Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

"A good book is the best of friends, the same today 
and for ever."

Martin E. Tupper

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friend Friday

Not sure there's a sweeter person around than Laurie Thompson. We met eons ago through SCBWI-Washington, an organization that has benefitted greatly from her efforts. She is a hard-working volunteer AND a hard-working writer: in addition to Be A Change-Maker, Laurie will launch two books in early 2015! Go, Laurie!

Laurie Ann Thompson

You Gotta Have Friends

My upcoming book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, is for teens who want to make a difference in their communities or around the world. There are three reasons why I find it so wonderfully appropriate that Kirby asked me to write about it for her Friend Friday series, and I’m deeply honored to be able to share those reasons here today.

1. Friendship is a key part of changemaking. First, what drives a person to want to effect social change is empathy, and empathy is also what allows one to be a good friend. Second, if you’re going to try to change the world (or even a tiny piece of it), it sure helps if you can get some good friends to join you! Third, when you venture out on such an ambitious mission—guided by your passion and revealing your most authentic self—you’re practically guaranteed to make a bunch of like-minded new friends along the way. I hope teens who read Be a Changemaker will have a blast making a real difference for others alongside their truest friends, old and new.

2. Writing often feels like a solitary endeavor, but friendship is a key part of writing, too. Publishing a book is a long haul. Be a Changemaker, which releases next week, was a ten-year journey from idea to publication. You can bet that road had many unexpected ups and downs, twists and turns. If it weren’t for my friends, writers and others, I literally couldn’t have done it. Their encouragement kept me going through the hard times, and their support cheered me on during the good times. Thank you, friends, for making me a better writer… and a better person!

3. Some of my most treasured friends are my mentors, and Kirby herself is one of the best. I wrote about one example in chapter 6 of Be a Changemaker, so I’ll share a different one here. Many years ago Kirby and I were at a conference in Portland with several other writing buddies. After the day’s sessions ended, everyone started making plans for some social time, but I blubbered something about needing to go back to my room. Everyone was concerned I wasn’t feeling well, but I couldn’t even explain it—I just had to get out of there! Kirby recognized my condition immediately: “Oh, honey,” she said, putting her hand gently on my arm, “now you just go take an introvert moment, and then come join us when you’re ready.” Genius! I now schedule “introvert moments” ahead of time, so I can avoid getting to that point of complete social overwhelm.

Are you a changemaker? You might not think so, but I bet you are someone’s friend. That’s where changemaking starts. And you never know where it’ll go from there.

Laurie Ann Thompson grew up in rural northern Wisconsin. A former software engineer, she now writes for children and young adults to help her readers--and herself--make better sense of the world we live in, so they can contribute to making it a better place for all of us. She strives to write nonfiction that gives wings to active imaginations and fiction that taps into our universal human truths. Her books include BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS (Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, September 2014), a teen how-to guide filled with practical advice and plenty of inspiration for beginning social entrepreneurs; EMMANUEL'S DREAM (Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House, January 2015), a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who changed Ghana's perception of people with disabilities; and MY DOG IS THE BEST (FSG/Macmillan, June 2015), an adorable picture book about the unconditional love that exists between a child and a family pet. Read more about her here

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

There is a terrific hardware store near our beach house. Not only does the store come with dogs -- ginormous ones like Lucy and Josie, Great Dane mixes, and teeny-tiny ones like Chihuaua mix Marley -- it comes with great advice. And it's a totally family run endeavor.

As un-DIY as I am, I adore hardware stores. What are all those bolts and nuts and geegaws for? Standing in the aisle, I can imagine myself someone who could actually build a bookcase, repair a toilet (okay; that I can do) or install a new light fixture. 

Yesterday I was at the store hunting for some eyes and S hooks to hang a pair of pink (!) oars I purchased eight years ago. 

(clearly I am not speedy when it comes to home improvements) It was early afternoon and a high chair was set up near the front register. One of the littlest family members was trying to climb up for his pb&j after-preschool snack. I could hear the encouragement of several adults; one said something that really hit home. "You did it yesterday," she said. "You can do it again today."

