Monday, October 27, 2014

The Dream

Anna didn't make a national team.

Which made her a little sad, but, you know, she's eight. Lots of time for getting even more awesome at gymnastics, right?

The amazing thing is this:

As we were walking together, alone, on the way to pick up Naomi from preschool, I asked her if it was worth it.

"All the summer testing meets, all the fundraising, all the two-a-day practices ... Do you want to keep doing this? I mean, I know you did your best down in Texas, so what if you go to testing every year for all three years and your best is never good enough? Will it be worth it?"

She didn't hesitate. "Yes!"

I took a deep breath. Okay. One step at a time. My mama brain so often wants to go into overdrive when I think about the future.

"Because, Mom," she went on, "if I keep working really hard, maybe next time my best will be the best."

Just a little reminder on a Monday morning for all of you out there pursuing a dream. xo

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Back from Karolyi Ranch

We got back from Houston yesterday. What a fun trip we had! Anna did a great job testing, so now we're waiting a few weeks for the results. 

I don't have high expectations. I'm just glad she had fun, showed her best to the judges, and that we got to experience the Karolyi Ranch with our friends. What a cool place! 

Here are a few pictures:

Handstands at the Walk of Fame, Karolyi Ranch


The girls and their coaches
Right before testing: Anna covered her face in sparkles, which is why she looks slightly alien-like. 

I also got to have dinner with my dear friend and critique partner, Kristin Rae (author of the YA, WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN). Her six-week-old baby, Layla, is soooo adorable! We had a blast and even conspired together over secret projects. (So excited!!) 


Monday, October 6, 2014

Krista's cover! ...and Gymnastics News

Last week, my good buddy Krista revealed the cover for her gorgeous MG debut, THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING. 

I am in love with this cover! What do you think? I'm so excited for this book to come out. I got to read an early version, but I know Krista has worked on it a ton since then.

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.

But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches Takuma English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when his memories start to resurface, Ella Mae learns some shocking truths about her own family and more importantly, what it means to love. 

THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING will be out in May of next year. In the meantime, you can pre-order wherever books are sold.  


In other news, I leave with my daughter Anna for Texas on Friday so she can participate in National Gymnastics Testing at the Olympic Training Center. Exciting times! Please pray for us, that we have peace and safety in our journey, and that Anna stays healthy and uninjured for testing. THANK YOU!

Anna and her teammates. She's far right. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Heart with my Homeland

Hong Kong, the city where I lived for thirteen years growing up, is in turmoil. Students and other protesters have taken to the streets to decry Beijing's decision to allow them only a shadow-version of universal suffrage. Beijing wants to approve candidates for Hong Kong's head honcho, the chief executive, before Hong Kong people get a chance to vote. Hong Kong people aren't happy about that.
This is a good article if you're looking for more information about the dispute:

I love Hong Kong.

I cried the day it was handed back to China in July, 1997. At that point, I wasn't sure what was best for Hong Kong. British rule had certainly proved prosperous for Hong Kong, but money isn't everything. I knew there were undercurrents of racism that tainted the territory thanks to its colonial status. Communism scared a lot of people, including me. Could China be trusted to stick to its agreement not to interfere with Hong Kong for fifty years? And after fifty years, what then? I cried because of change. The future was hazy. I didn't want to lose my home as I remembered it.

Fast forward nearly twenty years. I haven't lived in Hong Kong since I left for college, but I visited my parents and sister there. As a visitor, daily life seemed untouched. It was the same mesmerizing, fast-paced city in which I'd grown up ... with a lot more mainland Chinese people on the streets and in the theme parks. That part didn't bother me too much. I lived in mainland China for eight years of that time, and I actually appreciated being able to use my Mandarin skills on the streets. But I could sense the frustration from Hong Kong people and even understand it. Mainland people flooded Hong Kong, buying up apartments and supplies. Hong Kong people didn't appreciate the rise in this kind of "tourism." They wanted their city back.

And now this. Beijing acts like a controlling grandfather. "What am I doing wrong? I'm giving them universal suffrage, like they want! If I want to screen their candidates first, what's wrong with that? I want someone as chief executive who loves Hong Kong, loves China.... (Because obviously, Hong Kong people can't be trusted to find that kind of person for themselves.)"

