Want to discover how to manage strict deadlines or how to best ask for an extension? How about a plotting technique that’ll help you build strong character arcs? Or all the ways a writing retreat can help you reach your writing goals? We talk about it all and much more with Grace Lin.
Grace is a NY Times bestselling author and illustrator who won the Newbery Honor for her book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Her other award-winning books include When the Sea Turned to Silver, Starry River of the Sky, The Year of the Dog, and her upcoming novel Mulan: Before the Sword!
Grace and I kick off the conversation with how she found her passion for writing and illustrating children’s books and the steps she took to turn her dream into a thriving career. She gives us a behind-the-scenes look into her TEDx talk where she highlights the significance of multicultural literature on personal identity and development. She shares an exciting snapshot of her upcoming novel Mulan: Before the Sword that sets the stage for Disney’s upcoming live-action movie Mulan. We then dive into her research process and how she managed the book’s tight deadline, all while giving us crucial advice on how to juggle deadlines all while staying true to your story. We then discuss plotting strong character arcs, why writing retreats are crucial to Grace’s livelihood as a writer, and you’ll be happy to hear that we also touch on finances in this conversation.
Books and resources:
- The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
- The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
- Rhode Island School of Design
- Authors Chris Van Allsburg, David Wiesner, and David Macaulay
- Author and children’s literature librarian Rudine Sims Bishop
- Disney’s live-action film Mulan directed by Niki Caro (Out March 27th!)
- The Highlights Foundation
- Grace’s TEDx Talk: The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf
- The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
- Her Book Friends Forever podcast
Check out these highlights:
- Grace’s earliest memory of storytelling that ignited her passion to become a writer and illustrator (12:10)
- The steps she took to turn her passion into a thriving literary career (13:50)
- The inspiration behind her TEDx Talk: The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf and how it came to fruition (25:50)
- Tips for becoming a confident public speaker (27:45)
- A snapshot of Grace’s upcoming novel Mulan: Before the Sword that sets the stage for Disney’s live-action movie Mulan (32:50)
- A look into her research and writing process for Mulan: Before the Sword that helped her reach the book’s strict deadline (35:49)
- How to juggle tight deadlines and when it’s the right time to ask for an extension (44:45)
- She answers one our very own listener’s question:
- “I’d be curious to know how Grace plots a character knowing it’s a prequel to something that already exists? Does she try to plot our her character’s arc so that the place her character ends in is close to where the main story starts? What specific things about the character does she keep in mind and what restrictions does it have on her creative freedom?” (48:15)
- All the ways a writing retreat can help you reach your writing goals (50:13)
- Advice on staying financial sound as an artist (42:40)
“There’s a lot to be said about being a late bloomer, but there’s also something to be said when you have a life-long passion for something.”Grace Lin
“We all want to be seen for who we are, which is why we are all attracted to the arts.”Grace Lin
“We keep these old traditions, but we have to let them change with the time. That’s how these traditions stay alive is that we keep them alive by letting them change and grow.”Grace Lin
“For writers like me, if I don’t have a deadline, it’ll never be done because I can keep fiddling and fiddling forever and the truth is there comes a point where you’re not making it better, you’re just making it different and somebody needs to shut you down.”Grace Lin
“You do your best work when you yourself are well balanced and happy and healthy.”Grace Lin
Say “Hi!” to Grace:
Learn more about “Mulan: Before the Sword”:
Family is important to Hua Mulan — even if her parents don’t understand why she would rather ride her horse, Black Wind, than weave, or how her notorious clumsiness can be so different from the graceful demeanor of her younger sister, Xiu. But despite their differences, Mulan has a deep love for her family, especially Xiu. So when her sister is bitten by a poisonous spider, Mulan does everything she can to help, including seeking out a renowned healer. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to both the mysterious spider bite and the healer than meets the eye.
On a quest with the Jade Rabbit of legend, Mulan visits extraordinary places, meets Immortals, and faces incredible obstacles while searching for an antidote for her sister. And the danger only rises when Mulan learns of a prophecy foretelling that a member of the Hua family will one day save the Emperor. . . and of the powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to prevent it from coming to pass.
Learn more about Grace Lin:
Grace Lin is the award-winning and bestselling author and illustrator of National Book Award finalist When the Sea Turned to Silver, Starry River of the Sky, Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, and Ling & Ting, as well as pictures books such as The Ugly Vegetables and Caldecott Honor book A Big Mooncake for Little Star. Grace lives with her husband and daughter in Western MA, where they get plenty of winter snow.