As someone on the verge of a revision, I really needed to hear that wisdom. It's been a couple of months since I sent off the manuscript, one that has a unique voice, something I've never tried before. I was beginning to fret that I wouldn't be able to recapture that voice. That I wouldn't be able to tackle the revision.

But now, I am feeling a bit more optimistic about it. I did it yesterday. I can do it again today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

"True eloquence consists of saying all that is needed and 
only what is needed."

Francois VI, Duke de la Rochefoucauld

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy Anniversary to Us!

39  years ago today we said I do. 
If I were a betting woman, I'd bet on us making it to 40.
Happy Anniversary, Neil!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friend Friday

It is such an honor to turn the blog over to Cece Bell today. I fell in love with Cece when she posted photos of her kitchen cupboards on her blog. I knew she had a great sense of humor and style and then I got to meet her and found out what a great heart she has as well. Oh, yeah, and she's a darned good writer, too! 

Cece Bell and a few friends

El Deafo is not only my first graphic novel, it is the first time that I've addressed the fact that I am deaf in any of my books for children. This book is also a love letter to my mother, to my childhood crush, and to my first true friend; it's especially a love letter to the hearing aid technology of the seventies and eighties that made so many things possible for me.

I lost my hearing in 1975, after a serious bout with meningitis. An audiologist called my hearing loss “severe to profound,” and I was outfitted with a little box-style hearing aid that I wore in a pouch on my chest, with cords leading up to my ears. My first year of school was with other deaf kids, and we learned our ABC's, our 123's, and how to lip-read. First grade, however, was different, because we had moved to a smaller town that didn't have a magnet program for deaf kids. But I was pretty good at lip-reading and speaking, so my parents went ahead and enrolled me in the local school. I was no longer part of a group of deaf kids but was now the only deaf kid in the whole school.

I got outfitted with a new hearing aid for school use only, and what a hearing aid it was! It was called the Phonic Ear, and it was paired with a microphone that amplified and clarified my teacher's voice, just for me. I could hear her wherever she was in the classroom, and—here comes the juicy part—I could hear her wherever she was in the entire school building. That meant I got to listen in on her private conversations with other teachers, her private smoking breaks, and her very private bathroom breaks. Oh my heavens! This was power.

It was strange. I was deaf, but I also had super-hearing. I thought of myself as a superhero—El Deafo—but in my imagination only. El Deafo tried to fight my battles for me, both large and small, but the real me stayed passive. The real me was both terrified of confrontation of any kind, and too self-conscious about being different from my classmates. So I kept my superpowers hidden. It was only a desire to impress my childhood crush—a boy in my neighborhood—that led me to start sharing what I was hearing with the other kids. I started to make friends at school because I started sharing my superpowers, and having friends empowered me to become a little like El Deafo for real.

I think most kids feel different in one way or another, and so I'm hopeful that most kids might get something good out of El Deafo if they read it. Not every kid has hearing loss, of course, but most kids have crushes, and difficult experiences with both well-meaning and mean people, and deep longings to find a real, true friend. El Deafo has all of that, with drawings! And speech balloons! And everyone's a rabbit, to boot. Because everyone looks better with rabbit ears, right?

Virginia author and illustrator Cece Bell lives in an old church with her husband, author Tom Angleberger, and she works in a new-ish barn right next door. Cece has written and illustrated several books for children, including the Geisel Honor book Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover, Itty Bitty, Bee-Wigged, and the Sock Monkey series (soon to be reprinted, hooray!). She still wears behind-the-ear hearing aids and wishes that people in restaurant settings would come equipped with closed-captioning.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Launch

A few years ago, my daughter and visited the poignant Japanese Exclusion Memorial on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and happened to see information about their efforts to build a visitor center there.

This wall goes down to the site of the ferry dock

Names of evacuees/incarcerees

One panel of the wonderful art at the Memorial

When I began to think about how best to celebrate Dash's birthday, it seemed a no-brainer to combine a book launch with a fundraiser for the Visitor Center project. I mentioned my idea to Victoria Irwin, Event Coordinator at Eagle Harbor Book Company and the next thing I knew, the entire island was involved, including: Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion American Memorial; Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community; Bainbridge Island Historical Museum; and Kitsap Regional Library, Bainbridge Island. Wow!

