Did I mention that this book is available NOW? Check out Wendy Wan-Long Shang’s Website.
Her book comes highly recommended by my resident 13 year old reader (who has quite discriminating tastes). I believe the exact words were, “Now THAT is a great book.” Yes!
So, as promised, here are the more relaxed questions, with answers from Wendy that are both smart and fun!
Tea or coffee? Flavor? Milk or sugar?
Wendy: I was on a huge coffee kick for years, before I finally figured out that even though I drank coffee in the early afternoon, it messed up my sleep several hours into the night. Now I stick with tea and chai and soda. I don’t miss coffee as much as I miss the lifestyle. Getting tea at a coffee shop just isn’t fun.
Wendy: There’s something to love about every season, but I think I like summer the best – the long days and easy rhythms, though it is hard to get writing done with the kids at home.
Can you deal better with wind or rain?
Wendy: Oh, rain by a long shot! After years of holding little hands, I don’t even think about using an umbrella anymore.
Deciduous or evergreen?
Wendy: Decidedly deciduous.
What’s always in your fridge?
Wendy: Eggs and cheese. You can always have a meal if you have eggs and cheese around.
Favorite comfort food?
Wendy: To quote a documentary I saw – Having a good day? Have a bowl of ice cream! Having a bad day? Have a bowl of ice cream! Actually, this might be our family motto…
Chocolate or some lesser nectar of the gods?
Wendy: Gotta have chocolate – I love those little tubs of dark chocolate-covered cranberries from Trader Joe’s. (Because cranberries have antioxidants and therefore it’s HEALTH food!) But I do get into some mad gummi bear cravings, too. I spend a disturbing amount of time thinking about snackage.
Food you’d rather starve than eat.
Wendy: Ha ha! Let me just say that when I was four, my family went to Taiwan, and my mother was quite convinced I was going let myself starve to death, in spite of the fact that the child rearing books said otherwise. The family cook there even tried to make me hamburger, but made the mistake of actually seasoning the meat, since the idea of serving unseasoned meat is a bit foreign in Chinese cuisine. When we got back to the states, I promptly gobbled down two hamburgers at Burger King. I’m sure that I would eat a lot of the foods that I bypassed back then, but on the regular food scale, hmmm, I would have to say that I’d still rather starve than eat okra.
Cat or dog?
Wendy: Dog. We have cats, but we got a rescue dog – a Brittany/border collie mix last year and it’s just a different level of interaction. I feel that Charlie is always excited to see us, while at least one of my cats, Sasha, is secretly planning an overthrow.
Ha!! Flats or heels?
Wendy: I have three kids and a pathological attachment to comfort. Flats!
Natural fibers or synthetics?
Wendy: Natural fibers.
Jeans or fancier?
Wendy: Ummm – I have fancy jeans. Does that count? Oh, I really hope that counts, cause otherwise I’m in big trouble.
Short hair or long?
Wendy: I always think short hair looks great…on other people.
Wendy: Good meal, great conversation, happy kids and the knowledge that a fantastic book is waiting for me on the nightstand.
Wendy: On the ideal vacation, the pleasures of what I didn’t expect outweigh the pleasures I had planned. My husband, David, and I have been fortunate to take some really fabulous vacations to Utah, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest that fit this definition.
Favorite board, card, or computer game?
Wendy: I was a Scrabble girl for the longest time, but now I really love Spider Solitaire. It’s bordering on an addiction.
Favorite sport or form of exercise?
Wendy: I love putting on my iPod and taking a long walk with the dog. I’m really into This American Life, the Moth and the Splendid Table, though sometimes I do make myself walk without the iPod because I know I need the silence as well.
Language in which you’d most like to be fluent.
Wendy: Mandarin. I can speak Mandarin in a very basic way, but, for example, I don’t make jokes in Chinese. I feel like I can dance in English, but I walk in Chinese.
Nicely put. Country you’d most like to visit.
Wendy: Don’t make me pick just one! China, of course – Australia, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa. But no matter how great the trip is, I’m always happy to come home.
