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I'm a children's book author and illustrator which means my secret life is full of drama, intrigue, adventure...and pink fuzzy bunnies.
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1. a new chapter

I've decided to stop posting here and begin a new blog, a solitary grace.

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2. Robert Salvatore Mercer

Our dearly beloved Robert passed away on Monday, August 27, 2007 at the age of 35. Robert, with his great passion for life, accomplished many dreams. With a Bachelor in Architecture degree from Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Architecture degree in Urban Design from Harvard University, he led a successful career including work with world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. He was a remarkable man who battled Ewings Sarcoma Cancer for over five years with strength, spirit, and determination. After being diagnosed, Robert and his wife founded Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure, which to date has raised more than $200,000 for cancer research.

Robert was blessed with wonderful parents, Anna Valente and Edward Mercer, a loving wife and soulmate Grace Lin, his sister Alison (husband Garry Butler), his brothers Tam and Greg, and an adoring grandmother Angela Rossi Valente. Robert will be lovingly remembered by his aunt Vicki and uncle Tony Valente, his cousins Michael (wife Lori Martins) and Lisa, the Lin family, as well as his many relatives and friends. We wish to celebrate Robert’s life; we welcome all those friends and loved ones who want to celebrate with us.

Visitation at:
Centre funéraire Côte-des-Neiges
4525 Côte-des-Neiges road, Montréal
(514) 342-8000
on Thursday, September 6, 2007 from 4 to 9 p.m. and on Friday, September 7, 2007 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. followed by a religious ceremony in the chapel of the funeral home at 10:30 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, we would ask that you make a donation, in Robert’s name, towards Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund
Attn: Lauren Nash 10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor, Brookline, MA 02445-7226. Please make checks out to "Robert's Snow."

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3. Robert

We are sad to say that Grace Lin's husband Robert passed away Monday, August 27, 2007. If you would like to send your condolences, the best way to do so would be by donating to cancer research in Robert's memory via the Jimmy Fund, and by supporting Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure. Check made out to "Robert's Snow" should be mailed to: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund/Attn: Lauren Nash/10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor/Brookline, MA 02445-7226.

Thank you for thinking of Grace in this very difficult and sad time.

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4. dear friends

I'm sorry to say that Robert is not having the results from his treatments that we hoped for and the written word no longer brings me solace. As Robert's body betrays him, so does the consolation of my blog. So for now, during these hard times, I say goodbye--hoping to find hope in silence.

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5. waiting

Okay, I have to admit I am a little bummed that I'm not going to ALA. Don't get me wrong, Robert always comes first and I don't begrudge him. And, to be honest, it's a little bit of a relief not to go. I mean, I was going to accept the award for this and I was foreseeing lots of awkward social moments as I made embarassing gaffes like I always do at these things. No, the truth is I'm bummed because I was counting on ALA to be the time where I could finally wear my blue dress. I'm realizing the opportunities to wear it are far and few between and the dress has been hanging in my closet ever since I brought it home--waiting to be worn. Poor thing, it should been made for someone with more sucess.

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6. miracle

This is the drug trial Robert is on. It made a miracle happen for someone else, please send your good thoughts that it will make a miracle happen for Robert too. At this point, we'll take anything to help sway the balance.

news article

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7. spoke too soon

Ah, methinks I jinxed myself for as soon as I posted Robert was better he took a backward step and I will not be able to go to ALA afterall. Such is the way of the best laid plans.

Someone steal some gold stickers for me.

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8. relief

Even though I have tried to be quiet about it, the last two weeks have been really brutal. Robert has suffered viciously, yet still soldiered on. I felt the least I could do was try to do the same.

But the last few days have brought improvement and relief; and as it rains upon us, my creative seeds begin to sprout again...novels and work are no longer stalled and it looks like I'll be able to go to ALA in Washington as planned. But more important than keeping the schedule intact, is the hope that it gives us that all may be well someday...maybe even someday soon.

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9. stalled

It's strange how not having a camera has affected my blogging. Somehow without being able to post images has stalled my blogging.

But perhaps that is just an excuse. I have also stalled on my new novel (the one I talked about here); and it's not even because I don't know what to write. I actually have it all planned out and ready to go. My big hang up is the title; for some reason I can't seem to get out of the gate because of it. I am obsessed with trying to figure one out. That and the Chinese name of my main character. I'm not too happy with the one I have, especially as my Mom said, "That's not a good name. No one would ever name their girl that, it sounds like the word for vegetable."

