Part 2 of NerdVana Podcast featuring Summoning the Phoenix Launch Party at Kepler’s!

Emily & April being interviewed by JC & Chuck at Kepler’s before the Summoning the Phoenix book party. Photo by Nathan Kopp.

I’m grateful to my wonderful friends JC & Chuck & Noah of the NerdVana Podcast for covering the Summoning the Phoenix Book Launch Party at Kepler’s! Last week they debuted their podcast of Part 1, which included an interview of me and April Chu.  Today both episodes are now available: Part 1 (in which I talk A LOT – you have been warned) and Part 2 (in which other very smart people have a chance to talk including April, Angela, Jerry, Ken). And both have awesome music from the kid musicians of the California Youth Chinese Symphony. You can listen to Parts 1 & 2 at NerdVana Podcast!

Music performance
can be captured so well by
audio podcast!

My Book Party for Summoning the Phoenix at Books Inc. in Berkeley

BookParty-BooksInc-EmNormalClothes-PosterWindowThe Summoning the Phoenix Book Tour Around the San Francisco Bay continued on Sunday, April 27th, at Books Inc. in Berkeley!  They were so great about putting my cover in their front window and I was stunned at the awesome flyers that lined the street lamps on my way to the store!



For Books Inc. in Berkeley, 25 RSVP’ed YES and 21 Maybe.  So we were expecting 30-40 people. I debated about whether to bring in my last box of books, in case we sold out, and I’m glad I did.  In the end, we had maybe 50-60 folks, perhaps half of them included families with small children. The hardworking staff at Books Inc. had to get more seats and it was eventually standing-room only.  Plus, they sold out all their stock and needed to open my last box of books.

April Chu speaking to a full audience. But you can’t see the people standing among the bookshelves. Photo by Emily Jiang.

We had wonderful performances by girls from the California Youth Chinese Symphony:

Girls from the California Youth Chinese Symphony playing the dizi (bamboo flute). Photo by Mike Jung.

My last-minute change in the program was to add opportunities for people to write statements for #WeNeedDiverseBoooks.

Emily Jiang promoting #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Photo by Mike Jung.

Special thanks to Word Wranglers Mike Jung, Ryan Harris & Julie Harris for helping put together some last-minute #WeNeedDiverseBooks.









Eve Sweetser wrote my favorite:  “We Need Diverse Books because I love cellos, but I wouldn’t want to ONLY have orchestras of JUST cellos.”

And LOOK AT all the awesome folks in support of #WeNeedDiverseBooks:

All the children’s book creators: Mike Jung holding “because”, Darcey Rosenblatt holding “WE”, J.L. Powers holding “DIVERSITY”, Daniel San Souci & wife holding “NEED” and many wonderful friends holding up all the other necessary words! Photo by Ryan Harris.

April and I signed for quite a while, and it was thrilling to see beloved faces and new ones.  So many adorable little kids, many of them
mixed race!  Some of them loved my chop that I had hand-carved when I was in China.

Emily demonstrating how she signs with her Chinese chop. Photo by Aaron Lum.


Thank you Juan Alvarado Valdivia for demonstrating his statement for #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Thanks to Darcey Rosenblatt for taking the photo.

Thank you to the efficiently hardworking staff at Books Inc. in Berkeley: Schyler (for coordinating everything & helping me find my camcorder), Melanie (for on-site event management & helping me find my keys) , Josh (for schlepping my stuff & helping me find my phone & chop), Liz, Chris.  You are so wonderful and I hope you enjoy the cake!  Thank you to the wonderful young musicians of the California Youth Chinese Symphony and their parents for driving all the way from the South Bay!

BookParty-BooksInc-2cakesA huge thank you to Kirsten for baking the most amazingly moist white & chocolate cakes & to Aaron & Teddy for communication and moral support. Thank you J.L. Powers & Nesta for providing paper & markers & pre-party entertainment.  Thank you to Mike Jung for his expert word making skills.  Thank you Eve for fixing the connection between my laptop and the projector.  Thank you Ryan & Julie for helping with the book.  Thank you Juan for being my guinea pig in front of the entire audience.  So great to meet Twitter friend Catherine Johnston who brought her beautiful daughter (dressed gorgeously in bright pink!) who was originally adopted from China. Also wonderful to meet Facebook friend illustrator Daniel San Souci and his lovely wife in person. Thanks to many other wonderful friends:  Darcey, Aaron, Brian, Diane, Trishalana, Irene, Chris, Zuli.

