I rode the subway to northern Seoul (a 2 hr ride) to Asia Pacific International School (APIS) and spoke in two sessions--3rd-5th graders and kindergarten - 2nd grades.
Upon arriving, I felt very welcome, as the kids outside for recess immediately knew who I was and said, "Hi Tina Cho." It was weird hearing my first name, because as a teacher, everyone calls me Mrs. Cho. The elementary principal was very welcoming and gave me a tour since I was a little early.
I used Google slides, which made it very easy to sign into the teacher's computer, and my presentation was waiting. I lugged a 6 lb or 3 kg bag of rice on the subway, go figure, so that kids could feel how heavy the rice hanging on each balloon was. (Thanks, Creating School Visits Facebook group for the ideas.) I read my book, had the Q&A time, and then did a little presentation about writing and publishing books. The older students started working on a great craft that my friend Laura Baker Mun developed and said we could use.
I gave bookmarks to the older kids, and they had me autograph them. The younger students were enthralled with the history of North & South Korea and asked many questions like --"Why was there a war? Why is Kim Jong Un mean?" To which another little kid gave the answer--"because his mom and dad were mean." Yep, that pretty much sums up the problem. :P Just love kids and their thinking.
I give a shout-out to my awesome husband who rode with me to the school b/c he thinks I would get lost in the massive subway system. ♥
On October 19th, 2018, I did an author Skype with two 4th grade classes at an international school in Ankara, Turkey. Everything was set. However, technology failed, and the teacher (my friend) had to resort to using her smartphone! The classes were extremely well behaved and quiet. Each child, who wanted to, came up to the camera and asked me a question. I had also prepared some slides of photos. Per the teacher's request, I shared how God gave me a passion to write and care for North Koreans. Mrs. Woo, their teacher, did an excellent follow-up by having the students write their reflections or letter to me. I'm happy that some girls decided to be a writer! And some Muslim students started reading the Bible!
Below are some of the letters + photos in a slideshow. Technology aside, they and I had a blast! Thanks, Mrs. Woo & Mrs. Gestring at Oasis International School!
And thank you, to the "Create Engaging School Visits" Facebook group for great advice for author Skypes! If you're an author, be sure to join that group if you want to present at schools.
Today, Sunday, October 14th, 2018, I had the privilege to give a copy of RICE FROM HEAVEN: THE SECRET MISSION TO FEED NORTH KOREANS to the North Korean Pastor who led the group of us two years ago to send balloons of rice over the border to North Korea. Another friend who had gone with us that night showed the pastor her copy of the book earlier this morning. He said he almost cried. He was very touched.
My husband, son, and I traveled by subway to Seoul, about an hour away. Due to wrong directions, we arrived in time for the last song of the service, go figure. But he announced to the small congregation that I was there, and he held my book up. Many people came up to me and said "thank you," and that they were very touched. Greatest of all, I re-met a North Korean defector from the event in 2016 and met a new one, both of whom speak English :) Now I can interview them and get more nitty-gritty details. And I met a Korean adoptee like myself who will be a big help on another WIP (work-in-progress). I also met a guy who defected three years ago, and he is now in the South Korean military special forces who will drop by parachute with his unit onto North Korean soil if there is a war. (Even though the news makes everything sound peaceful, we don't know if Kim Jong Un will truly hold up his end of the bargain...)
We ate the church's lunch and had great conversation. The pastor thinks it's a good idea the South Korean President and the North Korean leader are talking, as the pastor is for unification. But as for the people living there now, things are still not so good.
Hopefully, I can visit them again soon. I'm happy to know they are pleased with RICE FROM HEAVEN. By the way, they do the balloon launch every year.
Even though my book debuted mid August, my first book signing is coming up on 9/29 at a small English bookstore in Seoul. For more details, see the poster on the left. I'll post pictures here afterward.
So what does an author need to remember or do for a book signing? Since I'm still learning, these are things on my TO DO list or DON'T FORGET List. I'm very organized, and so I need to write all these things down. Maybe this list will help someone out there. Maybe you know something that SHOULD be on my list. Do let me know!
1. Don't forget to take a couple Sharpie markers.
2. Create a child-friendly craft doable for elementary that parents won't want to throw in the trash. A meaningful craftivity. Don't forget to take all supplies for the craft.