Anyone have a lovely Chinese but not too intimidating to read name (the name Zhizhuang, for example, I think would cause kids to give up after paragraph one) they'd like to offer up?

Maybe I should make it a contest. The winner wins, um, the gift of me using it to name my character? Or maybe I'll let the winner choose the title, from a predetermined list. Hey, that might be win-win for all! It might just give me the jumpstart I need. What do you think?

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10. image-less

I had some fun things I wanted to blog about-- FCC-NY's Culture Day, strange dim sum and Meghan Mccarthy's book party for "Strong Man." But I accidentally left my camera at the last mentioned event and somehow I feel unable to post throughly without images. I'll have to catch up on those later, when I get my camera back from Alvina at the American Library Association Convention next weekend in Washington,DC.

Oh, did I mention I was going to that? Just a quick in and outer. While everyone else is swanking it up at the Newbery Awards, I'm going to be at the Chinese American Librarians Association's Banquet for this. I have to admit I'm a little intimidated. They posted their dinner menu online and it's all in Chinese. I have a feeling this might be like hanging out with my Mom's Women's Association events--everyone laughing and talking in Chinese, having a great time while I am mute because I have no idea what they are saying. I knew I should have made time for those Chinese lessons.

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11. should I go corporate?

So, I've been approached by big site to blog for them. I can't decide whether or not to do it. It would probably be good exposure for my books and work, because I think it would get a lot of traffic. But I think I'd feel funny divulging a lot of my personal stuff on a site like that. One of the reasons why I let out so much here is that I tell myself that only about a dozen people read this. I don't think I could keep that illusion if I blogged on a corporate site.

But that illusion is disappearing from this little blog as well. More and more I'm realizing how public this all is; something I inevitably forget during times of strife. Perhaps going to a corporate site would be give me the discipline I need to keep private things private and public things public. Help me draw the line, so to speak.

I could write all my book stuff (new releases, behind the story stuff) all on the big site and write all my whining on this blog and make it for invited readers only. But then I'll be writing for 3 blogs! When will I ever write books?

Anyone have any opinions?

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12. a real life Ling and Ting

Shortly, after posting about my new project, I received this wonderful e-mail. It reminded me why creating children's books is the best job ever. And it makes me want to paint Ling and Ting in striped sailor dresses.

Dear Ms. Grace Lin,

Our names are Jennifer MeiDe and Rebekah MeiRui. We are ten years old and we are home schooled. We were born in Hefei China, but now we live in the United States. We are identical twins.

We have several books by you. The first book our Mom and Dad bought was Dim Sum For Everyone! The book we liked the most is The Year Of The Dog. Both of us can't wait to get The Year Of The Rat because our Dad and we were all born in that year.

We like your books and know that your new book will be Ling and Ting. This new book is about Chinese American twins, just like us. We look the same, but we have many differences. Jennifer loves to draw paper dolls of people. Rebekah loves to draw animals and draw background scenes.

We each write stories, but we write different kinds of stories. We are taking an online writing course at Northwestern University. Both of us like origami, just like in your other book, Lissy’s Friends , but we each make different kinds of origami figures. When we were babies, Rebekah wore a red ribbon and Jennifer wore a yellow ribbon so that they could tell us apart. Both of us still like those different colors as our favorites today.

We do the same things, but we do them in different ways. If you have any questions about Chinese American twins, please e-mail us.


Rebekah(on right) and Jenny (on left)

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13. home sweet home

So, we have returned to Boston for a short break in between Robert's treatments; and we are quite happy to be here. All the complaints about our apartment being to small, the creaky floors and falling-down doors are suddenly like spots on cherries--unnoticeable in the deliciousness of coming home. So much so, that I am a little sad that I have to leave immediately for FCCNY's Culture Day(if you are coming stop and say hello!), though I have been looking forward to the event for a while. But it's a quick trip and I know it will make the time I do get to be home that much sweeter.

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14. these boots weren't meant for walking...

It's been a while since I've had a giant sighting. But all you need is one to bring back the memories. This one has a particular Texan flavor, don't you think?

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15. new project!

Well, I'm thrilled to announce that my new pet project (which I alluded to here) has officially been acquired! Yippee!

This project will be my first early reader--think along the lines of Frog and Toad, Amelia Bedelia. So not a picturebook, like Lissy's Friends and not a novel like Year of the Dog. A whole different beastie for an age group in between those two types. Very exciting!

