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OCA Weekly Author Feature: Lisa Yee
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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 author.

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.

The 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 a shot.

I was 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?

Ooh, hard 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 first.)

How does being an Asian Pacific American (APA) affect your writing style?

I really 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?

Linda Sue 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 books.

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.
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