Behind the Scenes with Ba-chan, The Ninja Grandma + FREE GIFT AND GIVEAWAY!

Today is the day! Hooray! Hooray!

My friends, what an incredible ride these last few years have been. Ba-chan, The Ninja Grandma marks the fourth book I’ve published with Sasquatch Books (and third with their children’s imprint Little Bigfoot). My head spun while typing that.

What’s been fascinating for me is how different the experience has been for each book. Little Kunoichi, The Ninja Girl — my first book baby — effortlessly popped out with virtually no changes, nary a stretchmark. I basked in a floaty glow of grateful disbelief the entire time I worked on that book. I’ve written about the process before here and here, and I remember thinking, “If book-making is this easy and fun, I want to publish 20 books a year!”

My second book, Sewing Happiness, was a tumultuous experience requiring a lot of uncomfortable emotional upheaval. If Little Kunoichi was the first blush of sweet, unconditional newborn love, Sewing Happiness was like the cantankerous, tantrum-filled toddler phase of fierce love and equally fierce aggravation. I came out of it in one piece, but not unscathed. But I also felt stronger, prouder and more…authentic as a result of creating that book. I understood myself a lot better. It was such a collaborative book, and I owe the resulting aesthetic loveliness to the discerning eyes of Tristan and Michelle aka Besotted, my rock star stylist friends Rachel and Allie, and the hilarious photographer George. And of course, my editor Hannah was a dream.

Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet actually wasn’t meant to happen. At least, not right after Sewing Happiness. It was supposed to be the fourth book, preceded by Ba-chan, The Ninja Grandma. However, Little Bigfoot was publishing another grandmother book around the same time (it’s phenomenal, highly recommended), so the order was rearranged. I love the Chibi book so much, yet perhaps a gentle samurai boy has less appeal than a persevering ninja girl? I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t sold nearly as well as Little Kunoichi or Sewing Happiness so far. I’ve received quite a few emails from readers that their kids repeatedly request Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet, so I have high hopes that it’ll steadily find its way to more young (and older!) readers over time. In terms of working on it, it wasn’t quite as easy as Little Kunoichi, but not nearly as difficult as Sewing Happiness. Sort of like how I’ve been feeling about K’s tween years: easy, but not too easy. There was more scrutiny and definitely more changes with Chibi, but as a result I’m pleased with how much smoother and cohesive the story is. Editors are under-the-radar heroes of the publishing industry. I am in awe of all the wonderful editors I’m privileged to work with: Tegan and Christy are my main kids’ book editors and they shepherded me in the right direction every step of the way.

 

Now, Ba-chan, The Ninja Grandma was a tricky one, like a moody teenager. I’m very intuition-driven, and I had a distinct intuitive hit a couple of years ago that I was meant to work on a money book for kids. Ugh. I was dismayed. Really? Money?? I don’t know about you, but I’m confused by and frightened of money. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding the topic if at all possible. Just ask my husband. It seems to have become the only barometer of value that matters (at least amongst people I’m surrounded by), which bothers me, and few topics can be as divisive as money. I sometimes find myself filled with shame that I don’t have what could be considered a sizable income even though I feel like what I do IS valuable. I’m still hesitant to sell and market my ware, which is stressful and may be a contributing factor to my income situation. Ultimately, I think money is wonderful, which you don’t hear a lot of people say. There can be so much delight and goodness and positivity as a result of earning and spending money. On occasions when I’ve actually felt prosperous (because let’s face it, most of us in developed countries are prosperous if you look at the globe at large), I’ve been astounded by the amount of guilt that floods me. As if I don’t deserve to be financially successful, especially if I’m doing something I love. It’s bizarre.

At its core, money is simply a tool for the exchange of goods and services. I know this. You know this. Yet there’s often so much angsty stuff that weighs down anything that has to do with the mighty dollar (or yen or deutsche mark or whatever). The development of currency was super smart because bartering can get unwieldy, you know? I admit that I do fantasize about using my fabric stash as currency because if you saw how much I have, you’d call me a zillionaire.

