I could have sworn I had a blog post ready for yesterday, but I guess I didn’t because Friday has come and gone and nothing was posted. Why can’t things just do themselves without my having to lift a finger? <- That’s what I ask my dishes and vacuum cleaner regularly.
I’m not the only one whining around here.
For those who missed it, earlier in the week, author James Patterson (yes, mega-successful-and-actually-rich author Patterson) was quoted as saying that white men are now the targets of racism because it seems to him like it’s now harder for them to get published. Yeah…says the rich white guy. Like a lot of people, he’s blinded by the “scarcity myth.”
How is it that every Friday catches me by surprise? And yet it does.
I’ve been busy trying to make deadlines (and beat them), so I forgot to plan for today’s post. But, I want to tell you about some awesome classes I’ve been taking. I’m a huge believer in lifelong education. The Spousal Unit says I have too many hobbies but I love learning new things and pushing neuroplasticity to the limit.
Another program I love for learning is Masterclass. While they offer a range of courses from cooking to filmography to space exploration and more, I mostly take their classes on writing, gleaning wisdom from Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Billy Collins, Salman Rushdie, etc. @ me on Twitter if you want me to give you a guest pass to try a class out!
I leave you with a lovely quote from Billy Collins: “Your page is always lit with the candles of the past.” and I might add, this candle of the past illuminates the path to your future.
I’m humbled to be in the company of winning authors far more famous, such as George Takei, Jen Wang, Gordon Chang, and Devi Laskar. We all invite you to join us. The pre-recorded acceptance speeches are from 3pm EDT to 3:45pm EDT. Then we will be live to answer questions at 3:45 to 4:45.
I think all of us authors are always concerned about how our books will be received, but I had special nervousness for Queen of Physics because I was representing Chinese-Americans and also scientists with this book and I wanted people to be receptive.
Aside from a couple of blah to lukewarm reviews, the book received some lovely accolades:
I want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU!!! to all those who actually get it and appreciated the difficulty of writing this book.
And my hopes and dreams for 2020? Good health and sanity is at the top of my wishlist, of course, but for writing, I hope that my next picture book, Two Bicycles in Beijing, will be at least as well received as my first. I also hope that my agent will be able to sell my middle grades (one nonfiction and one fiction) for me this coming year. But even more, I hope that she can sell my #OwnVoices picture book story that has been haunting me (in a good way) for a while now. I think about it a lot even when I’m not actively working on it.
What about the dreams? Well, selling any or all of those at auction would be the dream!
What about you? What are you grateful for in 2019 and what are your goals/dreams for 2020? Happy New Year and may your dreams come true!
I admit to being a bit clueless when it comes to awards, so this was not on my radar. Besides, given how so many other nonfiction books I know of that have received much more public praise, I wasn’t holding my breath that my book would be recognized anywhere.
But I am so very grateful to NCTE and the Orbis Pictus committee for appreciating how difficult it was to write not just a biography of an extraordinary woman, but to explain some basic nuclear physics in addition.
Also, I want to add, my dear friend Barry Wittenstein won the award for his fabulous book, A PLACE TO LAND! You may remember him and the book from the post about my first L.A. SCBWI Conference this past summer?
When she found out my book, Queen of Physics, was going to be out this month, an author friend (now a dear friend after we spent 11 hours together on Saturday…LOL!) in my SCBWI chapter told me about a local book festival, Books By The Banks – Cincinnati. She said she was going and would love the company. So, I thought, why not? Because things always seem like a good idea several months before they happen.
But, you know what? I did have a great time! Not only did I get to hang out with my friend, Skila Brown, but I also met a whole bunch of online friends in person for the first time!
I also met some new friends! This is Jay Kalagayan of the very cool MessedComics…the lovely model for his comic, V Chau, is the person on the right side of the photo.
I was also on a nonfiction panel with some fabulous authors: Mary Kay Carson, Julie Rubini, and Susan Goldman Rubin (whom I adore as she kept telling me how gorgeous I am…LOL!). There weren’t many attendees at the panel but it was still a fun program.
