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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:

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With Sharon, the owner of Children’s Book World

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Reading

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With Andrew (photo by Spencer)

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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.

So.

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!

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Here I am! (photo by my mother)

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Reading from Chapter 1 (photo by my aunt)

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Signing books (photo by Madeline)

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The cake! (photo by Stef)

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Me and my youngest cousin (photo by my aunt)

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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!

Wildings Galore!

Wildingslatest trade review is from VOYA! You can read it here. The book will be out in the world in less than two weeks! And yesterday, a whole bunch of books arrived in the mail. I could build a book castle!

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Also, here’s an article about a new independent children’s bookstore opening in the Twin Cities! It of course mentions the lovely Red Balloon Bookshop and Wild Rumpus, two of my favorite places. I’ll be at Red Balloon in just over two weeks for Wildings‘ Minnesota launch.

One Month Till WILDINGS!

Yesterday marked two years since Sparkers was published, and today the publication of Wildings is one month away! This week I received a finished copy of the book in the mail. It’s gorgeous! The cover is purple underneath the dust jacket.  ❤

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Companions!

Now seems like a good time to remind you that you can:

Additionally, I have two launch parties planned! If you live in the area, or even if you don’t, you’re invited!

I’m still plodding through Dream of Red Mansions (I had to switch editions after Volumes 1 and 2, so now I’ve got Volumes 5 and 6 of the same Gladys Yang and Yang Xianyi translation, except now all the Chinese names are in Pinyin (hooray!) and it’s a bilingual edition with Simplified Chinese on facing pages). However, as a nice respite from endless Qing Dynasty drama, I read I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You by LA author and comic book artist Yumi Sakugawa. This adorable and poignant book about friendship stars a sock cylops. I asked my friend Isabelle to buy me a copy at the Little Tokyo Book Festival, since I couldn’t go, and she got it dedicated to me!

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Angel Island and Muir Woods

Wildings just got a lovely review from Publishers Weekly!

The day after the opera, my parents and I visited Angel Island with some friends. We took the ferry from Tiburon to the island.

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Angel Island was once home to an immigration station that processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants, most of them Chinese. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese immigrants were detained for weeks, months, or even longer on Angel Island. They carved poetry expressing their hopes, disillusionment, melancholy, and despair on the walls of the detention barracks, and some of these poems can still be seen today.

I was particularly excited to find a poem written by a Yee (余) from Taishan (台山) because my mother’s surname is 余 (Yee) and her family is from 台山! I could imagine that this poem was written by a distant relative of mine.

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The poem in Chinese

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The English translation

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The poem itself on the wall (the end and the signature)

For a lovely story about a character from 台山 who spends time on Angel Island, read S. Qiouyi Li’s “Her Sacred Spirit Soars” in Strange Horizons.

The following day, we visited Muir Woods, a pocket of primeval forest in the mountains north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We arrived just after the park opened and walked among the towering coastal redwoods before too many hordes descended upon the wood.

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Minnesota State Fair 2016

First, a bit of book news: Wildings received a review I’m quite pleased with from Kirkus!

I kept up my tradition of making it to the Minnesota State Fair every year I can. Here are some photos:

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I started off with the beer brat buddies

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Ukrainian eggs decorated by Luba Perchyshyn

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Lovely delphinium at the flower show in the Ag and Horticulture Building

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Minnesota food brands

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Kids in the Miracle of Birth Center

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Sheep in the Sheep Barn

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Cattle in the Cattle Barn

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There was once again a sad dearth of goats, just two rows of Boer goats in the Swine Barn. Clearly Read and Ride Day (i.e. library card discount day) does not coincide with goat judging. I may have to adjust my fairgoing strategy.

Chocolate Agate Crunch

Izzy’s Chocolate Agate Crunch with Church ‘Elder’ Berry Izzy scoop, from the Hamline Church Dining Hall

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Art in the Fine Arts Building

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A linotype machine! Like in Sparkers!

