So, I'll start with Grace, who wasn't with us because she is in Hong Kong, but was with us in spirit. Grace was the first Blue Rose Girl that I met, way back the summer before our 5th grade year in Upstate New York. For those of you who have read Year of the Dog, you know that the book is loosely based on our childhoods, and the character of Melody is really me. But did you know that how Melody and Pacy met in the book is not how we actually met in real life? (Although the lunch lady incident DID actually happen when we were in school, but not until 7th grade.)
We met at my family's house. My family had just moved to New Hartford, NY from New Jersey. I'm actually not sure how our parents met--perhaps our mothers really did meet in the grocery store as they did in the book, I'll have to ask and confirm (did they, Grace?), but at any rate, our parents met, bonded over both being from Taiwan, and Pacy's family came over for dinner. Back then, I was painfully shy, and I hid this by being kind of a snob. I was a bit of a tomboy as a kid, growing up sandwiched between two brothers, and when Pacy and her two sisters came over, I immediately thought, "Hmff. They must all be sissy girls." My parents urged my brothers and I to show Pacy and her sisters the ravine behind our backyard, so off we went. I thought my initial judgment was confirmed when my brothers and I rushed off ahead, leaving Pacy and Ki-Ki lagging behind (I actually don't recollect Lissy being there, although she must have). Pacy later said that she had forgotten my name and was calling out random names that she thought could be mine (like Penelope), asking us to wait up because Ki-Ki couldn't keep up.
Anyway, I was too shy to be friendly, but Pacy was unyieldingly so, and of course we soon became fast friends. We actually went to different elementary schools, but saw each other quite often throughout the week, and always on weekends, slept over each other's houses, and became best friends. When we started junior high, that was when we finally got to go to school together, and it was heaven. But, alas, it was short-lived, as after 7th grade my family moved away to California (which is chronicled in the sequel, Year of the Rat, coming out next January). But we were fairly faithful although somewhat sporadic penpals, and kept in touch through letter writing and the occasional phone call all the way through college, with I think two visits by Grace to CA, once in high school and once in college. We lost touch for about 2-3 years when Grace studied abroad in Italy and I left for Taiwan after graduating, but got back in touch through our parents when I decided to move to Boston. We became roommates in Boston, both starting out our publishing careers together, Grace as a children's book author and illustrator, and me as an editorial assistant.
When I was home for the holidays, I looked through my old letters from Grace, and one in particular stood out to me, and I took it back with me to New York. Grace writes about applying to art school, and then says:
I'm going to illustrate children's books, y'know. That would be so cool. One day when we're all grown up, you'll see in a book store: Illustrated by Grace P. Lin. That would be excellent. Don't you think?
Yes, I think that would be excellent.