PICTURE BOOKS

MIDDLE GRADE

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Since I began writing picture books, I’ve longed to tell the story of my relationship with my Amah (grandmother, in Taiwanese). Even though we saw each other infrequently, I adored her. But like Kylie, my main character in Amah Faraway, I always felt a bit shy at the start of our visits–due to my own cautious nature, the distance, language barrier, and cultural differences.

I fully transport myself from my reality into the world that I seek to create. In a word, I daydream. Deeply. I put myself with the character, close to the character, sometimes in the character, to taste the dirt when they’re in the dust storm or feel the scratchy bristles of cane stalk whip my face. Then I write it. Later, I make adjustments, because what I have to understand is different from what the reader should feel. Sometimes I have to rein it in or pull back. It’s not always the point that the reader should feel each and everything—but the writer must!  

“The biggest leap for me in my writing life happened when I got comfortable with failure. I wrote some disastrous things in grad school. But before that, my writing had gotten stagnant because I was too anxious about getting it right all the time. Allowing myself to fail gave me the freedom to take risks and make mistakes. Those mistakes, in turn, taught me how to write the way I want to write.”

“I love that when I have a question, I can reach out and pick the brilliant brains of other talented kidlit writers. I’m always amazed at how quickly plot or character problems can be solved when you get out of your own head. I also love how willing people are to share great examples of kidlit to use as mentor texts.”

“This isn’t specific to PB writers, but I would just say to any writer: Be kind to yourself and your drafts. Many writers, myself included, struggle with self-criticism or perfectionism, so I try to give myself this advice daily. First drafts can and should be messy. Second and third and seventh drafts, too. There is beauty in the mess. Writing is mostly re-writing. When you’re feeling discouraged, reach out to some writer friends for support. Seek community.”

I first heard Emma read from a chapter-book-in-progress, and her voice blew me away. Emma’s writing as such attention to detail, such personality, such emotional resonance. She can write funny and serious–sometimes in the same sentence. Emma’s debut YA novel, DANGEROUS PLAY comes out August 3, and I’m so glad we get a peek into Emma’s brain and writing process. I highly recommend both DANGEROUS PLAY and Emma herself.

“As a product designer, I am used to solving creative problems. I think that’s partially why I’m drawn to different formats, because I get inspiration from the problem. My design experience also helps me take critique feedback well as I’m very used to harsh critiques and revising based on understanding the problems that a critique uncovers.”

This particular inspiration was already the second or third version of this story, which I knew I wanted to be about girls and friendship. In previous versions, they weren’t cousins. And for each version, I did literally dozens of revisions.

For Ginger and Chrysanthemum, part of that was due to the submission process, during which agents and editors asked to see widely varying changes. The characters of these hot-and-cold cousins never changed once they were born, though, and it wasn’t until then that the story began to attract attention.

With an issue of a debate being at the heart of this story, it’s of course important to try to truly explore the issue, and I hope I did that.

Get to know our September featured author, Lindsay Lackey! Lindsay’s debut middle grade novel All the Impossible Things came out on September 3, 2019. Read on to find out about everything from her book launch to school visits to writing the next novel, as well as the biggest surprise moment of her 2019.