The book festival itself was quite well attended. It made me all warm and fuzzy inside when people stopped by to tell me how glad they are to see a book about a woman scientist…and a person of color at that! They all agreed that this is a much-needed book that provides someone little girls can look up to. I get a little teary-eyed just thinking about it. That heartwarming feeling negates all the naysayers who don’t appreciate my book.
And then the next day, Shauna texted me with this bit of good news:
I don’t pay much mind to accolades, but it was a nice way to end a terrific weekend (and also is another “pppttthhhhttt!” to the critics). 😀
I spent last weekend in NYC, which is always an adventure. It starts out quietly enough at the Indianapolis International Airport which is a clean, mostly quiet…I want to add “well-lighted” because Hemingway, you know…place.
The first fun part of my adventure after arriving in NYC (besides navigating out of LaGuardia, which is a whole ‘nother kind of adventure that I won’t write about) involved meeting one of my debut group (Notable19s) friends, Hanna Stark, in person. I immediately bonded with her. She is such a lovely and smart person.
Also lovely and smart (and tons of fun!) is my Sterling Publishing editor whom I got to meet the next morning for brunch! She has been delightful to work with and I hope I will work with her again in the future. (Sending that wish out to the universe….!)
Then it was down to business with a Master Class with editor Tiffany Liao. If you ever attend the Kweli conference, I recommend taking the Master Class option.
After that, it was off to a fabulous dinner at Pondicheri with some writer friends!
The Kweli Conference was the main reason I went to NYC. It kicked off with a keynote from amazing author Samira Ahmed:
After a relatively mild December, January brought snow and colder weather. As hubby harvested beautiful veggies from the greenhouse beneath a blanket of snow, it reminded me of a speculative fiction story I wrote when I took the Sci Fi I class from Gotham Writer’s Workshop in 2010. It’s a story that my classmates loved and led to my being asked by Russell James to be a part of the Minnows Literary Group.
Today, I’m sharing this story with you as a New Year’s gift. 🙂
Used to be the
seed catalogues start arriving in November, or sometimes as early as October.
Those companies knew gardeners champ at the bit for spring planting even as the
last of the fall crops were being harvested.
I flip through old
copies of Johnny’s Select Seeds and the Territorial Seed Company catalogues, my
favorites of the lot, both pretty worn from my enthusiastic thumbing. My wife
teases me that I’ve already committed all the pages to memory.
This year, I dream
of eggplants. The bottom-heavy Black Kings, though perfect for eggplant
parmesan, are too pithy for my tastes. I like the sleek, sexy lines of Machiaw.
I tell Lydia they remind me of her. She replies that she likes Twinkle because
the name makes her think of my eyes, and the mottling reminds her of my
age-spotted hands. I smile.
“What about you, sweetheart?
What are you dreaming of for this year?” I ask.
Lydia blows into
her hands and rubs them together. She stares out the window at the snowflakes
swirling in a manic, modern dance.
“I dream of
popcorn this year,” she says at last. “We’ve not had popcorn in so long.”
“No,” I say. “We
She turns some
pages in Territorial. “Early Pink would be nice. Look, it has a short growing
I put my hand on
hers but play along. “How about Miniature Blue?” I point to the variety in the
Johnny’s catalogue. “Such a deep, velvety indigo, yet pops out white instead of
them, then glances at the next page. “Ornamental corn. I can’t believe anyone
would waste time and energy to grow something just for looks.”
I shake my head. “Incomprehensible.”
Lydia gets up and
pulls on another sweater. “Do you want a cup of tea?” she asks.
“Mint or nettle?”
“Earl Grey” leaps
to the tip of my tongue out of years of habit, but I bite it back. Instead I
say, “Mint sounds great.”
“There’s a bit of
valerian left if you want some.”
“It’s all right, sweetheart.
You save that for your bedtime drink.”
