Thursday, October 31, 2013

War of the Worlds . American Experience . WGBH | PBS

And also in honor of Orson Welles's War of the Words 1938 Broadcast, I thought I'd post this:

War of the Worlds . American Experience . WGBH | PBS

This is a great tool to use in the classroom for older kids.


I love this version kids did of my book:

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

That would be excellent


I've been a very bad blogger this year, mainly because of this, of course. But G's treatments are now done, and we're working toward getting our life back to our "new normal." But first, we're moving apartments this week and packing is exhausting!

As always happens, while packing I've been finding forgotten things, like this letter Grace had sent me back when we were both seniors in high school. I had brought this with me from my parents' house in California a while back because I wanted to quote some of the letter in a talk I was giving, I think.

In it, we talked about boys, of course. I had asked her to send me a boyfriend, so she sent me this guy:

Cute, huh? She named him Roger.

And here are a few snippets from the letter:

"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."


"I wish I could show you my portfolio. Then you could tell me if you think I'm talented. Or then you could lie to me and tell me you think I'm the bestest artist in the world and of course I will make it into RISD."

I wonder if Grace has the letter I wrote back to her. But I'm sure I said something like:

I think you're talented, Grace! You are the bestest artist in the world, you will make it into RISD, and you will become a famous children's book author and illustrator.

See, I can predict the future!

**edited to add**
For those of you who don't know the story of how Grace and I met, you can read more about it here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How do you know when something is done?


Sometimes people ask how you know when something is finished. Usually I say something like,
"When my changes aren't making it better, just different."

But right now it's more like: when I absolutely can't stand to look at it again. I am at that point with this novel, but not done -- I do have to at least read it myself (or do I?).

I think I should read it over from beginning to end, which I've never done. I was going to before I started the last draft but I didn't because I already knew what I wanted to add.

But this time I really think I should. So to make that easier (I hate reading my own work once I'm done with it), I printed out the whole thing (above) and have started reading it, trying not to fix things as I go along. Trying to just sit there and READ, making notes of what I don't like --but not running over to the computer.

So far, that has been a total flop -- I feel COMPELLED to make the fix. If I don't, I can't concentrate on what I'm reading, or so I tell myself. But as soon as I finish writing this blogpost, I'm going to sit down and READ. Not write, not fix, not edit, just read and make quick comments.

On the plus side: the colours this fall are the most beautiful and vivid I've seen in years. This is me with the printed out ms. (I brought it on our walk to show a friend)in front of the old grade school in Stonington -- right on the water and divided into condominums. The ones on the other side have morning light over the Atlantic ocean.

My friend stopped to photograph the tree, and I asked her to include me. I only thought of it being in front of a former school later, but I'll take it as a good sign -- that  children are behind me, literally and metaphorically.

Anyhow, please wish me luck in either reading it to the end and making the fixes or if I really can't, trusting to memory and making them anyway--but either way, getting them made and the ms. to my agent, SOON!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

We Art Boston event tomorrow

Tomorrow is the We Art Boston event at the Rose Kennedy Greenway from 11-3:00! There will be watercolor, collage, and bookmaking activities for kids, illustrators on hand for book-signing, stuffed animal portraits, kid's music and more. You will be able to view all the original artwork for sale. More details here. This is going to be a REALLY FUN event! And it's all totally free.

I will be helping out at the book making station from 11:00-12:30 and drawing stuffed animal portraits from 1:30-3:00. Come get an original drawing of your favorite stuffed animal to take home! I'll be drawing alongside some incredible talents: Barbara McClintock, Kelly Murphy, Scott Magoon, David Biedrzycki, and Julia Denos.

Last weekend at the sale

The Fall RISD Sale was bustling and fun. It was a full day that started early and flew by.

