Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author I respect and admire: the wonderful Teresa Robeson! Here she is, discussing her books Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom, illustrated by Rebecca Huang and published by Sterling Children’s Books, as well as Two Bicycles In Beijing, illustrated by Junyi Wu, published by Albert Whitman & Company. Teresa also won a prestigious APALA Award, but I’ve been a fan of her work long before that happened. Check out her journey below.
BUT first- YAY! Teresa is generously giving away a FREE copy of either of her books!! All you need to do is comment on this blog post. US residents only, contest ends August 28, 2020.
Please describe the journey to publication for Queen of Physics.
Thanks so much for inviting me into your blog-world, Lydia! I wrote the first draft of Queen of Physics back in the early 2010s. It got me my first agent who, sadly, not only couldn’t sell it but also quit the business after a year. Two interminable years rolled by—my darkest days—but to my delight, Jane Yolen picked the story to work with when I submitted it to the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship program. When we were done revising, I sent it out to editors (via SCBWI conference opportunities) and agents. Christina Pulles, then at Sterling, expressed an interest which I took to agents with. And with that interest I got my second agent. Just short of two years after signing the contract, my book debuted.
You used to be a research associate, how does that help you as a writer?
Well, certain things don’t seem to carry over—like running statistical analyses and working with Adobe Morph to create experimental images. But other skills, like writing carefully worded scripts, did help me to learn how to phrase things properly and with precision.
You won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Queen of Physics, can you please comment on how important it is for you to represent your culture?
My parents never wanted me and my sister to forget where we came from after immigrating, so they taught us Chinese reading/writing and history when we were growing up. But as a kid, I never fully appreciated my culture. It’s not until I aged that my cultural background began to become more meaningful. In a country where being a person of color is considered something less-than, educating others about my culture is an obligation I want to fulfill. So, being recognized by the APALA for my work in which I honor someone of my heritage is truly the best award I could possibly win.
Where did you draw the inspiration for Two Bicycles In Beijing?
Several things came together to birth this book: my growing interest in my cultural background in the past couple of decades and also a trip to China that my family took with my dad back in 2013. I was thinking about all the bicycles in Beijing one day, a few years after the trip, and the idea was born.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from either of your books.
And, oh, physics!
Physics, the study of the very matter
and energy around her,
the study of things that could be seen or felt
–heat, sounds, light, electricity, and motion–
and of things too minuscule to be seen or felt
–atoms and even tinier parts of atoms.
Physics captured her heart.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I would like to continue to write picture books about science and my culture, but I also really want to finish a few novels, both MG and YA. They’re both own-voices though one is contemporary and the other is alternate history. The YA idea won the Pitchapalooza contest at the 2017 NESCBWI conference, and I’m still working on it.
Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
Classic would have to be SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats. The language is spare and yet you sense Peter’s joy and wonder and the unconditional love from the mom when he gets home. A contemporary book that I’ve used as my mentor text for QUEEN OF PHYSICS is SWAN by Laurel Snyder. Laurel has a magical way with words—so lyrical and lovely. She is one of my favorite authors!
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I would go for a fruity gelato or a Kohr Bros frozen custard any day! As for ice cream, I really adore cherry/black cherry, but I’m also partial to vanilla. People think of vanilla as “plain and boring” but they don’t realize that vanilla (at least the real stuff) comes from orchids and was once exotic and hard to get. But if I could have only one frozen treat for the rest of my life, I’d choose orange creamsicle. I’m addicted to the stuff, and am drooling now just thinking of it
Teresa Robeson draws upon her Chinese heritage, Canadian-American sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of nature when she writes. Teresa’s picture book biography, Queen Of Physics (Sterling Publishing) won the 2020 APALA Picture Book Award, in addition to being named a 2019 NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book. Her second book, Two Bicycles In Beijing (Albert Whitman), released in April 2020. A 28-year member of SCBWI with many magazine bylines, Teresa served as the Illustrator Coordinator and now as the Co-Regional Advisor for the Indiana SCBWI chapter.
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