Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Hmm, so how did I do in 2009? Not too bad. I learned how to make a frosting flower and donated my hair. I even made dumplings, though not as many as I wanted to (I didn't do the Lin family recipe as planned). I tried to write my novel to the very best of my ability as well the promotion of it. Of course, in hindsight, I can always see where I could've done better, could've done more but I guess that is what 2010 is for!
So with that, I'll try to look forward. Here are my ten, hopefully attainable, goals for 2010:
1. Preserves. And I mean jam and marmalade! I want to learn how to make jam. Really! It is something I have always wanted to do since reading Anne of Green Gables. And you know how much I love that.
2. Be the change I want to see. This, of course, could be very lofty but since I want to keep things attainable, I've decided that to focus on smaller scale ideals. A while back, fellow blogging author Kimberly Baker asked the blogosphere "Where's the MG?" bemoaning the fact that while YA books generate a lot of online "buzz," younger novels are, on the whole, overlooked. After embracing promotion for the last year (see #8), I'm inclined to agree with her. So, I've decided that this next year I'm going to start featuring MG books that I like. They won't be reviews because there won't be any scientific rhyme or reason to it except that I like the book (and I have particular taste which is probably best described as old-fashioned). And, I think I will talk about old classics as well as new favorites. So look forward to Book Talk Tuesdays 2010!
3. Board Books. I love writing novels, illustrating picturebooks and in 2010 I'll be publishing an early reader too. I think the greatest moment in my career so far has been when a mother told me, "My kids grew up with your books." It was such a neat feeling, that by writing different genres, my books were keeping up with the kids' reading levels & interests. In 2010, my main focus will be on the genres I have already established (most particularly a new novel, hopefully) but I want to start thinking of new ideas for the other ages. How neat it would be for a baby to start with a board book by me and then slowly move up to the other books as he/she grows? What a lovely dream!
4. Progress. These past couple of years I've tried really hard to create the best book I could. And for my abilities at that time, I think I did okay. But as I said earlier, now looking back, I can always see where I could've done better. I want to take everything I've learned and create something even better.
5. Schedule. And to achieve #4, I want to create a better writing schedule for myself. I tend to write in the "binge & purge" method, which is not very practical. In 2010, I'm going to try to write everyday, even if it is only a paragraph.
6. Fondant. I learned the frosting flower, now I'd like to learn how to make beautiful fondant ones...like this:
7. Relax. As some of you may have suspected, I'm in a really happy relationship (with a Squatchie) but I've been very reluctant to mention it acquaintances and even friends. I guess I have been shy about people knowing about it because I'm scared of judgements, like it being "too soon" after Robert. But this year it will be three years since his death; and since I know Robert would be okay and happy about the new direction of my life, I'm going to start believing everyone else will be too.
8. Appreciate my readers. Not that I don't appreciate them now (THANK YOU!) but this past year has been a whirlwind of promotion for me, from the thrill of the Parents' Choice Award to the excitement of the Today Show. It's hard not to get caught up with ambitions, hopes and dreams of bigger and better prizes. But the truth is while accolades are flattering and promotion is necessary for a book's survival, I think true greatness is found elsewhere.
9. Balance Better I do quite a few school visits to pay the bills (little known truth--most mid-list authors such as myself support themselves through school visits, not books!), and while I truly do enjoy them--they also wipe me out. There is also usually a lot of traveling involved as well. It's really hard for me, someone whose natural state is introverted, to do large amounts of visits, be creative, and try to be healthy as well as be a normal person (I've regressed into a blob more times than I like to admit in 2009). In 2010, I want to balance all of it (especially the being healthy part) better.
10. Charity. Just like last year, I feel strongly about continuing the spirit of charity. While I am finished with the small graces project and am happy to pass the reins to other artists, I still want to contribute to the world in my own small way. How? Not exactly sure yet, but will let you know!
