Friday, January 27, 2012

What If I Want to Write for Children and Adults?

My mind is always racing with ideas. I have ideas for picture books, middle grade stories, and young adult novels. And I have ideas for adult lit as well. Once I asked an industry professional what I should do if I want to write for more than one audience. His advice was that I should pick "my thing" and stick to it. The thing is, I don't know what "my thing" is yet because I'm an unpublished author without an agent. It's possible that I might think one market is "my thing," but it really isn't. Once I get published or represented in whatever market I fall into, then I suppose that could be "my thing." But for now, I'm not going to hold back from trying out different "things" in my writing.

When a writer gets a book published in a certain market, they start to get branded as a writer for that specific market. So while I understand and respect the opinion of the first industry professional I spoke to on this matter, I am relieved that other industry professionals I've spoken to have different opinions. Others have told me that if I want to write for kidlit and adults, for example, that's fine- there are many agents who represent authors who write for different markets. 

There are actually a number of writers out there who have written books for both children and adults. Some of them started off writing for adults, and then they published something in kidlit. Or vice versa. Some of these versatile writers include Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jennifer Solow. If anyone could think of any more writers who have written for both the kidlit and adult market, feel free to add to my list. 

Update: Just saw an article on CNN about J.K. Rowling publishing her first adult novel. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Teaching with Children's Books: Picture Books with Pigs

It just so happens that my daughter is going through a phase where she is totally digging picture books featuring pigs. So here are some books that I've been reading to her that feature them piggies. An art lesson could reveal how the illustration style of the pigs, or other animals, are similar and different from book to book.

 
DREAM BIG, LITTLE PIG! (Picture Book-Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) by Kristi Yamaguchi, Illust. by Tim Bowers- Poppy the pig struggles with ballet dancing, singing, and modeling before she discovers her true calling- ice-skating....and perhaps flying.



 

PIGGIES IN THE KITCHEN! (Picture Book- Simon & Schuster) by Michelle Meadows, Illust. by Ard Hoyt- In this rhyming book, a bunch of pigs scramble to prepare baked goods and a surprise birthday cake for their mother. 







PIGS ROCK! (Picture Book-Viking) by Melanie Davis Jones, Illust. by Bob Staake- A group of musical pigs play in a touring band. 




 


RICHARD SCARRY'S BEST MOTHER GOOSE EVER (Picture Book-Golden Books) by Richard Scarry- Traditional Mother Goose rhymes are accompanied by fun illustrations of Richard Scarry's animals, many of which are pigs. I've read many, though not all, of these poems aloud to my daughter.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Author and Illustrator Interview with Grace Lin

I bring to you my latest interview with award-winning author Grace Lin. She wrote WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON (Little, Brown), a Newbery Award winner, as well as a bunch of picture books, such as THE UGLY VEGETABLES (Charlesbridge Publishing). A graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design, Grace also illustrates her children’s books. 

When I read my first Grace Lin book, THE YEAR OF THE DOG (Little, Brown), a MG book, I remember thinking how it would’ve been nice if a book like this, a book about a young Chinese American girl exploring what she wanted to do when she grew up, was around when I was a kid. Pacy Lin reminds me of Ramona Quimby in some ways. So I was thrilled when Grace Lin sent me an ARC of DUMPLING DAYS (Little, Brown), a continuation of Pacy Lin’s adventures. In DUMPLING DAYS, Pacy and her family go on vacation in Taiwan and immerse themselves in the local culture and food. DUMPLING DAYS will be out on January 21. You can view the book trailer by clicking here.

Where were you born, raised?  Can you give me a favorite childhood memory?
I was born in New Jersey! My parents are both from Taiwan, which makes me Asian-American. One of my favorite childhood memories was my father buying my watercolor paints for Christmas. They were the fancy kind, in tubes, and the sales person at the store had told him that these were not the type for beginners. And my father said, “My daughter is not a beginner.” I remember feeling so proud that my dad thought that way…and, inside, rather immodestly, I agreed.  It’s one of those happy memories of feeling extreme confidence that only youth can exude!


I enjoyed reading DUMPLING DAYS! I think the book would be especially enlightening to those who are about to visit Taiwan or China for the first time.  The local details were so colorful and vivid. And I got hungry from reading the food descriptions. How did you remember all these details from your travels? And speaking of dumplings, which kind are your favorite?
Remembering the details was not too hard. I looked at a lot of old photos and it all came flooding back to me. Of course, I have traveled to Taiwan many times since my first time, so the trips have all kind of blended together. The hardest part was trying to get photo reference for things I remember but didn’t have images of. Luckily, I have relatives in Taiwan that I could send on reconnaissance! My favorite dumpling is xiao long bao, the soup dumplings. They are hard to find, but a restaurant called Jo Shanghai’s in New York City has them—and they are delicious!

