Blessed are the librarians. As a writer of historical middle grade novels and nonfiction, librarians have helped me tremendously in my research. Starting from my local library  only five blocks from my house to the librarians in the Bay area, California, they are unceasingly helpful and enthusiastic in assisting me.

In the San Francisco Historical Society, the librarian first doubted that she could find material that old. She suggested that I should go to the Chinese historical Society. I told he I had been there already, but it did not have immaterial dating that far back to early 20th century. Lo and behold, she found me two volumes of records in English and Chinese (names hand written) of the Chinese businesses in San Francisco and Oakland with the addresses in that era.

The Maritime Museum, likewise, had volumes ready for me to peruse. I had emailed the librarian in advance.

The Oakland Librarian showed me maps of the landing pier of refugees from the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. I never knew about the pier or that it jutted way out in to the bay.

The above research in July 2015 was for my second novel “The Girl With Big Feet.”


Last week I went to the Sterling Memorial Museum to see the exhibition of the Japanese Internment. I’m in the second big revision stage of “The Wrong Face.” It was a small exhibition, smaller than I had expected. I already went to the Poston camp in Arizona and interview six surveyors in LA in 2013. I still found a few nuggets of new information. I went there to read the diary of one survivor, Yonekazu Satoda,who was a recent high school graduate when he was sent to a camp. Only the first page was visible in the case. His handwriting was clear and legible.  I was given a link to read the rest of the dairy at my leisure. (I haven’t started yet.) Coincidentally, every chapter of my book starts with a short journal entry of the protagonist, a 11 yr.old when he entered Poston, 13 when he left. Mr. Satoda’s entries were as short!

I’ve been told and also know by experience, that middle grade historical novels are a hard sell to agents and publishers. And yet, without having sold the first one, I’ve started the second. Am I sadistic or what? But I do enjoy historical research and I believe,  have important stories to tell.

The Madding Crowd movies

I watch movies on the airplanes and not in theaters because I just don’t that much leisurely time. I watched the 2015 Far from the Madding Crowd starring Carey Mulligan. I enjoyed it very much. The acting was good, the vistas of Dorset beautiful.  It prompted me to read the book. Then I checked out the older version, starring Julie Christie, probably from the early 1970s. To me, it’s a better film. Bethsheba was supposed to be a great beauty. Julie Christie fitted the bill more than Mulligan. The other leads were also better, especially Peter Finch as Boldwood. The landscape of Dorset was more sumptuously  shot.  The older version contains more scenes from the book, which I would not have missed if I hadn’t read the book.Try to catch the two versions if you can. And read the book.

The book is typical of 19th century writing, full of exposition and an oomniscient  point of view. Of course, i’ve been taught not to write like that for children!