Archive | November 2016


Quick announcement: YA Book Central is running a giveaway of 3 signed copies of Wildings, so if you want to enter, you can do so over there!

Until this year, I’d always celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. I was lucky enough to be able to go home for the holiday throughout college and for each of my first three years of grad school. This year, since I was just in Minnesota for the release of Wildings, I decided not to fly home for Thanksgiving. Instead, I hosted Friendsgiving for eight. As the host, and the only American, I was rather invested in cooking all the traditional dishes (for my definition of traditional) for my friends, some of whom had never attended a Thanksgiving meal. As it turned out, everyone at the gathering was Chinese, but we represented five different nationalities: American, Singaporean, Canadian, Chinese, and French.

As Thanksgiving approached, I occasionally asked myself if I had gotten in over my head, but in the end everything went swimmingly. I was most paranoid about the two turkey breasts I was roasting, since I’d never roasted any large piece of meat before, but I did not turn them into cardboard.


Tuesday: Bake pumpkin pie


Wednesday: Make stuffing


Wednesday: Also make sweet potato salad (no marshmallows here)


Thursday afternoon: Make cranberry sauce (no cans here)

The complete feast included turkey, Meng’s bacon-y mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, sweet potato salad, Isabelle’s green beans, cranberry sauce, and Adeline’s coleslaw. Elly (a visiting scholar in our department) and her family brought beef, pig ear, tofu, and authentic kung pao chicken with chilies and peppercorns, and we had white rice too. (It felt like my family’s Thanksgiving, which always consists of an American feast and a Chinese feast combined!) For dessert, there was the pumpkin pie and a walnut cake my mother sent me.


It was an intergenerational gathering, since Elly brought her father and her five-year-old son. We all gathered around the coffee table with our plates to eat. A significant portion of the conversation was in Mandarin, and everyone else eventually played a Chinese language game (I refused to join in, pleading insufficient Mandarin vocabulary).

These feel like dark times, but I have countless things to be thankful for: a loving family, wonderful friends, an academic home, the opportunity to write stories and have them read. And this month particularly I’m also thankful for the water protectors at Standing Rock, the activists who work day after day to change this country and our world, and the people who challenge me and help me to become a better person.

Round About Our Coal Fire

First, a couple of news items:

Now on to the main event, yet another song connections post! Last Friday I went to the UCLA Early Music Ensemble’s fall concert, which was entitled The City Cries: 300 Years of English Joy and Sorrow. There was Purcell, Dunstable, Byrd, Jenkins, Morley, and…Playford! Playford, publisher of The Dancing Master, a 17th century collection of dances and dance tunes for English country dancing. One of the tunes, performed on violin, viola, and viol, was “Old Simon the King,” and upon hearing it I 1) detected that it was in 9/8 and 2) thought it sounded rather like another English country dance tune I knew.

I thought that tune was “Old Wife Behind the Fire,” but when I looked that up I discovered I was wrong, so I went back to the program for the 42nd Annual English-Scottish Ball, my last folk dance ball at Swarthmore. We had danced to the tune I was thinking of at that ball, and the next morning several of us had it stuck in our heads. The program told me the tune I wanted was “Round About Our Coal Fire” (so I had the bit about fire).

It would seem I’m not imagining things because I uncovered some evidence that the two tunes are related.

The song that has stuck with me most since that concert, however, is Henry VIII’s “Hélas Madame” (which I fancy bears some vague resemblance to my other favorite Henry VIII song, “Pastime With Good Company”). I’ve been enjoying the Québécois early music ensemble Skarazula’s recording.


Wildings Launch Party at Children’s Book World

Last Saturday was the California launch for Wildings at Children’s Book World in Los Angeles! I was lucky enough to be joined by professors and fellow students from my department, friends from my church, my friend Andrew (who came down from Berkeley and served as official photographer again), and even some people I didn’t know (miracle of miracles!). I got to break out Isabelle’s famous stamp for the linguists. 🙂 Here are a few photos, all by Andrew unless otherwise specified:


With Sharon, the owner of Children’s Book World




With Andrew (photo by Spencer)


UCLA linguists and Georgian choristers all! ❤

Wildings Launch Party at Red Balloon

Preface: Look, I can’t post this blithe write-up of my launch party pretending like yesterday didn’t happen. And it would also be pointless to hide my politics. The outcome of the presidential election has left me stunned, deeply disappointed, and more than a little afraid of what the future holds. I am a woman of color, but I enjoy all kinds of privilege, and I’m more afraid for others than I am for myself. At the same time, I have faith that no matter who is president we can keep working to spread justice and end oppression. We can continue to welcome the immigrant and the refugee in our communities. It may be harder, but we cannot, and will not, give up. We are not powerless. And I’m resolved to do my part. And for those of you who are hurting, who are terrified, my heart goes out to you. I’m here for you, and I’ll stand with you.


This past weekend I traveled back to Minnesota to celebrate the release of Wildings at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul! It was a lovely launch party. I feel so lucky to have gotten to share this occasion with so many people who are important to me. Members of my extended family, from both my parents’ sides, came, as well as a number of my high school friends and/or their families. My cello teacher, with whom I studied for nine years, came and admired the hand positions of the cellist on the cover of Wildings. My best childhood friend, whom I’ve known since I was born and with whom I wrote my first stories, was able to be there because she’s now in grad school at the University of Minnesota. One of my Lutheran Volunteer Corps housemates came with her husband.

My mother invited a neighbor girl who lives at the end of our block and whom I’d never met before. She read Sparkers in advance of the release party and sat in the front row at the bookstore. She asked several questions during the Q & A and then came up to the table where I was signing books several more times to ask further questions. One of them was who my favorite teacher was. Will anyone who’s read Sparkers be surprised to hear it was my middle school orchestra teacher? The last time, she gave me a card in which she told me she was an aspiring author. ❤

And now for some photos!


Here I am! (photo by my mother)


Reading from Chapter 1 (photo by my aunt)


Signing books (photo by Madeline)


The cake! (photo by Stef)


Me and my youngest cousin (photo by my aunt)


Me and Grandma Yee (photo by my mother)

WILDINGS in the Wild!

Happy November! It’s Wildings’ publication day! This book was two years and seven months in the making (which is amazingly short, compared to Sparkers), and now it’s finally out in the world!

Wildings Final Cover

I now give you…

5 Reasons to Read Wildings

  1. Caleb Levi: Did you like Marah’s younger brother in Sparkers? If so, you’re in luck because he’s back in a much more prominent role!
  2. Marah and Azariah: What happened to them? Did Marah become a concert violinist? Or a linguist? Or something else…? You’ll find out.
  3. Musical magic: Yes, there is spell casting with instruments and singing.
  4. Poking around in dusty archives: You know, if you enjoy that sort of thing. I may have been inspired by the Central Registry in José Saramago’s All the Names
  5. Rhubarb

If you’re in the Twin Cities or the Los Angeles area, I’d love to see you at one of my release parties for Wildings!

Happy reading!