In an ideal world, I'd love Beijing to take a step back and leave Hong Kong alone. Hong Kong doesn't need (or apparently want) to be controlled. But of course, China won't leave Hong Kong alone. Capitalism has worked well for Hong Kong, but the city wouldn't be part of China if it had democracy to go with it.

I feel terribly sad for everyone on the streets--the students, the other protesters, even the policemen who are vainly attempting to maintain order. The police and protesters are clashing, not necessarily because they disagree, but because the protesters are out on a mission to disobey, to shut down commerce, to make a point, and that goes against law and order. It's an inevitable run-in. Should police be using tear gas to disperse the crowds? No. But I think we should be thankful at this point the PLA hasn't been called in, and hope China knows better than to repeat a Tiananmen Square-type crack down in Central.

My mom told me yesterday that the protests were spreading to Kowloon Peninsula. I don't know how this can end well. I desperately want peace, but I want democracy for Hong Kong, too. They've tasted what political freedom feels like. Once that happens, going back under a Communist yoke must feel intolerable.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sneak Peek: Inside Red Butterfly

The February release is fast approaching ... and so is my deadline for my last edit of Red Butterfly.

I took a few snapshots of the gorgeous interior. 

I'm thrilled with Amy June Bate's stunning artwork, which adds so much to the novel. 

Title page

First poem

How I love these exquisite bird cages!

Illustrator Amy made her own newsprint, adding so much texture to her art. Love!

This poem is my main character Kara's personal Tar Beach moment. 

What do you think? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Progress Report: What I'm Working On

A writer's work is never done. There's always something we could be working on, right?  I have three projects in different stages of development at the moment.

My novel, Red Butterfly (out in Feb, 2015), will soon be ready for its very last round of edits. I'm waiting to get that final, final print out, which is my last chance to tweak.

While I'm in waiting-mode with that, I've been busy on a couple new books.

One is a middle grade time-travel novel, written in prose. I want to say this is the third draft, but to be honest, I've lost track. I heard back from one of my critique partners recently and have been treating the book like a jigsaw puzzle ever since, ripping it into pieces and rearranging. The whole beginning has been rewritten/reorganized, so I'm at a place now where I'm doing a straight edit on the last two-thirds, which hopefully will be able to stay pretty much intact. (Except for the ending; endings are my nemesis.)

The other is a historical verse novel set in 1920s China. I love this book, but I won't lie, the research it requires has been challenging. As many of you know, I traveled to Hong Kong last April to get a head-start on my research. My main character has joined a traveling Cantonese opera troupe, and there is not a lot of written history about this lifestyle, and most of what has been written about it is in Cantonese. I've set this one aside for a little while as I try to finish up the time-travel story. Hopefully I can come back to it in a month or so with new eyes. Meanwhile, if anyone knows of any great biographies or histories about 1920s southern China, let me know the titles in the comments! There definitely could be something I've missed.

If you're a writer, are you working on anything new or exciting? How's it going? 

Photo credit: pedrojperez from

Monday, September 8, 2014

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading this September?

I always seem to be in the middle of a few books.

I just finished this one:

GOOD CHINESE WIFE: I was attracted to this memoir because the author, Susan Blumberg-Kason, is an online writerly friend of mine and we have a Hong Kong connection. I've followed her blog for ages. This was an interesting read, as her story traces the complexities of a bi-cultural marriage that didn't work out because of massive communication breakdown. I loved seeing Hong Kong and mainland China through Susan's eyes. And, funnily enough, I found out we went to the same Hong Kong doctor! Small world.  

THE SCORPIO RACES: I just started this one a few nights ago. So far, I like it. I know it's very popular. Has anyone else read it? I'm still at the very beginning, so no spoilers, please! 

THE BOOK THIEF: This book is wonderful, but it's taking me forever to get through it. I'm talking MONTHS. Which seems ridiculous, because it's so beautiful and tragic. But I think that's part of the reason it's taking me so long: I want to savor every word and not rush through any of it. I'm not eager for it to end in the slightest. I know this is another hugely popular book. Have any of you read it or seen the movie? (I haven't.) 

I'd love to hear what you're reading now. Let me know in the comments!