In DUMPLING DAYS, Pacy takes an art class where she encounters a competitive classmate. How do you depict a rivalry between two characters and show the main protagonist’s resentment of this person while retaining her likability?
Honestly, I didn’t really think about the likability of the protagonist.  I just thought about how I felt in many similar situations and tried to make it as true to my experience as possible.


 I read your essay on your web site about how you came to terms with being a multicultural author. So I cautiously ask, what makes a multicultural story credible, in your opinion?
That’s a hard question to answer, because every reader comes to a story with his or her own experiences. I try to make my stories as authentic as possible to me and hope that the reader feels the same. If they do not, I try to remember and gently remind people that one story, my story, is not supposed to be representative of the entire Asian-American population.

So how much is the Pacy Lin series is based on your childhood? I ask because in The Year of the Dog, Pacy Lin writes a story called THE UGLY VEGETABLES, and you happen to have a book out called THE UGLY VEGETABLES. Did you have arguments with your sisters too, and go through a soul-searching phase, as Pacy did in THE YEAR OF THE DOG, to reflect on what you wanted to do when you grew up?
The Pacy books are heavily based on my childhood and are very true to life.  That said, they are books of fiction and that is because I did switch some things around and alter episodes. In YEAR OF THE DOG, Pacy enters a book contest, wins 4th place and decides after that she will become an author/illustrator when she grows up. That is really what happened to me, as well. I won 4th place in a contest writing and illustrating my own book and decided that I would become an author/illustrator when I grew up, too! However, in YEAR OF THE DOG the book that Pacy wrote and illustrated for the contest was THE UGLY VEGETABLES. The book I entered into the contest was not THE UGLY VEGETABLES, though that was my first published book—published many, many years later.

Besides DUMPLING DAYS, which is being released in January 2012, do you have any other current or upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
I’ve been hard at work on the companion book to WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON.  It’s called STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY and it comes out in October.  For those readers that know WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, this book is not a sequel—it doesn’t follow Minli’s story—but it takes place in the same world and there might be some other characters you recognize!

What, in your opinion, makes a strong illustration?
To me, a strong illustration starts with a strong foundation. And the foundation of  illustration--beyond the artistry, the colors or composition--is the illustration's purpose. This purpose changes with the format. For a picture book, the illustration should give the viewer added details about the story, give "more" story than the text. For an early reader, the illustration should match the story exactly, supporting the text to help readers. For a novel, the illustration should be summary of the description/emotions created by a moment/section of the story.  But as long as the meaning, the message of picture is clear--it is a strong illustration. Beauty, however, is in the eye of the beholder!

What are your favorite kidlit books and authors?
My favorite books and authors tend to be the ones I read and loved (and still love) as a child. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by LM Montgomery, BALLET SHOES by Noel Streatfeild, B IS FOR BETSY by Carolyn Haywood, MISS HAPPINESS AND MISS FLOWER by Rumer Godden, SEARCH FOR DELICIOUS by Natalie Babbitt and hundreds more. Some more contemporary kidlit authors that I enjoy are Barbara O’Connor, Lenore Look (I adore the RUBY LU & ALVIN HO books) and Nancy Springer.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all you writers and readers and artists and supporters of my blog! I hope the dawn of 2012 is treating you well. I actually do take some time to think of New Year resolutions for myself each year. Of course, whether or not I actually meet them is a different story. But here are a few of my many goals for this year. To narrow things down, these resolutions are related to my life as a writer:

1. Finish up my revision for my YA WIP.
2. Tighten up my characters.
3. Write a first draft- and it could be the lamest first draft ever- for this PB idea I have.
4. Write an outline-and it could be the lamest outline ever- for this other novel idea I have.
5. Continue to read when I have time. (There are some personal reasons as to why I haven't had the time to read as much lately, as reflected in the MIA "What I Read" posts from the last two months.)
6.  Appreciate the wait.

My last resolution is actually something that reflects a change of attitude I've experienced in the last year. In the past, I would naively think that if I work hard enough or want it bad enough, I'll get it....soon enough. But in the last year and a half, I've attended enough writer conferences and workshops to understand there are many many hard-working writers and artists who are extremely talented waiting to get published. But for some reason, it just hasn't happened for them yet. But they keep plowing away nonetheless.

So on days when I'm feeling tired, I remind myself everything happens for a reason. Perhaps the universe is trying to shield me from jumping prematurely into something that I'm actually not prepared for at this moment. Perhaps what I need is time-time to further develop my writing, time to learn more about the craft, and time to accept that it's okay to be the newbie and beginner that I am. I can also use this time, what little of it I have, to build myself in other ways too. That is a separate resolution list.

If anyone has any resolutions, writing or non-writing related,feel free to share.