Ling and Ting will be an early reader about twin Chinese-American girls (it also marks my first Asian book that does not feature my family members!). Why twins?

Well, originally, they were triplets. This book actually has been brewing for many years. Just like how Year of the Dog was an homage to the Betsy books, this early reader began as an homage to the Flicka, Dicka and Ricka books I used to read.
(I had to paint Ling & Ting in the same dotted dresses!)

But even though my vision was for identical girls, I felt a tad uncomfortable-- would I be encouraging that whole "All Asians look alike" stereotype? So I put the story away and let the idea sit and sit. For years.

And then in 2005, a group in Portland, ME put on a play of the Ugly Vegetables. There, I met the cutest Asian twin girls I've ever seen. As I watched them share cookies but eat them in completely different ways, a light went off in my head. Suddenly, I knew how the book should be written and that I needed to give the early reader another shot.

So I went home and scratched and rewrote and resketched, with a different outlook. The shift was subtle, but important--as it finally justified (to me) why the characters had to be identical.

Because, whereas the theme of many of my other books have been how even when people look different, there are many similiarities--the theme of this book is how when people look the same, there are many differences.

And that is the story behind the story of Ling and Ting! It's strange how books with the fewest and simplest words seem to take the longest to produce. In fact, I think this blog post might be longer than the actual manuscript!

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16. 8 things

Seven Impossible Things as well as Gail, have tagged me for the 8 things meme:

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Hey, didn't I do this meme already? Oh that was 6 weird things. Okay, 8 is a lucky Chinese number and I like luck, so here I go...

1. I say I'm not superstitious but I am. I try not to be, but it pops out. For example, the reason why I'm doing this meme.

2. I love candied ginger. I can eat bags of it a day. Yes, that bags plural.

3. I can read the same book over and over again. For years.

4. On the other hand, I seem unable to sit still enough watch movies or TV. I usually leave in the middle, during the most tense scene. In fact, if you want me to leave the room, simply turn on the TV. This drives Robert crazy as he is a huge movie fan.

5. I have a very bad sense of direction. This has been well chronicled here and here.

6. I love Cirque Du Soleil. One of my goals in life is to see every show that they've produced.

7. In my youth, I was the "troublemaker." Compared to most teenagers, I was quite tame. However, compared to my sisters, I was a "heller." I wore make-up and got my hair permed!

8. Yes, I had my hair permed. When I was in my teens I proudly sported teased mall-rat hair. Ah, those were the days.

Um, I don't know 8 people to tag. Everyone I've thought of has already been tagged...If you are reading this and have a blog, consider yourself tagged!

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17. unexpected

Great Googlie-Mooglie! One Year in Beijing won the Chinese American Librarians Association Honorary Mention Best Book Award. I'm pleasantly surprised, especially as this book had fallen off my personal radar.

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18. bearable

We received Robert's test results which were, strangely, anti-climatic. While he didn't achieve any miraculous tumor disappearance as some other patients had, he hadn't declined at all either. We knew it would not be the former as his symptoms have not been alleviated but were relieved with the latter. Perhaps, like the doctor suggested, we just need to give this treatment a bit more time. Which is what we shall do.

And while time is something we are loathe to give up, sometimes it seems like we have too much of it. There's too much time where Robert is debilitated and I have too much time watching it. Somehow, we are unable to transform this into living time--moments of love and joy have somehow passed over us as we wait and hope for our lifetime to begin.

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19. frozen

It's 82 degrees here in San Antonio, yet,strangely, I feel frozen. All my creative juices have turned to ice and the bright sun seems unable to warm our worries. And like the movement of glaciers, the days pass slowly. Perhaps tommorrow, if Robert gets good results from his first scans, we can finally begin to thaw out. I hope so, but thinking about his test gives me chills.

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20. boring is good

Most of the times boring is bad. When writing books, for example. Or watching a movie. However, for a clinical trial boring is good.

We learned this as Robert received his first infusion on Tuesday. We've spent the rest of the time simply sitting around the clinic twiddling our thumbs. It's quite a contrast to the chaos and rush we went through before arriving here.

"How are you doing?" the nurse says, checking in on us every other hour.
"Fine," we say, "A little bored."
"That's great!" she says, "It means nothing is going wrong. Bored is good."

So we are doing very good, indeed. Robert is feeling good, as well. I can tell because he jokes about drawing spots on his skin to cause some excitement.

