Wednesday, May 31, 2006

small magic

While at the New York Public Library during the Hi-YAH tour, a library clerk reshelved two books by my good friend Libby Koponen right in front of me. It was a neat moment, though at the time I wasn't sure why. It's only now, after reflecting (being able to stay consecutive nights in my own home helps me think), that I realize the magic of it. Libby's books were being reshelved, which meant they had been taken out. So, Libby's books were being read.

This may seem inconsequential, but it's really an accomplishment to marvel at. For, in the end, all an author wants is for their book to be read. Our books are like seeds, bursting with potential--but only blooming when it connects to a reader. A book only comes alive when someone reads it. It's really the miracle of life, for a book.

I feel like I should send Libby some cigars.

Friday, May 19, 2006


When we first bought our condo, the kitchen was a sore point. Dark and old, I felt like I was cooking in a cave; and no matter how I cleaned it would always looked dirty. Its existence was a constant insult to Robert, whose architectural pride was shamed whenever he looked at it.

Well, no more. Robert decided he had had enough and...destroyed it. Then, the nonstop construction of bringing Robert's design to fruition brought both of us to the brink of melt downs.

But there is a happy ending. The kitchen is now done and it is beautiful. Robert worked really hard, so please compliment it profusely!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

happy birthday is 32 points

Ah, my birthday. In the past I have had parties with pinatas, gone to dance clubs and had birthday brunches. This year, I played scrabble. While this might not seem as traditionally celebratory (and in Ki-Ki's words "really lame"), we have a great time. After traveling nonstop for The Year of the Dog and constantly eating out (due to our kitchen construction), a quiet evening in is a luxurious gift.

However, it is not without its injustices. Even though my larger vocabulary is evident, Robert is able to get twice the points from the word "OX" than I do for "OSMOSIS" and he wins! I suppose getting older is learning how to lose gracefully.

false valentine

As the plagiarism-scandal-that-shall-not-be named hit my publisher, I found myself thinking how glad I was that the “The Year of the Dog” was almost completely a personal narrative. Hey, I could prove I didn’t copy anyone, just ask my mom! However, this is still not a safeguard when it comes to fact vs. fiction, either. During my recent Hi-Yah tour with Janet Wong, she relayed a story which went something like this:

"A long time ago, while I was visiting my grandfather he told me that one should never cut a Chinese string bean; that the full length of it symbolized love. When he told me this, the words struck me and I thought, how beautifully poetic. Later, when I began writing the poems for Good Luck Gold,his words came back to me and I wrote,

Chinese Valentine

They say
it is bad luck
to cut a long green bean.
I give you this bean, like my love—
whole, fresh.

From Good Luck Gold,by Janet S. Wong (McElderry/Simon & Schuster)

This poem became a great favorite and was even used for the front flap copy.

However, a couple of years after the book was published, while I was visiting my grandfather he served me a dish of Chinese string beans all cut up.
“Gong Gong,” I said to him, “You told me it was bad luck to cut up the string beans. That a full bean symbolized love.”
“Oh, Janet,” he laughed, “I was only joking!”'

This story made me laugh AND call my mother. Even though she does have an odd sense of humor sometimes, she insists none of her stories in my book are jokes on an unsuspecting 2nd generation.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Well, it's fairly obvious that my attempts to make this "new" blog less personal has failed. I seem unable to separate and write about non-private issues.

When my mother first moved to America, cockroaches swarmed her apartment. When she moved, they followed her. "You dirty Chinese," the landlord yelled,"You brought cockroaches into my building!"

My mother moved again, this time to a house in the country. But before she entered her house, she laid all her belongings out on the lawn and left them there for days. Neighbors and strangers viewed all of her possessions, judging and counting her worth; it was humiliating and humbling. But it was the only way to get rid of the cockroaches, she told me.

Now I live away from my mother and sometimes I see my faults and mistakes as the cockroaches of my life. No matter where I go, they follow me. Perhaps this blog, this baring of my soul, is my way of trying to rid of them. Since a can of Raid won't work.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I have to admit it's been rough waters these last couple of weeks in mia casa. But little things have kept me afloat, like air bubbles in a life preserver. One of these things is this review of "The Year of the Dog". Even though I received it a while ago, I reread it as if it is a long-lost love letter; which is perhaps what good reviews are like to an author. A review which truly understands your work is rare and extraordinary, like the discovery of a new friend. And that is something to hold onto.


A couple of weeks ago I attended the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. Even though I met many wonderful people, renewed acquaintances and listened to inspiring lectures, the thing that I most appreciated learning was that all successful children’s book authors had incredibly messy homes. In fact, the more successful the author, the more unsightly their homes were--as evidenced by Linda Sue Park's claim that her housework was so neglected that her home became unsanitary.

This may seem like a small thing, but this knowledge brings me immense comfort. I enjoyed the idea that this theory works on a sliding scale— that the more disorderly the household, the more brilliant the created literature. Then the squalor of our home would therefore indicate that I have written at the very least the next War and Peace, if not the Bible.

Friday, May 12, 2006

quantity vs quality

Lately, I’ve been doing most of my writing while waiting. My constant traveling has given me ample time in airports, planes and trains to peg out dialogue and paragraphs; so much so that “Year of the Rat” has hit chapter 13. My writing has actually been a source of comfort during these dull, yet stressful, times spent in waiting rooms. While others nervously clutch their tickets and watch monitors, I lose myself in a world of my own creation.

However, even though the quantity of my writing has increased in these non-picturesque conditions, I am unsure if the quality is of equal measure. There is a belief that the mood and the environment of a creator effects the creation-- that food cooked by a joyful chef is more delicious, art painted by a tortured soul more passionate. I’m not sure if I subscribe to this, but my inner consciousness wonders if the bickering of a couple who missed their flight, the harassed mother sniping at her whining children and the business man yelling on his cell phone will have an effect on charm of my novel.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

unusual occurence

As I have mentioned in my "other blog", I loathe bookstore signings as a rule. The worst is the unannounced bookstore signing, when I wander into a chain bookstore to see if they have my books and offer to sign the stock. This is quite demoralizing as usually they either don't have my books or the bookseller asks me not to sign them as that makes it harder for them to return (!).

However, during the recent NYC Hi-YAH! tour with my friend Justina Chen Headley I broke my rule. Justina, whose debut novel "Nothing But the Truth and a Few White Lies" was just published, has not yet been jaded by the depressing nature of bookstore signings. Her sheer optimism and energy convinced me to give the local Borders a chance.

So, I timidly treaded into the children's section as Justina disapeared into the YA section. My look of loss and confusion caught the eye of the bookseller.

"Can I help you?" she asks me.
"Uh no, uh maybe, uh well," I stammer, "I'm an author and I was just checking to see if you had any of my books."
"Who are you?" she asks me.
"Um, well," I say, preparing myself for the usual look of nonrecognition, "I'm Grace Lin."
"Grace Lin!" she said, "The Year of the Dog"

Well, I don't know who was more suprised. Her, because I was in the store, or me, because she actually knew who I was. Apparently, during Chinese New Year they had made a huge display of "The Year of the Dog" and she had loved the book. So much that she remembered my name. Wonders never cease.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

why pacyforest?

While I am stalling to figure out what I want to post in this blog (books I read? upcoming work? family photos?) I thought I'd explain the title.

This character means tree:

When you put two tree characters together, it means forest.

And this is is my name in Chinese. My family and very close friends call me Pacy, a nickname from Pai Se.

So, my name "Pacy Lin" can be translated into "Pacy Forest" which is the name of this blog. The End!