I met Natasha Yim at the Green Gulch Creative Writing Retreat through SCBWI SF North & East Bay which occurs twice a year. At the retreat, I read a few of her books, and wanted to feature some of them below:
On Luna’s birthday, the whole family goes out for dim sum–but Luna and her brothers can’t agree on how to share their pork buns fairly. How can three people divide up five buns? Should some siblings get more than others? Or should they cut the buns into smaller and smaller pieces so everyone gets the same amount? A playful exploration of division and fractions, featuring Chinese American characters and a cultural note.
When her fisherman husband fails to come home after a storm at sea, the beautiful maiden Ling Yee is heartbroken. Every morning, she puts her baby on her back and clambers to the top of a cliff looking for any signs of his return. But day after day, she is disappointed. The villagers try to convince her to give up her vigil. “No,” she would say, “He will come home soon.” Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Heavens, takes pity on her grief and turns Ling Yee and her child into stone so that they would mourn no more. The fisherman eventually finds his way home―only to discover that his wife has been transformed into the Rock Maiden. Will the family forever be kept apart? Or will devotion and faithfulness ultimately be rewarded?
It’s Chinese New Year, and Goldy Luck’s mother wants her to take a plate of turnip cakes to the neighbors. The Chans aren’t home, but that doesn’t stop Goldy from trying out their rice porridge, their chairs, and their beds—with disastrous results.
Otto wants to go outside in the rain and play, but his work-at-home mom makes him stay indoors. So Otto lets his imagination loose inside the house, pretending to be a fireman, a monkey in the jungle, a circus acrobat, and a famous chef. Each flight of fancy produces increasingly chaotic results. Otto’s attempt to appease his mother backfires, but Otto learns that although patience may wear thin, parental love endures.
You are one of the organizers of the Green Gulch Creative Writing Retreat through SCBWI SF North & East Bay. What have you found most rewarding about keeping this event going?
The most frequent issue for writers who also have a day job, are a parent, spouse, caretaker etc. is that there is never enough writing time in the day. Green Gulch gives writers that time. It’s a quiet, retreat space surrounded by lush foliage and Eucalyptus trees. Everyone has their own room and writing space. And the best part of it is, all the meals are prepared for you by Green Gulch staff and residents. They’re healthy, vegetarian meals delivered 3x a day in their dining hall. No cooking and no cleaning – it’s amazing how much time you get back in your day without those two tasks! I had attended the Green Gulch retreat as a member for several years before I became ARA and took over the facilitation of Green Gulch. I love it there. I love the camraderie with other writers, meeting new people, seeing old friends and writing colleagues, the informal critique groups. It’s the connections I have made with other writers that I cherish the most (many of whom I still keep in touch with from time to time or see at other events). So, as the facilitator, I want to continue to create a welcoming space for new and experienced writers alike where creativity is nourished, supported, and celebrated.
Going to Green Gulch was the best decision I’ve made so far this year, and I definitely hope to attend a future retreat there! And I love the books you’ve written–in what way does each represent your journey as an author at the time you wrote it?
My very first book was “Otto’s Rainy Day” inspired by memories of what it felt like as a kid to not be able to go outside and play in the rain. When I wrote this book, I had absolutely no ethnicity in mind. The illustrator drew Otto as a blonde, curly-haired kid. In susbsequent books, I’ve been more intentional about writing from my diverse perspective and using my cultural upbringing and background to craft stories that are underrepresented in the kidlit world. I think that’s been my evolution as an author. Asian culture is centuries old and rich with traditions and rituals. Since “Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas”, I’ve sought to introduce young American readers to aspects of Chinese culture through fun and engaging (I hope) stories.
Your stories are definitely fun and engaging. Can you describe some of the positive and/or memorable feedback you’ve received from readers?
Yes, here’s one of my favorites: Dear Ms. Yim, I just wanted to write to you and thank you deeply for your brand-new book, “Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum”. My husband and I are both half Chinese and had our daughter, Luna, a year and a half ago. It is so important to us to raise her to know her culture, both as someone with Chinese and other ethnic heritages, and also as someone from a mixed-race family. It was the absolute best kind of shock for us to see this title pop up while searching for gifts this holiday season. We immediately purchased a copy and received it in the mail yesterday. Since then, we’ve already read it to our daughter countless times. It means so much to not only see a family like ours in your book, but to hear her name on every single page. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for using your talents to represent a family like ours. It has been incredibly special and I wanted to make sure that you heard our gratitude firsthand.
For those who ever wondered why Diversity in Children’s Literature matters, the above email speaks volumes!
Indeed it does! What are some of your current projects?
I always have too many projects and not enough time to write them all! I have currently just finished edits and had my final text approved by Charlesbridge Publishing for a sequel to “Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum”, slated fpr a 2025 release. It hasn’t been formally announced as they’re still negotiating the illustrator’s contract right now, so I can’t share the title yet, but it is once again part of the Storytelling Math series. The story is set during the Mid-Autumn Festival and involves a logic mystery. I’m also working on a middle grade historical fiction novel as well as some other picture book projects. My agent has a couple of picture books on submission and I just sent her a new one to look at.
To buy Natasha Yim’s books, visit https://www.natashayim.com/ and click on Books.