Author Teresa Robeson on Mastering Biographies- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish! I’m excited to introduce my next guest, an APALA Picture Book Award-winning author, who’s not only talented but also very friendly, Teresa Robeson. She’s here to discuss her latest middle grade graphic novel, Who is Tibet’s Exiled Leader? the 14th Dalai Lama, illustrated by Angela Poon and published by Penguin Workshop.

BUT first- YAY! Teresa is generously giving away a FREE 30-minute AMA. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends April 7, 2023.

Please describe the journey to publication for Who is Tibet’s Exiled Leader? the 14th Dalai Lama.

In 2020, my then-agent spotted a tweet from a Penguin Workshop editor looking for people to write graphic biographies. I wrote up a proposal which the editor and her team liked and they offered for me to pick from a list of people they needed books on. I chose the Dalai Lama because my paternal grandparents were Buddhist and I always wish I were raised Buddhist instead of Catholic. My wonderful editor, Rachel Sonis, who is now at Time Magazine, guided me through two outlines and 5 drafts to the final version. The team picked Angela Poon to illustrate which was a brilliant choice. She made the script come alive! The whole process from signing the contract to the book being released took 2.5 years which seems like an incredibly short time for the publishing industry, particularly when you consider how much art Angela had to create.

What made you chose the format of graphic novel?

I didn’t choose the graphic format. It’s the defining feature of this particular line of WHO HQ books. I had never written in a graphic format before but my then-agent probably presented me with the opportunity because I had just won the APALA Picture Book award for a biography so she thought I could tackle a graphic biography. And, indeed, I wanted to because I cut my reading teeth on graphic novels and comics in Hong Kong where they have been popular for a long, long time.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

The Nechung oracle goes into a trance while the DL speaks to him, visibly concerned and torn.


Please tell me what I should do to prevent my people from coming to harm?


You…/ should…/ leave immediately.

DL looks surprised.


The last few times I asked, you advised me to stay and keep the dialogue open with the Chinese. Are you certain this is what I am to do?

The Nechung oracle picks up a bow and arrow.


Go! You must go!



How did you go about researching this book?

The research for this biography was the same as for the other biographies I’ve worked on. I began with finding all the children’s books on the subject. From there, I branch out to adult books. After that, I also did a search online for legitimate sites to gather more information. I made cursory notes on similarities and differences from the different sources. Generally, if I believe that more info can be gleaned by interviewing someone, I do so. For this book, I mostly relied on the Dalia Lama’s biography (straight from the horse’s mouth, as the saying goes…no offense to His Holiness) and cross-referenced with two recent biographies by people who knew him pretty well.

What was the most surprising/fascinating thing you learned about the Dalai Lama, that you perhaps weren’t aware of?

I’m embarrassed to say that I really didn’t know a whole lot about the Dalai Lama’s life! For me, before writing this book, he was like Athena fully sprung from Zeus’s head: he is, had been, and forever will be, a grand and glorious figure that the world admired. So, everything that I learned about him was fascinating to me. What stuck with me the most is that he has such a playful sense of humor and was quite a mischievous child…like a normal human being!

Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.

It’s really tough to choose, but some of my favorite books from 2022 include The Gardener of Alcatraz by Emma Bland Smith and Jenn Ely; Hello, Opportunity by Shaelyn McDaniel and Cornelia Li; and The Adventures of Robo-Kid by Diane de Groat. You can probably spot a trend in my tastes. LOL! The writing and, in the case of Diane’s book, the art, too, make me mull over how to improve my own way of elucidation. As you know, it’s hard to nail a beautiful and unique voice.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?

My advice for writers is the same advice I have for anyone of any age: never stop learning! I’m a proud autodidact. Approach the world with a curious mind. Not only will it bring you joy, but it’ll also provide you with many writing ideas. I want to share two of my favorite quotes here:

“No day in which you learn something is a complete loss.” – David Eddings

“Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”- Henry Ford

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could meet a fictional character from one of your favorite books, who would it be?

Oh, my goodness; I had to think really hard about that one. I would have picked a different character at each stage of my life. But here and now, I’d have to say it’s Ford Prefect from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams because I could do with an adventure around the galaxy by a seasoned extraterrestrial journalist-traveler. I would even listen to Vogon poetry!

Thanks so much for having me on Blissfully Bookish, Lydia! I had such fun with your questions, especially this last one.


