Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Happy (belated) Day of the Unicorn!

Exactly a month ago, on February 29th--leap year day--a teacher message me telling me how earlier in the month, she had been reading The Year of the Dog to her students and they had all been struck by this passage:

     "Chinese people give every year an animal sign," I tried to explain. "You know how horoscopes use animals for some months? Well, for Chinese people it's every year."
     "When is it the Year of the Unicorn?" Becky asked. "I love unicorns."
     I shook my head. "I don't think there is a Year of the Unicorn."
     Becky looked really disappointed so I tried to think of something.
     "But maybe during leap year or something they have a Unicorn Day."
     "Really? What do they do on Unicorn Day?"
     "Um," I scrambled, because now I was completely lying, "they draw pictures of unicorns and hang them up. Sometimes there's a parade."

The students immediately realized that since this year had a leap year, they could celebrate my fictitious Unicorn Day! And they did!

Apparently, the day was dubbed "Unicorn Day" with  kids choosing to read books about unicorns, make puppets, or color and draw fantastical creatures! There were many in unicorn costume, as evidenced by this stealth photo:

Students in costumes for Unicorn Day!
Isn't that awesome? Happy belated Day of the Unicorn!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

The second day of spring...

and it is snowing on our Totoro house! He has come to live in our "people" house as his was not made snow-proof..."but at least his food will not go bad," says Rain Dragon cheerfully. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not a fairy house

In order to keep myself from obsessively checking my TedTalk stats, I helped Rain Dragon build a Totoro house. It's very specifically for Totoro. If you call it a fairy house she will correct you with a great deal indignation. 

He needed a house so the ducks could come visit.

My TEDx talk!

Just in case you missed it, here's my TEDx talk:

It was a rather momentous event for me. I was super nervous (I refused to watch any other speakers ahead of me as I didn't want to psyche myself out) even though I had practiced and practiced for hours and hours for days and weeks, under the guidance of a speech coach, no less. 

my speech with all my speaking notes!

But, I did it and now that the speech is over, I feel really proud. It's like what I said before, public speaking is not a talent I was given. I've worked at it and have gotten much better but I don't think it's a skill that will set me apart. So, compared to a seriously talented speaker like my good friend Jarrett Krosocka (who has not just given one TED talk, but two!), I was probably just decent---but, for me, I think I did pretty well. 

In some ways, I think it is the epitome of my speaking career--I've never given a speech with this much pressure before. I truly felt a responsibility. So many times when we talk about diversity in children's literature, we are talking to people who already know its importance--many times we are "preaching to the choir." This TEDx talk was really an opportunity to reach people who rarely think about children's books, much less the diversity of them. And because of that, I truly gave it my all--and I hope you liked it!

If you did like my speech, I'm going to shamelessly ask you to share it as much as possible! It would be a dream for this thing to go viral!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

On my desk today..

Are the color proofs for "When the Sea Turned to Silver"!! Another step closer to the final book!!!

to my fellow Asian-American writers

Yesterday, I gave a keynote lecture at Primary Source's Global Perspectives & Diversity in Children's Literature program and I said some things during the Q&A that I feel like I should clarify as they were kind of "off the cuff" and, honestly, verbal communication is not my strong point (that's why I'm a writer!).

During the talk I brought up the CCBC Multicultural Statistics and how:
  • 174 books were by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage 
  • 130 of these had no visible Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content
To paraphrase, that means most Asian-American authors are not writing characters that look like them.

This saddens me because these authors are undoubtably gifted and with their gift they have an opportunity to share an experience that has mostly been invisible. Sometimes, when I see an Asian-American author writing a non-Asian character, I'll read their blog interviews and inevitably the author says they wrote their character non-Asian because "that is what felt right."

And to this, I wonder. Perhaps they are not imagining an Asian character because of their experiences. In most of the stories around us, from the news to movies and to books, the characters are non-Asian. In general, authors have grown up loving books, and those books very likely never featured a character that was Asian. In fact, we are, in many ways, predisposed to feel like books should feature white characters. Maybe the character is coming to them as non-Asian simply because we are used to characters being that way.

That, said, I do NOT think that Asian authors should have to write only Asian characters.  The glory of being a writer is the ability to create any world, any character with words. I would never ask anyone to limit that based on their race.

So, my fellow, Asian-American authors, this is what I've been trying to say: Write whatever you want, whatever feels right. But I do ask that before you create your character, consider taking a few moments to think. Are you making this character non-Asian truly because that is what feels "right" or because that is what feels familiar?

 Only you can answer that. But, no matter what, I look forward to meeting whomever you create.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

revealing the cover!

I was going to try to ask a famous blogger to do a "cover reveal" of my book like all the cool authors do-- but I was so late (as I mentioned earlier) with the art that I never got my act together! So, instead, my publisher leaked it yesterday with a photo of the advanced reading copies! Yes, there are advanced reading copies! They are so fresh off the press that I don't even have any yet, but  sign up for my mailing list to get notice for any giveaways I am doing when I do finally get them! In the meantime...want a better look at the cover? Here it is....presenting When the Sea Turned to Silver:

Do you like it? The animal on the cover is my take of a Chinese mythical animal called a longma or a "dragonhorse."

You might remember the sketch from last October:

The design of it, especially the ocean waves were inspired by the Chinese embroidery found on imperial "Dragon Robes:"

You can see more examples of dragon robe embroidery here and here!

And, of course, there is more than just the front cover. The art wraps around the whole book. I had to paint the image extra wide because we weren't sure how thick the book was going to be--needed to make sure we had plenty of art to make the flaps:

but here's a closer look at the art of the  front and back art:

And the front and back cover:

I'm SOOOOOO excited!! I hope you are, too!