Writing quote

Sure, it's simple writing for kids...Just as simple as raising them.
— Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Perseverance is the Name of the Game in writing and publishing. Check out Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas' long and arduous journey to publication:

TheWriteChris - On Writing: Persevering Beyond Rejections: Guest Blog by Natas...: As authors one of the biggest writer's block we have to deal with is handling rejections from publishers. Nothing can kill a creative ...

Monday, November 11, 2013


In celebration of Native American Heritage Month all month long, I'm giving away one free signed copy of Sacajawea of the Shoshone to those who post theirs or their ancestor's story in a comment here or on Sacajawea's Facebook page. Winner will be selected by random.org. Want activities for your classroom? Click here for teacher resources.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013


 The day of the Sonoma County Book Festival dawned grey and dismal. By mid-morning, at the SCBWI Green Gulch Writing Retreat in Marin County where I was enjoying a quiet weekend tending to my muse, the rain pelted the windows in sheets. Things did not look good for my outdoor stage performance on the children's stage. Author Janie Havemeyer (Catherine de Medici, The Black Queen, Goosebottom Books, 2011) and I had been invited to present our books for the festival. 
   Festival readings are often challenging because they tend to draw a younger crowd than our books' target age range (9 - 13). So, Janie and I developed a brilliant plan. We would dress up as our characters, Catherine de Medici and Empress Cixi of China and call our presentation, "A Conversation with Two Dastardly Dames". You can't go wrong with costumes for a younger audience. We met a few times prior to the book festival to write the script and spent several hours the day before at Green Gulch rehearsing our roles. We were ready to roll. But the children's stage was supposed to be outdoors, and who would come out to the book festival in the rain? Despite the nervousness associated with a public presentation, when you put in a lot of time and effort to craft that presentation, you'd like to perform to an audience of more than—one.
   As it turned out, the rain was quite a bit lighter in Santa Rosa, only a misty drizzle by the time we got there, the children's stage had been moved under a covered area, and families with kids did turn out to enjoy the event. Author Mac Barnett presented before us, which put us in a good spot, because he ALWAYS draws a crowd. 
   Janie and I changed into our costumes and by the time we took the stage, parents and kids had filled the seats. Phew! The microphone helped to broadcast the performance, and very soon, it was standing room only.
   Now, I'm not an actress and I was definitely outside my comfort zone. Janie slipped into her role as Catherine much more easily than I did trying to channel Cixi, but you know what? We had a blast. The audience seemed engaged. And, it was a great way to tell the Dames' stories through (what we hoped was a witty) repartee. And we'd do it again!

Authors Janie Havemeyer as Catherine de Medici,
The Black Queen, and Natasha Yim as Cixi, The Dragon Empress
at the Sonoma County Book Festival, Sept. 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013


   One of my favorite Chinese festivals—the Mid-Autumn Festival (or Autumn Moon Festival) is coming up on Sept. 19. In the Chinese calendar, it occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month. This is the day when the moon is supposedly at its brightest and fullest. As a child, I loved this festival because we got to eat moon cakes (round pastries shaped like the moon and filled with lotus seed paste and the yolk of a salted duck's egg), and we went lantern shopping for the Chinese lanterns that we would carry on our evening walks around the neighborhood. In those days, you could still find lanterns made in the shapes of animals—dragons, rabbits, cats, fish—and choosing your animal lantern was a big deal. I still remember orbs of light bobbing up and down as children spilled into the streets with the animals they've chosen to celebrate this day!
   Today, the lanterns you find are plainer—no animal shapes, and in my small-town American neighborhood, my kids are the only ones carrying lanterns around. When they were younger, I'd get lantern painting kits and we'd decorate our own lanterns. My oldest (who's 13) has now outgrown even that tradition. We've made our own mooncakes a few times, but unlike my turnip cakes, they're not as good as the store-bought ones and quite labor-intensive. In spite of this, the tradition lives on and we'll make some moon cakes, enjoy some store-bought ones, and take our evening walk with lanterns in hand.
   This Sunday, Sept. 8, I will be in San Mateo at the San Mateo Autumn Moon Festival, signing Cixi, The Dragon Empress at the Asian American Curriculum Project booth. It promises to be a fun event with Chinese dancing, acrobats, lion dancing, arts and crafts and lots of vendor booths. If you're in the area, visit this fun family event, stop by the AACP booth and say "hello." Would love to see you there!

Saturday, August 24, 2013


   I'm currently working on another picture book project. Now, that the first draft is done, I'm in the revision stage and really trying to look at the manuscript visually and envision what text can, if (and should) be replaced by illustrations. I found several pages where illustrations can very easily, and perhaps more engagingly, show what the words are telling the readers. This requires the use of illustration notes, otherwise the text doesn't make much sense. I've heard conflicting opinions about authors using illustration notes in the manuscript, but I've found a very helpful post on this subject, so check it out and let me know your thoughts or experience on illustration notes.

From what I gather, the consensus seems to be: use illustration notes if you need to, but use it sparingly.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


   I've been thinking a lot about promoting and marketing lately. Well, actually, I think about it all the time. I'm still learning and exploring ways to promote SACAJAWEA OF THE SHOSHONE, like participating on a panel of Redwood Writer's Club children's authors reading our books at Copperfield's Books in Santa Rosa on July 31st. 

From L. to R.: Natasha Yim (Sacajawea of the Shoshone), Helen
Sedwick (Coyote Winds), Nina Tepedino (If you Lived in Sam's Neck),
Sandy Baker (Dead Butterflies Diary)

   With GOLDY LUCK AND THE THREE PANDAS coming out though, I've been wondering what I haven't tried and what other creative ways there are to promote. See the red banner at the top of this blog boldly announcing Goldy Luck's release date? That's from HelloBar and you can create your own HelloBar for free. That, by the way, is one idea I got from YourWriterPlatform blog. So, check out some of their marketing tips. You may just find one you've never tried before. I'll also be posting some of my trials and tribulations of promoting and marketing in future blogs. I'd love to hear what your ideas, flops and triumphs are. Let's share the journey!

Monday, August 12, 2013


   Here's a catchy tune about Sacajawea by Jonathan Sprout. Apparently, it's been around for awhile, but I've just discovered it. If anyone knows of any other Sacajawea music, I'd love to hear it. Composer Phillip Glass was commissioned a few years ago to write a piece for the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition entitled "After Lewis and Clark". It's in 3 movements. The second movement, "Sacajawea", features a Native American flute. I'd love to listen to it but can't seem to find a recording anywhere.

Sacajawea's capture by a Hidatsa warrior, Sacajawea of the
(Goosebottom Books, 2012)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Here's some interesting statistics on book buying habits:

Who buys Children
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


   From the date of my last post, it's obvious that Summer vacation is here. Which means kids are out of school and my writing time has shrunk to very brief chunks usually at unGodly hours. With that little time to spend on writing-related activities, current projects haver priority and blogging and social media stuff takes a back seat because, you know, they can be a real time suck. 
   So, now that I'm back (sort of. It's still summer vacation), I have a goody for you from the Writer Unboxed website about what makes a good author/agent relationship. 

   Speaking of agents, check out my blog post on Chuck Sambuchino's Writer's Digest Column: How I Got My Agent in which I talk about my journey and challenges to finding my wonderful agent Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of SACAJAWEA OF THE SHOSHONE.

Friday, June 21, 2013


   I received some wonderful news yesterday, Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas (Charlesbridge Publishing, Jan. 2014) has been selected by the Junior Library Guild for their premier reading list of 2014! The JLG only picks several hundred books out of about 3,000 submitted every season. What a terrific start for a book that's 7 months shy of its release date. I appreciate this honor even more so because Goldy Luck's publication is the culmination of a nine-year journey which included rejections, a revolving door of editors, and a cancelled contract with Random House/Tricycle Press. This book is my poster child for perseverance. So, to all you writers out there, I just want to say: Believe in your stories, Believe in yourself as a writer, and Never Give Up!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


 When I first saw Judy Blume live and in person at the 2011 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, I thought she was wonderful—so down to earth, warm, and encouraging of aspiring writers. Here's another reason why she's terrific:

Friday, June 14, 2013


   I have just discovered Paper.Li and Scoop.it courtesy of social media guru Frances Caballo, author of Blogging Just for Writers and Social Media Just for Writers. Frances has a new blog Social Media Just for Writers which offers some great information and social media tips. Ever feel like you've run out of interesting things to say on Twitter or Facebook or don't know what to blog about next? Paper.Li and Scoop.It will help you cull content from around the internet based on topics you choose. For example, I select topics about writing for children as that's my area of interest and that's what my blog is about. Several of my recent Twitter posts are content "scooped" from Scoop.it. Here's a great blog post from Laura Brown about how to curate information from this site. With Paper.li, you can even create your own newsletter. Check out mine below and let me know what you've found "scoop-worthy". In the meantime, Happy Scooping!

Saturday, June 8, 2013


  I love school visits! I didn't used to. They used to terrify me. What? Speak in front of 100 kids? But then I found out how much kids LOVE author visits. And for a writer, it's a built-in audience, unlike bookstore events, where you might sometimes get 5 people to show up and half of them are bookstore employees. Someone posted this on Facebook once.

I love the "What Kids Think I do". It's true. It doesn't matter if only your mother has heard of you and your books, if your name is on a book they've read or their teacher has read to them, they think you're a star. School visits are a writer's 30 mins. of fame. At my last school visit at Potter Valley Elementary School, the kids lined up to have me sign Cixi, The Dragon Empress bookmarks. All 60 of them!

   But that's not why I love school visits. Wait. Yes, it is. Okay, besides that...I love connecting with the kids. I love answering all their great questions. I love it when they tell me they like my book or the story. It makes me smile when they share that they have a cat at home like mine.
   School visits aren't what they used to be—the bread and butter of a writer's income. With budget cuts to schools and kids who sometimes can't even afford shoes, books are a luxury. If I sell a handful of books at a school visit, I consider that an amazing success. But I've learned that school visits are not about selling books—or selling yourself as a writer—it's about connecting with kids. It's about sharing the stories you wrote, or how you came to write them, and it's about inspiring them to write and read. My biggest joy comes from kids (or parents or teachers) who tell me that after my presentation, they want to be a writer like me.
   Like most writers, I have an author visit fee, but for the schools in my local school district, I do school  visits for free. It's my way of giving back to the community in which I live. But what I get back is so much more. And here's one of the reasons why:

If you're interested in an author visit at your school, check out my Press Kit or Author Visit info. You can email me or go to Book an Event in the sidebar.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


  Yay! My article, "The Elephant Queen" (Faces, Jan. 2012) received a Letter of Merit from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) as a runner up in the 2013 Magazine Merit Awards in non-fiction. It was one of 12 Letters of Merit and 8 awards given out of more than 100 entries. You can check out the article below. Thank you, SCBWI!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


   Wow! I can't believe my last post was in November. I had meant to take a short hiatus during the holidays which is always crazy time for me with 4 birthdays weaved in between the pumpkin-carving, gingerbread cookie-baking, and mad Christmas shopping. My New Year's resolution for this year? Start X'mas shopping in July!
   So, here we are: 2013. April, 2013. A quarter of the year has come and gone already. How did that happen? So, here's a quick recap so far: I started a part-time job in November which is great for the family finances, not so great for the writing. I'm learning to have to be a lot more disciplined (which is a struggle at the moment) and to settle on one huge writing day: Fridays, my only day off. March has been extremely busy as it's Women in History Month, so a lot of school visits and presentations. I've done several author visits around Sacajawea of the Shoshone which have been so much fun, a presentation in an English Class at my alma mater, Dominican University, a presentation on Cixi, The Dragon Empress at the Asian Art Museum, and one about writing narrative non-fiction at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) North Bay meeting in Sebastopol.
  Creatively, I'm working on a new picture book, my young adult contemporary multi-cultural fiction, and finalizing text and illustration edits for Charlesbridge Publishing for my upcoming book Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas (Jan., 2014) which I'm very excited about. After such a long road for this story, it will be so satisfying to see this one in print! Here's a sneak peak at the adorable cover (illustrations are by the wonderful Grace Zong).