Skill you’d most like to acquire.
Wendy: To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, I’d like to learn how to keep my head when all about me are losing theirs.
Favorite musical instrument.
Wendy: When I went to college, my roommate introduced me to the Bach cello suites. I was sold. The sound of the cello is so rich and soothing. It’s the Barry White of instruments.
You’re going on a book tour: Plane, train or automobile?
Wendy: Train! I love being able to spread out, and there’s so little hassle when it comes to trains. You can move around, you don’t have to drive and you don’t have to get patted down or give up your water bottle!
:o) Topic you’d most like to write about.
Wendy: I would love to write about my mother’s life, growing up in China and coming to America. She is one of the most amazing people I know. She grew up with a certain set of expectations of what women should be like and shattered them. Her father wanted her to study English so she would be helpful to her future husband, and she ended up being the number one entrant for the physics department in Taiwan’s most competitive university.
Aha! So that’s where you get your smarts! (No offense to Wendy’s dad, who’s obviously smart enough to have picked a stellar wife.) Please write that book because I’d love to read it.
Topic you think most needs writing about.
Wendy: I think a major function of children’s books is to let any child that is experiencing “otherness” that he or she is not alone, whether that feeling is due to culture or family circumstance or the way a child feels inside her own skin. I have to say, Judy Blume will always have a special place in my heart just because she had a Chinese-American character in Blubber. This was at a time when I almost never saw an Asian face in popular culture – basically, it was Mr. Sulu on Star Trek and the occasional Korean character on MASH. I think as writers we instinctively think about otherness a lot, and the children we find experiencing those feelings are the ones we should write for. And it doesn’t have to be in a sad, solemn sort of way – it can be joyful or funny, too.
Author you’d like to meet.
Wendy: I’d love to meet many authors, but right now, E.L. Konigsburg springs to mind.
Question you’d ask that author.
Wendy: I’d ask to see her first draft of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I love that book as a reader and a writer, and I’d love to see it in its early stages. As a story, it has that interesting structure that turns on itself and makes the ending so satisfying.
Hear, hear. What / who gives you spiritual guidance and inspiration?
Wendy: I try, and the emphasis here is on “try,” to remember two things every day: we are put on this earth to love each other, and everyone needs to be listened to in a deep and meaningful way.
What most surprises you about our current culture?
Wendy: This isn’t really a surprise, but the extremely divisive tone in our culture is very distressing to me.
So true! What are some of your favorite books?
Wendy: Where do I start? I can read the Frances and Arthur books and the Frog and Toad books all day and never, ever get tired of them. As for middle grade, I mentioned Mixed-Up Files (also the name of the group blog I belong to!), and I also adore The Phantom Tollbooth and Harriet the Spy. I still remember reading The Phantom Tollbooth for the first time, and it was like suddenly living in a new dimension! And Harriet is so subversive, I love her. I am a Little House on the Prairie girl, and out of the whole series, I’ve become quite fond of The Long Winter. Perhaps it was because of Snowmageddon last year, but as an adult, I really appreciate what that family went through! I ‘m also a fan of well-written non-fiction. I’m reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis right now – it’s a study in developing a compelling narrative, regardless of the subject. Bill Bryson is a master of integrating the tiniest facts into a terrific story. And I adore the essays of David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell. Whew!
Some favorite movies?
Wendy: Little Miss Sunshine is one of my favorites – such a wonderful combination of pathos and humor. And the characters! Talk about avoiding stereotypes – each character is so fresh and original. Room with a View is another favorite – there is so much joy and humor in there and it’s a movie that knows how to show, not tell, that the characters are in love. When Harry Met Sally is a terrific study in dialogue AND pacing – think about how much time is covered in that movie and how natural it feels. Whale Rider is another great one. Its setting and story are so different from what we experience here, it’s at times even mystical, and yet the character’s longings are universal.
Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your time and thoughts with us. Now it’s time to let people go and read LUCY WU!