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from the Mad Tea Party illustration by John Tenniel, image in public domain

A wonderful writer friend of mine initiated a brilliant motivational tool this month called March Madness. Writer-friends from around the country opted in to be part of a month-long initiative to write at least 350 words every day of the month with three opt-out vacation days. Every morning, usually during the wee hour of 2:00 am my time, I (and the rest of the group) would receive an email from Wonderful Writer Friend which included a meaningful quote about writing or creativity or perseverance. It was the first boost to jump-start us to meet our daily minimum quota. Throughout the…

Diversity in KidLit 2012 Source: First Book, Art: Tina Kugler

In this last year especially, there’s been more discussion about the need for multiculturalism and diversity on the kids’ bookshelf than ever before (finally!) Although a lot of peers echo the sense that the time has come, sometimes I encounter people who ask why such a push is necessary. The kinds of questions I hear are: Isn’t reading at its core about a reader identifying with characters by transcending differences? Do stories need to be mirrors, do readers really need to have themselves reflected in stories? Aren’t we then saying that a reader can’t identify with a character who is…

Jandy Nelson, Ally Condie, and Meg Wolitzer at San Diego Public Library

On November 6th, the San Diego Public Library hosted an event featuring Young Adult authors Jandy Nelson, Meg Wolitzer, and Ally Condie. Not only was it wonderful to hear them talk about their books and their writing journey, it warmed my heart to see the number of young readers present who were avid fans of their work. As a little groupie myself, I stood in line to get my books signed and to bask in the glow of these wonderful writers. During my few moments of chatting with each, I asked each of them to indulge a strange request: would…

Middle Earth in the North. This file has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. This applies worldwide.

At the LA SCBWI conference, I attended a great session on Revision by Jordan Baker, executive editor at Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins Children’s Books). He gave an excellent talk that spoke to me, particularly as I was in the throes of what I was hoping was the final revision of my manuscript before querying. First and foremost, Baker acknowledged that revision was much more difficult and challenging than drafting. (Yes!!! That’s how I felt! Even though that’s not how it seemed when I heard other writers talking about their works in progress. The first draft was…

Walt Disney, image for non-commercial reuse

  One of the things I never expected when I transitioned into writing was the sheer number of difficult days that are involved in the writing process. When I first thought I wanted to become a full-time writer, I was most familiar with the days or moments when the stories ideas flow, when the words sing in my mind’s ear, when it feels like the world of writing is the Happiest Place on Earth. O! The awakening! Years ago, when I was working in innovation, I learned about a model that Walt Disney was said to have used in approaching…

During this past year I have begun to notice a louder conversation about diversity (or lack of) in stories for kids and teens. Born in America and raised by Korean immigrants who encouraged me to read, this was painfully obvious to me growing up because I never found a character who looked like me or had a similar background. In fact, as a Korean kid, I felt like I was snatching up crumbs to find even close approximations of my identity in books and mass media: the Japanese girl that Ralph Macchio fell for in Karate Kid II, the native island…

A still from "Le Petit Prince" an On Animation Studio film, 2015.

  This summer, Le Petit Prince, a movie based on the book of the same name by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry will be released internationally. When I heard this news, my heart fell a few floors. I had read the book in my early teens in its original French and had been captivated by its strange and wonderfulness. As a reader, I have found that we often get attached to characters, and the ones we love grow roots in our minds and hearts. Many live extra lives on the internet in the form of fan fiction while others reach cult status in the form of…

“He may have looked old and tacky to you. But you don’t know the sweetness of him, the confidence he can give to birds and brats and fragile things like that. Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.” – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote   Whenever I go to the doctor’s office, I stare at the fish tank until they call my name. Among the many, many fish in this tall tank, there is one red fish that always stays by itself in the corner. Every single day. When I was little, I felt like a fish…

Don Reilly/The New Yorker published on heidimkim.com with permission from Condé Nast Collection

  An astute beta-reader recently cautioned me to watch out for clichés. As with all feedback, I mulled over this for a bit and then went back to my manuscript. At that point, I was in that murky state of mind where I had reread the words so much that it seemed like every word needed to be changed. I became paranoid. Is this scene a cliché? How about this line? This phrase, this dialogue? What isn’t cliché? I had the unsettling realization that my cliché alarm was not as calibrated as it probably should be. As I was trying…

original art by Kirk Quilaquil, posted with permission

A while back I was having a conversation with a writer friend, Christina Fernandez-Morrow. Although she has always been a voracious reader, she was explaining to me that growing up, she wasn’t very interested in the fantasy genre. Christina explained that given the challenging circumstances of her young life in an urban inner city, the “upper-middle class lifestyle” depicted [in realistic fiction books like The Babysitter’s Club] was fantasy enough for me.” I consider myself bicultural. I am of two worlds, two cultures. I have my Korean culture, the culture of my parents, which largely influenced my upbringing, values, and sense of self.…