Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author and EMLA agency sister Andrea Wang, here to chat about her newest picture book, Watercress, illustrated by none other than Jason Chin, published by Holiday House/Neal Porter Books. Check out her author journey below.
BUT first- YAY! Andrea is generously giving away a copy of her book (signed by her and Jason Chin)! All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends March 8, 2021.
Please describe the journey to publication for Watercress?.
When I wrote down my memory of picking watercress for the first time, it was in the form of a personal essay. I had taken a course in writing personal essays during my MFA program and thought it would be a good form to use. But I didn’t know how to end the essay, so after some time, I rewrote it as a fictional picture book. That worked better, but the ending still wasn’t right. I shoved it into the proverbial drawer and didn’t look at it again for about seven or eight years. I was inspired to take it out after reading A Different Pond (written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui) and rewrote it again, entirely from scratch. It was a long journey just to revise the manuscript, but I needed those years to find the heart of the story.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I was inspired by a childhood memory of being forced to pick watercress by the side of the road. It was a memory that haunted me. I had to write the book in order to understand why I couldn’t let this memory go and what it really meant to me. I also wanted to honor my parents and their experience as immigrants from China.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from the book.
Mom and Dad press me to try some.
“It is fresh,” Dad says.
“It is free,” Mom says.
I shake my head.
Free is bad.
hand-me-down clothes and
roadside trash-heap furniture and
dinner from a ditch.
This excerpt shows the depth of misunderstanding and miscommunication between the main character and her immigrant parents. The gap feels insurmountable, until the mom shares a story from her past.
What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My process does vary depending on the project and whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. Most of the time I start by writing down ideas and notes in a notebook and then progress to doing a lot of research and making more notes. I’ll jot down phrases or sentences that might work for the story, and once I feel ready, I’ll write a very rough draft on the computer. I’ll revise it numerous times, often based on feedback from critique partners, and then I’ll either share it with my agent and editor if it feels submittable, or shelve it until I find my way into the story and can rewrite it again, as I did with Watercress. I find that I need to let most of my stories marinate in the back of my mind for a while before I can move forward with writing them.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’m super excited to have my debut middle grade novel releasing this August from Kokila. It’s a contemporary coming-of-age story called The Many Meanings of Meilan, about a Chinese American girl whose sense of self fragments after her extended family has a falling-out. I have another picture book coming out next year, also from Neal Porter Books, that is called Luli and the Language of Tea. It’s about a young girl who bridges a language gap through a shared love for tea. I’m also working on another contemporary MG as well as two nonfiction picture books. As for my career, I’d love to keep writing books that explore identity or have to do with food – preferably both at the same time.
Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
As I mentioned above, A Different Pond was a huge inspiration for me and also served as a mentor text for Watercress. There are so many brilliant PBs that it’s impossible to pick favorites, but I rely on the works of Chris Barton, Hayley Barrett, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Maria Gianferrari, Minh Le, Theresa Robeson, Lisa Robinson, Barb Rosenstock, and Carole Boston Weatherford. For MG, I’m especially inspired by J. Anderson Coats, Debbi Michiko Florence, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Lisa Yee.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Don’t be afraid to write from a place of vulnerability. Embrace what you don’t know and write until you understand it. Readers deserve complete emotional honesty.
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
Can I be a plant instead? I’m borderline obsessed with ginkgo trees and would love to be one. They’re long-lived, scrub pollution out of the air, are possibly fire-retardant, have medicinal seeds, and are graceful (something I am not!).
Andrea Wang is the award-winning author of The Nian Monster (APALA Honor, PW starred review) and Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando (Freeman Book Award Honor, Sakura Medal, JLG Selection, SLJ starred review). She has two books releasing in 2021: Watercress (JLG Gold Standard Selection, multiple starred reviews); and The Many Meanings of Meilan, her debut middle grade novel. Her work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. She is also the author of seven nonfiction titles for the library and school market. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in the Denver area with her family.
This entry was posted in Children's literature, Education, Inspiration & motivation, Publishing industry, Resources for writers, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing tips and tagged author, blog, books, Children's literature, giveaway, publishing, writing.