Special thanks to my dear friends Arlin, Otutte, and Amate, who made the trek out to Berekely Books Inc. from San Francisco TWICE in one weekend.  And they brought me beautiful flowers!


Note to self: Paper scripts & scripts on my phone can still get lost, no matter how hard I try to keep them on me at all times. Enjoy the moment.

Author Emily Jiang & Illustrator April Chu holding their book. Photo by Aaron Lum.

Thankful Thursday – Podcast of My Kepler’s Book Party

I’m grateful to my friends JC & Chuck & Noah of the NerdVana Podcast for covering the SUMMONING THE PHOENIX book party at Kepler’s last Saturday! The first episode of the podcast from our party is up today & features an interview with me and April Chu! I had written out all my answers, but then ended up extemporizing, which then led to some long answers.  There should also be some awesome music played by kids of the California Youth Chinese Symphony as well. 

Emily & April being interviewed by JC & Chuck at Kepler’s before the Summoning the Phoenix book party. Photo by Nathan Kopp.

To listen, just click on the link that says “Summoning the Phoenix at Kepler’s Pt 1” that has a date of [4/19/14] #093 (warning, it’s about 45 minutes long & I talk a lot).

Listen to the podcast of Summoning the Phoenix at Kepler’s Pt 1 [4/19/14] #093 at NerdVana Podcast!

This is only Part 1.  Part 2 of the podcast will air next week 4/30.

Podcasting is so
different from writing–you can’t
really rewrite speech.


Review for Summoning the Phoenix in Foreword Reviews!

My Lee & Low editor Louise May forwarded a nice review of Summoning the Phoenix in Foreword Reviews.  Here’s the actual text:

“Traditional Chinese musical instruments take center stage in this encyclopedia that uses accessible poetry and magnificent artwork to educate and entertain.  The children in these brilliantly detailed illustrations play mostly unfamiliar instruments, all of which are described in the corresponding column of text.  The poems chronicling the students’ preparation for their concert gives readers choices in how they wish to digest the book’s wealth of information.”

It’s always cool when
a stranger likes your work and
writes a good review.

My Book Launch Party for Summoning the Phoenix at Kepler’s Books

SummoningPhoenixATkeplers-CloseupWindow2I’d always envisioned my first book launch to be at Kepler’s ever since I was an English major in college.  When I visited during college breaks, my friends and I would beeline to Kepler’s, browse the bookstore, and indulge in frosted mochas next door at Cafe Borrone.  As an adult, I love going to Kepler’s author events, and often visualized myself there one day.  So imagine my excitement when I finally sold a picture book!  One of the first things I did was inform Angela, the Youth Events Manager at Kepler’s, and her immediate response was, “We’d be happy to launch your book!”  It was the first step to my dream coming true.

The road to achieve my dream of publication was not completely smooth, nor all that predictably.  My book was delayed indefinitely, then was acquired by a wonderful new publisher in Lee & Low, so in the end, I’m very grateful for everything.  I had a similar experience with my actual book launch at Kepler’s.  There was just so much going on that day that I had made a timeline that meticulously outlined where and what I needed to do every 15 minutes.  Nothing went according to schedule, yet everything somehow worked out in the end.

It started with the cake.  I had purchased a cake transfer, and the decorator at the local Safeway inexpertly applied it so that the cover was wrinkled.  Thankfully you can’t tell in my picture unless you see very closely.  But ultimately, you can read the words and see Aprils beautiful artwork clearly, and that’s what matters most.  That and it happens to be red velvet cake, which is April’s favorite as well as mine!


My author’s big dream–
have a book party, where I
eat my book’s cover.

Summoning the Phoenix Display Table at Kepler’s.  Photo by Adam Lasnik

When I entered Kepler’s they had already set up a wonderful display table of Summoning the Phoenix right in front.  It’s literally the first thing you see when you enter the store.  April and I added the postcards, book marks, and stickers that April so beautifully designed.

A wonderful group of my friends gathered for a leisurely brunch before my party.  They even moved it earlier so I could attend, and we gathered three or four tables in a cozy corner.  Mostly I dropped by to say hi and hug people as they arrived while I was running around setting up for the party.  The staff at Kepler’s is so awesome and totally joined me into all sorts of fun last-minute promotional tasks, like putting my giant poster of April’s art in their window.


The glare on the window was a bit tricky, but I kind of like how the picture below looks like the banner is on fire, just like a phoenix!

April & Emily pointing to their new huge window display at Kepler’s! Photo by Steve Chien.

