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.

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!

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.