Remember our Del Dayo Elementary Blog Takeover a few weeks ago? It all started with our Author Day zooms with Erin Dealey. We learned that Writing is NEVER wrong–and it’s not as painful as we thought…. (It’s kind of cool.)
We wrote SO MUCH and we wanted to share our poems, so here’s Part TWO:
Here are a few of the poems from Mr. Corcoran’s class. (Be sure to zoom in to read them all!)
Charlotte Offsay‘s new picture book, A Grandma’s Magic,
illustrated by Asa Gilland (Doubleday Books for Young Readers),
released April 5, 2022–and we’re keeping the celebration going!
I’m so happy Charlotte Offsay could join us onthe blog today!
Let’s ask some Questions!
Q 1. What was the inspiration for A GRANDMA’S MAGIC? Charlotte Offsay: I first began writing what would eventually become A Grandma’s Magic in early 2018 when I was taking a Picture Book class via The Children’s Book Academy. We were encouraged to generate story ideas around the things in our lives that we cared about the most. At the time I had just returned from a lovely visit with my own grandma who lives overseas and who I don’t get to see as often as I would like. I was consumed with missing her and decided to write a story around a young girl who is convinced her grandma is magical and wants to be just like her.
I submitted a version of this story to SCBWI LA Writer’s Day 2019 and was fortunate to be paired up with Doubleday Books For Young Readers editor Frances Gilbert. Frances helped me to see that at its core, my story was a celebration of grandmas. She encouraged me to rewrite it as a lyrical ode to the relationship.
An Ode to Grandma
I followed her advice and pulled from my own memories of baking, quilting and special outings with my grandmas as well as from watching my children with theirs. I used those memories to rewrite my manuscript into A Grandma’s Magic, a lyrical ode to grandma magic – how it touches us, shapes us and stays with us always.
Q 2. What is one of the most magical memoriesyou have with one of your own grandmas? Or your kids’ grandmas?
Charlotte Offsay: Oh, my goodness, so many that it is hard to pick! I am blessed to still have both of my grandmas in my life, although I moved away from them when my family immigrated from England to the United States when I was nine. I think the distance between us made me cherish the time we got to spend together that much more.
Charlotte Offsay: I used to shadow one grandma in the kitchen – she is a fabulous baker and I think those fond memories are why I love baking in my own kitchen with my children so much. I can clearly remember pulling out my grandma’s weighing scales and covering her kitchen in flour.
Charlotte Offsay: My other grandma used to make the most beautiful quilts. Growing up, I always had one of her quilts on my bed. She used to teach me to quilt whenever I visited and saved fabrics that she knew I would love in anticipation of our visits. Time would disappear on her living room rug as we cut and sewed together. Thank you for this lovely trip down memory lane!
2 Qs on Craft
Q 3. Can you tell us about any edits or cuts you made to your manuscript on its journey to becoming a book?
Charlotte Offsay: In its final form, A Grandmas Magic is a little over 200 words. It took a lot of cuts, drafts and help from my editor, agent and invaluable critique partners to get the word count that low. I initially wrote the story around one single grandma and had a much higher word count. I had to work to pare back the text to feel more lyrical but also to be more general so that it could apply to all grandmas. In doing so I found the sparse, specific language more impactful.
Q 4. Did you face any “Revision roadblocks”?
Charlotte Offsay: One of the hardest parts of writing A Grandma’s Magic for me was finding the right structure and deciding to move from a traditional narrative arc to a concept book structure. I hovered between the two for quite a while before I was fully ready to let go of the story revolving around a single grandma. Moving to a concept book format allowed me to more fully embrace and celebrate the unique bond between grandma and grandchild which was the heart of the manuscript from the beginning.
Q 5. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will see their own magical relationships reflected in Asa Gilland’s stunning artwork. I hope that readers will be encouraged to reflect on their own relationships and celebrate them in turn.
National Pet Day (April 11th) isthe perfect time to celebrate Andy Myer‘s latest book, SOMETIMES YOU FIND A RED RHINOCEROS (PYP Academy Press).
Let’s get started!
