Author Archives: Sanae

I make things. I like to call my work space a "crafty little atelier in a grey city". Grey is my favorite color.



I’m a sucker for serendipity. I asked about coincidences for a giveaway a while ago, and delighted in the comments. And to date, this one is still the best serendipitous moment I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, I’m about to go into major photo shoot mode for book #2, and for the past few months, I’ve been doing some prop scouring. I knew I wanted some vintage-looking ephemera — particularly a film camera — so I’ve been casually browsing through thrift stores and flea markets whenever I could.

I wasn’t having much luck in finding what I had in mind, and one day when I was taking a walk around the neighborhood, I noticed that a bookstore near my house was having a close-out sale. Although I’m a huge aficionado of book shops, this one was dedicated to all things nautical (not my particular interest), and always appeared closed so I had never been inside. I’d sort of suspected it was a front for nefarious activities (given the maritime theme, modern-day pirates, perhaps?). Curious about the sale, I walked in.

They’d already cleared out the books and all that remained were shelves upon shelves and odds and ends that seemed out of place. A baby carriage, for example. The shop had been around for more than a decade, apparently, and the owners loved to collect paraphernalia. But now they were moving out of state, and wanted none of it.  And then I saw it: the vintage camera.


As I beelined for the camera, I also spotted wooden spools and awesomely distressed wooden crates. I was smitten with the “Happy Home Brand” crate and snatched it up without hesitation. It pleases me immensely that the box used to contain figs from Seattle (I like to paint figs. In fact, I happened to be doodling some a couple of days ago, which you can see below). The Schwabacher Brothers were enterprising Bavarian-born Jewish merchants that dabbled in various businesses, and in one of their stores, they “sold everything from a needle to an anchor.” My kind of guys.



I’m excited to include my new-to-me camera (and the crate and spools) in the upcoming photo shoots. Right now, it’s resting on the most current draft of my book — 230 pages! I need to finish editing (and cutting a lot out) by next week, and when I look at all those pages, it feels a bit daunting. We’ll see if that sewing I had been looking forward to will actually happen.


But the point is this: you never know where you’ll find the treasures you seek. I certainly didn’t expect to find them in a mysterious bookstore, but that seems appropriate, yes?


Limiting Beliefs + Monthly Income Report + Furoku Membership Sign-up


The husband tells me that I have a Teflon shield of hope and optimism. He says that this is both my greatest strength and my Achilles’ heel. “You’re too optimistic,” he advises, “you need to be more realistic.”

What does that mean, being “realistic”? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. In many ways, it seems to me to be another word for limiting beliefs. Or a way to make sure you hold your hopes in check to avoid disappointment. To remain caged, as it were.


Over the weekend, I had two presentations for Little Kunoichi. I mentioned the one about the bookstore, but I also had another one the day before at K’s school. The contrast between the two presentations was striking.

Presentation 1 at K’s school: 100+ kids, a slew of teachers, riotous Q & A with endless questions from the audience, a better-than-expected sales, and many lovely words of encouragement up on offer.

Presentation 2 at the bookstore: 2 kids and 2 moms. 7 people, counting the awesome employee Jessie, K and her friend, who sat in the audience to make the space look less empty. Actually, it was really only 1 child and his mom that showed up for the reading, and the other mother-daughter pair was roped in because they happened to be in the store at the time. I messed up reading my own book (accidentally skipped some pages), no questions were asked, and I led a disastrous origami demonstration. One book sold.

I loved both.

I learned a lot from the presentations (never ask 100 kids to look for a hidden bunny in the middle of a reading, and make sure to know how to make the origami project before teaching it). In both cases, I couldn’t believe I was physically sharing a book that was just a blip of an idea two years ago. I told the gaggle of kids during presentation #1, “I’ve wanted to write and illustrate books since I was your age. It took a long time for it to happen, but it did.” Small faces nodded up at me in what felt like solidarity. I told the one kid who was old enough to speak at the bookstore, “Thanks for coming to the reading!” He stared at me for a moment and said, “I’m hungry.”


Back to being realistic. The odds of “making it” as a book author and/or illustrator are stacked against me. My editor for book #2 told me that the vast majority of authors have day jobs, and I don’t have the courage to research how many books are actually sold on average despite the backing of an established publisher. If I looked at the numbers, I would toss my current manuscript out the window and would never have proceeded with Little Kunoichi. I would go find myself a nice office job in downtown Seattle with a 401K plan and call it a day.

