I’m the author of six picture books: OTTO’S RAINY DAY (Charlebridge Publishing 2000); CIXI, THE DRAGON EMPRESS (Goosebottom Books, 2011); SACAJAWEA OF THE SHOSHONE (Goosebottom Books, 2012), GOLDY LUCK AND THE THREE PANDAS (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014); THE ROCK MAIDEN (Wisdom Tales Press, 2017.); and MULAN’S LUNAR NEW YEAR (Disney Worldwide Publishing, 2018). GOLDY LUCK AND THE THREE PANDAS was a Junior Library Guild and a Scholastic Book Club selection, and was nominated for the 2017 Illinois Monarch Reader’s Choice Award. My nonfiction articles have been published in the children’s magazines “Highlights for Children”, “Faces”, “Appleseeds”, and “Muse”. “The Elephant Queen” which appeared in the February issue of Faces, received a Letter of Merit in the 2013 SCBWI Magazine Merit Awards. My math concept picture book, YUM YUM, DIM SUM! has just been acquired by Charlesbridge Publishing, and I’m currently working on my first middle grade novel. When I’m not writing, I love to travel, hang out with my family, binge on Netflix shows, and play with my dog, Juneau.
I grew up surrounded by books. My parents loved reading and our house was filled with bookshelves of books. My mother read to me at bedtime every night and I used to love being sick and being able to stay home from school as she would read to me when I was in bed. I've always created stories in some form as early as I can remember. I'm 4 years older than my sister, and when we were little, she was afraid of the dark. We shared a bedroom, so I would make up stories at night to tell her. When I was in 7th grade, an English teacher gave the class an assignment to create a deserted island and make up our own rivers, towns, mountains, people and make up a story around it. I had so much fun using my imagination and inventing make-believe characters and places that I became totally hooked on writing creatively and decided that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I wrote a lot as a teenager - journals, short stories, poems - and when I went to College, received my Bachelor's in English Literature and Creative Writing. After college, I wrote adult nonfiction articles for magazines and newspapers. I also worked as a social worker/counselor in a residential group home for disadvantaged kids. It was here, I realized the Power of Story. The kids were away from their own families. Sometimes, they were scared, sometimes they were homesick. I told them stories, I read them books. And it made them feel less lonely, less scared. It also encouraged them to tell their own stories about their families, their wishes and dreams. I saw how stories could inspire, soothe, comfort, spark conversations and imaginations. It was then, I decided I wanted to write for children.
I was born in Malaysia and spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Singapore and Hong Kong. I was lucky that my family was able to travel a lot. My experiences have inspired my writing, and I enjoy writing about people from different backgrounds and cultures. I hope my books will encourage young readers to be curious about other cultures and places, to realize they are part of a much larger world, to embrace their own culture and their uniqueness, and to take joy in the rich and wonderful traditions their culture and family celebrate.
My favorite children's book was "Anne of Green Gables". I loved the entire series. I loved Anne's spunky, feisty character and laughed at her bumbling mistakes. She was such a perfectly flawed character.
My writing process depends a lot on the project or story. Sometimes, it begins with an idea of a character. Sometimes, I'm inspired by a line of dialogue I've overheard, or a place I've visited. I may jot down notes or write a very sketchy outline. If it's a picture book, I'll try and figure out what story I want to tell then write a rough draft. If it's a longer work, I'll fill in details in my outline to flesh out the story. I used to write every day when I stayed home with my kids. I'd get up at 5 in the morning and write for a few hours before the kids got up for school. When my son, who is the youngest of my 3 children, started 1st grade, I went back to work part-time. Since then, I don't get a long stretch of time to write, so I write when I can. It can be 15 mins. or half an hour in the morning, an hour at night, 20 mins. on my lunch break, whenever I can snatch that time. I tend to focus better when I'm on deadline because I know I have to get it done by a certain date. The most challenging part of writing for me is beginning that story. Once I have the story crafted, I can go back and play with language and imagery, cut out unnecessary words. I love the editing process.
Read to them every day. Encourage them to tell stories. Play word games in the car to improve vocabulary.
Anything other than write: take my dog for a walk, read other books, listen to audiobooks, bake, do Yoga or Pilates. When I'm stuck on a writing project, it really helps me to take that break from writing. Inspiration comes in many different forms and one never knows when it might hit. It could be seeing something in the landscape when I'm taking a walk, or listening to a sentence or passage in my audio books, or a memory that comes back to me while I'm baking.
In Jan of 2018, my editor at Charlesbridge Publishing, told me they had partnered with an Educational company to create a series of math-concept picture books and asked if I would be interested in writing one. Even though I am numerically-challenged and math is not my strong suit, I'm always up for pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and exploring unfamiliar territory. After many back and forth edits with my editor, Alyssa Mito-Pusey, in which I had to scrap my original story and start over, my math-concept picture book, "Yum, Yum, Dim Sum!" has been acquired by Charlesbridge Publishing. Currently, a publication date has not been set and they are still looking for an illlustrator for the book.