But there was one sweet moment that caught my attention. In the early afternoon, a small girl sidled up to my table and looked through a bin of prints. She picked out an image of a bird in a nest and asked how much it was. Then she plunked a little pouch onto the table, and with her mother's help began to count out dollars and coins to pay for it. 
"Is that your allowance money?" I asked. "Yes," she said, and kept counting. I was tempted just to give her the print, but then I remembered the pride and feeling of independence that goes with buying something yourself. I remembered saving up my money and carefully deciding what to buy, contemplating the many different ways it could be spent. Though I don't remember wanting to buy things like artwork at that age, I think I would have gone for a toy or game. I was really touched that she wanted to buy my print, and impressed that she was bringing home something that couldn't be played with or worn or quickly thrown away. 

Thanks for the lovely moment, and to everyone who came out on Saturday!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Banksy and the persistence factor

Banksy is in town! If you don't know who he is, he's a street artist who is known for his stencils. His work originally crept up in London and can now be seen around the world. He is in NYC doing a month-long stint: stencils (many have been erased or vandalized, etc - he has enemies or "haters" apparently).

He also does sculptures. Here is one:


So work now fetches almost 2 million at auction. So how did he become so successful? Why do crowds race to the next work on a wall in NYC? Those are questions I've been asking myself because they apply to children's books (perhaps my problem is that I apply everything to what I do?). There are the examples of artists who hit the big-time immediately, such as winning the Caldecot first time around. But most often it doesn't work that way.


Monday, October 07, 2013

RISD Fall Alumni Sale

Grace and I will be selling books and prints of our work this Saturday, October 12th, at the RISD Fall Alumni Sale. It's always a lot of fun to do the sale (and a major temptation to blow my earnings on all the beautiful hand crafted goodies)- come by and say hello if you're in the area, we'd love to see you.

ps. I'm on the card, woot! Check out this guy below...

Thursday, October 03, 2013


I've written a review of Jim Carrey's new book, How Rolland Rolls. I'm calling it "possibly the worst book of the year." We've agreed not to post book reviews on this blog so if you want to check out my review, go here.

It was a self published affair... and I think that it shows. BIG TIME. That's all I'll say here.


"I'm amazed that you didn't know that"


First drafts are by far the hardest for me, and definitely my least favorite part of writing. When ideas just come, it's fun -- but that happens all too rarely and for me the whole process is very anxious. There are terrible times of writing drivel, just because I have to put something, and frustrating waits which feel like trying to catch the wind in a sailboat on a calm day --  just stuck because there isn't any.

So I am very relieved when I finally have a nice solid draft--maybe larded with drivel (all the things I had to put when I had to put SOMETHING), but all there.  Or mostly there.

As I rewrite, I fit pieces together and fill in blanks...I'll come upon a drivel scene (for me, that usually is two characters just chattering) and then (if I'm lucky) just KNOW what really happened there.

After I finished the not quite first, but first complete draft of this novel, I was bothered by one scene, the scene the whole book had been leading towards! It read as a real letdown and I fretted about it for a few days.

While I was taking a shower what was supposed to be there just popped into my mind. I wrote it, then celebrated by getting driven to what I find the most beautiful end of the island

and walking all the way back to the village with a friend. We stopped at two people's houses for a cup of tea on the way, but we did walk the whole way (about 8 miles, I reckon).

I don't usually talk about my work to people here, but I was so excited about what had just come to me that I had to tell her.

She said, first, that "I can see it perfectly" and "I love it," and then:

"But how could you write the whole book without knowing that?"

and, later, she kept bringing this up:

"I'm amazed that you didn't know that."

It didn't seem that odd to me-- it was what was in the box, and the heroine didn't know until that point, so why did I need to? I knew what it was made of, I knew what effect it had -- I just didn't know what it was.

And to me this didn't seem odd at all; one of the things I learned about my process from this book is that I like to know most of the characters before I start writing, and know where the story starts and where it's going; but it's better to have things to discover in the middle.

That's not fun when you don't know what they are, but when you find out, it's very satisfying.