Teresa Robeson is the APALA Picture Book Award-winning author of QUEEN OF PHYSICS and TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING. Her upcoming works include WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER? THE 14TH DALAI LAMA (Penguin Workshop), CLOUDS IN SPACE: THE NEBULA STORY (MIT Kids/Candlewick), WHO IS BRUCE LEE (title to change, Penguin Workshop) and some yet-to-be-announced books. She lives with her family on 27-acres in rural Indiana where she relaxes by birding, keeping up with science, making soap, knitting, baking, and trying to impress the chickens with her bilingualism.



37 thoughts on “Author Teresa Robeson on Mastering Biographies- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

    maureenegan said:
    April 1, 2023 at 4:28 pm

    Seems like a match made in heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

    Destiny Lawyer said:
    March 31, 2023 at 2:31 pm

    My students can’t get enough of books in graphic format, so yay for a biography!

    Liked by 1 person

    Scott Wolf said:
    March 30, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    I have great respect for the Dalai Lama, and I love graphic books. Can’t wait to read yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    Scott Wolf said:
    March 30, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve alway had great respect for the Dalai Lama, and I love graphic books. Can’t wait to read yours!


    Gayle Krause said:
    March 30, 2023 at 7:57 am

    Thank you for sharing your graphic story experience with us. I always wondered how one would write a whole story in a few words for each picture. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    Gayle Krause said:
    March 30, 2023 at 7:31 am

    What an interesting interview, Teresa. And Lydia. Thanks for sharing this new adventure in writing. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    Jilanne Hoffmann said:
    March 29, 2023 at 9:42 pm

    Yay, Teresa! I, too, wish I’d been raised Buddhist instead of Catholic! I’ll have to take a look at this book. Congrats on learning something new and applying it immediately!

    Liked by 1 person

    Stephanie Jackson said:
    March 29, 2023 at 9:36 pm

    It’s so interesting that you didn’t “choose” the graphic novel format. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

      Teresa 何 Robeson said:
      April 2, 2023 at 9:22 pm

      Some people pursue it specifically, but I kind of fell into it. LOL! Thank you for reading! 🥰


    seschipper said:
    March 29, 2023 at 9:09 pm

    Wow, great post! Thanks Teresa and Lydia! Looking forward to reading your book:)

    Liked by 1 person

    Jill Dana said:
    March 29, 2023 at 8:34 pm

    This book looks and sounds amazing, Teresa!! And thank you for the interesting interview, Teresa & Lydia!

    Liked by 1 person

    kathalsey said:
    March 29, 2023 at 5:43 pm

    I need to know more about the DL and get into more GN. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    chardixon47 said:
    March 29, 2023 at 3:59 pm

    Terrific interview. Congratulations Teresa and Angela! I’m looking forward to reading your book about the Dalai Lama.

    Liked by 1 person

    Stephanie Owen said:
    March 29, 2023 at 10:10 am

    Kathy, I was fascinated to here how you started writing a graphic novel based on your agent’s recommendation, and I really enjoyed seeing the format for writing a graphic novel.

    Liked by 2 people

      Stephanie Owen said:
      March 29, 2023 at 10:12 am

      So sorry, I meant to say Teresa, not Kathy!


      Teresa 何 Robeson said:
      March 29, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the format, Stephanie! I hope you will give it a try. (And no worries about my name…LOL!)


    CJ Penko said:
    March 29, 2023 at 9:47 am

    You are such a powerhouse, Teresa! Every time I read something of yours I’m blown away. Awesome interview as always. Thanks so much for sharing Lydia & Teresa!

    Liked by 2 people

    Patricia Franz said:
    March 29, 2023 at 9:26 am

    I did not realize this story would be on graphic format! God on you, Teresa, for being open to grow in a new area. It will be my first Graphic format PB read 😊

    Liked by 2 people

      Teresa 何 Robeson said:
      March 29, 2023 at 4:01 pm

      Yes! WHO HQ just started the graphic format line of their biography series recently. I’m excited to be a part of their inaugural lineup!


    Cathy Ballou Mealey said:
    March 29, 2023 at 9:24 am

    Brilliant interview. What a gorgeous book!

    “Never stop learning” – how well Teresa enlivens that motto. She’s a constant inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

    kathalsey said:
    March 29, 2023 at 8:34 am

    Great interview, Lydia! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, Teresa! Congrats.

    Liked by 2 people

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