Virginia Loh-Hagan’s NIAN, THE CHINESE NEW YEAR DRAGON
(Sleeping Bear Press, Illus. Timothy Banks)
is the perfect picture book for celebrating–and learning about–
Chinese New Year.
It’s a girl-power retelling of the Nian legend with an original twist, which includes explanations of the origins of Chinese New Year traditions.
VERDICT: A wonderful version of a classic legend and a
welcome addition to holiday collections.
–School Library Journal
Speaking of winners (seriously!), I am thrilled to interview my friend, and author pal,
Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan:
Q1. What was the most surprising fact or discovery you’ve made as your book, NIAN, THE CHINESE NEW YEAR DRAGON, went from idea to published book?
Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan: Researching the Chinese New Year gave me so many story ideas. This is such a goldmine of content. For example, I discovered the Nian folktale while researching POPO’S LUCKY CHINESE NEW YEAR.
And, of course, while researching for Nian, I discovered other story ideas as well. I’m hoping to be able to write more! There’s so much to share about the Chinese New Year.
Q2. You won the award for Best Writer in 6th grade. Did this inspire you to write even more or did you feel increased pressure to always write “winners” from then on?
Q3.They say most books are a tiny bit autobiographical. Are you more like Nian or Mei?
Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan: Mei, for sure. I like to think that I’m a woman warrior! Although in regard to my appetite and eating habits, I’m definitely more like Nian!
Q4. I’ve heard you were born on Flag Day in the Year of the Dragon. Does this strong and independent Chinese zodiac sign reflect your personality?
Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan: I am most definitely a dragon, specifically a Fire Dragon. Fire Dragons are known to be strong, independent, intelligent, and social. They’re also known to have extreme personalities and need to work on balance. My husband says that I treat life the way I drive – all brakes or all gas. I can be pretty intense so I do need to learn how to slow down. This is why reading is so important to me – Reading is my “down time.” It’s the only time that I’m not multi-tasking. It allows me to escape into other worlds.
Q5. Since one of your greatest passions is piano, how would you compare preparing for a concert to writing a picture book?
Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan: Okay. So thank you for assuming that I am good enough to play in concerts (I heart you!). In actuality, I’m not even good enough to play for a kid’s birthday party. But, I love piano and am a diligent adult piano student (grade 3-4). I’ve always wanted to learn how to play piano but didn’t have the opportunity when I was younger. I’m a struggling piano player – it’s not something that comes easy to me but I love it and I want to be good. I have the passion but not the skills. But that doesn’t stop me from pursuing it. Personally, I think everyone should do something that makes them struggle. Struggle is good; it’s productive and humbling. Both piano and writing require patience, practice, and perseverance. Also, both require performance in order to get better.
Q6. Congratulations on having authored over 300+ books thus far. Wow! Any advice for beginning, not-yet-published #kidlit writers?
Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan: Grow thick skin. Learn to listen to feedback from your editors and critique partners. Be willing to make necessary changes. People think that writing the first draft is the hardest part; it’s actually writing the multiple revisions. Writing for publication is actually more about re-writing and revising. I’ve had to cut characters, cut plot lines…all kinds of stuff. The first draft is never the final draft. Also, read!!!
Q7. Do you have any #kidlit heroes? Have they changed over the years?
Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan: In regard to characters, I love Anne Shirley, Shirley Temple Wong, Hermione Granger….I lived vicariously through these strong girl characters; they helped me through some tough times. In regard to kidlit authors, I love L.M. Montgomery, Judy Blume, and Beverly Cleary. Over my many years as a reader, I have gained more favorites in terms of characters and authors but I always go back to the stories I read as a child. I have so many fond memories of reading as a young person; children’s books are our first introduction to the big, wide world. I learned so many things and gained so many perspectives from reading. This is one of the reasons why I chose to write for children – Children’s books play such an important role in our personal narratives.
Many thanks to Virginia for joining me on the blog today. You can learn more about her and her books on her web site: virginialoh.com
Wishing all who will celebrate Chinese New Year next week (January 25th!)–
Gong hei fat choy.
Or, if you prefer, here’s the Mandarin Chinese: gong xi fa cai (恭喜发财).
PS NIAN, THE CHINESE NEW YEAR DRAGON is featured in