Being Multicultural

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Courtesy of Hartford Courant

The car was packed and I headed down to Hartford to the Dragon Boat & Asian Festival along the Connecticut River. I didn’t know what I would find at this two-day event where I had signed on to run children’s crafts and promote my book.

What I found was true multiculturalism.

The first person to buy my book was a lovely and energized man that is principal of an Asian Studies school with a young and diverse student body. He commented that it was good for his students to see “people that look like you” at the source of this Chinese culture book. Meaning of course, not Chinese or even Asian. His point was very deep for our fleeting encounter and how I wished I had an hour to engage with this inspiring community leader with a lot to say.

I realized, looking around at the swarm of families… Hispanic, African-American, Filipino, Chinese, Indian, and from numerous other parts of the world… that I was not an outlier… an imposter… for being there promoting Chinese culture. (You guessed it- I sometimes feel that way.)  My race and ethnic background were not the focus. It was how and what I teach others…all others… in order to bring cultures together to grow as one world- in this case, teaching and fascinating children about China.

Everyone loved making my paper dragon boat craft with drinking straw paddles but what I sensed even more was a community of people with a true desire to be together with no boundaries. Even with several languages being spoken at my art table at once, everyone was smiling… mothers to mothers, children helping the children beside them and comparing their coloring skills, tattooed, bronze-skinned teens needing a respite as they checked their phones, and Asian elders enjoying the young energy while carefully inspecting my book for authenticity.

Granted, these festival visitors had an easier opportunity to expose themselves to vastly different cultures in such a diverse city, and could seek to understand their neighbors in work, school, worship and recreation. It is more of a challenge in other parts of the country including where I live. But true multiculturalism seems to be an active way of life and attitude, not just a status quo through proximity.

The dragon boat races were happening just over the bank and the shared passion for this Chinese tradition could be felt with every synchronized stroke as the slender boats sliced through the water. Over ninety teams represented every age, race and culture. And we all belonged.

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Lucky Bamboo Crafts joins IPG

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Just when I thought July would be a bit sleepy for book action, the most exciting step of my book publishing journey has happened. As of this month, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects & Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture is being exclusively distributed by Independent Publishers Group (IPG) (www.ipgbook.com) to retailers in the US and Canada. How fantastic is that?

They are a respected and huge distributor in the book industry and I was accepted through their small press division, Small Press United. What this means for me is that there will be someone else’s oars in the water along with mine, as a cousin put it so well. Actually it’s more like a cruise ship alongside my dinghy. IPG has a top-notch sales force and boundless marketing muscle.

I’m looking forward to my book having reach to so many more that can enjoy it, and now being able to focus my energies on special events and targeted niche marketing efforts. Oh yes, and also enjoying life a bit more and time with my daughter without perpetual sleepless nights and sweat on the brow. Here in Maine that means beach combing, festivals, lobster and friends. The summer is so fleeting and sweet!

Posted in Book Publisher, Chinese Crafts, Chinese Culture, Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, Lucky Bamboo Craft Book, Lucky Bamboo Crafts, Year of the Snake | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lucky Bamboo Crafts- The Selling Journey

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Now that I’m promoting the book, many have asked, “How are you selling it?”. Getting the book in people’s hands does not happen overnight, especially from a new author. This step is a continuation of my blessing and curse of being a homegrown self-publisher that up to now has not yet worked with a publicist or marketing firm. Distribution is in my future (I guess that is my cliffhanger), but I have been “intimately” involved with every action of getting the book some exposure and sales. Yes, in other words I-did-everything.

My friend Joyce has a lovely fine art and handicraft gallery http://www.holeinthewallstudioworks.com/ and hosted a book signing for me recently. Along with Chinese dumplings and refreshments, we offered origami chopstick holders as a little giveaway. As I was folding and preparing them, I thought of what a creative experience the selling part of this journey can be with the right attitude, patience and limitless imagination. It was a balmy, beautiful evening with old friends and new, where I was able to shine and just be an author, not a frazzled promoter. I also sold a nice heap of books!

I’ve talked to many children at schools and libraries and gotten some wonderful comments and jubilant reactions to the book. I’ve also shared crafting projects at these events that are thrilling to the young makers and to me as well, to be able to offer a real thing (right here, right now) to craft and take home.

I’d like to say that describes my entire selling experience. The reality consists of many, many hours on the computer writing promo mail, making phone calls to stores, dipping my toe into social media (truth be told, Pinterest is the only platform I actually enjoy), planning appearances and events, maintaining Amazon, sending out review copies and talking about my book until even I get sick of it.

But I believe in it and the book I now hold in my hands truly reflects my original vision. Even with the second-guessing (that probably occurs with all authors the minute their book goes to press), I’m proud of what I’ve created, and so far, customers are finding it unique and useful and fun. When I receive a review like this http://www.biculturalmama.com/2013/06/100-kids-projects-for-celebrating.html I can smile, knowing the book is landing where it should be, finally standing on its own.