So that will be my 2010, at least I hope so. We shall see! In the meantime, may you all have a great New Year!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I am traveling and will be back to posting next week. In the meantime here is Angelina from What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?. This is about what my family's living room looked like after xmas (presents presents everywhere)... hope you all had a lovely holiday!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
When I AM enjoying writing, which I’m not always, what I love most about it is the feeling of total concentration. I’m alert, but completely relaxed, too; trying my hardest--but it feels effortless. Nothing else matters -- hours and hours can go by without my thinking about anything else at all, even going to the bathroom or eating are unwelcome interruptions (sometimes when I get to the kitchen I forget why I’m there and just go back to my desk).
Psychologists call this state flow. I have the same feeling when I’m riding well: everything is easy, effortless -- we canter on a long, loose rein, moving together; or jump with perfect timing and control, completely relaxed. Lately, I haven’t been in flow when I write and I haven’t been riding at all, for the same reason, one that is all too common to those who try to make a living in the arts: money.
Now I’m making enough babysitting to pay my rent -- and my ONLY writing goals are to write every day (even if it’s only for 15 minutes!) and be in flow when I do it.
Doing it every day is simple, if difficult: the good old BIC (butt in chair, thank you Jane Yolen). But how to get into flow, concentrating completely on a task? Csikszentmihalyi says you can concentrate on a task when:
*you have a clear goal
*you believe you have a chance of completing the task
*you get immediate feedback
Chance of completing a novel, getting immediate feedback on it, having a clear goal? HAH! But if I structure things so that EACH DAY I DO have a clear goal, I will have a chance of completing it -- and, really, I always know in my heart of hearts when what I’ve written is good and when it’s just junk though sometimes I don’t want to admit it.
So I CAN be in flow every day! Hmm, just written down, that doesn’t sound like a big deal at all, but to me it was and is. Usually (especially when worried about money) I sit down thinking I HAVE TO finish this fast, I have to finish this fast-- and when I think of finishing the whole book, get really overwhelmed -- don’t know if what I’m aiming for is even any good, feel SO far from my goal, blah blah blah. But this way, it’s possible to do what I set out to do, every day, because I’ll be setting a small, specific goal. And then I’ll get the other great benefits of flow:
* deep effortless involvement
* a sense of control
*the self disappears
*time changes .
I did try this once before, and posted about it, too, but it’s worth trying and posting about again, too -- especially NOW, when I don’t have to babysit again until Monday, January 4 and thus have every day to write! I will report back and tell you what I accomplished.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Another thing I did this evening was watch Julie and Julia. Have any of you watched it? I was most fascinated by the blogging aspect. It's a cool idea to do such a large undertaking and to then blog about it. And, of course, the payoff was huge because there was a book and movie made about it. What made me sad though was that Julie never got to meet Julia Child and that Julia did not approve of her blog. Hmmm. I vow to start up the old website personal blog again. I've been meaning to do that for a while but I swear I'm doing to do it now!
Anyway, those are some Christmas Eve ramblings. Everyone else is in bed but I won't be tired for hours. The old me is back. The one who doesn't go to sleep until 4 am.
Happy holidays everyone!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Lately I've felt the need to tackle the little things that always fall to the end of my to-do list. Maybe its because the year is drawing to a close or maybe its post-deadline mania, but I've been taking great pleasure organizing, mending, and rearranging our apartment... hemming pants that have been sitting in the corner of the bedroom for months, cleaning out the flat files, and purging everything I can stand to part with. It feels soooo goooood.
For the longest time I've been meaning to frame my Robert's Snowflakes properly. I was lucky enough to win hand painted snowflakes by Alissa Imre Geis and Giselle Potter a few years back, two of my most prized possessions. Since then I am embarrassed to say they have been sitting in sloppy frames that didn't fit. No more!
I found these two little 3D frames at Ikea and got out my snowflakes...
and of course my trusty YES Glue, that stuff glues everything.