Then I think: If I were realistic, I wouldn’t have gotten married. What would be the point when half of marriages dissolve?

If my mother had been realistic, she wouldn’t have left Japan to go to Germany when she was nineteen — she didn’t speak a lick of Deutsch. Which led her to go to NY, where she met my father. If she hadn’t been so unrealistic, I would not exist. That would make me sad, even though I wouldn’t exist to be sad.

If all people upheld realistic as the universal measure, our human history would be as bland and as uninspired as overcooked rice porridge (something my mother would give me to soothe stomach aches). No inventions. No scientific discoveries. No art or music or literature. No internet. I mean, can you imagine how unrealistic the internet must have sounded fifty years ago? I’m obviously not of the same caliber as the great artists and discoverers, but I’d like to lean more in that direction.

I don’t mind trying things that may not work out. Because how can you know without trying? And even if they don’t work out, I’m annoyingly good at finding lessons in adverse situations. It’s a curse and a gift (it’s a curse because people want me to stop making everything a teaching moment – this reminds me of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid illustration where Greg, the main character, gets scratched by a cat, and his mom is kneeling beside him saying something like, “Okay, spell it with me: C-A-T”.)

I’m prepared to be hugely disappointed or devastated by the failures. The problem begins when I use “being realistic” to stop me from trying what I truly want to do — I’ve become certain of this. The word is often used as a crutch or interchangeably with responsibility and it urges me to focus on a paycheck or some socially acceptable mode of behavior or activity, and this too makes me wary and weary. As I grow older, I see how wise my mother is. I told a friend once that my mom could eke out food from concrete, as resourceful and creative as she is. She defines life with possibility and inventiveness, not with brand names, a business card or a false sense of security.


I believe there’s a difference between foolhardiness and this so-called shield of hope and optimism that I seem to possess. I can always go get the job with the 401K — of this, I have no doubt — but how often will I get the chance to create books? To blog about things that matter to me? To forge an as-yet-undefined-but-potentially-wonderful community through the Furoku membership? Sure, I could put these things off for later, tomorrow, next year, but when that time comes, will I actually do it? I doubt it. I’ve already spent way too many years putting off things I really want to do.

I have a lot of realistic, limiting beliefs, of course. I’m also starting to get criticism and this only feeds into my natural tendency to doubt myself. The thing is, I’m training myself to turn a deaf ear to them unless it’s helpful somehow. To shore up an underused belief in myself to combat these thoughts. I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s pretty hard.

My book readings may have audiences of zero or bazillions (goodness, I hope not. The stage fright!). My Furoku membership may grow or not. I may not be able to make anything resembling a “real” income doing the things I love, because, as my little painting shows below, my target amount of $20,000 (the moon) is still far, far away and the year is almost half over and blah-blah-blah. Sometimes I have really high moments of “Yes!! I can do this!!” and other times…well, that’s me on the ladder, and to date, my total income is $864.44, of which $486.63 was from last month (thank you, Janome Gnome, for suggesting that I illustrate my income monthly reports).


But that’s okay. I’m just going to keep trying my best, and maybe, just maybe, it will work. And if I go splat and have to sheepishly admit defeat? Well, I’m always full of optimistic ideas and hey, I still have 7 more months to go.

In the end it doesn’t matter because right now, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in spite of the doubts that try to take over, and that, my friends, trumps being realistic.


P.S. I’m keeping sign-ups for the membership open until the end of this week, May 31st. Furoku #3 is in development!! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the full story.

Email address (to get furoku):
Full Name


P.P.S. The unrealistic bet for Little K to make $100,000 is still on — If I win, M will get a Little Kunoichi tattoo. I loved all of the tattoo placement suggestions! If you feel up for it and truly liked the book, please leave reviews on Amazon or any other bookseller sites – this will help promote Little Kunoichi!

P.P.P.S. I think I will finally be able to share some sewing later this week. I miss sewing for fun!!!!!

P.P.P.P.S. I’ve been remiss and didn’t honor Memorial Day to acknowledge the men and women who serve and have served our country. Many, many thanks.



Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! A couple of days ago, I attended an event called “Young Author’s Day” at K’s school. It’s a big deal — the entire school participates and all the students are shuffled into groups of about 10 kids from various grades. Each student takes a turn reading a story he/she had written, and my favorite part is listening to the “About the Author” section. They all invariably include information about their family, a hobby and a totally random factoid like how they like to eat cereal for dinner or are completely opposed to school uniforms.

K’s group was exceptional. The fifth graders blew me away with their poetry (their haikus made me want to delete all of mine from here), and K recounted how M and I got engaged, which the teacher found hilarious. There was one girl who read a story about finding a lizard in the middle of the street and how she ended up keeping it as a pet (a true story).

The first grader who went last stole my heart, though. I saw how her hands trembled as she clutched her book with the green construction paper cover. Her cheeks blossomed into the color of the brightest of pink peonies, and her voice was so soft, barely a whisper, that all the kids tipped to their sides, cocking their ears to catch the small gasps of quickly strung together words. I remember being that little girl. The one who refused to go until there was no choice, the one who hoped that reading the story super fast would make it less frightening. I couldn’t quite hear the story in its entirety, but I saw her carefully drawn illustrations of a fox and clouds, and a little girl that looked very much like her. She beamed with relief and pride as the group enveloped her in applause and hands shot up to praise her efforts. What a beautiful, beautiful thing.


Have a delightful weekend, my friends! I am going to RELAX. So, so, so, so excited about this.

At Mockingbird Books
I’ll be doing a reading
I feel like that girl*

I’ll be doing a storytime reading of Little Kunoichi at one of our lovely local bookstore this weekend – there might be a little bit of trembling involved…

Giveaway: She Wears the Pants


A long time ago, when this blog was just a gleam in my eye, I had coffee with a writer friend who was an expert in the blogging world (at least more of an expert than I was or am). I confided in her that I used to maintain a blog that had petered out, but I loved it and wanted to maybe-sort-of-kind-of begin another one. I bounced around some ideas with her (“Sewing? That sounds like too much work,” she declared). After much hemming and hawing, I was no closer to figuring out what sort of blog felt right, but she told me this: “Whatever you decide to do, eventually you’ll start getting free stuff.” I slapped her knee lightly, snorted and said pshaw.

Well, here we are three years later, and she was right. The lovely folks at Tuttle sent me not one, but TWO copies of this rather hipster book of sewing patterns to give away. It’s called She Wears the Pants. I’m not sure how I feel about the title, but I do know that I’m definitely going to sew up a bevy of outfits from this when I eke out valuable moments for myself in the next few weeks.

Compared to most Japanese sewing books, this one is dark and moody and dramatic, but I like it despite my penchant for light and airy. The photography is simple as always, and the light is beautiful. I usually try to have an accompanying sewn project to share with my book giveaways so I can provide a more rounded out review of instructions and such, but I’m going to have to just show you my fave spreads this time:

The Oval coat is oh-so-chic, and must become part of my Fall wardrobe!


I love the shape of the mini dress on the right so much…


Again, I’m a sucker for the boxy shape on the right.


This outfit that’s also on the cover looks so comfy. I need to add another striped shirt to my collection of three dozen striped shirts, no?

There are a few quirky projects too, like this one called the belt stole:


It’s fun, right?

To win a copy of this book, I have a question that requires some thought. What’s something that people are surprised to find out about you? For some reason, folks are often taken by surprise that I’m from Los Angeles. So many people think I’m from Hawaii. I also have absolutely no sense of direction and this seems to throw people off too. Before smart phones, I used to build in at least an hour to get anywhere new because I would inevitably get lost. It’s part of the reason I’m constantly early to events, meetings, etc.

I love finding out unexpected hobbies/characteristics/origins about people. Like Rosey Grier’s passion for needlepoint. Or K’s skateboarding interest. Or the fact that M used to work for a big corporation by day and lived in a hostel by night for a few years (this was by choice – he said the people were way more interesting).

So. What’s surprising about you?

The giveaway will be open until next Thursday, May 28th, and I’ll announce the TWO winners the next day! Enter away, international folks. Good luck!

P.S. In case you were wondering, the winners of the Little Kunoichi giveaway were Kristi A., Maki, Sophie, Karen and Anne.

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! I’m rapidly approaching the finish line for book #2 on the heels of launching book #1, and I have to confess, I haven’t been exhausted like this in a very, very long time. Luckily, I’m surrounded by energizing forces like the gorgeous blooms above, and I get emails with “poems for book?” in the subject line from my sweet girl:


Choose between these.