Q 1. Welcome to the blog, Andy Myer! What was the inspiration for SOMETIMES YOU FIND A RED RHINOCEROS?
Andy Myer: I’ve always loved silly stories for children, giving them opportunities to laugh out loud. About three years ago I was in a coffee shop thinking about the most preposterous thing that might happen to a child. I suddenly had the notion of a kid bumping into a (then) purple hippopotamus and taking it home as a pet, and seeing what might happen.
Q 2. Which came first—the story or the illustrations?
Andy Myer: My process isn’t one or the other. I have to do both at the same time, because my illustrations and text play off one another. So from the very start I’m doodling little drawings with scribbled words next to them, creating a visual storyboard and text simultaneously.
Q 3. What might be one of the biggest challenges / and delights of each?
Andy Myer: The toughest challenge for me as an illustrator was finding an appealing characterization of the rhinoceros. Let’s face it, they’re frankly pretty scary. It took me a long time and many versions to arrive at a simple, expressive and charming rhino for the book.
For me the most enjoyable parts of illustrating a book like Sometimes You Find a Red Rhinoceros are finding the funniest juxtapositions of images and text, and adding small humorous details to complex drawings that children will enjoy discovering.
A book about YOU, the reader…
Andy Myer: My toughest conceptual problem was struggling with the gender/race of the child who finds the rhino. One day it struck me that the “You” in the book title could be the “you” the reader. In other words, could I create the pages so that the illustrations implied that the child protagonist was the person holding the book. I won’t claim it’s never been done before, but I do think it was a fairly original approach to take.
It took a lot of revision and careful layout to make this concept work, but I finally got there. I take it as a compliment that many people don’t realize there’s no child pictured in the book until after I point it out!
Q 4. Since it’s National Pet Day, do you have any pets? (Or did you?) A rhinoceros, perhaps?
Andy Myer: Unfortunately, my wife is allergic to rhinoceroses, so that was out for us. But I happily had two great dogs over 20+ years. However, at this point in my life, the constant demands of pet ownership have worn me out, so we don’t have a dog now. But I do have a fabulous and quirky grand-dog Lucy who often stays at our house for a few days a month, so I get my dog fix satisfied!
Q 5. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Andy Myer: First and foremost, laughter. I strongly believe that humor for children isn’t merely diversion. With all turmoil going on in the world, laughter is a major mental health coping mechanism. I wrote a blog on exactly that subject for Real Woman, a women’s health magazine.
Owning and caring for your pet.
Andy Myer: But there are some serious takeaways beneath the whimsy of SOMETIMES YOU FIND A RED RHINOCEROS. The first is the importance of caring for animals with an understanding of their needs. And there’s a lesson about love sometimes requiring sacrifice. When it becomes clear that the pet/owner relationship isn’t working, the child needs to make a difficult and emotional sacrifice for the sake of the rhinoceros. And of course, I hope the book helps build an attachment in children with animals like the rhino that are so endangered.
Q 6. What projects are you working on now?
Andy Myer: For some time, I’ve been working on Sadie Saves the World, an empowering book for children on taking on the enormous challenges of healing our environment. The risks to human survival are growing, and children will need huge amounts of energy, ingenuity, and optimism to build a sustainable world.
ED Note: That sounds like a book the Kids in Room 5 would like…*
To learn more about Andy Myer and his books, visit andymyer.com
You can support Andy Myer’s World Wildlife Fund fundraiser.
He’s gifting 25 signed copies of Sometimes You Find a Red Rhinoceros to WWF’s PandaNation site, all proceeds going to support rhinos and other endangered species. For details click here--or go to www.pandanation.org, and in the “Find” type in Andrew Myer. You will get a link to his donation page. #worldwildlifefund#sierraclub#janegoodall#savetherhino
Here’s the Webquest if you want to see more takeaways from Mrs. Record’s class.
Now for some Questions:
Q 1. What inspired you to write a book about Earth?
Erin Dealey: My friend, author/illustrator Dow Phumiruk created a beautiful illustration for the holidays, of an angel holding the earth. I felt like there should be a book about it. So I started writing ideas down.