Lydia takes the
kettle to the back door, opens it just wide enough to scoop up some snow that
had drifted and piled next to the house. She quickly closes the door and puts
the kettle on top of our trusty old Napoleon woodstove, purchased a mere twelve
years ago. It seems like a lifetime.
woodstove-buying anniversary,” I joke. “I bet you don’t remember shopping for
Lydia pulls out a
mug for my tea. “As if I could forget even if I tried. The sales clerk must
have thought we were insane to argue about the HearthStone Phoenix versus the
Napoleons for half a day!”
discussing, not arguing,” I say. “I think he was worried we’d keep them from
closing shop on time.”
“I never saw
someone so relieved when we finally bought the expensive model.” She smiles at
me and pinches some dried mint leaves into the mug. “I also remember being
completely baffled when you first brought home that Countryside magazine.”
“And when you left
the house without a word, I thought you were going to get a divorce lawyer,” I
say, chuckling. “Instead, you came home with an armload of books about
“I had my doubts
about your sanity and the whole back-to-nature, self-sufficiency idea.” She wraps
her arms around my shoulders. “I’m glad you coaxed the country girl in me to
I kiss her arm. “You
weren’t so glad when we processed our first chicken.”
Lydia breaks into
her beautiful laughter that I don’t hear often of late. She laughs so hard, she
has to dab at her eyes with the back of her hand. “I thought our
headless-wonder rooster was going to keep running forever!”
“Then I got my
hand stuck inside of it while eviscerating,” I add in a tone of mock injury.
excuse for me doing the gutting from then on,” Lydia teases me.
The kettle sings,
and I get up to pour the water. “I plead guilty.”
“But you do the beheading
for which I’m grateful.” She shudders. Even after over a decade of
homesteading, the killing part bothers her.
It feels good to
reminisce to the more innocent days, the better days. I raise my cup of tea. “A
toast to us and our surviving this off-the-grid adventure.”
She lifts her mug
and tilts it toward me. “Surviving…” she trails off. “Speaking of the chickens,
we should go check for eggs and close up for the day.”
I get up. “I’ll
go. My tea’s still too hot to drink.”
I pull on my parka,
slipping the hood over my head which is rapidly losing what little graying
insulation it has, and trudge over to the chicken house.
We call the
chicken house “Fort Knox.” It was a detached garage once, but we reinforced it
over the years with 2x6s, metal siding, and double-paned windows barred with
galvanized poultry wire. Our priority is to keep several steps ahead of the
clever raccoons that are as interested in the chickens as we are. Keeping ahead
has the added bonus of an occasional greasy meal of raccoon meat.
The girls, alerted
by the sound of the turning locks, run toward me, making throaty chicken
noises. They probably expect more of the greenhouse chickweed I threw in for
them this morning. Dude raises his frill and does his rooster stomp. He’s four
years old, and still sees us as a threat to his flock supremacy. We’ll need to
keep more than one rooster alive next time one of the hens hatches out a brood.
If anything happens to Dude in the meantime, we are in trouble.
I collect four eggs,
our main source of protein, and bid the girls a good night. The belligerent
rooster attacks my boots as a parting shot.
I stop by the
storehouse on my way back to double-check that it’s also locked up. It’s as
fortified as the chicken house since it holds our root crops, canned goods, and
seed bank. Collecting seeds is such a fussy task and I am not fond of doing it.
I’m thankful Lydia has more patience and does a good job. Since we started
homesteading early enough before the Impact, we have a decent supply, adequate
for another decade, maybe two – through even rougher spots perhaps, and, Mother
Nature willing, through better times. We’ll never have a summer long enough to
grow popcorn, but we should have food for a long while.
I close the door
tightly behind me, and stare at the sky. The thinning clouds reveal a late
afternoon sun, pale and tiny like a sesame seed, through the haze. The day the
Earth shook beneath our feet, reminding us of our precarious place in space,
was the day the sun began to shrink, slowly and steadily, as we drift ever
farther. Here in the secluded hills of what once had been northern Kentucky, we
await with hope the forty days or so of relative warmth each year to replenish
our food supply.
The seed catalogues used to arrive in November, but they haven’t arrived for the past five years…and they never will.