                        sewing, the loud rumble rumble it makes that is very distracting
                                                 but it’s worth it cause soon,
                        sitting in your closet or on your bed is a brand knew outfit
                                      or pillow in the shape of a heart or a moon
                                      writing a book is a challenging thing
                                you don’t now what kind of feelings it will bring
                                    and it might not make any cha ching
                                               it’s a very very happy
                                      and you might start feeling snappy
                                              or even slaphappy or sappy
i hope you put one of these in your book!!!!
p.s. if you don’t like ether one i have more way more!!!!
Yes, email. M set K up with her own email account recently and she uses one of my old laptops to send me short digital missives from her room upstairs while I work in the living room. Heart emoji.
As always, when I push myself a touch too hard, my health starts to get wonky, so I’m going to take Monday off to catch my breath and find my footing. I’ll be back on Wednesday with a giveaway – it’s a good one! Have a lovely weekend, friends!
I like poem 2,
but poem 1 is great too
which one do you like?

Little Kunoichi Launch Party Recap


Whoo-boy! I’m still recovering from the excitement of Mother’s Day/Launch party festivities but thought it might be fun to show you some photos from the event (well, that first photo up there was styled in my house post-event because in the flurry of all that was going on, most of my pix were blurry).


Look at all those copies of Little K! We had almost 100 people at the party (though not all at once), and the credit for the success of the launch really goes to my editor and dear friend, Tegan. We had a blast scheming all the details, and she’s a party-planning genius.

lk-launchparty3 lk-launchparty4 lk-launchparty10

We had some fun decor with ninja-themed chopsticks and napkins; origami activities kept quite a few kids busy (Sasquatch Books, my publisher, printed up Little Kunoichi origami paper with the end paper designs! Love!). I made that origami ninja star, and I’m quite proud, even if it is a little smooshed and uneven.

lk-launchparty6 lk-launchparty7 lk-launchparty5

We had lots of goodies, of course. Tegan ordered that amazing sushi spread that was gone in a lickety-split. I provided the Japanese sweet treats and the brownies, along with the little hand-painted toppers.


I received so many lovely flowers and gifts…these beauties were from the fabulous Sasquatch publicist, Haley. I feel like I don’t mention the publisher and staff enough. I am so lucky to have stumbled upon this cozy and welcoming group. They have literally changed my life.

The event included a short reading, and K was a rock star because she helped me by holding up the book while I read and by providing insightful answers during the ensuing Q & A. I signed many, many books and my handwriting became increasingly illegible, but I did my best to include a short message on each copy.


But this! This pink dragon piñata stole the show and was the main attraction. Tegan ordered it online, but alas, it was decidedly not pink so she painstakingly glued crepe paper to transform the entire thing. I love this woman, she is a much-treasured combo of kindness + super smarts + a killer sense of humor.


Here I am, pretending to be licked by la dragon. And last, but not least, Haley sent me this video that she took of K, and it’s all kinds of awesome (note the ninja costume that she’s wearing and that’s Tegan in the purple top):


She’s using a bamboo sword called shinai that martial artists traditionally practice sword-fighting with. We also had cute little plastic samurai swords that kids took home with them. Somehow everyone was unscathed despite the multitudes of weaponry we had up on offer.

I’m still overwhelmed and realize that I’m just listing off things here, quite matter-of-fact. But my brain was exploding from the surreal effect of the whole event with so many family and friends, old and new, and I am filled, as always, with gratitude. Thank you for letting me share this once-in-a-lifetime moment with you.

P.S. I will send out emails for the giveaway winners from last week by the end of this week!

P.P.S. I’m unofficially participating in Me-Made-May — that’s a dress I made that I’ve never posted about.

Joie de Vivre


Just a quick “Joie de Vivre” image today. It felt like I was continually on the go this past weekend and haven’t had much time to process Mother’s Day or the launch party or the author signing event I did at K’s school on Friday. I am wiped out, but joyful.

I’ll be back with updates on Wednesday. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

Happy Friday + Randomness

She asked, “Why do you love me?”

I said, “Because I do.”

She asked, “But why? How can you love me?”

I said, “I just do. I love you because you’re you.”

It took a long time for me to shape those words to answer those questions. My daughter and I…it has been a season of stilted talks between us, weeks of bickerings and posturings and righteous lectures and easily trampled emotions. Not always, of course, but enough times to make me question my ability to parent. I tend to assume she knows intrinsically that I love her unequivocally and unconditionally, and I forget to say the words out loud and focus too much on being right. My little girl is not so little anymore and I watch as a fledgling woman-to-be unfurls her slender neck, gazing uncertainly from her precarious vantage point, fighting to become who she intuits she ought to be.

