I've been a part of a critique group called Pens & Brushes since 2008. Members have come and gone, but four of us inaugural members are still a part of this group. With the idea of Diane Hower, we met for the first time, hearing each others' voices along with seeing each other! If you haven't done a Zoom with your critique group, I highly recommend it, unless you can meet in person!
In October, author Kate Narita invited me onto her podcast, Chalk & Ink: The Podcast for Teachers Who Write & Writers Who Teach. Scroll down to October 9th to hear our conversation.
Being back in the states, I'm ecstatic to see all the Christmas decorations and Christmas candies! With that in mind, some of you have asked how to get autographed books.
If you want an autographed THE OCEAN CALLS, I recommend ordering from the website of The Learning Post & Toys. I can go into the store & personalize it if you want. Just let me and them know.
If you want an autographed MY BREAKFAST WITH JESUS, I recommend ordering from Choices Christian Bookstore. I can go in & personalize it if you want. Just let me and them know.
If you want an autographed RICE FROM HEAVEN, I recommend ordering from Barnes & Noble at Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines, Iowa, as I can go in & sign their books.
With so many children now at home, it's good to get books into their hands!
Well, moving during a book launch in a pandemic--I wouldn't recommend it. But I'm so thankful to all of you who have supported me, through watching my online activities or even buying and sharing about the book!
If you missed out, you can see me and the illustrator Jess at Little Shop of Stories on Facebook here or me reading the book at Warwick's Bookstore on Instagram here.
And good news--The Ocean Calls is on the Fall 2020 Kids' Indie Next List by the American Booksellers Association!
I'm in Iowa now. Big difference from the lightning fast Internet of Korea. That's the main thing we miss. In fact, it took over two weeks just to get service. Which means I had to go to a hotel to use their Internet to do my LIVE book launch online!
And now I'm back in the classroom with two hybrid groups of kindergartners teaching them how to walk in a line like zombies, arms out to measure social distancing.
What are some new things you're adjusting to? How's your writing?
You could win a picture book critique from me OR this swag which includes a Korean bag, haenyeo stuffed animal, a Jeju Mirror, a Korea magnet, and Korea bookmark. (US residences for the swag. Anyone for the critique.) To enter the contest, you must pre-order the book and then fill out the form below. I'll announce the winner on my blog & at my virtual launch. Details about that coming soon.
With two books out this summer, it's time my website gets a new look. Please take a look around. What do you think? What could I do to make it even better?
News: My new picture book My Breakfast with Jesus is getting reviews on social media. If you've read it, I'd love for you to leave a book review on Amazon, Good Reads, B&N & share about it. It's a great way to segue into a discussion about race and culture with kids. I'm @TinaMCho on Instagram & Twitter.
Star-worthy news: The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story has received THREE stars so far! One each from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher's Weekly. I'm grinning from ear to ear. Only my teens don't get it. haha Only my writing tribe understands.
My daughter painted this verse for me for my birthday. It's what I base my writing on.
Happy official summer! How are you doing?
My 3rd picture book released quietly into a troubled world on June 2nd. This nonfiction picture book features children from around the world eating various breakfasts and showing Jesus' love & kindness. How the world needs this now! Use this to teach kids about diversity and that Jesus loves them no matter what color their skin is. On that same topic, I wrote this blog post for the Christian Mommy blog, "9 Ways to Encourage Your Children to Think Globally." My heart hurts for my home country of the USA. I'm praying for you daily!
Leading up to the book's release, I tried something new--doing short videos on Instagram Stories. I featured a breakfast and 1 spread from the book for five days. I saved all the videos on my Instagram Profile under "Breakfasts," if you'd like to see some of them. I'm tinamcho on Instagram. Follow me, & I will follow you.
If you'd like a chance to win this book, check out 2020 Vision's debut June picture books rafflecopter here.
Today was my last day teaching at this international school in Korea. I've taught kindergarten at this school for 4 years. Time to move on. But change is hard! Please pray for us as we seek what God has for us.
Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
It's Children's Day here in Korea, and we've been blessed with the day off from school & work. If you'd like to know more about Korea's Children's Day, I blogged about it here. My kids are in high school now, and so we celebrated by eating at Subway and doing some light shopping. Plus, it was a rainy day.
Things are easing up in Korea. Korean public schools will start next week with grades staggered. International schools like mine are still working on their schedules.
May is also Children's Book Week. I thought I'd share some favorite books my kids have enjoyed over the years.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon trilogy by Grace Lin
The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Stink The Incredible Shrinking Kid series by Megan McDonald
The Lemonade Wars series by Jacqueline Davies
Geronimo Stilton series
Dork Diaries series by Rachel Russell
The Cupcake Diaries series by Coco Simon
Thea Stilton series
Cam Jansen series by David Adler
The Cul-de-sac Kids series by Beverly Lewis
Linda Sue Park's MG novels
Are you seeing a consistency? At least with my kids, upper elementary through teenage years are hooked on a series. Mine were comfortable with a certain author and then would buy/check out all the subsequent books.
I must share one favorite board book of each of my kids.
Can you guess who liked which one? Well, enjoy Children's Book Week with your favorites & the children in your life!
Part of being an author means we learn new things, especially about social media, right? I've conquered Facebook & Twitter. I've been lurking around Instagram and posting photos now and then. Lately, I learned there's a whole new world in Instagram with Instagram Stories. Who knew there were more hidden goodies in the circled rings around people's names? Oh goodness, have I got a lot to learn. I have to beg my teenaged kids to help their elderly mom. haha So TODAY I'm doing my first-ever Instagram live interview with author Jessica Kim, of the new middle grade, STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG. I'm almost done reading this awesome book. One you need to put on your list! Anyway, if you're free this afternoon/early evening depending on your time zone, do check in the Kokila Instagram channel. I'll be waking up super early on my Saturday morning to participate. And I cleaned my office just for you. Hope to SEE you. And please follow me. @TinaMCho. If you have Instagram tips, please leave them in the comments!
Update: Here's the recording of my part: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Wfp9CjAx8TSyo2TV6
I thought I'd update my blog and let you know what's going on in my part of the world. If you follow me on social media, you probably already know. Our school has been closed by the government for 1 week due to coronavirus. We are now starting week 2. And the government just announced schools will be closed through 3/23. God help us all! At the time of this writing, there are 4,335 cases in Korea with 26 deaths. Every hour the number rises.
My day has now given over to online learning or schooling. Since I teach kindergarten, I rewrite my lessons for the parents to teach to their children. I video myself teaching at least 1 lesson every day. I upload videos, worksheets, all assignments to an online platform called Class Dojo. Students work from home and upload their assignments to their online portfolio. Writing lessons in a new way, working with parents, videoing, checking assignments--it's more time consuming than regular teaching. My teenage children receive their instruction through Google Hangouts and Google Classroom etc... They are online from 9 - 3:30 with a break for lunch. We are not the only country doing this. Most countries in Asia are now doing online school. Some have been doing it since January!
Can we go out? Sure, but on our own risk. We wear a mask wherever we go, but as they say, the best protection is washing hands with soap & warm water. There are 5 cases in my big city, most of the cases are in the southern part of Korea. Many times throughout the day, the government sends emergency alert text messages telling us if someone in the area just became infected and what stores and places to avoid.
Because the government says not to have assemblies, we even had online church, live streaming. It's easy to get downcast, having to stay inside all the time. But we have to remember, God is greater than the coronavirus! Pastor shared the popular verse, Isaiah 40:31 "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Be like an eagle and soar above the storm! Whatever your "storm" is today, rise above it and just keep writing!
In 2010, we moved to South Korea for my husband's work. At churches I heard about people helping North Korean escapees. I had never heard about them in the states. I researched on the Internet, reading all the articles I could find, watching You Tube videos about them. Most of the articles kept mentioning a Pastor Chun, calling him the "Schindler of Asia." So in 2012 I looked him up, found his church & school for North Korean children, and with my husband translating, I interviewed him & two North Korean boys who had recently escaped. Afterward I set out to write a picture book manuscript about this fascinating story. First draft was written November 29, 2012. It went through 16 miserable drafts with my faithful critique group Pens & Brushes, until a couple of them piped up and said I should try this as a middle grade novel.
A MG novel? I had never written one before. Another critique partner, Nancy I. Sanders, had a self-paced course "How to Write a Middle Grade Novel in One Month," which I took. I already had the basic plot line. I wrote the 21 chapters between March/April 2015. Revised 4 times with some beta-readers & used editor Cheryl Klein's book Second Sight. Then someone told me about the Scholastic Asian Book Award--submit a story about Asia, written by an Asian. That's me. I had nothing to lose. I was floored when someone contacted me that my MG novel had been shortlisted for this award, and would I fly to Singapore for the results? In May 2016, I took a day off from teaching, flew to Singapore for the Asian Festival of Children's Content conference, when I discovered the renowned picture book historian & author, Leonard Marcus, was one of the judges! My MG novel titled at that time, Chasing Freedom: The Asian Underground Railroad, won 2nd place, or what they called 1st Runner Up. Scholastic Asia wanted to publish. I blogged about that experience here.
After receiving the contract from Scholastic Asia, I didn't feel that it was right for me and my story. $500SG + few edits. I knew that since it was my first novel, it needed a lot of work. After talking to many professionals in the industry, I passed.
In December 2016, I signed with my wonderful agent, Adria Goetz, who loved a couple of my picture book manuscripts. I told her about this novel, and she agreed to help. From 2017-2018 I revised with Adria. She sent it out to editors, and they sent back rejections. I revised per their suggestions. She sent it out again. 11 rejections. Then Adria had a wild idea. Try writing it as a novel in verse. She had just sold one, and my previous picture book, RICE FROM HEAVEN: THE SECRET MISSION TO FEED NORTH KOREANS was written as a lyrical picture book. Adria knows my writing better than me. I loved reading novels in verse but had never written one.
So I read the great novel in verse authors' works that I could get my hands on, checked them out from the library when I was in the states during summer, even took an SCBWI Novel in Verse webinar with author K.A. Holt. During the latter part of 2018 - beginning of 2019 I worked on rewriting this as poetry.
Until March 2019, I sort of QUIT. I was depressed. Who was I to try to write a novel in verse? or a MG? I don't classify myself as a poet. Some parts of the story just weren't coming together. Being across the ocean from my agent, somehow Adria could sense something was wrong. She emailed me to have a phone chat in April. Just what I needed. Adria was such an encourager, a believer in me & my writing, and gave me a great pep talk & kick in the pants, so to speak.
With encouragement & prayers, I finished the 5th novel in verse revision that May, and we changed the title to The Tune without Words b/c there was already another book with my previous title. She sent it out to editors. In June editor Carolina from Harper Collins asked if we were interested in publishing it as a lyrical novel in verse GRAPHIC NOVEL.
A graphic novel?! Truthfully, I had only read 1 previous graphic novel of my niece's--one of Raina Telgemeier's books. I'm not really into say-- superhero graphic novels & comics. (no offense!) I did read comics growing up, The Sunday Funnies like Peanuts, Garfield, Dennis the Menace, Cathy, etc...
But graphic novels have changed! Blogging friends showcased graphic novels that were being published about historical topics and nonfiction. Articles are being written on the effects of students reading them in the classroom. While in Iowa during the summer, one that I really liked was HIDDEN: A CHILD'S STORY OF THE HOLOCAUST written by Loic Dauvillier & Greg Salsedo, illustrated by Marc Lizano. So I told Adria, yes, let's go for it.
The editor from Harper Collins found an illustrator, Deborah Lee, a Korean American illustrator in CA, who would illustrate a sample poem so we could get an idea. She sent illustration samples in August. I fell in love with the characters & color palette. It was so poignant & made me cry. I want children in the U.S. and around the world to know that as we speak--some kids in N.K. are escaping or living hidden in China. With Deb's illustrations, this story will really come to life and especially bring out the cultural aspects that people might not be familiar with.
I signed the contract in November, my biggest yet, & received first edits in December which I submitted & will continue to revise until it's perfecto! Carolina has been a wonderful editor for this story.
But even better--God has perfect timing. I've been wanting this story to be out in the world, but it wasn't the time yet. Most of you know I teach at an international school in S.Korea. I've wanted them to do a service ministry with North Korean refugees but it never worked out, until now! The same North Korean school run by Pastor Chun agreed to have some of our high school students come in March to do an English camp with their 40 North Korean children. I'm one of the teachers on the team. And now I can share with him that this story finally sold & will become reality in 2022! God is good. His timing is perfect.
Sorry to ramble on and on, but don't give up on your story. If you believe that it needs to be told, find the best format/genre/style, take classes, study the craft, and it will get out into the world ❤️
Happy 2020! A new year of hope. My word for the year.
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
I received a perfect gift from my publisher Harvest House--a book called My Unedited Writing Year by Hope Lyda to help spawn creativity in my writing! It's like a journal in which I write down ideas and answers to their prompts.
2019 was a great writing year for me. KOREAN CELEBRATIONS published by Tuttle debuted. I worked on revisions and edits for My Breakfast with Jesus which comes out June 2nd from Harvest House and revisions for The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story from Kokila imprint of Penguin Random House which comes out August 4th.
My agent sold another manuscript. Details will be announced soon. I can't wait to share!
Meanwhile, I'm in the midst of a 3-week Christmas break from school and will return to teaching my precious kindergartners on January 9th. I'm also trying to recover from bronchitis which seems like I've had the past month or more. I'm participating in Tara Lazar's Storystorm, writing down a book idea each day in January.
2020 will be an interesting year. My daughter will graduate from high school. Acceptances to various universities are rolling in. My two picture books mentioned above will publisher this summer. I spent New Year's Day writing and revising. Scroll down for a fun, cuddly, inspiring photo from my research!
You never know where writing research will take you! This, by far, is my favorite photo from it. Happy New Year! May you be blessed with abundant writing, creativity, and contracts.
Tina M. Cho, children's author
I'm a children's author and freelance writer for the educational market. Welcome!