Blurb: Elizabeth is a young mouse who wants to be a sailor like her father. Her father tells her a sailor must use the stars to find his way, but to Elizabeth, all stars look the same. Then her mother makes her aconstellation quilt. When her father is lost at sea, Elizabeth is the one who sails to rescue him, armed with her quilt and her new knowledge of the stars.
32 pages, color, cloth
Publication date: July 1, 2015
Publisher: Tumblehome Learning, Inc.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m from Piedmont, California. My mom is from Taiwan and my dad is from Hong Kong. I have two sisters and one brother. I began painting and drawing at a very young age, about 5 years old, and honestly didn’t see it as a possible profession when I entered college. When I started college I wanted to be a psychiatrist or counselor. But soon, after attending a few classes, I found, “wow I don’t agree with a lot of this!” Then I chose studio art because it’s something I just always did. I think because it was intuitive to me for so long, I kind of took it for granted and stopped making artwork for a couple years. During that period of time, I realized how much it meant to me, so I began to figure out how I wanted to use my artistic voice. I am still figuring it out now, still very open to exploring where my work could take me.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
You know that’s a very interesting and difficult question to answer. It requires a very long and round about response, but I’ll do my best. I used to be a fine artist and the purpose of my art work was advocacy. A lot of the content in my paintings and murals were very serious and after a couple of years, I began to realize it just wasn’t for me. My work now is more of an escape and for some reason that resonates with who I am more. I really admire the people that can deal with the more serious narratives. I guess I love a happy ending. I started to look at a lot of children’s books. I really like the way that a children’s book had the potential to tell a serious story, but in a hopeful way. That’s something I, as a child, would have wanted more of, optimism and hope. In a way that’s why I want to write stories for kids, to provide a look into a very complicated world that always has a silver lining.
So anyways, I took a continuing education Children’s Book class at School of Visual Arts, taught by Katie Yamazaki, who by the way is an AMAZING teacher and children’s book illustrator/writer. I wrote my first book, what is now “Elizabeth’s Constellation Quilt”. The story was very different when I first wrote it. I sent the book dummy to publishing houses, told everyone about it, sent out emails to many people, including Barney from Tumblehome learning. About six months later Barney got back to me and said his press might be interested, if I could make some changes to the story to fit the mission of the press more. I’d like to think I’m a flexible and creatively resourceful person, so I was open to creating a new story for them.
How do you create your characters?
There is really no exact formula, at least not for me at this point. Like I said before, I’m still exploring. The idea for Elizabeth came from looking at myself and my own family. Before Elizabeth, the character was Olive, so that’s me. Then as the story changed, it called for a different kind of character. That is when I thought of Elizabeth, my oldest sister. Basing my characters off of real people in my life, is a way for me to feel really connected to the character and connected to the story. I don’t know that I’ll always work that way though. Many of my ideas also have started with an image, a feeling, or something/someone I saw on the street.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
I got into writing because I just like to tell stories in this specific way. Naturally I am a more serious person so the root of my stories usually relate to a serious topic, but because it’s for children, I can be more fantastic and hopeful. These are the kinds of stories I like and am inspired by. When I read, watch movies, or write, it is an escape for me.
I like to feel like there are things in the world I don’t understand. It’s those moments that inspire me the most, moments where life feels magical and mysterious. That might sound kind of strange, but I think I already can be SO serious, that I just get tired of it. Being able to create things that focus on the positive parts of life is very gratifying.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
At certain points, when I’m writing a story, music helps a lot. A quiet room, sun coming in through the windows, and a comfy chair are also helpful.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
A lot of my ideas come from things I see when I’m walking around outside or on the street. A lot of the time, I’m always thinking about all the things I have to do or am feeling anxious about some project, but if I’m in the right mindset, an idea can come anything I see. So I guess my ideas depend less on the object of inspiration, and more on if I’m being present and really looking at world around me.
I look at and notice people, nature, weather, and lighting. All these things and how they interact with one another are inspiring.
What do you like to read?
I like fantasy and adventure books. Right now I read a lot of comic books. A few of my favorite children’s books are “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman, “ Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More to Life” by Maurice Sendack. Some illustrators I like are Oliver Jeffers, David Nytra and many more.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
I would say to focus on finding your voice and telling stories you believe in. Promoting your work and finding people that will support you and publish your work is important and gratifying, but having a really clear idea of what your trying to do and say in your work, will help with everything else.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am just really happy and honored that you wanted to interview me. Thank you!