The sunlight bounces
off the glass, a happy glow,
like phoenix fire.

Then the kind Kepler’s staff allowed me to change in their private space, and I donned my red Chinese-inspired costume just in time to be interviewed by JC and Chuck of The NerdVana Podcast.

Emily & April being interviewed by JC & Chuck of The NerdVana Podcast. Photo by Nathan Kopp.

The interview was quite fun.  April noticed that I had typed out my answers, to which I said, “I’m a writer.”  But in the end I ended up improvising because it’s difficult for me to keep to a script when I’m actually talking to people in person.

I over-prepare
because I am a writer,
always revising.

At the very beginning of the session,  I dropped my phone, and lost my script, so again I improvised.  Then technical difficulties with the projector at the very beginning gave me an opportunity to interview the five young musicians from the California Youth Chinese Symphony.  They ranged in ages from 6 to 13, and they were very sweet and a little shy.  These kids are super talented!

Emily introducing the young & talented musicians of the California Youth Chinese Symphony. Photo by Adam Lasnik.

Parents, teach your kids
the joys of music right now.
It will change their lives.

Thankfully, Jennifer’s awesome husband was able to fix the connection between my laptop and the projector.  Whew!  So I read from the book and flashed the corresponding pages onto the big screen.

Author Emily introducing the title page of summoning the Phoenix. Photo by Richard Man.
Author Emily introducing the title page of Summoning the Phoenix. Photo by Richard Man.
Author Emily Jiang reading her poem “Painting with Sound” about the guzheng. Photo by Richard Man.
Author Emily reads from her book Summoning the Phoenix. Photo by Richard Man.

I’m reading my book
to my friends as if they are
children once again.

After I spoke, Elaine and Emily (not to be confused with the author) played the dizi (or bamboo flute).  They played together, then Elaine, picture alone below, played a solo.

Elaine & Emily play a fun duet on the dizi in the key of G. Photo by Richard Man.
Elaine playing a lively solo on the dizi in the key of F. Photo by Richard Man.


A lively dizi
melody will warble like
a young bird singing.

Then April gave an excellent talk about her illustration process.  My favorite one was how she came up with the xiao illustration, which was also the artwork for our book’s cover.  You can just see how it evolves from her sketches.

April introduces her original sketch for the poem “Magical Melody” about the xiao. Photo by Richard Man.
April discusses her revised idea for “Magical Melody.” Photo by Richard Man.
April reveals her stunning final art for “Magical Melody.” Photo by Richard Man.

Transformation of
sketches into colored art
is so magical.

 After April’s presentation, we announced that we would take a musical break during which April and I would quickly sign books.  Then we would return to the stage for a quick Chinese folksong performance and Q&A.  This was the plan.

April and Emily agreeing to the plan of returning to the stage after what was supposed to be a quick signing. Photo by Richard Man.

Bill and Justin played a duet on the erhu
(aka Chinese violin, though it looks nothing like a Western violin)
and notice they do resemble the erhu boy April drew in our book:

Bill & Justin concentrating hard on playing the erhu.  Photo by Richard Man.

Maggie played a short song on the yangqin (hammer dulcimer):

Maggie is so poised at the yanqin. Can you believe that this is her first public performance?  Photo by Richard Man.

Bill played a solo on the erhu,
accompanied by his teacher Duny on the yangqin:

Bill’s solo on the erhu was excellent.  Photo by Richard Man.

The kids played so well that little Jack stood on his chair, absolutely mesmerized by the music.  His mom, one of my dear friends, bought copy of Summoning the Phoenix for his birthday.  I predict there’s music lessons in his future!

Photo by Richard Man.

April and I were supposed to only sign a few books then return to the stage, where I would sing a Chinese folk song with my friend Yiting, then April and I were supposed to have a Q&A, but the autographing line kept growing:

Look at that long line of awesome people!  Photo by Richard Man.

So April and I kept signing…

Emily & April figuring out their autographing system.  Photo by Jeff Kellem.

…and signing….

April and Emily discovered that they were signing the same things!  Also, Emily had to hold each book up because there wasn’t enough space at the table for 2 flat books.  Photo by Richard Man.

….and signing….

A peek into how Emily uses a chop to sign!  Photo by Richard Man.

 …for over 2 hours!

Note this is 1.5 hours past our scheduled finish time, so in the end it was a good thing that we skipped the Q&A and continued signing.  Because I was also using a chop (which I had hand-carved in China), I got red ink all over my fingers.  Then my pen exploded, and black ink stained my palm.  My hands were a black and red mess, but I kept signing.  After two continuous hours, my right hand, which is my signing hand, actually started cramping!  Ouch!

Repetitive stress
injury is a real thing
when autographing!

But it was so worth it, taking the time to personalize my inscription for each and every book.  Because out of the autographing line, there were only a handful of faces that I did not recognize.  Pretty much everyone at Kepler’s was there for me, and I wanted to show them how much I appreciated their enthusiastic love and support.

Signing my book is
a symbol of gratitude.
I hope you love it.

I’m a little sad I didn’t get to sample any of our Summoning the Phoenix wine that April so cleverly branded, but there’s always the next party in Berkeley!

Look at the awesome wine that’s cleverly branded Summoning the Phoenix! Photo by Richard Man.

Finally, here is what I was planning to say in person at the very end of the Q&A that did not happen because of the large signing line.

Thank you to the awesome staff here at Kepler’s: Angela, Cressida, Chelsea, Cynthia, Kirsten, Leigh, Maggie, and Michael.  They worked so hard to help promote this party and set up these wonderful posters and displays and projector and tables and chairs.  They are, quite simply, awesome!  It’s been my dream to have a book launch at Kepler’s and I hope it will continue to be a dream for future debut authors.  But it will only happen if we continue to support them!

I’d like to give a final thank you and round of applause to the wonderful student musicians from the California Youth Chinese Symphony and their teacher Duny for helping to organize their schedules so they can make it to our party.  I hope you kids keep playing because you are SO talented!

The awesomely talented Emily, Elaine, Maggie, Justin, Bill of the California Youth Chinese Symphony. Photo by Richard Man.

A huge thank you to Toby, April’s fiancee, for bar tending and taking very seriously my notes about keeping the gluten-free goodies away from the cake.  Also, many thanks to my friend Jennifer and her family and to my friend Pam for volunteering to help behind the scenes at the last minute.  Here’s me with Jennifer and her adorable daughter Lauren, who has the distinction of being the youngest person at the party.

Emily seeing Jennifer’s daughter Lauren for the first time!  Photo by Richard Man.

Thank you special guests JC, Chuck, and Noah of the NerdVana Podcast!  They covered our entire party and interviewed April and me, and several other friends.

Mrs. Jerry & Ken being interviewed by Chuck & JC. Photo by Richard Man.

Thank you, Yiting, for singing “Jasmine Flower Song” with me!  (Note the singing of the folksong was planned but did not actually happen because the autograph session was 2 hours).  We met while singing in the Peninsula Women’s Chorus (PWC) and she’s the Marketing Chair.  She has all these postcards for our next concerts in May, so pick one up from her!

Costume by Anna Chase. Photo by Robin Carle

This wonderful Chinese-inspired costume was made by my friend Anna Chase, who is a professional seamstress, and she is always open to more clients.  Anna is also a trained actor and singer, and she currently sings with the PWC.

Thank you, Bea Fanning, another wonderful PWC singer, for being an early enthusiastic supporter and introducing me to a classroom where I could hear first hand these talented little girls playing the guzheng.  I learned from then the power of children playing music!

In fact, there are many wonderful women who are current singers and alums of the Peninsula Women’s Chorus.  So feel free to ask any of them about the concerts!

I’d like to thank my wonderful family here, my mom, my aunts, my uncle, and my cousin.  Also, April’s wonderful family, who attended our first book party, are also here for our second one!

Richard Man photographer in action. Photo by Adam Lasnik.

Thank you Richard Man and his wife Chris for officially taking pictures.

(And now on my blog I am thanking all my friends who gave me pictures, and some of them made this write up: Adam Lasnik, Jeff Kellem, Steve Chien, Robin Carisle, Karin Spirn, Cynthia Cheng, Pamela Marques)

For those of you interested in children’s music and arts education, I’d like to inform you that the California Youth Chinese Symphony offers classes over the summer.  There’s a $40 registration fee and a $50-$80 rental fee, but the classes themselves are free for six weeks.  Talk to Duny!

Maggie, Justin, Bill all warming up before the party.  Photo by Adam Lasnik.

Another wonderful local youth arts education organization is The Society of Young Inklings.  They bring in local authors to teach creative writing to school children, and they publish a wonderful anthology and have writing contests.  If you want your kids or grandkids to become more creative writers, I highly recommend you check them out.

The founder of The Society of Young Inklings, Naomi Kinsman, is also my Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in San Francisco and the Peninsula, and she has generously arranged for the first SCBWI Smooze on the Peninsula to start right after this party.  As soon as I finish signing books, please join me in the cafe next door!

April & Emily thanks everyone at Kepler’s! Photo by Richard Man.

Finally, thank you all for showing up!  I was expecting 40-50 people, but ultimately about 100 of you are here.  We packed the house at Kepler’s and sold out of their stock within the first 30 minutes!  Now they’re selling the two boxes of books that I brought (which nearly sold out, since in the end there were only 2 books left).  I’d also like to thank everyone in spirit who couldn’t make it but are supporting us with their purchases and good thoughts.  When I first arrived here this morning, the staff at Kepler’s all told me that they sold several books already to people who wanted to make it to the party but couldn’t.  I’m so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support and I just want to thank everyone  for making my Kepler’s book launch a fantastic success!

Though my original plans for the party went off schedule, the reality of my first book launch party at Kepler’s was greater than I could have ever imagined, and I am so very grateful.

The most important
part of of an event is not
plans, but the people.


NEXT BOOK PARTY will be at Books Inc. in Downtown Berkeley
and FINAL BOOK PARTY will be at Hicklebee’s in San Jose!
Join us for more awesome!

Sunday, April 27th, 2:00-4:00 PM
Books Inc., 1760 4th Street, Berkeley, California
***Our only party in the East Bay***
RSVP to Books Inc. in Berkeley on Facebook

Saturday, May 3rd, 3:00-5:00 PM
Hicklebee’s, 1378 Lincoln Avenue, San Jose, California
***In celebration of California Bookstore Day***
RSVP to Hicklebee’s in San Jose on Facebook

Tagged by My Writing Process

Jess-HeadShotMy critique partner J.L. Powers (pictured to the right) has tagged me as part of the blog tour for My Writing Process.  A wonderful YA author, anthologist, publisher, and full-time mom, this woman does it all.  We share a common mission of bringing marginalized voices into the mainstream, and I’m very honored to know her.  She has been such an important part of my creative process, always giving me wonderful feedback on my manuscript and in general about life.  She is just so wise.

Without further ado, here’s what I’ve written in response to the questions for My Writing Process, and I write in prose and in haiku:

1)     What am I working on?

SummoningPhoenixATkeplers-CloseupWindow2I am in the middle of four book parties for the month-long launch of my first chidlren’s book, Summoning the Phoenix: Poems & Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments, illustrated gorgeously by April Chu and published by Shen’s Books, the newest imprint of Lee & Low Books.  You can read more about my book and the slew of guest blog posts I’ve written here.

I’m also revising two YA novel manuscripts.  One is historical and one is contemporary, and they are both All-Asian-All-the-Time.

I’m trained in fiction
but my first book is poems
and prose. L’est la vie.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Cover for the Book Summoning the Phoenix

Summoning the Phoenix: Poems & Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments is the best book of poems and prose about Chinese musical instruments because it is the only book of poems and prose about Chinese musical instruments that’s been traditionally published.  Although the prose content is focused on Chinese subject matter, the children portrayed in the book are contemporary American children, and I asked my acquiring editor to ask my illustrator to draw ethnically diverse children to reflect the growing diverse population here in the United States.

Art in a picture
book can teach kids how to see
Other as Normal.

Photo by Donia Benke

Regarding my YA novels-in-progress.  The first novel is about a girl who illegally immigrates from China to San Francisco Chinatown right before the US joins World War II.  It’s my serious historical novel that pleases my inner child reader who loved Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, All-in-the-Kind Family, and Betsy-Tacy.  My second novel is about an Asian American teenaged girl who is big with curves, plays the cello instead of the violin, and worships Yo-Yo Ma.  It’s my funny, irreverent novel that’s my attempt to debunk Asian American stereotypes of the model minority.  I told myself I need to finish these before I can write my alternate ancient YA fantasy world that’s All-Asian-All-the-Time.  That’s the world that will satisfy my inner child reader who loves all books by Tamora Pierce, Anne McCaffrey, and Robin McKinley.

When writing for kids,
the first reader you must please
is the kid in you.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

When I decided to write for children and young adults, I made an active choice to write Asian or Asian-American protagonists.  Because we need more diversity in children’s and YA books, and I want to bring the marginalized into the mainstream.   I want to give voices to the voiceless.

Writing characters
with voices not in mainstream–
Listen!  They can sing!
4)     How does my writing process work?

Presenting some of the talented young musicians from the California Youth Chinese Symphony, who played at my book party at Kepler’s. Photo by Adam Lasnik.

I am a slow writer, and I revise a lot.  It takes me several drafts to understand why I wrote what I wrote, then many more iterations to get to a place where I’m satisfied enough to let it go.  I often get excited by shiny new ideas, but the stories I return to for revision are those whose protagonists’ voices are so strong that they compel me to write them or suffer the consequences.

For me, writing is
rewriting & revising
until it feels true.

That’s it for my entry into My Writing Process.

I asked my Facebook friends for volunteers and here are the next writers I’m tagging in My Writing Process.  I met debut author Fran Wilde & scholar/writer Sara Cleto at ICFA.  Fran is funny and so warm-hearted and our most memorable group conversation led to the formation of the inaugural John Deere flash fiction contest at ICFA.  Sara has a scholar’s intellect and a poet’s soul, and she rendered me speechless when we first met. Janice Sapigao was in my VONA residency (our group Team Galang spoofed the entire VONA faculty, including M. Evelina Galang and Junot Diaz, and we brought the house down).  All these writers are awesome people and so worth reading, and look for their entries on Monday, April 28th!

Fran Wilde is a fantasy and science fiction author. She’s worked as a science and engineering writer, a sailing instructor, a programmer and game developer, and a jeweler’s assistant. Her short stories appear or will appear in Asimov’sNature, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her interviews with writers, editors, and agents about food and fiction appear at Strange Horizons,, and on her blog under the banner “Cooking the Books.” Fran lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her family. Her first fantasy novel will debut from Tor/Macmillan in 2015.  Read her blog!

Sara Cleto is a PhD student at the Ohio State University where she studies folklore, literature, and the places where they intersect. She specializes in fairy tales, vampires, the 19th century, and disability theory, an unlikely brew that spices her creative writing and academic endeavors. Her creative work can be found in Ideomancer, Cabinet des Fees: Scheherazade’s Bequest, Niteblade, the Golden Key, and others.  Read her blog!

Janice Sapigao is a Pinay poet, writer and educator born and raised in San Jose, CA. Her work has been published in Quaint Magazine, Broad!, the anthology Empire of Funk: Hip Hop and Representation in Filipina/o America, and, among others. She has performed and organized with communities in San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles. She earned her M.F.A. in Critical Studies/Writing at CalArts. She co-founded an open mic in Los Angeles called the Sunday Jump. She lives in the Bay Area and teaches at Skyline College and San Jose City College. She is a reviewer for The Volta Blog and Jacket2. She enjoys playing with stuffed animals, drinking green tea, running and cooking. Her poetry is forthcoming in the anthologies Kuwento for Lost Things (Carayan Press, 2014) and Voices for Social Justice in Education (National Writing Project).  Read her blog!

A Poem Written on Facebook – Chair of Awesome and Friendship

For Brooke Bolander, who said “I was feeling blue about life, and then I remembered there is a chair made of awesome and friendship slowly but surely traveling towards my destination.”

What does this chair
of awesome
and friendship
look like?

Is it made of flowers?
Is it made of thorns?
Is it made of truffles?
Is it made of corn?

Does it have
Ten wings?
Or nine arms?
Or eight eyes?

Does it
Snort with glee?
Or wink with charm?
Or act surprised?

Can I sit in it?
Stand on it?
Hold onto it?

Can I bring
a friend
or two
or twenty?

Will it protect me
from monsters,
from nightmares,
from THEM?

Will it teach me
to sing
or hide
or defend?

And at bedtime,
when we’re ready to sleep,
will this chair stay with me
until dream’s end?

Interview in the Palo Alto Weekly!

I’m so honored and grateful that my local newspaper The Palo Alto Weekly has featured an article about my book launch party today at Kepler’s Books.  Thank you, A&E editor Nick Veronin for your awesome interview!

Read my Palo Alto Weekly interview on why I decided to write books for children.

Books were my best friends
as a child. I write to make best friends
for future shy kids.


Poetry Friday – “Moonlight” from A Pentatonic Moon & Poem about the Moon Guitar

It’s Poetry Friday and thank you to this week’s host Robyn Hood Black for an interesting article about the Poetry Friday science anthology!

Coincidentally continuing the science theme, I’m dedicating my Poetry Friday post to the lunar eclipse that happened earlier this week.  I stayed up late to witness the shadow crossing over the moon and the full eclipse was a fuzzy orange blur to my naked eye.  It was a really cool experience, especially since full lunar eclipses are rare; we’re lucky that this is the first of four expected within the next couple years.  So in today’s post I’m sharing two poems referencing to the moon:  “Night Thoughts” by Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai and my original poem about the Chinese moon guitar, “The Face of My Ruan” from my new picture book Summoning the Phoenix: Poems & Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments.  Please note that I discuss these poems a little more in depth in a couple guest blog posts linked below.

The first poem I learned by heart from my parents was a poem written over one thousand years ago in China by one of the country’s most famous poets, Li Bai (701-762).

Here is the poem in Chinese:



Here’s my translation (co-translated with C.L. Jiang) of the poem into English:

“Night Thoughts” by Li Bai

Before my bed I see moonlight so white
I think it is frost on the ground.
I raise my head to look at the moon so bright
I bow my head, yearning for my hometown.

If you look closely at the original Chinese poem, the phrase “bright moon”  (明月) appears twice, first time in the first line and second time in the third line.  After much discussion with my co-translator, I made a conscious decision not to repeat “bright moon” but to change my translation fit the context for a Western reader.  I substituted “white” for “bright” because I thought “white” would make more visual sense for “frost on the ground.”

Read the rest of my analysis at my guest post in celebration of National Poetry Month at Emily Kirsten Anderson’s Blog.

My translation of “Night Thoughts” and a recording of the choral music I composed using the English text was published as part of A Pentatonic Moon at Interfictions.

The Cover for the Book Summoning the Phoenix

Now I’d like to share a poem from my picture book Summoning the Phoenix about the ruan, also known as the moon guitar.

The Face of My Ruan

My ruan has two eyes
the shape of birds
while I pluck
a melody.

My ruan has a nose
of four strings
up to the flower
carved at ruan’s top.

My ruan has no mouth,
only my arm
a chord
in harmony.

Though the poem itself doesn’t directly address the moon, illustrator April Chu does include the moon in her stunning artwork of the above poem:


You can read a little more about my thoughts about this poem in my interview at The Ink Splat.

And in honor of National Haiku Day (which was yesterday), here’s a bonus third poem I wrote today about the lunar eclipse:

yellow moon sickles,
glows, reborn like a phoenix
into a blood moon

I love including haiku in my blog posts.  You can also read my write up in prose and in haiku about the first of four book parties celebrating the launch of Summoning the Phoenix in the San Francisco Bay Area.  If you live in the area, you are invited to three more book parties in three more weekends!

Thank you for reading!

Thankful Thursday – My First Book Party at Borderlands

BookParty-Borderlands-01-EmWithBookI am so grateful to the wonderful staff at Borderlands Books & Cafe In San Francisco for hosting my first book party for Summoning the Phoenix!  Not only did they volunteer to host a book event, but they also proactively invited my book’s illustrator April Chu to have her very own art show displayed in the cafe!

Borderlands is where

you can browse books and art,

sip coffee and tea.

BookParty-Borderlands-Window-Jessica Above is a photo of the Borderlands Books window display taken by Jessica Dolcourt, an old friend I hadn’t seen in person in years. This photo was the first of a number of wonderful unexpected gifts that day.  I’m grateful for the unplanned awesomeness that happened to me during the day of the party:  Meeting up spontaneously with the soulful, fun Sophia who had traveled from LA and who actually had time in her packed schedule to come to my party!  April’s brilliant idea of “Summoning the Phoenix” wine!  Raffle prizes out of my backpack!  Singing Jasmine Flower Song in Mandarin for the first time in public with Mary & having beautiful instrumental backup!  Below are me singing with Mary Tusa with Christine playing the pipa and Ellen playing the yanqin.

BookParty-Borderlands-05-FolksongOh, jasmine flower,

I sing of your beauty,

but I’d never pluck you.

We had a very warm and kind and patient audience.  With set up and such, we began about 15 minutes late, which was fine, since it gave people time to arrive, eat at the cafe, and settle.  We started with a very nicely intimate 10 or so (which was exactly the amount who RSVP’ed to my book party – yay!) then quickly expanded to fill the corner of the cafe with at least 40 folks in the end.  People just kept trickling in, and we ran out of chairs (again I was expecting 10, maybe 15 people max).  While April spoke, I quickly arranged more chairs for her family, who walked all the way from the BART station to Borderlands.  And there was an awesome cake. BookParty-Borderlands-CAKE

My dream of being

published is holding my book

and eating its cover!

