Saturday, October 06, 2007

"So you DO have a real job!"

Said a friend from the HGP when she saw me at the bookstore today. I was sort of just as surprised. It's been 3 weeks since my last shift, and it's been the last thing on my mind. But I was reminded why I really do so ENJOY my job in a warm squishy way. This is good since I'd pretty much set on not stressing out over the black hole that is the Santa Cruz job market, and decided to stick it out selling books through the busy retail season til Christmas or so. After which, unless something terribly enticing comes my way, I'll hightail it out of town. But back to today... it was a whole new store when I showed up this morning. All kinds of crazy new books have come out that I didn't know about, I didn't recognize any of the displays, we're selling Anthony Bourdain and Tom Brokaw tickets right and left, and they FINALLY put together a real kids section. On top of which, there was a fabulous author event I didn't even know about!

I even got to grab a cup of tea and watch the event like a real person, to bulk up the audience. (There's a reason we rarely have sat events, not a great turnout, sadly.) On hand were two Chinese American authors who write mostly for kids but have recently done highly acclaimed memoirs. Belle Yang read from her latest picture book, which was sweet... the really cool part of her talk was that she passed around the manuscript for her forthcoming graphic novel as well as the large canvas with an illustration she's painting for another story. She's the featured subject of a documentary film called My Name is Belle, which is all over PBS as well as showing at the local Pacific Rim film festival.

The second author, Ying Chang Compestine, totally knocked my socks off! Just a ridiculously accomplished and lovely person. Sigh, I just spent a while trying to write a suitably glowing description, and then I read the San Francisco Chronicle feature on her from last week, and I won't even try to compete. (Yes, it sounds a bit over the top but it's right on the money, I swear):
Spontaneous and bright-eyed, she seems to have a wellspring of inner joy that bubbles up into an infectious laugh. She ticks off her accomplishments, popping up to pull down her many books from the shelf or call up her Web site ( and click on a video of her cooking show or an item about her winning a badminton championship three years ago in Colorado. "I beat all the 20-year-olds!" She lays out her feats unabashedly yet without arrogance, as one might present tasty dishes one had made for a banquet.

(Bah, I know my MOM thinks I'm a good writer, and I suppose my rambling has its charms if you already know and appreciate me, but I'd give a lot to be able to convey to you my experiences vividly and concisely. Perhaps a writing course is in order?)

If you click over to the article, you can see the picture of her dancing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. She was raving about that photoshoot as the happiest day of her life, and she meant it!

I'm sure you're unsurprised that I appreciated her food fixation. Among other things she writes healthy Chinese cookbooks (her mother practiced traditional Chinese medicine) and really clever picture books like The Real Story of Stone Soup (based on a meal she ate at the Chinese/Burmese border, where they really cooked the soup with stones!) And her recently published young adult fictionalized memoir takes its title from Mao's quote, "Revolution is Not A Dinner Party." She draws on her childhood growing up in China during the cultural revolution. I promptly bought a copy and I'm really excited to read it, it's just the kind of book I loved growing up. And, I think, poised to win some awards and find its place as standard reading in a lot of schools.

You heard it here first.

That being said, I think I've earned the right to praise something you probably heard first on OPRAH. Yes, I read Eat, Pray, Love over vacation and loved it to pieces. And against all expectations... was actually inspired by it! Imagine my shame when suddenly the phone is ringing off the hook for "that food love book from Oprah". I think I mentioned before that I had written it off into several categories of book that send me running for the hills... you know, "hip chick lit", "trendy travelogue" "inspirational memoir". And well, it IS those things. But, it's also, you know, GOOD.

In conclusion, go forth and read! When my head isn't swimming with the printed word, I'll post more on rocks, roller derby, and future schemes.


  1. I have a little bit of envy about your job. And your author event stories remind me I was going to tell Kelsey that one of our local bookstores is having an event with Crescent Dragonwagon soon.
    "Revolution is Not A Dinner Party" sounds like a book I'd want to read and a good gift idea for my mum (we both read Wild Swans when it came out, did you read that?). I'm going to make a note of her other books too, the children's books look interesting and I'd be interested to try some more Chinese cooking sometime too.

  2. Ha ha ha ha ha, Crescent Dragonwagon! I'd forgotten about her! I haven't made one of her recipes since the first one I tried turned out horribly in 2003, and I don't think I've talked about her since Kelsey and I discussed our respective copies of her cookbook not long after that. I think poor Crescent's still in storage somewhere at my folks' house... perhaps I should give her another shot.

  3. ROLLER DERBY! Crescent Dragonwagon! This post gets better and better!!

  4. Saw Crescent on an afternoon talk show several years ago. Remember her wanting to hug me right through the telly. What I really want is more chisme about rollerderby!