Saturday, December 31, 2011

last day of the year

2011 is ending! I plan on starting my resolutions and yearly conclusions at Chinese New Year (to give me some extra time) but today, I feel I must...

answer my reader mail!!

I know many authors discourage snail mail and would rather answer e-mail, but I am the opposite. I prefer the handwritten letter. I feel that if a child went through the bother to sit down and handwrite me a letter, they really want to hear from me. I try to respond back to each one, as I truly do value them.  Not that long ago, a plethora of reader mail was a problem I could only dream of.

However, it is extremely time consuming and I've been letting the letters pile up since the summer. I also know some authors use a kind of form letter but I've been reluctant to adopt that. But that leaves me with what I am doing now, spending the entire last day of the year writing belated replies.

How do you handle your reader mail?

Sunday, December 25, 2011


I always like to celebrate the Solstice, and this year I did it with a children's party. The plan was to meet at the beach early enough to be there when the sun went down

and then go back to my house for snacks. The children and I had discussed these: pizza, we all thought, would be perfect -- round, the right colors. So I made three different kinds of homemade pizza. I am trying really hard not to always go overboard on everything, and in general, be less anxious -- to, as Alvina advised recently to "assume the best and let it go." I had a lot of work to do, too, so I had promised myself to stop at home-made pizza and sparkling lemonade for the kids, Prosecco for the adults -- but the morning of the party, found myself in my car, about to scour the countryside for preserved lemons. I didn't go, though: I remembered my promise to myself in time. Then I thought -- well, maybe I can just make some scones and get some lemon curd....but I said no to that one, too.

I worried about not having done enough until one of the mothers came with homemade cornbread (from yellow local stoneground curd) and lemon curd!

We met at the beach in time to watch the sun set -- the plan was to each come with one idea for saying goodbye to the dark and one for welcoming the light. Fiona (9) made sun necklaces for us -- BEAUTIFUL Rothko-like things (orange, yellow, red) she'd painted on a kind of salt clay she makes. We all put them around our necks.

Everyone dressed in either sun (orange, yellow, red, pink) or dark (black) colors.

Jake (5) had been looking forward most to his idea: throwing rocks into the ocean. We all did this with great gusto. I had written all the thing I wanted to get rid of on one side of a piece of paper, starting with anxiety, and what I wanted to replace them with on the other. The idea was to do a puja: tip the paper in half, twist one half tightly and throw it into the ocean to burn..... but we couldn't get it to stay lit. So I just said the pairs out loud and then threw the dark, unburnt ones into the ocean. I kept the others (that's part of the puja).

Then we tried to light the candles I'd brought in little glasses--but they wouldn't stay lit, either.

So we did the next thing: ran up and down the beach taking turns carrying the Sun Banner (in reality, a sailing flag for a small island nation).

Then we went back to my house, where Fiona and Ethan had made one chain for the dark and one for the light. The PLAN was to rip down the dark one, which was hanging up in the kitchen downstairs (to a Celtic tune "Gone Away" about bad spirits being gone), and then march upstairs all carrying candles to another song.

But, we didn't -- I was a little disappointed, but glad that the kids all liked the idea of the candle-lighting contest -- I had put candles all over the downstairs and each child got a taper to light them with. But,this too got modified -- when I mentioned the word "contest" one child's whole face fell, so I said,
"Would it be more fun to just light the candles and not keep track of who lights the most?"
He looked relieved and said yes. They all did that, with parents helping sometimes -- one of the kids was only three.

We were also planning to do sun salutations, led by one of the mothers who used to teach yoga, but not everyone wanted to do that, either. I remembered my mantra and just let it go. Instead, we sang a song Fiona knew and after that I just went with the flow and served the food-- and (although I admit at first I was a little disappointed, and worried that the kids would be bored without things to do) they seemed happy with the yellow and orange snacks and candlelight (I don't know how many candles, more than 40 I think). It was fun, just talking and eating and drinking the Prosecco (so pretty in the candlelight!). Some of the kids went upstairs and jumped on the couch (which I had covered with yellow and white quilts just in case this happened); one of the fathers went with them-- and I relaxed. Going with the flow was easier than I thought!

Then after some people left we did some yoga after all, by candlelight, and ate the homemade truffles one mother had brought:
"Dark and light snacks!" she said -- she was the one who also brought the cornbread....the first hint at the party that sometimes "enough" is a lot less than you think. This is the song we didn't sing marching upstairs holding our candles:

"May the longtime sun shine on you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on!"

(And if that sounds too new agey for words to some people -- it's actually a really old Celtic blessing, which *I* first heard when the Incredible Stringband did it in the sixties or seventies.)

Happy Christmas!

from the BRG archives: Christmas Poems

English Nursery Rhyme

Christmas is a-coming,
The goose is getting fat,
Please to put a penny
In an old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny,
A ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny,
God bless you!

Who wanted to see how I wrote a poem
by Robert Frost

Among these mountains, do you know.
I have a farm, and on it grow
A thousand lovely Christmas trees.
I’d like to send you one of these,
But it’s against the laws.
A man may give a little boy
A book, a useful knife, a toy,
Or even a rhyme like this by me
(I wrote it just like this you see),
But nobody may give a tree
Excepting Santa Claus.

by Marchette Chute

We have been helping with the cake
And licking out the pan,
And wrapping up our packages
As neatly as we can.
And we have hung our stockings up
Beside the open grate.
And now there’s nothing more to do

by Langston Hughes

Of the three Wise Men
Who came to the King,
One was a brown man,
So they sing.

Of the three Wise men
Who followed the Star,
One was a brown king
From afar.

They brought fine gifts
Of spices and gold
In jeweled boxes
Of beauty untold.

Unto His humble
Manger they came
And bowed their heads
In Jesus’ name.

Three Wise men,
One dark like me—
Part of His

by Sir Walter Scott

Heap on more wood!—the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

by Marchette Chute

My goodness, my goodness,
It’s Christmas again.

The bells are all ringing.
I do not know when
I’ve been so excited.
The tree is all fixed.
The candles are lighted,
The pudding is mixed.
The wreath’s on the door
And the carols are sung.
The presents are wrapped
And the holly is hung.
The turkey is sitting
All safe in its pan,
And I am behaving
As calm as I can.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Till, ringing, singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men!


Originally published December 22, 2006

Friday, December 23, 2011

Things to Do If You Are Santa Claus: An Original List Poem

The year 2011 has indeed been a great one for me. I became a grandmother--which was truly a thrill! I also sold my first book--a collection of "things to do" poems--to Chronicle Press. I signed the contract in the fall. I thought I'd wait until now to make the announcement.

One of the most interesting things about the sale of my poetry manuscript: I didn't submit it to Chronicle. Grace Lin did! She sent it to her editor there--who liked the collection.

I also wrote a biographical poem about Jonas Salk  that will be included in a Kane Miller anthology that is due to be released next fall. The book is to be titled Dare to Dream...Change the World. You can read about the anthology at this Wild Rose Reader post: Dare to Dream…Change the World: A Poetry Anthology Coming in 2012.

As the year 2011 comes to a close, I'd to thank two good friends who helped critique and give me suggestions about my "things to do" poetry collection: Janet Wong and, of course, Grace Lin. I also want to thank my daughter and son-in-law for giving me the most adorable granddaughter in the world!

My Granddaughter Julia Anna

I thought I'd write a special "things to do" Christmas poem to celebrate the sale of my poetry manuscript. I still have to work on the ending. Note: I don't have as much time for blogging and writing now because I spend half the week providing daycare for Julia Anna. She's the gift that keeps on giving!

Things to Do If You Are Santa Claus

Have a big round belly,
Cheeks rosy red.
Wear a furry cap
On top of your head,
A wide black belt
With a buckle of gold.
Live at the top of the world
Where it's cold.
Grow a bushy beard
That's white as snow.
Be jolly and laugh
With a Ho-Ho-Ho!
On Christmas Eve,
Set off on your sleigh
With a red-nosed reindeer
Leading the way
Through a midnight sky
On a chilling night
When a guiding star
Blazes bright.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Dori Reads.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Good News x 3

I'm leaving for California for the holidays on Wednesday. Lots of things to wrap up at work and at home, and lots of editing to do over the break. There has also been lots of good news coming in at the end of the year. Last week, there were three fantastic things in particular that happened for books I've edited that I'd love to share.

Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney was announced as the next Al Roker's Book Club pick for February!!

Universal Studios optioned film rights for Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone! Read Laini's very calm (ha!) reaction here.
And last but not least, Wendy Mass has officially become a NY Times bestselling author! The paperback edition of The Candymakers debuted on the list at #10. Wendy has written eleven novels, and this is the first to hit the bestseller list.

Hip, hip, hurray!

Also, if you missed it, I was interviewed by Malinda Lo about diversity in books here. I answer such questions as: "There is also a perception out there that putting people of color on the cover of a book leads to lower sales, which implies that books about minorities are a tough sell to readers. What do you think?"

Click on the link to find out what I say!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


My new roommate (Christopher Darling) is an illustrator too. It's really fun so far. We get to talk shop. We have an understanding! Here's some of his work:

(he didn't illustrate this but he redesigned the cover when working at FSG)

I wrote a lot more about this on my blog, which you can read here.
Living with him is great: I go to get something to eat in the kitchen and he pops his head in to say hello and we talk shop. I need that, you know? We all need that. We illustrators can go crazy if we don't get to talk about our work and the business!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Waiting and letting go or just timing?

Some of you may have noticed that I've had the same book on the right for the whole history of this blog (and for quite a few years before that, too). I've written books for other people, and some of them have done quite well; but despite 6 mss. out there, no published books of my own.

At first, this bothered me a lot, and even affected my confidence -- I didn't think I was a bad writer, but I did think I hadn't found my niche and never would. And then, I just let it go. I wrote what I wanted, when I wanted to, and -- aside from an occasional pang about a novel that never sold -- I came to refer to it as "poor ______" (heroine's name) -- poor Camm. She was a neglected child in the book and now is in real life too -- I really and truly stopped minding, even about her.

This was all I am sure helped by having had freelance work -- enough to live on. I feel grateful and lucky and (last week) finally felt financially secure enough to give some money to causes I believe in. One was CASA, a group that recruits and trains people to be court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children. Children who have such an advocate, statistically, are much more likely to finish high school, stay out of jail, and stay with the same foster family. The site doesn't say they are also less likely to be abused again: maybe this is assumed? If anyone knows of other good groups that help abused children, and homeless children, please tell about them in the comments....I'm trying to find a group that just gives money to homeless families so they can get apartments or move into hotels. AS someone said and it makes sense to me:
"What poor people need is money."

The other group I found that seems really great is in the UK. They're called SOS and what they do is gather groups of 6 or 7 orphans, build them a house, and hire someone to be their mother. The ideas is that they will stay together as a family unit for life. This group was recommended by the Dali Lama and that's good enough for me!

The day after I made the donations, I got a call saying someone was going to publish one of my manuscripts.

It may be just timing (friends have said, and truly, I think, that getting published is a lot about that -- the right editor at the right time). I believe that these events (the letting go and even the giving and then getting the call) could be causally related, too -- that the shift in attitude helped it happen. Whether it was or not, I am going to keep trying to let go of things, keep giving, and (when I have something to say, not otherwise) keep writing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting ready

Apologies for the lack of posting, it's been a busy few weeks while we get ready for family visits and the holidays. This weekend we got our tree at a neighboring farm. It's been a lot of fun starting new traditions with a little one in tow.

On the work front I am most excited that we have just found a wonderful babysitter to come to our house so that I can at last have concentrated work hours again. Until now, Bruno and I have been trading off with the baby (he works at home too), and it's been nearly impossible to finish any of the projects on my list. I am hopeful that the new year will bring lots of productivity!

Until then, hope the coming weeks are filled with lots of holiday fun for you and yours...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Price comparison apps

Last week I read Josie Leavitt's blog post "A New Low for Amazon" about Amazon's price comparison app and was immediately outraged. The gist of it:

The promotion: quite simply, to walk into any store, take a picture of the item with the price with your Amazon price checker app, and get $5 off on that item when you order it from Amazon. You’re allowed to do this three times on Saturday.
So, Jeff Bezos has decided or at least approved this scheme that all bricks and mortar stores should be visited, left empty-handed so folks can shop on Amazon while giving them price info from other stores. Wow. The thoughts I’m having about this promotion cannot be printed here. If I weren’t so riled up, I’d be despondent at such a horrible attack on stores. Perhaps folks will go to chain stores, and not arrive at small, independent stores, scan a QR code and leave.

Savvy shoppers are sure to compare prices, and no doubt I've chosen to buy something online or elsewhere because I know it's priced lower, but this does seem particularly predatory against brick and mortar stores. Then again, price comparison apps have existed for a while, and of course, Amazon claims this is good for consumers. According to the LA Times:

"The goal of the Price Check app is to make it as easy as possible for customers to access product information, pricing information and customer reviews, just as they would on the Web," the company said in a statement.

Mark Reback, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog in Santa Monica, said the Amazon app could benefit shoppers. "It could definitely be good price competition for consumers," he said.
Big discounts are always a problem for independent bookstores--if it's not online, there's Walmart, Costco, and of course B&N to contend with, but asking consumers to go into a store, scan a product, and then leave to buy it elsewhere does seem pretty unsavory. But in this tough economy, it may all be about price. What do you all think? Do you comparison shop when it comes to books? Is price the end-all/be-all when you're making a decision on where to buy?

Here's a plea for shopping at your independent bookstore:
Here’s what I do: I pay sales tax, I donate thousands of dollars to local schools, charities, Little Leagues, church pie suppers, school trips, Geobee prizes, etc. I support my community and that means going to local stores and buying things there. Price is not the only factor for me. I know there are lots of folks on budgets, and to them I say: lots of children’s books are not discounted at Amazon. And does Amazon bring authors to your children’s schools?  No.
Independents have also fought back with an "Occupy Amazon" movement, giving away buttons that show Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as the devil.

The American Booksellers Association also issued an open letter to Jeff Bezos:

We’re not shocked, just disappointed.

Despite your company’s recent pledge to be a better corporate citizen and to obey the law and collect sales tax, you created a price-check app that allows shoppers to browse Main Street stores that do collect sales tax, scan a product, ask for expertise, and walk out empty-handed in order to buy on Amazon. We suppose we should be flattered that an online sales behemoth needs a Main Street retail showroom.

Forgive us if we’re not.

As a publisher, we do rely on ALL of these booksellers to stay open--our industry has definitely felt the loss of Borders closing this year. I will continue to buy books at my independents (just bought two books at Greenlight Bookstore on Saturday), but I do also buy books from B&N, Amazon, Target, etc.

Where do you all buy your books?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

from the BRG archives: boy do they have some kids' book ideas for you!

Calling all kids' book folks--writers, illustrators, booksellers, librarians, editors, etc. What has been the most OUT THERE story idea you've ever heard? I'm talking about those times when you're at a gathering and someone overhears that you have something to do w/kids' books. Then they immediately launch into the "I have a GREAT idea for a kids' book that I KNOW will get published soon..." and all you can do is sigh.

I'll start -- I was at a party a while back and a seemingly normal guy told me about his story idea. It was about a selfish child who loses her precious red shoes. She needs to be taught a lesson... (so far okay) and THEN things got interesting. "The girl whines that she can't find her shoes and Jesus comes in the form of a giant hand which comes from a cloud to tell her she doesn't need the shoes and she should learn her lesson..." This guy with beer in hand blabbed on and on about Jesus and shoes and even bunnies may have been involved, though I'm not sure. Then he said "So, you think you could help me with it?" "Help you?" I said. "Yeah, he replied, "help me get it published....

Originally published September 26th, 2006

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dumpling Days Book Launch!

I know we are all consumed with December holiday shopping (btw, if you want  books by moi,  you can order autographed books from Porter Square Books 617-491-2220 or online--put to whom you wish the books to be autographed to in the special comments section) but there's something in January I'd love for you to keep in mind, too...

Dumpling Days, as I may have mentioned once or twice, is coming out in January. With Tex Lin on its way, this might be the last public event I do in a while so we're going to make this one a big one!

So, please come celebrate Chinese New Year and the book launch of my new novel, Dumpling Days! It's going to be a grand celebration!

The you-don't-want-to-miss-goodie bags might include:

-a red envelope with an exclusive URL to read deleted chapters and behind the scene images (find out what was true and what wasn't!)

-special edition Pocket Pacys (

-a chance to win an original piece of art (by me)

-and more!

Tickets to the book launch are FREE! But please obtain one so that I know how many guests to expect. Even if you don't sign up for a ticket you are still welcome to come (but no guarantee for your goodie bag!).

WHEN: Saturday, January 21st at 1pm

WHERE: Porter Square Books (617-491-2220), 25 White St. Cambridge, MA

HOW: Obtain your tickets HERE. These tickets are FREE, but getting a ticket helps me know how many goodie bags to prepare!

**Are you not local? Not sure if you can make it? If you pre-order your book from Porter Square Books (617-491-2220 or order online--make sure you write to whom you wish the book to be autographed to in the "special comments" section), I'll autograph it at the Book launch PLUS include the red envelope exclusive (and maybe more!)

Friday, December 09, 2011


I've been doing some research for a new book. And, of course, I've found some crazy ads. Times were certainly different!

Here's an example:

To see some more go here.

The Nanny Granny Goes to Work

I'm going to apologize for lack of posting in the past month as Alvina did earlier this week. I, too, was in Chicago for the 2011 NCTE Annual convention...then came the preparartions for Thanksgiving at my house, a sinus infection, and I recently began my "nanny granny" duties. I'm living with my daughter and son-in-law half the week and providing daycare for my little granddaughter Julia Anna--who is now four months old. I love spending time with my daughter and son-in-law. My husband and I help prepare dinners for them because they work long hours.

Julia is a joy to take care of. She always wakes up smiling and rarely fusses. In addition to my granddaughter, Jack the Yellow Lab and Rudy the Cat keep me company. Jack is a bit of a rascal--so I have to be ever watchful of where I put the remote control for the television. He's truly a challenge.

The Boys--Jack & Rudy

My Sunshine--Julia Anna

I had a grand week with Julia and "The Boys"--but I am a bit tuckered out today.
I think a nap is in order!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Things you believed as a kid

Sorry for the lack of posting--two weeks ago I was in Chicago for NCTE/ALAN, and last week was right after Thanksgiving...and of course, I've been busy editing!

Yesterday I came across this fun post about "11 Silly Things You Probably Believed as a Kid". I think we may have posted something like this in the past, so forgive me if this is a repeat, but some of the things tickled me, like "All cats were female and all dogs were male" and "Blankets served as an impenetrable barrier from monsters."

When I was a kid, I had it in my head that forks were female (for me, the tines represented long hair), and spoons were male. When I was washing dishes, I would keep this in mind when putting them into the drying rack. Sometimes I'd put them in as little "families"--one big fork, one big spoon, and some little ones to represent the kids.

I also made sure to always pull the covers up around my neck at night so vampires wouldn't bite me.

Some other things I believed as a kid:
-That Adam and Eve were possibly monkeys. (I was trying to figure out how my religious beliefs and scientific beliefs could coexist).
-That if I loved my stuffed animals enough, they would become real (yes, I read The Velveteen Rabbit a few too many times).
-That someone was listening to my thoughts.

One of my friends believed that if you unplugged the TV while it was on, when you plugged it back in it would start from where you had unplugged it.

What were some of your silly (or not-so-silly) beliefs when you were younger?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Red Threads Calendar Now Available!

It's December, which means it's time to buy a new calendar! Why not buy this one? 100% of the proceeds (after printing costs) will go to assist orphanages in China!

I'm proud to have my art featured along with happy faces of adopted children in the lovely Red Threads Calendar, a product of the Central Ohio's Families with Children from China chapter. I'm so proud that I am actually in Columbus, Ohio right now!  We're having an event to celebrate the calendar's release. If you are local, come on over:

WHEN: TODAY, December 3rd from 2:30 PM - 4:00 PM
WHERE: Orange Library in Delaware County, 7171 Good Blvd, Delaware, OH

Free and open to the public!

Books and calendars will be available. If you can't make it today, but want to have something to be personally autographed to be picked up later, call Fundamentals at (740)363-0290.  Not local, but still want a calendar? Order HERE!