OCA Weekly Author Feature: Lisa Yee
|OCA Weekly Author Feature: Lisa Yee
As a part of the OCA National APA
Heritage Month Children's Book Tour, OCA will do weekly interviews with
participating authors on their experience as an APA children's book
This week, we are featuring Lisa Yee, author of Good Luck, Ivy and Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally)
Lisa Yee was born and raised near Los Angeles. At the University of Southern
California, she majored in English and Humanities.
Lisa has been an inventor, a hand model (once), and worked for a creative think
tank. At Walt Disney World Lisa was a writer/producer. As co-owner and creative
director of Magic Pencil Studios, a strategic creative company, she's written
and directed creative projects for Fortune 500 clients, led creativity seminars
for dairy farmers, and been featured in the Wall Street Journal.
APAHM Children's Book Tour is made possible through a partnership
between OCA, Nordstrom and designer Phillip Lim. Nordstrom has
collaborated with Phillip Lim on a limited-edition T-shirt, which will
be sold exclusively at 16 Nordstrom stores
and online for
the month of May. Buy a tee and support OCA's Youth Programs!
Who or what inspired you to write
your first book?
It was something I have always
wanted to do and I am drawn to books for kids. I'm sure a lot of it has to do
with the fact that I peaked when I was about 12 years old. I have wanted to write children's
books ever since I was able to read. It wasn't until I became a mom that I
realized I had to really give it a try. I mean, how could I tell my kids that
they have to follow their dreams if I wasn't doing that myself?
Are the characters/plot based on
your own experiences? If so, how much?
The only character I have
written that comes from someone I know is Mr. Glick, the scary teacher in Stanford
Wong's book. More often, I've used incidents that I've experienced. For
example, in Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) a pair of Bobby's sister's
underpants accidentally gets static clinged to his shirt. Um, that happened in
real life. Only it was my underwear, and it stuck to my daughter’s tae kwon do
uniform…and wasn't discovered until she got to class. Whoops!
Have you always wanted to be a
children’s book author?
I had been
every other sort of writer there was--journalist, copywriter, screenwriter,
etc. Everything but what I wanted most: author. So finally, I realized it was
something that was going to plague me for the rest of my life unless I gave it
pulled out of the slush pile by Arthur Levine, editor of the Harry
Potter series. He really mentored me and it's because of him that I have a
career in books.
What were your favorite children’s
books growing up?
question! There's no single book, but many. I can recall the thrill of checking
out a book from the library and getting lost in it. Some of my favorites
included the All-Of-A-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor,
the Katie John books by Mary Calhoun, and of course, Nancy Drew.
(Okay, I'll admit, sometimes I couldn't stand it and I'd read the ending
How does being an Asian Pacific
American (APA) affect your writing style?
never thought of myself as an "Asian American author." However, it's
come to my attention that that's what I am! Honestly, I've been surprised by
how many kids identify with me or some of my characters because they are Asian
American. I didn't have an agenda when I first started writing, I just wrote
about kids like me.
Do you have a favorite APA author?
Park is fabulous. Her novel A Single Shard won the Newbery Award and
when you read the story, it's clear why. Paula Yoo's Sixteen Years in
Sixteen Seconds is a great picture book. And Shaun Tan's graphic
novel, The Arrival, is absolutely brilliant. His storyline about an
immigrant, coupled with his unique illustrations, make this one of my favorite
What challenges do you face when
writing your books?
A bad writing day is when I am on a
deadline and nothing gets done. When those days happen, and they do, it just
means that I have to be more conscious of how I spend my time the next day. I
give myself daily and weekly goals, so I know when I'm slacking.
Can you share any projects in the
works with us?
I am working on a new middle grade novel that will probably be out this year.
What do you like to do in your free
time outside of writing?
In my spare time, I like to read,
make things out of junk, and surf the web.