Sunday, July 30, 2006

summer school

Last week I was invited to read at a summer program in Cambridge.

Since it is the summer, I quite wasn't sure how interested the kids would be. So, when I began my temperature-testing introduction it was with a bit of trepidation. This intro is my special way of starting my presentation so I know what I'm in for. It goes like this:

"Hello, first graders!" I say.
"Hello!" they say.
"Do you know who I am?" I ask, bracing myself, "Who am I?"

Now if that question is met with silence or odd expressions, I know I am in for a rough time. Usually, I break out into a cold sweat and then I do everything short of dance with a monkey to try to engage the kids. I think most authors would agree that there are very few worse fates than trying to do an author visit with students who don't know (or care) who you are...

But, at this visit, I knew I was going to be okay because, at the appropriate time, all the kids yelled, "GRACE LIN!"


Their teacher was relieved too, considering all the work she had done to get them ready for my visit. Not only had she gotten them excited about our kite project (making kites just like my book Kite Flying). She also had them plant Chinese vegetable seeds (like in The Ugly Vegetables):

And paint their favorite foods (like in Dim Sum For Everyone!):

Thank you, teacher!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

a true story

on april fool's day
stella told her husband
she wanted to adopt
a baby gorilla
if they didn't adopt it
it would be put to sleep
she loved gorillas
and even sent him a photo

after thinking about it
her husband said
we do have a really big house
let's go talk to them and
adopt the gorilla

this is an april fool's day joke
stella laughed
i can't believe you fell for it and
that you would be willing to
adopt a gorilla
for me

I would adopt
he said

this story made me cry

Sunday, July 16, 2006

up for air

I've been smothered by origami paper and japanese fabric as I paint the pictures for my new book "Lissy's Friends." I'm quite pleased with this particular painting, but of course that is what I say that now. By the time the book comes out, my opinion has changed and nothing seems as enchanting as it once was.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

ugly vegetable

Today was Artbeat, an arts festival right around the corner from my home. Always a great time,I love walking the streets full of musical acts, art sculptures and vendors. So, while I was perusing the bright glass jewelry, a large green object caught the corner of my eye. What was that? Someone was dressed as a large vegetable. Was it a zucchini? Was it a squash? No! It was a bitter melon!

This vegetable is also known affectionately in my book The Ugly Vegetables as a ku gua. In the book, a mother, to the chagrin of her young daughter, insists on growing Chinese vegetables in her garden instead of flowers like the neighbors. The daughter, unenthused by the bumpy bitter melons growing in their garden labels them "ugly vegetables," only to appreciate them at the end when the mother makes a soup so enticing that the neighbors invite themselves over for dinner.

The Ugly Vegetables was my first published book and has been well loved and received since its release. When it first came out, I had grandiose ideas of trying to promote it--including having Ki-Ki dress up as a bitter melon. But, I was unsure of the appeal...I can honestly say there are not many picturebooks made about bitter melon, so its popularity as a character costume did not seem promising. However, here it was--a giant bitter melon parading around.

Considering the odds of this happening, I decided it was fate and ran back to my house and got my camera and my book. Not only did I need to document this, anyone who dressed up as a bitter melon needed to have a copy of The Ugly Vegetables. It just seemed mandatory.

Friday, July 14, 2006

adventures in ordering

It's Alvina's birthday! To celebrate the birthday of my oldest friend (oldest meaning longest friendship, not oldest as in age), I sent her what I've long suspected are the key to a children's book lover's happiness. CUPCAKES! (By the way, this theory has recently been proven correct as evidenced here).

But, the process of getting sugary sunshine to Alvina was quite harried. What seemed so straightforward: simply call the bakery and place my order became relatively complex--due to a bad phone connection and a foreign baker. Here is an excerpt of my conversation:

"Could you put letters on the cupcakes," I ask, "I'd like it to spell out 'Happy Birthday, Alvina."
"Yes," the man said, "Happy Birthday, Albina."
"No," I say, "Alvina--like Alvin with an 'A'"
"Albina," the man repeats.
"With a 'V'" I say.
"Yes, yes," he says, "With a 'B'"
"No, 'V'" I say, "V like vote."
"Yes," he says, "B, like boat."
"No," I say, "V like very."
"Yes," he says, "B like berry."
"V like venom?" I offer.
"D?" he says, "Denim?"
"vacuum?" I suggest.
"Oh, ok," he says, "I have it 'V' like backroom."

At this point, I decide to take his word for it and trust that a successful transaction has occurred. However, later, I must admit defeat. For instead of being sent to 'Alvina Ling' the cupcakes are sent to 'Albino Lane.' Happy Birthday, Albino!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

song lyrics

It's been a yo-yo of emotions here at mia casa, as I try to meet deadlines and catch up on past projects. Being an author and illustrator, is, when you think of it, a pretty selfish profession. It's solitary and demands time for personal thought; and when the creative burn begins it leaves little patience for needs of others.

I have never been able to achieve the proper balance of walking the tightrope of life and work; and this has never been as evident as it is now with my failures rearing many uglies. Thoughout all of this, these song lyrics by Kevin So have been on repeat in my head. Even though it's a lovely song, I can't help but feel it's a very junior high mentality that identifies with song lyrics. I hope it's because I am in my "young writing brain" that makes me connect with it so.

as i rush through empty streets
as i hustle to make ends meet
there's nothing worse than self-defeat
even the battle
nothing's easy in this life
but i don't want you to lose sight
will we ever take a flight across the ocean?

-from The Great Wall

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

i'm blushing

Alvina just sent me this link to perhaps the nicest review of Year of the Dog. I feel like I should send the author some flowers.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

book quiz psychiatry

After reading Alvina's blog, I took the book quiz and got this result. Strangely, it seems to be echoing some of my recent struggles of work vs. home (albeit, a bit melodramatically!). However, no zoo animals have come to my rescue, though I wonder if "Year of the Rat" could be considered...

You're The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

by C.S. Lewis

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz