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, Tor.com, 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, TropMag.com and AngryAsianMan.com, 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!

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