Sunday, July 28, 2013

The point -- or a point

It's easy to get discouraged in this business -- and it IS a business, that's one of the discouraging things! But there are many others, so many that sometimes I wonder what the point of writing for children is.

And then something happens that reminds me. Last week was my birthday,

and the Internet and phones were down on my end of the island, so I couldn't talk to or even email anyone from home (which much as I love it here is still America and always will be!)....and then I remembered that if I walked to the telephone exchange at the top of the hill, I could get a WIFI signal there (thanks to someone who told me a secret password). So I did, and read all the emails and messages on FB (thank you all!)....the view is where I was sitting when I read them.

One of the people who posted on FB was a child (WAS a child, now she is in college!) who read my book Blow Out the Moon and wrote to me about it all those years ago. And she still remembers me and it.

THAT is the point, or a point, of writing for children, and I hope I remember it the next time I'm discouraged. If any of you have things that you find encouraging, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I can't say that I'm sad to see him go. 

Ha! That rhymes. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm it (Grace tagged me -- see below)


1. What is the working title of your next book(s)?

Tibbie Macgregor and the Scottish King
--a partly true story

2. What genre does your book fall into? 
Middle grade novel.

3. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
I can rarely remember much about first drafts. They happen pretty unconsciously. I THINK I started this sometime in 2011 but I’m not sure – I know I worked on it while I was in Scotland last summer,  and rewrote it when I came back. I am now on what I hope is the final draft -- at least until my agent submits it.

4. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'd be honored if people compared it to The Hobbit which  children on the  Isle of Barra told me – perhaps completely inaccurately – was inspired by the landscape of these islands. The language the Elves speak is like Gaelic (pronounced Gallic in Scotland and related to, but not the same as, Irish Gaelic); the runes the Dwarves write in are like the runes on stones here.....and I know it  may sound weird to mix such different books, but I’d also be honored if the cozier, more girlie bits reminded people of Ballet Shoes and the way the heroine relies on herself and figures things out  reminded them of Harriet the Spy.

5. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A trip I took to the Western Isles of Scotland in 2011 and a legend I read about a box that was given to someone to keep for the true King of Scotland – without telling anyone he had it, without opening it. I started to retell that -- but almost immediately abandoned that idea and wrote my own story instead, keeping the box.

In my story, which is set in the future after all Europe has been taken over by a group of international bankers, the box was given to the heroine's ancestress,  to be passed down from mother to most-trusted daughter until the rightful king needs it.

I tag Anna Alter.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Next Big Thing Global Blog Tour

So, I was tagged by Ann Downer to participate in this blog tour. It's chain-letter tour of sorts where I answer questions about my books and then pass it off to other author/illustrator friends. I actually don't usually participate in these types of things (I always feel like I don't have anyone else to tag) but I am trying to get my baby-filled world a little more balanced with work and I thought this might help get me back into the right (write?) mindset:

1. What is the working title of your next book(s)?
 My most recent book is Starry River of the Sky (companion book to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), which came out last fall. My next book is  Ling and Ting: Share a Birthday, a sequel to my first early reader  Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same. It comes out in the fall. 

2. Where did the book idea come from for the book?
I guess I will talk about the book that is upcoming, Ling and Ting Share a Birthday.

In general, I want the Ling and Ting books to address the unique experience it must be to be a twin. I, myself, am not a twin (I did long to be one when I was younger) so I interviewed a half dozen set of Chinese-American twins when I was writing the first book. During one interview, one of the mothers mentioned something about making two cakes for one birthday and even though I didn't know how I was going to use it at the time, I knew it was something to remember. Slowly, I realized that sharing a birthday is an experience pretty unique to twins and decided to make the next Ling and Ting book about that. 

3. What genre does your book fall into? 
early reader

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I'd definitely want it animated with an unknown voice actor.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Ling and Ting share a twin-tastic birthday!

6. Who is publishing your book?
Little, Brown & Company

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
3-6 months. But early readers are HARD to write. They are faster for me to write than novels (which take me 2-3 years), but they are brain- squeezing-like-the-last-bit-of-toothpaste hours. Novels are like marathons, picture books are like sprints and early readers are like running hurdles. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'd be honored if people compared my book to Frog and Toad or George and Martha.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Well, I've written about the inspiration of Ling and Ting before, but I will repeat it. 
Just like how Year of the Dog was an homage to the Betsy books, this early reader began as an homage to the Flicka, Dicka and Ricka books I used to read.

(I had to paint Ling and Ting in the same dotted dresses!)

But even though my vision was for identical girls, I felt a tad uncomfortable-- would I be encouraging that whole "All Asians look alike" stereotype? So I put the story away and let the idea sit and sit. For years.

And then in 2005, a group in Portland, ME put on a play of the Ugly Vegetables. There, I met the cutest Asian twin girls I've ever seen. As I watched them share cookies but eat them in completely different ways, a light went off in my head. Suddenly, I knew how the book should be written and that I needed to give the early reader another shot.

So I went home and scratched and rewrote and resketched, with a different outlook. The shift was subtle, but important--as it finally justified (to me) why the characters had to be identical.

Because, whereas the theme of many of my other books have been how even when people look different, there are many similiarities--the theme of this book is how when people look the same, there are many differences. This is a theme that I continue in Ling and Ting: Share a Birthday

10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
I'm working on a third Ling and Ting book! Right now it's called "Ling and Ting:Twice as Silly!" It is a little less about Ling and Ting being twins and more about them just having fun as twins (though I resisted the typical "switching places" story line). I'm hoping this can be a series!

So now I'm suppose to tag someone else...and I tag BRG Libby Koponen, whose newest book, Mmm, Let's Eat! is one of Rain Dragon's new favorite books:

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Island diary -- or, the less romantic parts of life on a remote island

4.00 a.m. Hear ba-ing and think, even in my sleep, that it’s not on the road but in my garden.

4.02 run to door (can’t look out window because they are all blacked out with my “panels” – more on those another time) – yes, sheep in garden. Run out.

4.03 sheep (single, one semi-grown lamb) leaps over fence – later in day, someone (staying on hill on opposite side of village, about half a mile away!) says . when topic of sheep-chasing comes up, “I saw you outside in your pajamas this morning and wondered what you were doing.”

4.04 – 5.30 or so – go back to bed, try to get back to sleep but mind is racing with gardening and other plans. Today is the day Roy is going to fill in the holes he has dug around my hut (so it won’t blow away), and finally, I can really plant my garden. Plus he has promised me timber for the raised beds (boards are hideously expensive and hard to get here) and someone else has promised to help me make them.....but of what use is any of that if the sheep break in and get it all?

5.30 – decide to hang fishing nets over all the places where the stone wall is the one place I have done this, it has worked. So I cut the net I have, manage to make it stretch over other gaps:

8.30? – go in for tea, morning pages, begin planning garden

9.00—people deliver their children to school. I see friend, run out,

“Sorry to waylay you – but do you have any rylock [very good wire fencing, keeps rabbit, sheep out of garden] I could buy?”
He doesn’t – needs it all for HIS garden. Own lambs ate entire mint crop. Smiles delightedly as he says how much he is looking forward to eating said lamb.
“With mint sauce!” I add.
“The bit he didn’t get.”
We look at my stone wall, more of which falls down each day,  he shakes head.
“You’ll never keep them out.”
Sheep are owned by sole crofter on island, who prides himself and them on being aggressive – just HOW aggressive they are constant topic of conversation. Friend and I discuss it, difficulties.
He suggests dry wall mender, I say he has already promised to do it, but –
 “He didn’t commit to when,” friend finishes for me. I say I don’t like to nag, he gets that, but says I don’t want to be overlooked, either. Suggests I say something like,
“Am I moving up your list?”

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

work in progress: the new studio

One of the caveats of our move was that I had to have a new studio. And what was more, the new studio had to be dream studio, a new oasis...or at least better than my old one.

So, when I saw the top floor of our house, I was smitten. The previous owners used and staged the room as a master retreat:

But I knew it was made to be my workplace! All it need was a change of paint:

And some bookshelves...okay, a lot of bookshelves:

my favorite storage idea--the staircase bookshelf! Idea stolen from HERE (thanks, pinterest!)

with a window seat! this helps take the sting out of leaving the old bookshelves

 and my favorite anthropologie knobs:

I like the bird ones the best!

And the studio transformation has begun. Stay tuned for more...