Then I cut some little rectangles out of foam core, two for each snowflake.
And glued them down, one on top of another, to some archival acid-free mat board.
Then I very carefully put a little dab of glue on the stack of foam core and placed a snowflake on top. I was weary at first of putting glue anywhere near these little paintings, but in the end I think they will be better preserved this way (and there was not much on the back of them, unlike some snowflakes).
Once they were dry I put the mat board in the back of the frames and voila- floating snowflakes!
Now on to going through my fabric stores and organizing my paper drawer. I just looove an organized paper drawer.
This year really flew by. I'll try to do a proper wrap-up in the next few weeks, but today I'll direct you to agent Nathan Bransford's great "Year in Publishing" post.
And here's a recent article about a business practice in publishing that nobody talks about. In fact, I know very little about how this works and found the article fascinating myself.
I was a guest blogger over at the Debutante Ball last week, and posted about research--how I researched to find my dream publishing job, that is! Read it here.
Also, related to Meghan's post about eBooks, this is an interesting article about an experiment regarding the issue of DRM, or digital rights management.
And finally, in honor of the sad news that actress Brittany Murphy died over the weekend, and also the recent news of Kirkus's demise, I was reminded of my post from this past May about Bad Reviews, which referenced both subjects (albeit somewhat indirectly). And will add that despite my negative feelings towards some of the reviews in Kirkus, I was saddened by the news. It really is a loss to publishing. You can read more thoughts about this over at the Horn Book blog.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Other snow books I love are Robert's Snow by Grace Lin, and Uri Shulevitz's Snow.
What are some of your favorite snow books?
Happy Holidays, everyone!!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
by Landis Everson
the first reindeer
shipped North by boxcar from Lapland
but a toy model
got there first.
A dwarf invented reindeer on his own.
He was Santa’s favorite. He
they already existed.
This discouraged dwarf
was close to taking his life but
Santa showed up
encircled by snow.
He said, “I will use the real reindeer for my sled
You can read the rest of the poem here.
At Wild Rose Reader: Things to Do If You Are a Bell...and More Poetry for Christmas. (I have two originals holiday-themed poems and links to my previous reviews of books of Christmas poetry and Christmas picture books in verse.)
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Grace suggested buying a book for a holiday book (see below) and that got me thinking... There's Amazon's Kindle, the Sony Reader, and now BN's Nook. I don't know much about any of them but Sony's looks the prettiest. The Nook is the first one to have color on the bottom. But what about color pages? If that happens will kids' book find their way into the electronic readers? How scary! At least I think so. I don't have any desire to have one. I like holding a book, being able to flip its pages, and I like them on my bookshelves. I collect art books and I don't see them ever being replaced. If I read a lot of manuscripts then I wouldn't want to lug them around and I could then see a use for a electronic reader. But otherwise no. What would happen to picture books if people started reading them on those things? All the magic would be gone.
I want to know what you guys think. So speak up!
Me, I've been doing my part. Thanks to the Books with Flair program I am participating in (fyi-last chance to get your orders in for an autographed book is FRIDAY, I'm going out of town after that) I go to the bookstore very often and buying lots' o books (I'll show you the list one Monday)!
However, for some people I was planning on giving a copy of my own book...which I am a little hesitant to give by itself. But thanks to the MotherReader: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon post I found inspiration.
I might actually give my book with some:
goldfish! but only to those local friends.
For those farther away (and wishing a less splashy present) I think I will send the book with this sweet necklace:
or these rabbit rice bowls:
Those match pretty well, don't you think? Of course if I really wanted to coordinate, I could always send stuff from my own store!
But I love the way MotherReader has thought of these creative ways to give books for the holidays. In fact, she has 105 ways to do it! So, you can do it too!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
This proverb has always been a favorite of mine, but it took me quite a while for me to truly puzzle out the meaning. To me, I finally realized, this proverb means "remember, feeding your soul is just as important as feeding your body." It is a reminder to value your spirit.
