One of the features of the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles (and maybe elsewhere, but I wouldn’t know it) is the Autograph Party, at the end. We get cupcakes (disgustingly creamy, in my opinion) and can get our copies signed by the authors. Two years ago, I contemplated having the books I’d bought signed, but in the end decided against it. I never feel comfortable in crowds, and this was a BIG crowd, with long lines. This year, I came down with only two copies (the books I wanted to buy had disappeared from the bookstore by the time I got around to buying them) but once I arrived in the ballroom, I almost turned around again. Did I mention I don’t like crowds? Or standing in line? That’s a French thing, I think. Anyway, I almost left, but then I thought, “Nope, you’re going back there and you’re going to have these two copies signed, and that’s it.” I’m getting quite good at this “kicking my own butt thing,” aren’t I? And I’m so very really glad I did. I got Christopher Cheng to sign his book “Melting Pot” for my daughter. It’s the story of a boy who is part Australian, part Chinese, like Chris Cheng himself, set in Sydney, at the beginning of the 20th Century, and written as a diary. I have not finished reading it, yet, but the protagonist, Chek Chee, has a strong voice, and the setting, in the early days of the White Australia policy, is fascinating. Chris Cheng, by the way, gave an informative and very lively presentation about doing research for historical novels.
With my first book signed, I then went to see the lovely Paula Yoo, author of the Young Adult novel “Good Enough.” Paula noticed my button with the cover of Amadi’s Snowman, and she offered to take my picture to post it on her blog, which she has done. Thanks, Paula.
I started reading “Good Enough” at the conference but was so tired by the time I went to bed that I just couldn’t keep my eyes open after a few pages. I then read it during the long flight to New York and really enjoyed it. “Good Enough” is the story of Patti Yoon, a Korean-American whose parents have very high and specific expectations : she must be the best at everything, and particularly the violin in order to get into HARVARDYALEPRINCETON, and of course, dating boys is strictly out of the question. Patti struggles to find her place, understand what SHE really wants – as opposed to what her parents want for her – and make the decisions that may well affect the rest of her life. I totally related to Patti’s struggle : music was really big in our family, too. I played the piano, my sister played the violin, and my brother the cello. And when we were not practicing, I would accompany my father as he sang the whole tenor opera repertoire. The pressure to achieve was also high, what with my mother who’d never been to school, and my father who’d had to drop out when he was 15 years old to go and make a living, both of them wanted their children to have what they had not had. Paula Yoo touches these issues – as well as the issue of prejudice – with honesty and an obvious understanding that comes from experience. She also writes with a great deal of humor. Her story is universal and very satisfying to read.
And now, I have two signed copies. Can’t wait for next time. I’m hooked.