Happy Book Birthday to A GRANDMA’S MAGIC + 6 Qs for author Charlotte Offsay + 3 Book Pairings!

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!

A Grandma’s Magic is a picture book celebration of grandmothers and all the ways in which they are magical. It is for kids who ache at the end of a visit, and for their grandmas, whose love and tenderness is with us no matter how far away they are. ”

John Schu —Watch.Connect.Read

I’m so happy Charlotte Offsay could join us on the 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.

Photos courtesy of Charlotte Offsay

Q 2. What is one of the most magical memories you 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.

Interior art by Asa Gilland, A Grandma’s Magic by Charlotte Offsay, Doubleday Books for Young Readers

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.

Interior art by Asa Gilland, A Grandma’s Magic by Charlotte Offsay, Doubleday Books for Young Readers

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!

Photos courtesy of Charlotte Offsay

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.

Photos courtesy of Charlotte Offsay

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. 

Bonus–> 3 Book Pairings!

Pair: The Big Beach Clean-up by Charlotte Offsay, Illus. Katie Rewse, Albert Whitman

for #EarthDay or any day,

with DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey, Illus. Luisa Uribe, Harper Collins.

Pair: A Grandma’s Magic by Charlotte Offsay, Illus. Asa Gilland, Doubleday Books for Young Readers

for Mother’s Day, or Grandparents’ Day,

with Grandma’s Favorite by Erin Dealey, Illus. Luciana Navarro Powell, Kane Miller.

Pair: How to Return a Monster by Charlotte Offsay, Illus. Rea Zhai, Beaming Books with

Brand New Baby Blues By Kathi Appelt, Illus. Kelly Murphy, Harper Collins;

OR–go the “monster” + How-to guide route with A Travel Guide for Monsters by Lori Degman, Illus. Dave Szalay, Sleeping Bear Press.

Thanks again for stopping by, Charlotte!

Photo: Children’s BookWorld, LA.

To learn more about Charlotte Offsay and her books, check out her website: www.charlotteoffsay.com

and/or follow her on Social media:
Twitter: @coffsay
Instagram: @picturebookrecommendations

Happy Reading!

6 Qs with author/illustrator (& funny guy) Andy Myer about SOMETIMES YOU FIND A RED RHINOCEROS = Happy #NationalPetDay!

National Pet Day (April 11th) is the perfect time to celebrate Andy Myer‘s latest book, SOMETIMES YOU FIND A RED RHINOCEROS (PYP Academy Press).

A whimsical children’s picture book about what happens when a child unexpectedly meets up with a red rhinoceros and adopts it as a pet. What could go wrong?

“ A humorous, wonderfully illustrated tale of animal hijinks.” –Kirkus

Let’s get started!

Self portrait by Andy Myer

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.

Interior art SOMETIMES YOU FIND A RED RHINOCEROS by Andy Myer (PYP Academy Press)

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!

Interior art SOMETIMES YOU FIND A RED RHINOCEROS by Andy Myer (PYP Academy Press)

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…*

*Shameless plug for DEAR EARTH…From your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey, Illus. by Luisa Uribe (Harper Collins).
Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Andy!

To learn more about Andy Myer and his books, visit andymyer.com

and follow him on social media:

Twitter @AndrewMyer1

Instagram andrewhmyer


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

Happy National Pet Day to ALL!

It’s a Del Dayo Elementary Blog Takeover!

Hi Everyone– The Students of Del Dayo Elementary are taking over Erin Dealey’s blog for EARTH DAY and Poetry Month. We have book reviews, Qs for Erin Dealey, and writing to share!

TK-3 Zoom with Erin Dealey

The whole school zoomed with Erin Dealey last month

for our annual Author Day.

The lower grades wrote a “1st line/ Last line” poem together. Every class contributed a line, starting with the TKs. Check it out:

Dear Earth… I’m going to pick up trash.

Trash is bad for the environment.

The environment gives us shelter.

Shelter is important to humans.

Humans can pick up the trash.

Trash needs to get picked up.

Pick up plastic water bottles and straws.

Water bottles and straws pollute our ocean.

Our ocean helps our animals.

Our animals like turtles, sharks, seahorses, and fish need our help.

Let’s help our turtles by not putting trash in the ocean.

The ocean should always be clean.

Cleaning helps our Dear Earth.

Dear Earth…I’m going to pick up trash.

by Del Dayo Elementary TK-3.
This is the turtle from DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey, Illus. Luisa Uribe, Harper Collins. How many fish do you see? At first we thought there were 5 fish, but the one in the middle is a plastic bag!

Mrs. Record’s 5th graders read Erin Dealey’s book, Dear Earth….

Here are some of their takeaways:

Charlie & Mia
Charlotte & Mya
Interior art from DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey, Illus. Luisa Uribe, Harper Collins
Clive & Viv
Keira & Hazen
Maeha & Marc
Anthony & Gabe

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.

Illustration by Dow Phumiruk 2017

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.

A page from my first draft.

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.)

Good Questions!

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!

Author Erin Dealey going over “yet another draft” of IRIS, HERSELF.
Writing takes patience!

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.

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Here are a few poems from Mrs. Records’ 5th graders:


Help Earth

Before it disappears

Like an echo.

by Gabe, 5th grade, Mrs. Records

The sunset glowed like an image,

just a fraction of light left.

But silence was suddenly broke,

as the sound of footsteps

filled the clearing.

by Viv, 5th grade, Mrs. Records

I will hide from my ancestor

in the forest

on a journey

to the sacred ring.

by Jai, 5th grade, Mrs. Records
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is star-55x55.jpg

To read all of the awesome poems from Mrs. Records’ 5th grade click 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!

See you then!

9 Qs with Helen Wu 吴卉婷 + a #giveaway = Happy Book Birthday to TOFU TAKES TIME!

Happy (almost) Book Birthday to TOFU TAKES TIME by Helen Wu 吴卉婷,

Illus. by Julie Jarema, Beaming Books, which releases April 19th!

Preorder now, or request it at your library and get some COOL gifts!

“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?

Interior illus. by Julie Jarema for TOFU TAKES TIME, written by Helen Wu 吴卉婷, Beaming Books.

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.

Photo credit: Helen Wu

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

Interior illus. by Julie Jarema for TOFU TAKES TIME, written by Helen Wu 吴卉婷, Beaming Books.

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 illustrator Julie 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.

Interior illus. by Julie Jarema for TOFU TAKES TIME, written by Helen Wu 吴卉婷, Beaming Books.

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.

To learn more about Yeehoo’s open submission policy and guidelines, check out yeehoopress.com/submissions.

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.

Interior illus. by Julie Jarema for TOFU TAKES TIME, written by Helen Wu 吴卉婷, Beaming Books.

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 @HelenHWu on Twitter and RT this blog post (or the original @ErinDealey Tweet where you found it) with the hashtag #TofuTakesTime. Deadline: April 19th–launch day!

Speaking of which…

***To join the virtual launch event of TOFU TAKES TIME with @AvidBookshop and Julie Jarema @rainbowfish523 on April 19, 7PM ET, register here.

To learn more about Helen Wu and her books see: linktr.ee/helenhwu.

Happy Book Birthday TOFU TAKES TIME!

Happy Book Birthday EMET’S BOX + 8 Qs for #debut picture book author/illustrator Jeni Chen= Discoveries, Challenges, & Tips!

Today’s Book Birthday celebration is for EMET’S BOX: A Colorful Story About Following Your Heart, by #debut author/illustrator Jeni Chen (Little Press / 4.1.22). LOOK at this gorgeous cover!

Award-winning #kidlit author Danna Smith

(see Danna’s Book Birthday x2 blog here)

gives EMET’S BOX Five Stars:


After her son was born, Jeni Chen says she was inspired by how EXCITED he is about living life. Chen created EMET’S BOX because, “He inspired me to pick up my brushes and started drawing and painting again. Working with children has also reaffirmed my belief that kids are born creative. They all have this spark, brilliance or light radiating from them.”

We’re excited to ask Jeni some questions!

Q 1. Since you are the author/illustrator of EMET’S BOX, and everyone’s creative process is different, which came first—the story or the illustrations? 

Jeni Chen: Hello Erin, thank you for having me here. Great question! My first reaction was that the story came first but thinking back, I remember seeing in my mind a little boy in a turquoise colored shirt with white stripes and he likes colors so much that he would wear a different color shirt every day. I asked my publisher if I could change Emet’s shirt throughout the book but we limited that to a minimum for clarity’s sake.

Discoveries & Challenges

Q 2. What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in creating EMET’S BOX?

Jeni Chen: IT IS A LOT OF WORK! I changed the direction of my story so many times that I almost gave up at one point. I thought I could finish the illustrations for my dummy book in a couple of weeks but it took me six months. Thankfully, my publisher gave me enough time (12 months) to finish my final illustrations. It’s definitely more work than I’ve expected but it’s a labor of love.