Which I thought was apropos for the December painting, this very last painting I am doing for the small graces project. This project is has been very valuable to my spirit and I hope to yours too!
This painting goes on auction on NOW! So go and BID, BID, BID!
And don't forget you can also purchase small graces prints from Child At Heart! They are the perfect holiday gifts--I keep thinking the Sept. one would be lovely for a child's teacher--but timing for holiday shipping is waning so get your order in soon(like now)!
Monday, December 14, 2009
The sale on Saturday was a lot of fun as usual! Here is Grace and I at our table where we dutifully sold books and prints from morning til night.
Grace brought a sea of Lissy dolls that looked adorable all piled together.
For my part I had lots of bird prints, books, and the buttons you all so graciously helped me to design.
Throughout the day we couldn't help but ogle these amazing scarves by Jeung-Hwa Park directly across from our booth... so tempting to scoop them up!
Just look at the incredible colors.
I always love chatting with Dorothy Imagire, who generously traded with me a few years ago. I have two of her amazing waxed photos in my kitchen.
This year she had these really cool table settings with phrases painted and etched on the surface. The silverware said things like "vegan" and "gluten-free".
I love this plate (click to enlarge).
I also discovered the work of the very talented Deborah Foreman, who makes these beautiful circle paintings. I love the textures and color combinations.
All in all it was a fun day and a good sale. Its nice to go back and run into old friends and make new ones. After the sale we got together with Alvina and Libby for our annual dinner and resolution setting, I'll let Alvina post about that tomorrow!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
When I mentioned this to Alvina, she said she'd like to see that letter - so here it is. If anyone has anyone comments on IT, please tell me -- maybe this letter only worked well with him because he's so nice, and so good. I'd like to do more of this kind of work (ghostwriting for people with good ideas who aren't writers) - I really enjoy collaborating. When the two of us click, it's actually a lot more fun than writing something on my own -- and having a deadline and knowing someone is going to read every word with great interest makes me finish things faster, too. Anyway.....
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I've also been reading a lot of graphic novels - memoirs specifically. My favorite is called THE ALCOHOLIC. It's sad, funny, and just right. I think it's my favorite. I read a very pretentious graphic novel called FUN HOME. Even though the vocabulary was ridiculous (I swear you need a good dictionary and your brain power to get through it) I still enjoyed it. It's about a woman who comes to grip with her father's sexuality, and her own. I also just finished a rather large one called BLANKETS. It's about a first love. I really liked this one, though I found the ending a bit abrupt.
I'm thinking again about how I could make a graphic novel about my teen years. They were AWFUL. I know there's a lot of that out there but I think there's room for one more. We shall see.
If any of you know of a good graphic novel to read - adult or kids' - please let me know!
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
But, luckily, it was just a dream and before I knew it, I was there, it was live, and it was OVER! It went by so quickly!
According to the youtube clip, it was exactly 4 minutes and 58 seconds. I spent a good portion of that time thinking that I had to stop my legs from jiggling. But there were a few moments when my mind was calm, and during that time I was rather awed.
The truth is, I think I have always put limitations on the appeal of my books. I've always thought my books were "Asian-niched" or "for girls" but for the first time, I realized how close-minded I've been about the audience that I write for. As we waited on set, the kids' excitement and enjoyment of my book was honest and real. "This book should be made into a movie," one boy said. "This book and that other blue cover book were the best ones we've read!" another said, the others echoing their approval. And then live, during the show, when one boy HAD to say, "By the way, I liked your book," before asking his question something clicked.
None of these kids were obviously Asian (I think one might have been a mix) and the boys were just as, if not more, enthusiastic than the girls. They did not think of my book as a Chinese book or a girl book. Those things didn't matter or even occur to them. This was just a book they enjoyed. It was perhaps the most truly multicultural moment I have ever had in my writing path so far-- a moment where the race and gender melted away, a moment that was so multicultural that the label faded away.