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21. cautiously optimistic

It seemed like no sooner than I swept the cupcake crumbs from the floor, I was off on a plane to San Antonio to meet Robert. During my days of frivolity he was undergoing tests and filling out paperwork (I feel very guilty!). But all things considered, he did fine and I was glad to be by his side when he started his treatment today.

It’s a Phase I Clinical trial, so I know better than to expect miracles. But I can’t help see stars when the doctor tells us about the early promising results of the trial so far. Just thinking that there might be a possibility for the life we want makes me weepy; and it fills me with a reckless hope that this could be the answer we’ve waited so long for.

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22. luck

I refuse to believe
is like a puddle of rainwater
that dries up
and disappears

I think
is like water from a faucet
turning on
and off

Just like my tears

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23. celebration

Even with the wonderful help of Ki-Ki and the Blue Rose Girls, I still was scrambling when the first guests arrived to the party. Punch wasn’t mixed (and never was), paintings were crooked and ice had been forgotten. But the party had begun!And it was wonderful. Who would’ve known that Lissy’s Friends would be such a appropriate book for the party? Because friends from everywhere, from all facets of my life came out on the cold, rainy day.

Author and artist friends like:

Mary Newell Depalma, Steve Engel (the artist that cuts all the snowflakes for Robert's Snow) and Nicole Tadgell.

Alissa Imre Geis

and Barbara O'Connor

Teacher/School Visit Friends like:
Pat Keough

(with Anna) New Friends like:
Lily (a big Year of the Dog fan!)

and Scott Magoon

And old friends like:
Mike and Nancy (who came from Texas!)

Throughout the party, Ki-Ki and the blue rose girls were working the book table, selling lots of copies of Lissy’s Friends:

I kept getting unnecessary but extraordinarily lovely gifts from people. Thank you!

And Lolly from the Horn Book was podcasting:
See her trying to deviously pretend she’s not recording?

Kids seemed to like the cupcakes:
and the flowers:
And no one seemed to notice the lack of punch:

But I was still a bit scrambled. Time passed in a blur! I forgot to publicly thank the girls for all their help, do a book reading or even acknowledge the Lissy doll! I do remember that I did urge everyone to eat cupcakes, that I raffled my painting,and The Blue Rose Girls (sans Meghan) had a photo op:

So, I think Lissy and I had a pretty good birthday! Thanks everyone for celebrating with us!

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24. safe arrival

After a late night, I woke up bright and early to prep for the party waking up Ki-Ki and Alvina (who slept over). Ki-Ki was particularly difficult to awake. The overload of sugar the night before left her in a state of food coma and I wasn't sure she was going to make it out of bed.

Now how does one transfer 144 cupcakes? I have a feeling I am one of the few people who have attempted this so I will just tell you the answer. You do it with the help of great friends like Anna and Elaine who are willing to chauffeur them and this cool gift from Alvina:

It's a Cupcake Courier! It can carry up to 36 frosted cupcakes at a time...and it does so perfectly. The cupcakes made it to Spark Studios (where my party was) in pristine and beautiful condition:

Other things that I was gratified to see make safely? The fruit arrangements:

And the books and dolls. Those were rushed in the day before from ChinaSprout. They had told me they weren't sure if my order was going to arrive in time...I guess just because a product is released on a certain day doesn't mean you actually get the product that day. But I begged and pleaded, as it is a little silly for me to have a Lissy's Friends Book Party when the book isn't there!

I rather enjoy this picture as it is the Lin sisters all together: me, Ki-Ki and Lissy, as a doll. Glad we all made it!

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25. good friends

I think I just realized that throwing a book party is like getting married; or at least having a wedding. Or maybe it's just the way I do things--what's the book party equivalent to bridezilla? Book partzilla? Parthra (a la Mothra)?

And just like having a wedding, the success of the party is dependent on good friends pitching in. Lucky for me, I have those.

Alvina flew in straight from the International Reading Association conference in Toronto to Boston and pitched right in. Gosh, I needed her. Not only did the gift bags need to be finished (not everyone got chocolate rats; I had to start making chocolate faster so I was using all my molds--turtles, pigs, roses, seashells. Not very themed, but oh well!); I had cupcakes to make!!

144 to be exact: 48 carrot cupcakes, 48 pink velvet (supposed to be red velvet but I ran out of red food coloring) and 48 lemon. We used 3 boxes of butter! Alvina and I spent the day baking and I finally feel justified in having a fancy mixer.

Then after work, Ki-Ki, Anna, Bruno, Luke and Ranida came over to help frost. This actually didn't take that long...

Okay, maybe it did.

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