3. Decide on refreshments. First, ask the bookstore if refreshments are allowed and who provides what.
4. Decide on what to wear! I don't want to clash with my book cover. hehe
5. Know the schedule of events for the book talk/signing.
6. Recruit my own teen-aged children to help with the above craft so I can mingle with people.
7. Don't forget to take bookmarks and business cards.
8. Ask someone (hubby) to take pictures of the event.
9. Advertise event on social media.
10. Practice reading your book.
11. Think of answers to questions they might ask.
12. Prepare any decorations if needed.
That's all I have for now. Those of you who have gone through this, give me your advice!
Rice from Heaven has been out for two weeks now. School has started in many places. If you'd like to use my book with your students or homeschoolers, please take note of the resources available on the graphic above. There are teacher guides for lower elementary and upper elementary. And the coolest thing, is that a writer friend directed me to a website where you can earn rice for needy countries. They are currently working on a newer version of the game here. You can also check FreeRice on Facebook for additional updates. I think students would have a blast earning rice + learning vocab along the way.
For U.S. educators, I'm available for Skype/Google Hangouts on your Friday mornings and a couple days the end of September during our Korean Thanksgiving holiday. The first 15 minutes are free. If you'd like a longer time, please contact me for pricing.
Korean educators, it looks like I'll be doing a book signing in September at What the Book Bookstore in Itaewon. Still waiting on the exact date. They have my book available. :)
I heard from one of my art teacher friends in CA, that she used my book for her Heroes Around Me art project. Heroes can be regular people helping others. Let me know how you used Rice from Heaven and your students' reactions! Thank you!
Lastly, Congratulations to Patricia and Ellen, winners of signed bookplates and a little gift from Korea :)
Don’t Forget the Children
In honor of Rice from Heaven's book birthday, I dedicate this post to the children of North Korea.
In the mess of politics, wars, famine, and hunger, don’t forget the children. Jesus didn’t. “Let the little children come to me,” He said in Matthew 19:14.
Technically, North and South Korea are still at war from the 1950s. The heavily-armed demilitarized zone is a testament to that fact. Yet, every year, North Koreans try to make the escape. Some fail. Some succeed. November 2017 one such person did. However, he was a North Korean soldier who fled on foot over the DMZ and received numerous gunshot wounds from his fellow soldiers. It was even caught on tape and released on the news and You Tube. He was sent to a hospital less than an hour from where I live in South Korea. One of the top surgeons operated on him and to his surprise discovered numerous parasites and worms living in his abdomen. These were parasites that the doctor had only heard of in textbooks. One worm was 27 cm or almost 11 inches long. http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2017/11/16/2017111601450.html
When I heard this, I thought about the children living in North Korea. If all these parasites and worms were living in this soldier, think about what parasites and worms are living in the children. My heart and prayers go out to the kids. And its for these children that I wrote Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans.
In May 2016, a fellow teacher and her family and I helped a North Korean refugee church in Seoul send balloons carrying rice over the border to North Korea. We drove to an undisclosed island to another church that was assisting. Rain poured. The perfect weather to bring winds that would carry the balloons. We were given ponchos and had our umbrellas. I helped carry Styrofoam containers of rice out of a shed to our launch place. We put the containers in big plastic balloon bags. We worked in groups of 3s. One held the balloon, another added helium, and another tied on the rice. It was incredible watching these giant, translucent balloons ascend over the mountains. I asked lots of questions, knowing I would write an article or something about this. I pictured children or families finding the rice on the ground in the morning. That made me think of the story in the Bible about how God provided manna or bread on the ground each morning for the Israelites in Exodus 16. Instead of bread from heaven, North Koreans would find rice! I kept that image in my mind. Soon after, that became the title of my first draft Rice from Heaven.
In all the news around the world, don’t forget the children. Pray for them. Support them. Be the reason a child smiles today!
If you purchased Rice from Heaven, please email me a copy of your receipt at tinamariecho(at)yahoo(dot)com, and I'll put your name in a drawing. Two winners will receive signed bookplates + either a Korean magnet or a small Korean mirror. Drawing on 8/28.
Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans will be available August 14, 2018! A lot of work goes into a book's birthday or debut. The publisher and I have prepared teacher's guides for the various grade levels which are located here. Since I won't be able to be in the states when my book debuts, my publisher had bookplates made for me. I pre-signed some of them. The local bookstore in my hometown of Newton, Iowa, has agreed to mail signed bookplates + 10% off if you order my book from them. Details in the graphic below. I also ordered some bookmarks, which I'm still waiting on.