Which was very, very neat.
Afterwards, it still took me some time to come down (I am still recuperating!). Strange how something that occupied so much of my mind for so long was just, well, finished. It was almost anti-climatic, but a celebration of:
SOUP DUMPLINGS at Joe Shanghai's (oh how, I love soup dumplings!)
singing bad karaoke tempered the withdrawal! Well, ok, only my singing was bad (my song="Flashdance:What a Feeling"). The others (Melanie, Meghan, TS and Alvina) were pretty good.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
This Saturday Grace and I are sharing a table at the RISD Holiday Alumni Sale down in Providence. We'll be selling books, prints, and other book related goodies! For me this means a trip to Ikea and framing late into the night...
I usually sell inkjet prints of illustrations (these bird prints are always a big seller). But this year, with the help of my photographer dad and his printing genius, I've upgraded to archival giclée prints. They look SO much better than what I was printing at home, almost exactly like the originals!
Come by and say hello if you're in the area, I will give you a free Abigail Spells button!
ALUMNI HOLIDAY ART SALE 2009: December 12
10am-5pm, Rhode Island Convention Center
One Sabin Street, Providence
admission: $7; children under 14 + current RISD students (with ID): free
For directions, click here.
Monday, December 07, 2009
When I showed up at the studio, Grace was getting her makeup done in the green room. I took this short video by mistake before someone told me that photos weren't allowed in the area:
Grace met the book club kids beforehand--but they were under strict orders to not talk about the book (although signing books was allowed):
Lining up to go up to the taping:
I watched the show from the green room (there was a nice spread of food and coffee for all of us):Afterwards we took a group picture:
And here are Ames O'Neill (Grace's publicist at L,B), me, Grace, and her agent Rebecca Sherman:
Grace was great, wasn't she? I imagine she will have more to share on Wednesday.
Two more tidbits. I'd like to direct you to a thorough and insightful post by agent Michael Sterns over at the Upstart Crow Literary Agency blog. Food for thought for picture book authors.
And finally, this video kind of blew my mind. Will this be the future of magazines and books?
Friday, December 04, 2009
I Cannot Speak of War
by Pat Harvey
I can only speak of soldiers: captured
in nearly a century of photographs.
Old eyes in young faces who wear
integrity as easily as their crisp
dress blues and browns.
I can speak of my grandfather: the doughboy
learning a bit of the old parlez-vous
with gay mademoiselles baring
frantic smiles and foxholed nights
when the chauchaut rifle was useless.
You can read the rest of the poem here.
At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original fairy tale poem titled The Giant’s Magic Harp Sings.
I’m doing the Poetry Friday Roundup at Wild Rose Reader today.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
In case you haven't heard of this is a REALLY great deal from Chronicle Books, today is the last day to take advantage. Shop their web site before December 4th and get 35% off and free shipping. I love the design of their art books, stationary, crafty goodies, and of course children's books. Books make the best presents!
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
And while I was getting the very important bang trim, I noticed my hairdresser had on a jade bracelet. It reminded me of my trip to China, one of the inspirations of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and the jade bracelets I saw there. And then, suddenly, I felt like I HAD to wear a jade bracelet with my outfit. It was quite irrational.
But what to do? There wasn't time for me to go down to Boston's Chinatown. I could, perhaps, get one when I was in NYC but the schedule looked packed. In fact, the only time I had to shop was right then. I'd just have to hope I could find one locally on the way home from the hairdresser.
And it didn't seem promising. Libby, who was visiting (we always seem to do hair escapades together), was with me and we walked from one store to the next--Tibetan shops to thrift stores. Finally, at the very last store before home, we found one!
It was like fate! I hope it will be my good luck charm for the interview--in fact, Libby bought it for me because she thought it would be luckier if it was a gift. I really hope so...
9:45 AM on Friday, Dec. 4th
The TODAY Show on NBC