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Ethnic baking in Minnesota

And to finish, a trio of Minnesotas:

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U of M research center Minnesota

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Seed art Minnesota

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Type Minnesota

Mixed Remixed 2016

As I mentioned last week, I went to my second Mixed Remixed Festival two weekends ago. Last year, I went for the first time and had a wonderful time. This year, I applied to be a presenter and was placed on a panel entitled “Excavating Family Mythology & Publishing Your First Children’s or YA Book.” (I was a little perplexed when I found out because as far as I’m aware I excavated zero family mythology for either of my books, but it turned out not to matter.)

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Oh, my goodness! I’m on a panel flyer!

While last year’s festival was only one day, this year’s was two. My panel was on Friday, the first day. I took the bus to the Japanese American National Museum early in the afternoon in order to make it to the panel before mine, “Hapa Writers: Our Stories in Fiction.” On my way in, I met Heidi Durrow, the author who founded the festival, for the first time in person.

To me, the most interesting part of the hapa writers panel was when panelist Maria T. Allocco talked about her relationship to the very term hapa. I’ve alluded to the complexities of using this word before. Maria explained that she no longer liked to call herself hapa because it means “part” or “fragment,” and she is of course whole. She also said she found the word Eurocentric, I think because it’s sometimes understood as meaning someone of mixed Asian and European ancestry. But I don’t think this is the definition used in, say, Kip Fulbeck’s Part Asian, 100% Hapa. I also have qualms about using the term hapa, but for entirely different reasons. My understanding is that hapa is a Hawaiian word that means “half” and that can be used in combination with many other modifiers to refer to people of all kinds of different multiracial identities. That is, hapa itself has nothing to do with Asian ancestry. It’s in the mainland U.S. that it came to mean an Asian mixed race person. I’m uncomfortable with the way a Hawaii-specific term has been appropriated, but I’m conflicted because, like several of the panelists, I like having this word to describe exactly what I am.

Next up was my panel! My fellow panelists were Katrina Goldsaito, author of the forthcoming picture book The Sound of Silence; Maria Leonard Olsen, author of, among other books, Mommy, Why’s Your Skin So Brown?; and Veda Stamps, author of the middle grade contemporary novel Flexible Wings. Our moderator was Jamie Moore, the festival’s literary coordinator. The conversation ranged from our writing processes to why we write for children to what we read growing up to We Need Diverse Books to how to balance writing with a day job. I was the only writer on the panel who hadn’t actually written a book with a mixed race protagonist.

Speaking on my first author panel ever wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I’d anticipated. I didn’t get tongue-tied, and I think I managed not to say anything absurd. I had fun, and it was a great way to meet people. I was touched that Claire Ramsaran, the organizer of the mixed and queer writing workshop who interviewed me for the Mixed Remixed blog after last year’s festival, came to my panel even though children’s literature is not her specialty. Also, when the panel was over, N, one of the people scheduled to speak on Saturday’s millennials panel, came up to talk to me, and we had an interesting conversation about Asian-inspired fantasy.

On Saturday, I went back for a full Day 2 of the festival. The first panel I went to was “Is the Mixed Thing Just for Girls?” There were two men on the panel, so…no? One of the audience questions really brought home to me the fact that mixed race people are not a monolith (obviously) because it was about hair. I really can’t speak to this experience, but my impression is that hair is a big deal to white and black multiracial people (or I guess black and anything). There are always tons of reference to hair at the festival, and one of the main sponsors is Mixed Chicks, a company that makes hair products specifically for mixed people (where, as far as I can tell, mixed means part-black). Last year, festival attendees all got sample products in our goodie bags. I think those products are still stashed in my room somewhere. I don’t have curly hair, and my hair is far from being a major facet of my multiracial identity.

