pacy would love to visit Minli on her way to Fruitless Mountain:

But she's also like Germany, I'm sure:

And Wisconsin (which is exotic when you live in Hong Kong!):

And there's always the moon:

Or she could go visit Taiwan again! The dumpling restaurant is right there:

I think Pocket Pacy enjoyed going to all these places, even if only in her dreams! But I can't wait to see where these new ones go:

Thanks so much, HKIS students!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


So, last weekend I was in the Twin Cities to see  the Starry River of the Sky play by Stages Theater. They've put on a number of plays based on award winning novels, as their "wall of fame" showcases:

Which, if you remember, I was too busy to see. 

However, I did make it to the Starry River of the Sky performance! And, I am so, so glad that I did. 

I was very interested on how the story would translate on stage. Even as a book, Starry River of the Sky is trickier than Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. It asks more from the reader. The themes are deeper and the characters are more subtle. But even though  Starry River of the Sky is a little bit more challenging, my hope is that readers find it that much more rewarding. 

And, the play is that. While the Where the Mountain Meets the Moon play was fun and joyous,  the Starry River of the Sky play was simply beautiful.  You can tell from the first look at the set:

Jeannine Coulombe was able to compress my dense book into a gorgeous, touching and truly moving 90 minute play. I think I like this adaptation even better than the Where the Mountain Meets the Moon adaptation she did earlier--and I didn't think that was possible!

And the acting was amazing. The main character, Rendi, is a hard part to play. At first he's unlikeable, but you slowly learn he's so prickly because he's so wounded inside. And as he heals, he emerges as the hero.  Andrew Moy played him perfectly with the blend of vulnerability and anger with a realistic transformation into compassion.  Peiyi, played by Julia Patterson, was ideally endearing and sweet-- exactly how I pictured her. Mr. Shan (Maxwell Thao), Madame Chang (Naomi Ko), Master Chao (Yen Thao)...everyone brought the characters to life in just the right way.  I was  so incredibly impressed!

Peiyi (Julia Patterson), the toad and Rendi (Andrew Moy)-- after the show!
me and Mr. Shan! (Maxwell Thao)

Meilan (Danielle Wong, who had played Minli in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon!), me and Tiwu (Isabelle Wong)

I've had some bittersweet moments about Starry River of the Sky which has sometimes made me doubt my direction. But when I was watching the story being performed, I almost forgot that I wrote it...and when the play was finished I was so proud that I had.  By putting on this production, Stages Theatre has given me such a lovely gift.

And, I think it'll give you one too. Go see it!

Thank you, Stages Theatre!