The afternoon started at the Memorial with three groups of friends sharing about how being separated by the war impacted them. Marlene Wellbrock, Hisa Hayashida Matsudaira and Frances Kitamoto Ikegami started by reminiscing about their sweet childhood friendships and the pain of the forced separation; even after 72 years, the memories of that time brought tears to Marlene's eyes. 

Hisa and I share a laugh over what she took in her little suitcase

Lilly Kitamoto Kodama and Patrice Matland had been first graders and both remembered being told very little about what was going on during the war. Lilly recalled that it seemed quite thrilling at first to travel on the train and go to a camp. But after a few weeks, she went to her mother and asked, "What kind of vacation is this, anyway?" Patrice fondly remembered her Swedish grandma and Lilly's Japanese grandmother chatting over coffee, their accents thick as cream, their hearts understanding one another perfectly.

Lilly Kitamoto Kodama
Wayne Nakata's parents ran the grocery store. Most of their customers at that time bought on credit, paying up (or not!) at the end of the month. But when the evacuation notices began appearing, everyone came forward to settle their debts as a show of support for his family.

The last stories were from Earl Hanson and Kay Sakai Nakao, with a bit of help from Mary Woodward, daughter of Bainbridge Review co-owners, Milly and Walt Woodward, one of the few newspapers in the country to question and condemn the mass evacuation and incarceration of people of Japanese descent. Earl told about trying to get down to the dock that day to say good-bye to his high school buddies and teammates -- all of them wearing their high school letter jackets --  but being stopped by soldiers with guns. It was clear that that memory was still painful for him. 

Earl and Kay

Kay Sakai Nakao, a spry 93-year-old, charmed everyone with her teasing and stories. When she was asked if she was bitter about what happened, she said no. She said that she realized she would be the only person harmed if she had held a grudge. "I chose to live with joy," she said. What an inspiration!

Kay Sakai Nakao, Katy Curtis (from the Museum) and Earl Hanson
As soon as it goes live, I will publish the link to the video made of the event. Warning: have tissues in hand when you watch.

From the Memorial, we moved on to a quick stop at the Historical Museum. There simply wasn't time to take everything in but I did, however, get a special tour led by Frances, Hisa and Mary. Frances pointed out the baby doll that she'd taken to the camp; Hisa showed me a photo of herslef as a pig-tailed 6-year-old, walking down the dock to the ferry (she hasn't changed a bit!) and Mary pointed out the Bainbridge Gardens sign hanging from the ceiling. "Look on the back," she said. There, hand-painted, were the words: "Welcome Back," words that the returning Japanese would have seen when they were finally allowed back on the island in 1944/45.

Bainbridge Island author, Suzanne Selfors, graciously invited Neil, Winston and me to dinner at her charming home. You can see from the photo below that she included a pretty star-studded cast of characters at the dinner.
L-R: Suzanne Selfors, me, Neil, Bob Selfors, George Shannon, Jennifer Mann, Suzanne Droppert (owner of Liberty Bay Books), and Lynn Brunelle; photo courtesy Walker Selfors

The full day wrapped up with a full house at Eagle Harbor Book Company. A warm and receptive audience heard the story behind the story of Dash, and I was honored to be able to introduce Judy Kusakabe and her daughter and grandchildren to those in attendance. 

Mitsi and her beloved Chubby

Judy's step-mom, Mitsue Shiraishi, was the inspiration for my writing this particular book; she has been delightfully supportive of my efforts, including loaning precious family documents, photos and yearbooks.

Dash cookies provided by Sweet Themes Bakery

Jennifer Longo, Jennifer Mann, Lynn Brunelle, Suzanne Selfors all have my back!

I was beat as I climbed into the car for the ferry ride home, but my heart was absolutely full to the brim. Some of that joy even leaked out my eyes as we chugged toward Seattle. I will never forget that day and the people who joined together to make it so meaningful. 

Last but not least: authors Jamie Ford and Mary Woodward generously donated baskets of books to contribute to the fundraising efforts. It's not too late to purchase a $5 raffle ticket . . . but hurry! The drawing is tomorrow, at 5 pm PDT. Call the bookstore: 206-842-5332