Q 3. Do you have a favorite spread –or one that was most challenging? 

Jeni Chen: Oh, I have several favorite spreads! (Laugh) I really like the one with a bunch of kids in the classroom. Some of the kids were based on my son’s classmates and I tried to incorporate kids with different ethnicity. I posted this spread on Instagram and just the other day, a person pointed out that he saw a Punjabi kid in the illustration and he’s Punjabi too. It’s a joyful spread and I am glad to learn that someone else is enjoying it too. 

Interior art from EMET’S BOX: A Colorful Story About Following Your Heart, by Jeni Chen (Little Press).

Q 4. On your blog, you share a helpful Book Launch check list. Since this is your debut picture book, what are three key tips you highly recommend for others just learning about the marketing side of things? 

Jeni Chen: There are so many moving parts to publishing a book. I don’t know how my publisher does it. Writing that checklist is a way for me to get clarity on what to do next.

I am no expert at book marketing but I tell myself that if I can inspire one kid then it’s worth it. Sharing my book with more children is my motivation to get the book out there. I am just telling everyone I know and come into contact with about Emet’s Box!

How to GET Started!

(Yes, YOU, pre-published friends.)

Q 5. Any tips for those who say, “I’m going to write a book someday.” but can’t seem to get started?  What was the catalyst for you that began the process which resulted in EMET’S BOX?  

Jeni Chen: That’s a great question!


Jeni Chen: I had the idea for Emet’s Box in 2016 but didn’t work on it until I took a picture book illustration class at a local university in 2018. The first critique I got for the manuscript was in that class.


Jeni Chen: The teacher also told us about SCBWI and I joined our local meetings with a classmate who’s also working on her picture book.


Jeni Chen: Then we decided to go to one of the big SCBWI conferences in the coming year (2019) and we had to come up with something to show at the conference. Setting a deadline like showing our work at a SCBWI conference definitely gave me the motivation to do the work.  Taking the class and joining SCBWI enabled me to meet other like-minded people. I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement of my kidlit friends!

Step 4: DON’T GIVE UP!*

*See Jeni’s answer to Q 2.

Q 6. What have the young artists you work with, as a teacher in community arts programs, taught you about the creative process? 

Jeni Chen: What I’ve learned is that we were all born creative! In my art classes, I tried to give the kids a general direction but not telling them exactly what to do. (This was the influence of one of my art teachers.) I really enjoy seeing all the different artworks the kids came up with themselves. 

Interior art from EMET’S BOX: A Colorful Story About Following Your Heart, by Jeni Chen (Little Press).

Jeni Chen: I’ve also learned that there are different approaches to the creative process.

  • Some children need more detailed directions.
  • Some will just go on their own and create things the way they wanted to.

I am trying to find a balance between saying enough and not enough. In addition, some kids may like painting more than drawing, so I am trying to give them a taste of different modes of creating. Sometimes I invite performance artists to give the kids more experience.

We are ALL creative.

Q 7. How does your previous job as a research scientist influence your creative process (besides the incredible chart you created to help with your social media plan!)? 

Jeni Chen: (Laugh) We had to write everything down in our lab books so we could repeat the experiment.

I think we are all creative in our own unique way. Creativity is not limited to the arts. Many of the scientists I worked with were very creative. One of them compared doing experiment with cooking: you try different ingredients and see what comes up. 

I think an important ingredient to creativity is passion. If you love something, you are more open to new ideas, more willing to try different things and making mistakes or failing are not going to stop you from doing what you love.

Interior art from EMET’S BOX: A Colorful Story About Following Your Heart, by Jeni Chen (Little Press).

Q 8. What do you hope readers–young and old–will take away from EMET’S BOX?

Jeni Chen: My hope with Emet’s Box is that the grown-ups can encourage this creativity and aliveness in children. And for kids, I hope they will always hold on to this spark of brilliance that they were born with. But even if they lose it like me or Emet, that’s okay, as long as they look for it again.

Happy debut picture book Birthday, Jeni Chen!

Repost from Facebook: JeniChenArt.

Want to learn more about Jeni Chen and her work?

Check out her website: JeniChen.com

and follow her on social media–

Twitter: @JeniChenArt

Instagram: jenichenart

and FB: JeniChenArt

*BONUS: To read the full story of how Jeni Chen came to write EMET’S BOX, see this blog post.