Erin Dealey: At first, the letters were addressed to the angel. (See below. I named her Ariel.) Then I decided to have the kids write directly to Earth.
Q 2. Have you ever gotten discouraged while working on a book and then found the courage to try again? (from Ashton, Mr. Edgemon’s 5th grade class)
What is the longest time it has taken you to write a book? (from Mrs. Record’s class.)
Erin Dealey: I put these questions together because they have the same answer. I have been working on a middle grade novel, now called IRIS, HERSELF, for over eight years! At times I’ve gotten discouraged (We sent it out too soon and got several very nice rejections.) but my author friends and my agent believe in the project and that has helped to keeps me going. I believe in it too, and I’m not giving up!
Never Give Up!
Q 3. Were you inspired by someone? Who and why? (from Hussna, Mr. Edgemon’s 5th grade class)
Erin Dealey: I’ve been inspired by many wonderful, kind and talented people but the person who comes to mind right now is my mom. She always told us, “You’ll never know until you try.” That phrase popped into my brain when I wondered if I could write a book. I’m soooo glad I followed my mom’s advice!
Erin Dealey taught Grades 4-6 how to write “Poker Poems.”
Mrs. Nye’s 4th graders and their poems.
Here are a few poems from Mrs.Records’ 5th graders:
To read all of the awesome poems from Mrs. Records’ 5th gradeclick here.
We’ll be sharing MORE poems next time–including poems and drawings from Mr. Corcoran’s 6th graders–in part 2 of Del Dayo’s Blog takeover next week!
“Tofu Takes Time is lovely in its simplicity and magical in its proportions. This is a story of a granddaughter and grandmother making tofu together and it is also a story of the natural processes that allow us the gift of a favorite food and its connections to family, history, and the natural world.”
–Kao Kalia Yang, Author of The Most Beautiful Thing and A Map into the World
Thank you to author Helen Wu for TAKING TIME out of her busy schedule to talk to us.
(See what we did there?)
Q 1. Welcome, Helen! You’ve mentioned that the inspiration for TOFU TAKES TIME comes from your childhood experiences cooking with your grandmother—and that some of the illustrations are based on family photos. How wonderful! Can you tell us more about your memories with her? How does her childhood compare with yours—growing up in Hefei, China- or that of your own kids in Southern California?
Helen Wu: The inspiration for this story was born of my tofu-making experience with my treasured grandma. When I was a kid, I often sat nearby and watched as she cooked—a process that sometimes involved tofu. She would wash vegetables, chop meat, stir porridge, and cook all the meals for our entire family. Above all else, I value the time spent listening to my grandma’s stories. Many of these were about life in the Chinese countryside, which is where she spent most of her life. Since I was born in the city, I didn’t know much countryside living—especially in the decades before I was born. So, I was always curious to learn about something so seemingly close to me yet unfamiliar as well.
Different Paths & Challenges
Helen Wu: Growing up in a small city in China, where many of my friends and family shared a very similar lifestyle to my own, I yearned to be different, to stand out more, to find a different path. I saw achieving higher test scores and ranking at the top of my class as an effective way to reach those goals.
Now my kids—growing up as minority immigrants—face a different challenge in how to balance the cultural differences that set them apart from their surrounding community. As an adult, I in fact am still learning how to do this as I look to stay true to myself while “blending in” with the majority. This is one reason why I decided to write children’s books grounded in my own personal immigrant experience: hoping to unearth some solutions for young readers in helping them overcome the same challenges.
Q 2. Besides the fact that they both take time, how do the steps in your writing process relate to the steps NaiNai teaches Lin, as they make tofu? (ED note: Huge thanks to Helen for sending me the wonderful Mandarin translations for each step.) Which of these steps is the most challenging—as a writer and a tofu maker?
a. Soak and rinse the beans 泡豆洗豆
b. Blend the beans 打成豆浆
c. Strain the soymilk 过滤豆浆
d. Boil, stir, and simmer the soymilk 煮沸搅拌
e. Coagulate 点卤
f. Mold 压模成型
Helen Wu: I think the most challenging step in tofu-making is coagulation. Aside from lemon juice, there are many other types of coagulants one can use during this process. It’s difficult to calculate just how much coagulant to add, and I sometimes worry that I’ll miscalculate accordingly during this step and ruin the mixture.
Revision takes time!
With respect to writing, the most challenging part of the process is definitely revising. In considering so many different ways to revise my work, I always want to ensure revisions set out to strengthen the story and make it more appealing to a broad audience while staying true to my heart. Sometimes it’s best to shelve the manuscript for a little while to gain a fresh perspective and new ideas before reworking the story.
Q 3. What surprises did illustratorJulie Jarema bring to the creation of TOFU TAKES TIME?
Helen Wu: Julie’s illustrations are full of imagination and perfectly capture the heart of the book. In Julie’s art, Lin goes on an epic adventure that features food and all sorts of cooking ware. One particular spread that comes to mind is when NaiNai and Lin read a book together.
Julie’s corresponding illustration reflects so many imaginative and culturally relevant elements: including traditional Chinese symbols, home goods, and natural components. (ED Note: Readers –> keep an eye out for these intriguing details throughout the book!)
Q 4. They say each of our books is a tiny bit autobiographical. Which character in TOFU TAKES TIME is more like you: NaiNai or Lin?
Helen Wu: I’m more like Lin, believing I need to become more patient in everyday life. As mentioned in the book’s dedication, my two kids truly teach me patience. My role as a parent helps me grow in this regard, and I learn to find delight in mundane, everyday activities. Writing this book serves as a great reminder that good things take time, even the simplest actions connect with the entire universe, and we should appreciate time spent together with the people we love.
Q 5. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Helen Wu: Tofu is a food consumed in China for over 2000 years. I hope readers will enjoy this multi-generational tale that explores the magic of patience in making tofu, using sights, sounds, and lots of imagination. As an ode to patience and delayed gratification, this book supports the mindset that good things take time—a concept both children and families can apply in many areas of life.
Writing, Illustrating and Publishing–oh my!
Q 6. How do you balance (juggle?) your busy author/illustrator career with being an Associate Publisher of YeeHoo Press, and parenting? Any tips or tricks you’ve learned along the way?
Helen Wu: With my two kids now both in school full time, I can spend more time honing my skills as an author and editor. In constantly checking my busy schedule, I always first tackle items at the top of my to-do list and regularly check on deadlines. It’s the little bits and pieces authors and editors act on throughout the day and over the course of many months that ultimately brings books into the world.
Q 7. How does writing or illustrating for the US market differ from the international market? What is the process for others who might want to submit to Yeehoo Press, or create for the International Market?
Helen Wu: I believe great stories transcend borders and languages, but those with universal messages, commercial hooks, and educational purposes are sometimes most attractive to foreign publishers. Yeehoo publishes both English editions in the US and simplified Chinese editions in mainland China. In zeroing in on the US and China—two of the world’s largest children’s book markets—Yeehoo’s goal is to find common ground between diverse countries and cultures and publish books with universal interest and appeal for readers worldwide.
Q 8. Will there be a Chinese edition of TOFU TAKES TIME? (And will you be the translator?)
Helen Wu: I’m currently reaching out to some Chinese publishers in the hopes that someone will acquire the book. Of course, I would personally love to translate, but it’s typically up to the publisher to choose a translator they’d like to work with. Chinese publishers will sometimes also prioritize translators based in China, which can aid marketing efforts within that country.
Q 9. What projects are you working on now?
Helen Wu: My next picture book, LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom, will be published by Yeehoo Press in February, 2023.
Inspired by my experience as a minority immigrant student, this picture book follows a Chinese dragon who struggles to breathe fire in his new Western dragon school, only to discover he must carve his own path to finding a sense of belonging. Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale celebrates perseverance, self-acceptance, and cultural differences.
Did we mention a #giveaway?
Yes, we did!
Winner’s choice of either a signed copy of TOFU TAKES TIME or a zoom picture book critique (manuscript under 1000 words) from Helen Wu. To enter, follow @HelenHWuon Twitter and RT this blog post (or the original @ErinDealey Tweet where you found it) with the hashtag #TofuTakesTime. Deadline: April 19th–launch day!