My 2nd picture book is out today, August 13th, 2019, from Tuttle Publishing. This nonfiction children's book is like it says, all about Korean festivals, holidays, and traditions with recipes, games, and crafts mixed in.
A colleague asked me which of my picture books is my favorite. I told her what most authors say--each book is like our own child. We love them all. Korean Celebrations, in particular, had a long birthing period, NINE YEARS from conception to birth!
If you want to know the backstory, keep reading.
Before we moved to Korea in 2010, I was part of a wonderful in person critique group in California headed by the awesome author, Nancy I. Sanders. She lands many contracts BEFORE she writes the book. She told us her strategy. She queries publishers with ideas that could fill a hole in their publishing line. So I tried it. I came across Tuttle Publishing in Vermont and noticed they had a book on Japanese Celebrations and Filipino Celebrations. But nothing about Korean holidays. So I came up with four book ideas, including Korean Celebrations, and sent them a query on July 29, 2011. FIVE months later, the acquisitions editor emailed and said yes, send detailed proposals, starting with Korean Celebrations.
Insert: [September 2010 our family moved to South Korea for my husband's work. I noticed that Korea had holidays almost every month. So that was another reason for writing this book. I wanted my kids to know about the holidays.]
I researched and wrote up an outline (TOC) and sent it in. FIVE months later I had heard nothing and inquired. My proposal had been passed to the children's editor, Terri Jadick. NINE months later (March 2013) Terri got back to me stating they really needed an illustrator before she could propose the book to the committee. So the illustrator search began.
Two possible illustrators made sketches for the job. But for various reasons, they turned down the project. Finally, July 2017, I signed the contract, as they had found a new illustrator, Farida Zaman, a Toronto based artist who had traveled worldwide. I love her watercolor illustrations. By this time, I had an agent, the lovely Adria Goetz, and so she handled everything for me.
October 18, 2018 I saw via pdf the inside of my book. It's always a happy day when you see your words come to life. February 5, 2018 they sent me the cover, And July 16, 2019, while at my sister's house in Iowa, I received my book copies.
And today, August 13, 2019, KOREAN CELEBRATIONS is out in the world!
The moral of this backstory: Never give up on a book idea. It might take years, but it's worth it. And YOU can come up with book ideas and query a publisher, too! It might just work!
Today is the Korean Thanksgiving called Chuseok, which lasts for three days. Each year I wonder if there are any story ideas lurking when I attend my in-law's activities. But so far, I haven't thought of any. Plus, someone else already wrote a marvelous picture book about the holiday. However, I'll still keep my eyes and ears open. By the way, in the photos above, the first picture shows practical gifts given, usually boxes of fruit, food, or shampoo/toothpaste sets wrapped in fancy silk cloths. The second picture shows some appetizers, sausage patties and zucchini patties dipped in egg, and the last is a skewer with mushroom, radish, crab, Spam, and fish. The last photo is Songpyon, traditional Thanksgiving rice cakes filled with crushed sesame seeds, sesame oil, and sugar. They're supposed to be in the shapes of a half moon to picture how the moon fills up, signifying that they hope their harvest is plenty. (at least that's what I read...my relatives made this food.)
This got me to thinking today. Have you ever written a story that takes place in another culture? I've written about the Korean culture because I'm living and learning it. And I've written one story based on a true account of a similar culture to South Korea by conducting interviews, watching You Tube Videos, and reading lots of articles on the subject. (still to be published someday)
If you've written about another culture that's not your own, what kind of research did you do? Watching video clips about the culture really helped me feel like I was there.
Currently, my daughter is reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. I wondered how Linda Sue wrote this without visiting Sudan. Here's what I found on the web.
While researching A Long Walk to Water I read Salva’s own accounts of his journey and interviewed
him many times. For Nya’s part of the book, I had access to notes, photos, and video footage from
people who had visited villages like hers (including my husband, who traveled to southern Sudan
in 2009). I read several books about the Lost Boy refugees, watched documentaries and researched
articles. Most important of all, of course, was my unrestricted access to Salva and his willingness to
share his memories. ~Linda Sue Park http://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/skins/uqp/_uploads/TeachersNotes/A%20Long%20Walk%20to%20Water.pdf
I've read how American publishers need and want to publish more multicultural books. What do you think of authors writing about a culture not their own? I know it's been discussed. You might have seen the illustration below circulating among the kid lit community. Something else to think about!
Amazing illustration by artist Tina Kugler about the lack of diversity in children's literature in 2012. Kugler's illustration is based on the findings by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University Wisconsin-Madison which analyzed 3,600 last year and discovered that less than 8% of the total titles they received from publishers were about people of color.
Tina M. Cho, children's author
I'm a children's author and freelance writer for the educational market. Welcome!