People who gave me their time

I’ve been fortunate that when I asked for an interview for my writing, I was granted access. Jacques D’amboise gave me three hours of his precious time at our first meeting when I wanted to write his biography . We met several times after that. Professor Victor Mair gave me information and an exhibition catalog about the mummies in China and took the time to meet me at the University of pennsylvia. I met with five survivors of the Poston Internment camp  for the Japanese when I wrote my novel “I Have the Wrong Face” and corresponded by email with other survivors.

So far, what I wrote with these people’s help have not found a publisher. I feel badly that I used their time and good will. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I do. I also know it’s not the end of the story. I can use the information I have gathered for other projects or rewrite them to make them more marketable.

Another Author I admire

I had blogged about the authors Laurence Yep and Lensey Mamioka. Another author I would like to emulate is Andrea Cheng. Some of her stories have a Chinese perspective. Others, a Hungarian Jewish one. She is of Hungarian Jewish heritage and married a Chinese. She also wrote about cancer, about hers, from the point of view of her younger daughter as a teenager. A possibly dark book becomes one of hope as she finished chemotherapy sessions and recovered fully. The book is Brushing Mom’s Hair.

Debussy’s March

This morning, I heard on WQXR Debussy’s Scottish March. “Debussy” and Scottish” together? It was beautiful music. I could discern a Scottish theme, but it sounded more like a dance than a march. You can hear it on Youtube.

Impressed by Prince Charles

I watched a program about the artists in the British royal family on PBS. I was most impressed by Prince Charles’ paintings. They are good! He paints on his official tours all over the world, a reprieve from his boring official duties. He paints at the various castles and royal estates of surrounding spectacular scenery in Scotland and Wales. What surprised me was the Queen Victoria and her husband painted too. Prince Charles’ paternal ancestors also were very good amateur artists. Prince Charles explained that in royal households, children were all taught to appreciate art. He started an art school in England for children. I like him! He was insightful and humorous as he flipped through the sketch books of his ancestors. I appreciate what he said about the importance of introducing art to children.

I feel the same way about classical music. Children are introduced to pop and rock music early in life. It’s important to expose them to classical music also.

Children’s response to nudity in art

Neither my two sons nor my two grandchildren asked the questions I dreaded to hear when they saw nudity in paintings and sculptures.

“Why are these people naked?”

“They’re posing for artists.”

“Can I be naked for my friends to draw me?”

“Oh no!” Then what else should I say?

Well, I was never asked. Maybe other children had asked. Adults, I, for instance think too much. Children take what they see in stride.

I was at the Metropolitan of Art with my twins grandchildren on Tuesday. They are now twelve and have been to this museum numerous times and seen plenty of nudes.  Brian noted as we came towards a nude male statue from the back. He said casually, “His behind. I think I can see a hole.”  I said something like, “I I guess it’s there.” We passed the statue. Nothing was said about what was in the front. In fact, they didn’t even turn to look.

We proceeded to the room of musical instruments.

An author I can relate to

I have discovered only recently the books by Lensey Namioka, a Chinese American author of children’s books. I, also, write about the stories with Asian  American characters, how their culture and American culture can collide and how their experiences can be different from Caucasian americans.  She can get into the heart and mind of her characters. I hope I can succeed in the same way.

Namioka’s books are not only illuminating for Caucasian readers, but also reassuring to Asian readers that there are children like them that face overcome problems similar to their own.

Writing is like arranging flowers

I have a new hobby, arranging flowers from my small but diverse garden. I arrange flowers in an informal, simple manner. The result must please the eye. It’s similar to writing. Use simple language that pleases the ear.


Indian in the Cupboard

Now that I’m writing MG novels, I’ve been reading as many as I can. I watched the Movie Indian in the Cupboard, directed by Frank Oz, several years ago with my grandchildren then 6 or 7. We loved the movie. I read the book recently and found that the locale had been changed from England to Manhattan in the movie.  It doesn’t change the story at all. In the book, Omri’s friend is white, in the movie, he is East Indian. What surprised me is that the editor didn’t catch one error of the illustrator. The drawing of the house Little Bear builds is not a longhouse,  but a colonial looking house with a peaked roof.