Because the list of my friends who showed up was actually containable within my head, here’s a long list of thank yous. Thanks to the fantastic Borderlands staff who worked hard on the day of my book party:  Alan, Jude, Jeremy, Devony, Z’ev. Thanks to my new musician friends Christine & Ellen and their father Mike, who drove them over an hour one-way and let them miss their symphony rehearsal so that they could play beautiful music at my first book party.  Thank you to Duny of the wonderful California Youth Chinese Symphony for recommending them to me.  Christine & Ellen, are so talented and I wish you all the best! (photo below by Sunil Patel) BookParty-Borderlands-ChristineEllen Thanks to my friends who went out of their way to make my party more awesome:  Mary (for custom cake & beautiful song), Sophia (for helping with my hair and for spontaneous camcorder awesomeness), Kate (kindly buying last-minute earplugs for one of the musicians), Sunil (keeper of my not-so-awesome extra camera), new friend Toby (bartender & pusher of books), and Anna (who designed and made my very PINK costume inspired by the Tang Dynasty).  (Photo below by Sophia Chang) BookParty-Borderlands-Xiao-Sophia Thanks to my friends who rushed from rehearsal and in-between events and who I know were subjected to great stress to make it to my party:  Megan, Na’amen, Carrie, Eithne, Ciara, & Ciara’s guy. BookParty-Borderlands-03-EmXiaoThanks to my friends for your wonderfully warm presence: Jim, Kristin, & Kristin’s mom; Steven & Linda; Christian, Jennifer & Kennard; Aaron & Maria; Chris, perhaps my newest friend, who I could tell knew all about Chinese music; and Kelly, the one at Borderlands who has known me the longest.  Below is a photo of me with author friends Jim Averbeck and Kristin Elizabeth Clark attempting to play the xiao, photo taken by Kristin’s awesome mom. BookParty-Borderlands-EmJimKristin-xiaoThank you, April’s friends & family, for your fabulously positive energy and to random woman who kindly offered me a strawberry right before my book party. BookParty-Borderlands-AprilEm Thanks to everyone I know who has worked at Shen’s and Lee & Low and helped me on my book:  Renee, Louise, Hannah, Keilin, Amanda, Alyssa, John, Randy, and Lee & Low co-founder Craig. BookParty-Borderlands-03-RuanSpread Thank you, dear friends, who actively reached out to me within 24 hours before my party, wished me luck, and posted pictures of my book, all acts of kindness that helped add to my pre-party excitement and assuage my pre-party nervousness: Jessica, Erin, Dora, Mike, Mike, Andy, Fran, Fran, Shan, Linda Joy, Linda, Valerie, Andrea, Kevin, Nick, Zak, Deirdre, Ilene, Bea, Cassandra, Vicky, Rita, Dana, Dana, Debbi, Kris, Christine, Mallika, and finally Shweta & Nathaniel, who live in Scotland & ordered their books through Borderlands to be personally inscribed and autographed by me and by April.  FYI, I autograph all my books with a Chinese chop that I had personally designed and hand-carved while I was in Beijing, China.   (photo below by Megan Kurashige) BookParty-Borderlands-Signing-Megan And finally, thank you, Seanan McGuire, whose fabulously fun book events opened my eyes to the possibility that a book launch can truly be a PARTY. (photo below by Sophia Chang) BookParty-Borderlands-Cake-Sophia I’m so grateful that my party at Borderlands was a wonderful experience.  But it’s not over yet!  There are still THREE more parties in the San Francisco Bay Area with LIVE MUSIC, FREE raffle, FREE crafts for kids.  Join us as we continue the Party Around the San Francisco Bay!

Saturday, April 19th, 2:00-4:00 PM

Kepler’s Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, California ***Welcome special guests the NerdVana Podcast*** RSVP to Kepler’s in Menlo Park on Facebook

Sunday, April 27th, 2:00-4:00 PM

Books Inc., 1760 4th Street, Berkeley, California ***Our only party in the East Bay*** RSVP to Books Inc. in Berkeley on Facebook

Saturday, May 3rd, 3:00-5:00 PM

Hicklebee’s, 1378 Lincoln Avenue, San Jose, California ***In celebration of California Bookstore Day*** RSVP to Hicklebee’s in San Jose on Facebook

***Don’t use Facebook?  RVSP using the form on my home page.

 And for those of you who cannot make it to my party yet still want to buy SUMMONING THE PHOENIX and get it inscribed or personalized (like To Mary) and autographed by me and by April, Borderlands Books has a free service where they are happy to obtain those personalized signatures and mail them to you! Thank you, everyone, for your well wishes!