Other book birthday prep means guest blogging and interviews. I'm so grateful for our wonderful kidlit community that helps market each other's books. Two other people who are champions for Rice from Heaven are my wonderful agent Adria + my mom!
I'm thankful that my family and I were able to travel to Iowa this summer. Now it's back to the school grind and writing + more book birthday prep. I'm still learning, so if you have tips on book marketing, let me know in the comments! Thank you!
Exciting news happened the day before Valentine's Day--my F&Gs arrived. That's publishing lingo for "Folded & Gathered." This is the preview book that is usually not officially bound. It's shown to librarians and bookstores and buyers of books so they can order the book if they are interested.
But that moment when you get to hold your illustrated words in your hands is magical :)
Now I'm waiting for the "real" hardbound copy that will debut in August 2018. And I connected with the illustrator who also lives in Korea. I'm hoping we can meet in the fall.
My F&G also appeared at the ALA Conference in Denver earlier this month for librarians and others to see. Maybe I can attend one of these conferences in the future.
Lastly I wanted to leave you with a tip. You know in your outgoing email, you can attach a signature byline, right? Well, I got a little freelance gig, I believe, because of it! True. One of my work-for-hire clients recently asked if I'd proofread an adult Christian nonfiction book. I said sure. But I was curious--how did she know I was a Christian? I don't think I ever directly said so, and we've never talked about religion. Then I remembered, in my email signature is a Bible verse. Aha! "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3. And I recently finished a huge freelance project from a publisher who read my bio on SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators), a writing organization I belong to. So writers--check and update your bios, signatures, and bylines!
Short answer: Very.
Long answer: Keep reading :)
Last month my editor for my forthcoming picture book, Rice from Heaven, said she wanted us to create a subtitle just to make it clear what it's about. So the editor and her team suggested some, my agent suggested some, and then I reached out to a couple of my critique groups, and they suggested some. So I had about 10 titles to work with.
A subtitle, IMO, should be written concisely, and beautifully sum up the main idea of your book.
Here are some examples of recently published picture books with subtitles:
Vincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky by Barb Rosenstock
Long May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and Her Star-Spangled Creation by Kristen Fulton
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat
Kick! Jump! Chop!: The Adventures of the Ninjabread Man by Heather Ayris Burnell
La, La, La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo
Did you notice the first three were nonfiction picture books, and the last three were fiction picture books? So subtitles can be used for both.
Author Darcy Pattison has something interesting to say about subtitles here. Will the subtitle help teachers, parents, and librarians find your book in the database?
Lastly, this article has good points about the dos and don'ts of subtitles.
So--what is my subtitle? You'll have to wait for the cover reveal to find out!
My first picture book was announced in Publisher's Weekly twice, July 18-19. One of the hardest things for an author to do is to keep matters a secret! But now it's official!
I wrote this story last year May 2016 after helping North Korean refugees send rice in balloons over the border of South Korea into the communist country. As the book comes closer to being published, I'm sure I'll share more details. Writing tip: Never give up. Revise and revise some more. If you don't know how, learn.
But for now, here's a timeline of Rice from Heaven for those of you who like writing details.
May 2nd, 2016: helped with balloon rice mission
May 9th, 2016: wrote 1st draft at 818 words
Dec. 19, 2016: snagged agent with this story (different draft)
Jan/Feb. 2016: 1st round of 20 editors, 7 responded mostly they liked the story behind it, needed to improve writing (rejections), 1 took to acquisitions
End of Feb/ March/: Revised to be more lyrical--for more details on that, see this post
April 18: sent out 2nd round of submissions, 18 editors, 6 rejected, 3 interested
April 18, 2017: Sonali Fry emailed, interested, took to acquisitions
April 21, 2017: Sonali Fry made an offer
May 1, 2017: phone call with Sonali and Adria
May 2017: draft #17 of 473 words sold verbally to Sonali Fry at Little Bee
May 18, 2017: Began back matter assistance with Little Bee
June 1, 2017: received 1st draft of contract
June 24th, 2017: signed picture book contract for Rice from Heaven in California with my agent and found out who the illustrator will be
July 10, 2017: received signed contract back from Little Bee
July 18, 2017: announced in Publisher's Weekly
Tina M. Cho, children's author
I'm a children's author and freelance writer for the educational market. Welcome!