This book is the kind of fantasy that I wish I can write. No aliens, or wizards or zombies for me. Children and adults enjoy  the book and the movie. I would love to write a book adults and children enjoy and that it can become a classic.

SCBWI 2014 conference

Maybe it’s because this was my third conference,  I found it less exciting and inspiring than the first two. Not that I didn’t get anything out of it. It’s just that I’ve heard what had been said in the previous two. The most important take away was the editor of the workshop I picked, would take submissions of historical fiction and I have just finished one. It was most encouraging to hear that I’ve done what she listed as essentials in writing historical fiction. Another workshop was given by an agent and I will followup with a query to him.

There was a panel discussion on the revolution of the publishing industry. Retail shelf space for books has diminished from 60 to 70% in the last 10 years, particularly in the picture books category. Authors are encouraged to get their books into libraries and schools.  Independent bookstores are doing well and growing–a surprise! e books hasn’t eroded the children’s market.

Another panel discussed censorship.  Censorship is alive and all all around the country. YA is the most targeted. It’s alarming that in high schools’ honor and advanced classes that books such as “The Color Purple”, “The Invisible Man” and “Beloved” are censored.  The author Ellen Hopkins said that she was the most banned author in 2012. She writes realistic YA novels that deal with teen pregnancy, drug addiction etc.  She has heard from young readers who found solace or guidance from her novels.  She said,”You can censor what your child reads, but not other’s children’s reading material.”  She was a credible spokesman. Her daughter was addicted to drugs as a teenager. She has custody of three grandchildren while her daughter is in jail. For me, that was the most powerful moment in the whole conference.

As always, I enjoyed the panel of illustrators. “Write visually,” advised on illustrator.”Even though you may never meet the artist”

Tomie  de  Paola is a beloved figure at the conference. He’s a judge(only judge) of a contest for illustrators . I love his comments on the work of the honorees and the winner.  Feb. 23rd( first day of the conference) was his birthday. I forgot the exact age, he’s in his eighties.


There were over 9  800 women and 180 men attendees, from 20 countries, the US except the two Dakotas and Hawaii. Who wants to come from Hawaii to NYC in Febraru?!!!

What an attendee feels after another conference is hope and inspiration.  “Talent, moxie and luck”, that’s what an author needs.


Biography workshop continued

It was my first ever writing workshop and I’m afraid that now I’m spoilt. Not only was the environment bucolic, we had lunch and dinner prepared in a professional kitchen with fresh local produce. There was even a cocktail half hour before dinner when the chef comes out to tell what will be served. My cabin(one of over 20) was fully equipped with a refrigerator, coffee maker and more towels that I could use in three days.

There were only 11 attendees, including a lone male. There were three leaders, two published children’s book writers, Robert Burleigh and Candace Fleming and Carolyn Yoder, a long time editor at the Highlights Company.

There were three talks by the three of them and two one -to one critique sessions with one of them. On the second evening, we read our ms and whoever wanted to comment did. There were three published or to be published authors among us, but most of us were unpublished.  I came away impressed with the quality of writing of the attendees and encouraged in my own writing. To be told that my biography of a retired ballet dancer is a powerful story means a lot to me.

The contact I made with the authors and the editor was priceless. I also learned that I have to find the cost of required images  for reproduction and permission when I query publishers. I didn’t know that before. I thought that I could just tell them where the images could be purchased.

The second important point about research is that, if possible, don’t just look at the document online. Candace looked an original document and found writing at the back that was no digitalized. From that writing, she had more material for her book.

I was told by my driver from the sidewalk bus stop that attendees are picked up at Scranton, La Guardia, JFK and Newark. My experience ended perfectly, I was driven to my door in Queens, after Robert Burleigh was dropped off at La Guardia. We had wonderful conversation during the ride. Our driver(not the one who picked me up) was a weaver who worked part time for Highlights.

I’ve finished another revision after I came home.  To my surprise, Robert Burleigh told me to email him the revision. I thought my workshop ended in Pa. It was very generous of him to give me more of his time.

I recommend the various workshops at Highlights Foundation. In two years, if a topic that interests me come up, I shall go again, with or without a partial scholarship.  Hopefully, by then writing will not be a hobby and the expense can be deductible!




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