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Dragon Boat Festival Fun

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Now that spring has arrived (in Maine, we add a “finally” to that), the Dragon Boat Festival season is almost upon us. Although I embrace all Chinese cultural activities, I do get a bit of a “one track mind” steered toward celebrating Chinese New Year. This year I aim to discover and experience more about the dragon boat traditions and this fascinating holiday.

On the 5th day of the 5th lunar month (June 12th this year), Duan Wu is celebrated. Honoring the history of the great poet Qu Yuan, the holiday is usually spent at the waterfront where dragon boat races are the main event. Glutinous rice dumplings (zongzi) are enjoyed by hungry paddlers. Children wear incense pouches to ward off evil spirits. Drum beats and laughter abound as families gather for the fun.

In August I travel to the Riverfront Dragon Boat & Asian Festival in Hartford, CT to run a kids’ crafting area while promoting Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts. I look forward to being right in the action while hundreds of racers from far and wide show off their colorful vessels as they try for victory. I will also enjoy many other cultural exhibits and performances happening during the weekend and of course… the food.

I plan to adapt a dragon boat project from my book… one of my favorites. It will need to be an easy make-and-take for hot and tired young festival visitors with only a few free minutes. I hope to provide a little crafting oasis in the huge, active festival area. I’m thrilled that I was invited to participate!

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Making Art with Kids

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Lately my book marketing pursuits have led me back into the elementary classroom, where I’m asked to bring a culture project to do with the kids.  With each visit I am reminded as to why teachers love what they do, year after year.  Every time a group of children lights up as they dive into art making, I can only describe my feeling from head to toe in one word…. happy.  I’m reminded of the wonder and freedom kids have when they pick up a brush full of paint or construct something original out of paper.  They get lost in the process and in their private world of imagination and often look at their results with pride and disbelief… “did I really make that?”.

Recently I made mini-scrolls with first and second graders.  It is a great, manageable format for trying out brush painting, calligraphy or just simple drawings.  I constructed the scrolls ahead (easy!) so we could get right to it.   I offered visual reference and guidance for painting pandas and bamboo.  I was pleased when some of the students proceeded to completely ignore me and paint what meant China to them including maps, pagodas, lanterns and lots of dragons.  As only a guest author, I could not be held accountable when they didn’t stick to the plan!

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Lucky Bamboo Singapore Adventure

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The weeks seem to fly by and there is so much I want to share about my craft book experience.  A highlight of February was my trip to Singapore with my daughter.  Now that the books are safely in the warehouse and I’ve at least started the selling engine (although it is always thirsty for more gas…), it was time for some fun.

Why Singapore?  I had the book printed by a fantastic commercial printer there… a relationship I revived from early professional days as a product development manager.  A book like this is only as good as its printing and production so I definitely had been focused on that aspect of the project with great care and planning right from the start.  We had an opportunity to tour the plant and visit with the lovely family that owns the corporation and I felt like everything had come full circle.

I also have some dear friends that live there as expats and they were warm and wonderful hosts.  We normally only see them in the summer here in Maine, so what a treat to experience their Singapore life with the new routines, cultural differences, and balmy weather!  On top of that, we got to celebrate the end of Chinese New Year together, and attend one of the most elaborate, exciting and colorful parades in the world!

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Time for ‘Year of the Snake’

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Excitement is starting to build here in Maine for the ‘Year of the Snake’ festivities for the Lunar New Year that begins on February 10th.  I have enjoyed being an active member of the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine (CAFAM) for years and we host an impressive event that attracts a huge crowd.  These days I’m busy preparing Chinese New Year snake crafts for the activity tables for our event on February 9th.

These crafts need to be crowd-pleasers so I make sure they can be prepared in large quantities and are simple enough for young crafters on the go.  I’ve designed snake puppets and other snake projects along with traditional crafts like hong bao.  You are most likely busy planning your own celebrations to share with family, friends and your community.  Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!

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Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts goes to press!

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Welcome, crafty friends!

After years of researching, crafting, writing, drawing and lots of fretting, I can finally say that Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts first edition has been printed and shipped from the factory!  It will be available for fulfilling your orders in just a few weeks.  There is a lot of hip, hip hooray going on around here and as I tackle the next phase (sharing this book with the world), I will definitely be starting the Year of the Snake with many challenges, but also a huge feeling of accomplishment.

I plan to use this blog to update you on my book-related news, offer Chinese cultural information and also share even more Chinese craft ideas and project tips that could not fit into my already jam-packed book.  I’m excited to have you along!

Posted in Chinese Crafts, Chinese Culture, Chinese New Year, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, Lucky Bamboo Craft Book, Lucky Bamboo Crafts | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment