Tag Archive | Red Balloon

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)

Sparkers Launch Party at Red Balloon

Today is the official publication day of Sparkers! It’s out in the world. It’s hard to believe this day has finally arrived, and yet today also feels like any other day. I’m grateful to everyone who has taught me, advised me, cheered me on, and kept me company along the way.

Last Friday, I had my launch party at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. As I’ve mentioned before, this is the children’s bookstore where I met Eoin Colfer when I was in middle school. During my volunteer year, I lived in the neighborhood and loved being able to walk to Red Balloon whenever I wanted. It was a dream come true to have the Sparkers release party there.

A lovely crowd came out to celebrate with me, including much of my extended family, several of my high school friends, parents and siblings of high school friends who have left the Twin Cities, some of my parents’ friends, my 7th and 12th grade English teachers, my 5th, 9th, and 11th grade French teacher (and her friends from France!), a bunch of church members, two of my Beth Shalom housemates, my former boss at the interfaith advocacy organization, a bunch of my former colleagues from the non-profit/advocacy world, and my cello teacher. I was touched by everyone’s support and enthusiasm.

And now, a few photos from the party…

Books

Books!

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Me with books!

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Red Balloon ordered this gorgeous cake, complete with edible glitter and a frosting violin

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Me talking (and note Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen’s The Dark!)

friends in the audience

Friends, teachers, coworkers!

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Hoping I’ve developed a consistent signature…

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I’ve perfected the “little grandmother” look. (Photo by Laura C.)

Thank you to the Red Balloon staff for hosting such a wonderful party for me and thank you to everyone who came!

Autumn At Last

Sparkers‘ publication date is less than one week away! If you live in the Twin Cities or nearby, you are most welcome to join me for my launch party at Red Balloon Bookshop on Grand Avenue in St. Paul this Friday (in two days!) at 6:30pm.

I left Los Angeles last Thursday at the tail end of a short but brutal heat wave, and I was eagerly anticipating experiencing some proper fall weather. I was in luck. Within half an hour of disembarking from my plane, I was speeding toward all the best that autumn in Minnesota has to offer. My brother and I were due to play an arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon for our cousin’s wedding in two days and had yet to rehearse together, so I was heading to his school for a quick practice session.

The charming town of Northfield, MN is home to two small liberal arts colleges (and a Malt-O-Meal factory). My childhood best friend attended Carleton College, and my brother studies at St. Olaf College (or Count Olaf College, as I like to call it). Because of all these connections, my family and our family friends had often visited these colleges in the fall and bought apple cider doughnuts at a farm along the road to Northfield. I, of course, was never around in the fall, and so despite having heard about these doughnuts many times, I had never tasted one. On this trip, I was determined to have one.

So before reaching St. Olaf, we stopped at Fireside Orchards. It was a glorious fall afternoon, sunny and warm, but not hot. At the edge of the parking lot, enormous pumpkins rested on the grass, and a stone’s throw away, rows of apple trees marched down the slope. Inside the shop were the famous apple cider doughnuts, as well as apple pie, apple cider, and bags of apples (SweeTangos, the first Honeycrisps, etc.). Not to mention jams, honey, maple syrup, homemade fudge, and cheese curds.

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At Fireside Orchards, about to enjoy an apple cider doughnut

The doughnut was scrumptious.

The rest of the weekend was dominated by wedding preparations and festivities. Friends and relatives came from every corner of the country (California, Florida, New York City). Everyone in the family was hosting someone. My brother and I squeezed in more last minute rehearsals. The afternoon of the wedding was sunny and breezy. For the ceremony, my grandmother wore a cheongsam handmade for her in Hong Kong in the 1960s. My brother and I pulled off the processional without a hitch. A storm rolled in, and we all drove through the rain to the reception, which was held in a chalet at the foot of a (still green) ski slope. Before dinner, the sun broke through the clouds, and a double rainbow glowed in the sky.

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Cousins of the groom and processional musicians

Last but not least, I may have missed the Glewwe reunion earlier this month, but my family saved me this genuine paper grocery bag from one of the Glewwe grocery stores in South St. Paul. Somebody found a box of them in their house. The first Glewwe grocery store was opened in 1905 by Henry Glewwe, the brother of my great-great-grandfather (or my grandfather’s great-uncle). He ultimately opened three stores, and the last Glewwe’s closed in 1986.

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Launch Party Date + A Mini-Rant

I’m excited to announce the time and place of my release party for Sparkers: Friday, September 26th, 2014 at 6:30pm at Red Balloon Bookshop in Saint Paul, MN! I lived just a few blocks away from Red Balloon last year, and its proximity was one of the best parts of living in that neighborhood. Red Balloon is where I met Eoin Colfer (when I was…12?) and Maggie Stiefvater (when I was 21). Back in October 2012, as Maggie Stiefvater dedicated my copy of The Raven Boys, I couldn’t have imagined that two years later I would be celebrating the publication of my first book in the same store. The party is still a ways off, of course, but feel free to mark your calendars.

Now for the (entirely unrelated) mini-rant. Last week, Slate ran a piece about young adult (YA) literature, something to the effect that adults should be ashamed of reading YA books. If you haven’t already read the article and want to, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding it (though in addition to the article itself your search will undoubtedly turn up scads of rebuttals–the piece hit a nerve). A new commentary lamenting the choices of the reading public and/or expounding on what’s wrong with YA literature appears every couple of months, so this wasn’t exactly surprising, but I think this deliberately provocative article particularly irked readers and writers of YA and middle grade (MG). Others have already responded to the Slate piece more deftly than I will be able to, but I can’t help sharing some of the thoughts I had as I read the article because it was so astoundingly condescending and at times so blatantly wrong that I was practically sputtering at my computer screen as I scrolled through.