I took a break for lunch and got some onigiri in the Japanese Village Plaza. After lunch was the mixed and queer writing workshop I mentioned, which I also went to last year. It was a little smaller this time around, but some of the same people came, so it was fun to reconnect with them. I had a conversation with one of them about using or not using hapa to describe ourselves. She actually avoids it, precisely because of the appropriation issue. Then we started comparing notes about grad school experiences…

From the workshop, I went to the featured writers panel, mostly to hear Jamie Ford read. The other authors were poet F. Douglas Brown, memoirist and spoken word artist Willy Wilkinson (whom I saw perform last year in the live show), and novelists Sunil Yapa and Natashia Deón. Jamie Ford read a scene from his next novel, about a hapa boy who comes from China to the U.S. only to be sold at the Seattle World’s Fair (I think).

Next I went to “Mixed Millennials: Changing What Mixed-Race Means,” the panel N was on, since, well, I’m a millennial! N and one of the other panelists, Andrea, co-run a website called Mixed Race Politics, which publishes articles and essays related to the mixed race experience.

After a bit of a break, there was a reception in the building across from the museum. There I got to talk to the very kind Jamie Ford, who asked me what was next for me writing-wise. Then we piled into the Tateuchi Democracy Forum for the Storyteller’s Prize Presentation & Live Show. I sat with Andrea and Claire and a couple of other people from the writing workshop. Opening once again this year was singer and multi-instrumentalist Kayla Briët (I’m still envious of her guzheng). Then we got to see a sneak peek from the forthcoming film Loving, about Richard and Mildred Loving, of Loving vs. Virginia fame.

The other performers were:

  • Lichelli, who delivered a monologue about hair
  • Andrew J. Figueroa “Fig,” who went to Hampshire College and who performed amazing, amazing…Hip-Hop, I guess? (I’m going by his bio; I’m terrible with music genres). His piece on being harassed by a policeman in high school blew me away.
  • Maya Azucena, who’s singing and stage presence were also very impressive and stirring

The Storyteller’s Prize went to Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans for their picture book Mixed Me! I belatedly realized that Taye Diggs was a way bigger deal than I knew (this seems to happen to me a lot, since I’m so out of it when it comes to pop culture and/or the entertainment industry).

Like last year, the live show was exciting, invigorating, and cathartic. Afterwards, there was another reception with cake. I chatted with Andrea and met a few more people before heading home. I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival!

The Wildings Cover

Last week when I shared the title and description for Wildings, the companion to Sparkers, I had no idea I would be able to reveal the cover so soon. But it’s ready, so here it is!

Wildings Cover

The art is by Manuel Sumberac, and it reveals something that was not mentioned at all in the book description, namely, that music plays a big role in Wildings! Did you think I could write a book that wasn’t about music? What’s more, I finally wrote a cellist!

This cover is quite different from the Sparkers cover, and I love both of them. I hope this one makes you more excited for Wildings!

Wildings: The Companion to Sparkers!

The time has come…to stop being coy about Book 2! So, here goes: My second book is entitled Wildings  and is due out November 1st. It’s a companion (not a sequel) to Sparkers, and it begins five years after the events of the first book. The main character is Rivka Kadmiel, a wealthy magician girl from the city of Atsan. At the beginning of the book, she moves to Ashara, the city where Sparkers is set. Here’s my publisher’s description:

Rivka is one of the magical elite and the daughter of an important ambassador. But she harbors a deep secret: She once had a twin brother, Arik. When Arik failed to develop his own magical abilities, the government declared him a wilding, removed him from his home, placed him with non-magical adoptive parents, and forbade him any contact with his birth family. Now it is as if he never existed at all.

But Rivka refuses to forget her twin brother. Even though she knows she could lose everything—her father, her friends, even her freedom—she sets out to find Arik. She has nothing to go on except her still-new magical powers and her love for her brother. Can that possibly be enough to bring them together again, when all of society believes they belong apart? 

Several characters from Sparkers appear in Wildings. In particular, Marah’s brother Caleb plays a bigger role than he did in the first book.

Wildings is now on Goodreads. I don’t have a cover yet, but I’m looking forward to sharing it with you when I do!