Why do we, as humans, place so much value on money? Why do we flood our senses with advertisements and shows and information that exalts material consumption? Why are so many people in debt? Why are there so many people renting extra storage units for things they don’t use? Why, in this age of extraordinary abundance, do we seem to feel so much scarcity? What is truly, truly valuable? What am I teaching my own daughter about money and value through my own actions? These types of questions perpetually buzz around in my head. I often think about this quote that I’m paraphrasing here:

We buy things
we don’t even want
With money
we don’t even have
To impress people
we don’t even like

I’m not trying to vilify money — far from it. It’s a necessity for our world to function, but the intent and purpose of this utilitarian tool seems to have gotten muddled and glorified, no? Is it just me, or has the tool morphed into something bigger that holds power over us? I don’t pretend to have answers. After all, I used to be in debt, I still mindlessly consume sometimes and I still have fear-based issues surrounding anything that has to do with money.

It wasn’t just about money that I wanted to explore with the book, but the whole idea of value. I wanted to see if I could approach the subject in a playful way and I wanted to incorporate wisdom from a ninja grandma, naturally. I was ecstatic when Sasquatch/Little Bigfoot allowed me to experiment with this book. It wasn’t smooth sailing, let me tell you — the story has gone through many, many iterations. The rough draft of part of a storyboard you see above is one of dozens of changes I made. In the end I have no idea how the book will be received. But that’s true for all my books and I know that I did my absolute best. And for me, that’s enough.

Back of the book. The turtle submarine is an important part of the story!

 

 

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GIVEAWAYS!!!!!

Okay! Now that you have a little bit of background, let’s talk about the promotion we’re running for Ba-chan, The Ninja Grandma! Instead of a single launch party at one bookstore/venue, I wanted to include as many Pacific Northwest bookstores as possible this time and I’m thrilled that we have quite a few participants!

I made a turtle submarine for each bookstore and they’re filled with chocolate coins and “money mints”:

If you find the turtle submarine in the bookstore, please help yourself to a coin or dollar! Also, for every purchase of Ba-chan, The Ninja Grandma at one of the participating bookstores, you will receive a free gift (and a signed copy of Ba-chan)!! I put a lot of thought and love into these wee goodie boxes — we’re keeping the contents a surprise because I adore a little mystery!

The promotion will start on September 22, 2018 and will continue until bookstores run out of gifts. The participating lovely bookstores are (list may be updated over the next few days):

Elliot Bay Book Company

Kinokuniya Books

Lake Forest Park Third Place Books

Liberty Bay Books

Phinney Books

Queen Anne Book Company

University Bookstore

If you’re in the area, I’d love it if you’d support your local independent bookstore!

And there’s more!!

As I thought about this, I wanted to do something for people who don’t live in the Seattle area, so I have 10 gift boxes and signed copies of the book to giveaway as well! Please either comment here or on IG and I’ll select 10 winners by October 1st. If you’d like some ideas for a comment, what’s something you consider valuable? It can be anything: photos of your kids, a cozy home, hikes in nature, a bobble-headed doll from your cousin, a sense of freedom, a personality trait or particular skill you have…you can list multiple things too!

International entries are welcome, as always. Good luck!!!!!

 

 

Book #4: BA-CHAN, THE NINJA GRANDMA!!!!!!

Hello, hello! Long time, no blog…the last five months whisked by and I have no excuses for not updating at all. I’ve been focusing on “being in the moment” and have fully enjoyed immersing myself in spring/summer activities and projects!

Now that it’s September (my favorite month of the year), I’m feeling that usual surge of energy to get back into action. We did so much this summer: some traveling, a few camps for K, a ton of time with family and friends. And we got a kitten! I’ve become a full-on cat lady already and it’s only been three weeks.

 

I’d like to introduce you to Katara, the sweetest kitty I’ve ever known. Granted, I’ve not known many felines since this is the first time I’ve ever had a real, interactive pet — sadly, K’s frogs have been a dud in the cuddling department — and I guess I just don’t know a lot of cat owners. Katara was fascinated by the box of my advance book copies.

So!!!!! I won’t bore you with endless tales of Katara’s adorableness, because I wanted to share the exciting news that my newest book, BA-CHAN, THE NINJA GRANDMA is about to launch! September 18th, baby! It’s already available for pre-order on Amazon, and I’d be ever so grateful if you’d consider purchasing a copy! Did you know that pre-orders help enormously with book rankings and actually boost sales down the way because it’ll populate the “inspired by your browsing” section? Or at least, that’s my understanding. I might be wrong. And as usual, it’s been awesome working with my publisher, Sasquatch Books/Little Bigfoot!

Now, what makes this book extra special is that the main ninja grandma character is modeled after my very own mother:

There’s no doubt that she’s a bonafide ninja. To promote the book, I’ve got some fun activities in the works, but I just wanted to give a shout-out to my amazing mom on this day, September 6th, because it’s her 70th birthday. I feel tremendously fortunate to be her daughter, and I love that I was able to create a book that is going to be released during this big birthday month.

Happy Birthday, Mama. Thank you for being the best mom (and grandma) in the world.

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I hope you’re all doing well, my friends! Keep a lookout for upcoming posts – I’m going to be blogging more regularly again!

Happy Friday + A Flower Shower

Happy Friday! I’ve been painting a lot lately, experimenting with the many, many watercolor and gouache paints that I have. I’m in between big deadlines right now so I gave myself a break for the entire month of March to basically goof off. These illos aren’t for any particular project and it’s lovely to just aimlessly sketch.

The plan was to simply read and sort of putz around for a month, but then – as per usual — I found myself making a massive to-do list of sewing, home improvement and other DIY projects. I get twitchy unless I’m working on something. But what I ended up gravitating towards most was my paints. It’s been very relaxing.

I’ve been giving this blog a lot of thought too. I had ambitious blog ideas on my big to-do list, and clearly they didn’t happen. I’m relishing the ease of Instagram right now, and I promised myself not to feel pressured to post on a regimented schedule anywhere online. Super liberating. And I noticed that when I let myself just putter about physically and mentally, I feel more energy and want to make things. This break has done me good!

I’m off to start my weekend and I hope you have a terrific one! I will leave you with this little girl having a conversation with a flower…

Girl: Tell me, pretty flower — what is this luminous shower?

Flower: I am a light tower, a giver of infinite power.

Girl: Oh, tell me more about this power!

Flower: It makes you an allower, a magnificent here-and-now-er!

Girl: …will it take more than an hour? If so, I might get sour and dour.

Flower: Ah, just relax under my bower and enjoy the flower shower…

 

 

Etsy update and whatnot

Photo by Carrie Bostick Hoge

Hello, my friends! Just a little update because my blog is feeling quite neglected these days, so very much like my houseplants. This post is my attempt at a bit of watering and reviving, though I know that I’ll need to do some serious pruning and repotting and fertilizing (?) and all the other plant metaphors that I don’t know because I’m not much of a gardener.

Anyway. I’ve been meaning to add this little meditative pincushion PDF pattern that I contributed to Making to my etsy shop for months, and I’m so happy that I’m now getting around to it.

February was a hectic month what with the flu and SVE and traveling to Santa Fe during mid-winter break and trying to finish up the book that will be coming out in September. The flu was hard, SVE was awesome (though a few people are still waiting for gifts and as always, Ute and I are so grateful for the herculean patience of all), Santa Fe was glorious, and the book still isn’t done. That pretty much sums it all up.

Now that I’m about 98.3% all better, I’ve been enjoying life immensely. There’s nothing like not being able to eat for almost a week to make you appreciate food. I’ve been chowing down heartily and savoring every bite.

How are you? I’m somewhat more active on IG these days, but blogging will always remain my first love. I have SO much to share with you (I’m sewing again!) that if I think too much about it, I get overwhelmed. For now, I’m keeping the pace slow and meditative and am wishing you a lovely weekend!

 

Post Valentine’s Day SVE Update

Happy Day-After-Valentine’s-Day! I hope you had a love-filled one! I’m still recovering from the flu — I joked that I look like Botox gone wrong to M and an uncomfortable silence ensued. “You’re supposed to disagree,” I told him. “You actually look like a really swollen, bruised pumpkin,” he answered. He then said that in fact, I appear jaundiced. I don’t know, maybe I’m overthinking this with my flu-addled brain, but some communication lessons might be in order here. Honesty is not always the best policy, don’t you think? Perhaps feeling guilty about the comments, he presented me with a dozen roses for V-day. He also got K some chocolates and this (maybe it reminded him of me):

 

Anyway! SVE!!!!!! Have you been checking the #2018sve hashtag on Instagram? It’s all kinds of amazing and beautiful and overwhelming. I tried to comment on all the posts but I simply gave up. Too much goodness. I just decided to soak it all in and fully appreciate it.

Ute and I want to remind participants that though a large number of people received gifts before and on Valentine’s Day, quite a lot of folks will end up waiting longer. Every year we’ve tried to figure out ways to ensure that gifts will arrive on time, but we understand that things come up (I myself couldn’t combat my flu and had to extend work deadlines and such) and technological glitches occur and postal services aren’t always reliable. We are sending out HUGE thank yous to everyone out there patiently awaiting their Secret Valentine treasures. If there are lost parcels or other issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at secret.valentine.exchange@gmail.com!

On a more personal front, I received my own SVE gift from @_lillimade_ a couple of days before the big day and hard as it was, I kept my paws from tearing the package apart until Valentine’s Day. And oh! So so so so gorgeous. Lille made me a pouch (“for painting days”) and a needle case (“for knitting days”) and I love them both so much. Look at the fabrics! The knitting needle case is made from silk, I think. Or at least a silk-dupioni-esque material. The Japanese motif pouch is a sturdy fabric — cotton + linen? Lined with grey, naturally.

I’ve recently fallen in love with knitting and the needle case is just perfect:

 

They are impeccably made and just lovely to hold and have. In the flurry of organizing the event with Ute, I often forget that I get to receive a gift too, and it takes me by surprise when the parcel arrives. It’s hard to describe how touching it is to know that someone (almost always a virtual stranger — though sometimes we accidentally pair up folks that know each other) took the time and effort to make something especially for me. I become embarrassingly emotional.

 

As I delighted in opening my gifts, my Secret Valentine also received her assorted goodies that I sent. I had so much fun creating a number of simple (but I hope useful!) things for Karry of @karry.brook. She’s quite the renaissance lady and has a cool shop in Michigan called Goods Detroit. She said she loves black, white, pink, purple and buffalo checks and windowpane checks, and guess who has a ton of black-and-white buffalo checks? Okay, I have a ton of every kind of fabric, but I thoroughly enjoyed making her a square travel case (adapted from the tutorial that Ute provided) and matching napkins out of this Japanese fabric I’d been hoarding for a long time. The all black napkins are double-gauze.

I whipped up a little bright pink/orange/purple linen shopper bag too since I find them to be such utilitarian and environmentally-friendly items to have on hand. This is a self-drafted pattern that I’ve been using for years.

The surprise ball was a stroke of inspiration. I’ve always loved them and for years I’ve been talking about making one. Just as I’d expected, it was super fun to put together and I found little chocolates and sewing related sticky notes and other fun tidbits to add. I just kept wrapping crepe paper into a ball, but here’s a video if you’d like more info on how to make one. I also included a pretty felt notebook for Karry to capture her many, many ideas. It sounds like Karry liked the gift, and I’m so pleased!

There will be more and more IG posts with the #2018sve hashtages over the next few weeks, so have a look-see! The creativity and care and consideration that have gone into the gifts are awe-inspiring!! Thank you. Ute and I feel so lucky to be part of hundreds and hundreds of people sharing handmade love around the world. It’s phenomenal.