First off, it alarms me that the author casually dismisses all genre fiction out of hand in order to focus on the only kind of YA books she is even willing to consider as potentially worthy of adult consumption, namely, YA contemporary. There is no reason why realistic fiction should automatically be elevated above science fiction, fantasy, etc. in either the adult or YA/children’s realm. I don’t believe in a hierarchy of genres. There are excellent books and less excellent books in every genre.

The author states that she didn’t cry when she read a certain bestselling YA novel about two teenagers with cancer. Great. Neither did I. She is entitled to find that novel occasionally eye roll-inducing, but there’s no need to be smug about it and imply that she’s more sophisticated than those adult readers who genuinely enjoyed the book.

The author sets up a clear dichotomy between YA novels, which have “uniformly satisfying” endings, and adult novels, which presumably have complex, ambiguous, or open-ended endings. This is kind of ridiculous. There are YA and MG books in which not every loose end is tied up*, and there are in fact whole classes of adult novels in which satisfying endings are de rigueur. Of course, it’s pretty clear that when the author talks about books for adults she’s only talking about serious, literary fiction (Literature with a capital L–however you define it), but if that’s the case, why single out YA novels for disparagement? Does she think adults should be equally ashamed of reading category romance or cozy mysteries (examples I give with caution, since I know very little about them)? My hunch is she does think so, but she doesn’t talk about it because it would undermine her argument that adults reading adult books = good and adults reading YA books = bad.

Then I got to this: “These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.” At this point, it became obvious that the author simply didn’t know what she was talking about. She can’t have read many books for teenagers or even for children. Because this sentence is flat-out false. When I read it, the first work that leaped to my mind was Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I am fascinated by these books in large part because they’re practically the epitome of “the emotional and moral ambiguity” that the Slate writer claims doesn’t exist in YA. A Series of Unfortunate Events isn’t even YA, it’s MG, which means it’s for even younger children.

For those not familiar with it, A Series of Unfortunate Events is about three siblings, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, who are delivered into the hands of a villainous guardian after their parents perish in a fire. The first few books chronicle their woes as they move from one incompetent guardian to the next, always being pursued by their first guardian, who is after their parents’ fortune. Part of the charm of the books is the narrator’s constant warnings to the reader that this tale is not a happy one. Many installments in the series end in the Baudelaires’ failure to accomplish what they had hoped. The guardians who love them die; their new friends are torn from them or betray them. As the series progresses, the line between heroes and villains blurs, and what previously seemed black and white collapses into murky gray. The Baudelaires find themselves making choices of dubious morality and even hurting others to try to escape their enemies and save themselves and their friends. They doubt their past decisions and are no longer proud of or comfortable with themselves. I’m afraid I’m making this sound very dry; the books are not, and you should read them! The point is, A Series of Unfortunate Events is rife with moral ambiguity.

I also point to this series to refute the claim that all books for young people have neat, satisfying endings. As I read Books 10, 11, 12, I wondered how Lemony Snicket was going to end things. He couldn’t come through with a happy ending in the final book because the whole premise of A Series of Unfortunate Events was that it was an unhappy story. An ending in which all was resolved would destroy the integrity of the series. But surely he couldn’t end with the Baudelaires’ ultimate defeat or even death because he had legions of young fans who would be crushed, right? I seriously wondered how Lemony Snicket was ever going to pull off a fitting conclusion to the series. But guess what? He did. The last volume ended not happily, not unhappily, but ambiguously. He left so many unanswered questions. And it was so right. It was the ending the series called for, and it proves that not all children’s books have simple endings.

When articles like the recent one in Slate come out, people sometimes respond by quoting Madeleine L’Engle (“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children”) or Philip Pullman (“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book”). This makes me uneasy too. Not the quotes themselves, but the way in which they’re sometimes used, defensively, or sometimes even smugly. In such a context, these quotes imply that, actually, it’s books for young people that are superior. This strikes me as playing the same game as articles that exalt adult literature and denigrate YA or MG literature. Why should we even have this debate?

I read books for adults and books for children and teenagers. Admittedly, the vast majority of what I read is YA or MG. I feel like I never really left the teen section of the library. When someone tosses out that statistic about how half of all YA books are bought by people over 18 (some of whom may be buying the books for teens, of course), it usually takes me a second to remember that, oh, right, they’re talking about me. I’m one of those adult buyers now.

The thing is, reading YA doesn’t prevent you from reading adult literature too, and neither is inherently superior to the other. Why don’t we just respect everyone’s right to read what they like? If a sixth grader wants to read War and Peace, let her. If adults enjoy books for young people, more power to them. If you’re having snide thoughts about someone else’s choice of reading material (I know I have), that’s okay, but maybe keep them to yourself.

Did I say this was going to be a mini-rant? I guess it wasn’t so mini. Ah, well. Happy reading to all.

*Incidentally, School Library Journal‘s recent review of Sparkers counts my book among these when it says that “[n]ot everything is wrapped up neatly” in it. I was honestly a bit surprised, but I’m delighted someone might consider my novel a counterexample to the Slate piece’s claim that all YA and children’s books’ endings are tied up in a bow.