I worry that she will think my love is subject to performance because the phrases that spill out of my mouth command action and tangible results: put-away-your-shoes-don’t-eat-with-your-mouth-open-have-you-done-your-homework-and-fed-your-frogs-hurry-hurry-hurry. When she was a baby, it was so easy to wrap her up in my unfettered affections, kissing her toes and fingers and cooing at her because she simply existed. It is a fact: I don’t know what I’m doing with this enormous responsibility I’ve been given to raise a human being and I’m swashbuckling haphazardly…

Being a mother is about having my deepest fears and my severest shortcomings reflected back at me.

It is about heartbreak and helplessness.

It is about trying to find the balance between letting go and holding tight, between trusting and guiding.

It is about hoping the biggest hope that the world will be kind and gentle to my baby, my raw and still unformed child.

Being a mother is about surrendering so fully to joy, my heart composes operatic arias of forgiveness

It is about finding courage and facing truths in my weakest moments of doubts

It is about offering up wisdom I didn’t know I possessed, alerted by unbidden instincts

It is about a love so voluminous and vast and boundless, I might soar out of my skin, crack wide open, only to be enveloped whole again.

I didn’t know any of this until I became a mother.

In gratitude to all mothers, would-be-mothers, surrogate mothers, and everyone in a mothering role.

Happy Mother’s Day.


On a vaguely similar note but not really, I was interviewed by Nick of Picturebooking and you can listen to the podcast here. I must admit that I’ve been too scared to listen to it since I’m sure I said things that will be misconstrued or ridiculed, but it’s always good to do things outside of our comfort zone, right? That’s what I’ve been telling myself at least. I talk about my mom and K, and Little Kunoichi, who I consider my second baby, so it seemed appropriate for a mother’s day post.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


Little Kunoichi: LAUNCHED!! + Giveaway [CLOSED]


Taiko drum roll please…..


Little Kunoichi is large and in charge! Today is THE day, and I am doing imaginary backflips and round-offs of excitement!! The build-up has been so long, I thought I would be all blasé and casual and “Oh, is it the launch date today?”, but no no no. It’s a big deal. A huge deal. I am planning on visiting as many bookstores as I can today to surreptitiously snap photos of my book on shelves because this will never, ever, ever happen again: my first published book! (though I hope I will get to work on many, many more books)

I’m jumping up and down and full of nervous energy so I’m keeping this short. I thought I would show you my favorite parts of the book today:


You’ve seen the island map before, but I just love it to pieces.


And then there’s the secret ninja girls’ school, of which Little Kunoichi is a pupil.


And then….my pride and joy, the island festival page. I’ve hidden Little K and her new friend Chibi Samurai and the page is chock-full of Japanese references that are too numerous to list here, but if it’s of interest, I’d be happy to go into it another time.

Oh…this is so unreal. I am counting my blessings and trying to bottle this surreal feeling of a dream come true. Infinite thanks to my amazing editor Tegan and to the whole crew at Sasquatch Books that made this such a lovely expedition. And thank you, for the cheering on, the don’t-give-ups and for welcoming Little Kunoichi into your homes.


I have the impression that many of you have already gotten a copy of the book, but if anyone out there would like to win a copy, I’ve got some to offer up. Or, if you’ve already got Little K in your hands (or a copy is on its way), I would also love to give away prints of my favorite pages that you see above. The island print is 8″ x 8″, and the ninja school and island prints are about 6″ x 11″, all printed on high quality, archival paper. I’ll select five winners and you have the choice of the book or one of the prints.

M made a comment that made me laugh so hard, I have to share: he said that if I made $100,000 with the book, he would immediately go out and get a Little Kunoichi tattoo. This, I have to see. Neither of us has a tattoo so this is a significant thing — we shook on it! So please tell everyone about my book! It might take several decades to get to that amount, but he’ll be a rockin’ senior citizen with a cute ninja tattoo. To enter the giveaway, any comment will do, but maybe you have a suggestion for where the tattoo should go? I’m still trying to decide…

I’ll keep the give away open until this Friday, May 8th. Good luck!

P.S. I’m skipping tomorrow as I prepare for the launch party on Sunday and wrap up some work for book #2. Would love to meet you if you’re local! And see you back here on Friday!

P.P.S. Just in case I confused people, which I am known to do, I’m considering today Little Kunoichi’s official day of birth…hence, she’s saying “it’s my birthday” up there.


Happy Friday + Call for Pattern Testers [CLOSED]


The house: a disaster. The food: completely reliant on Trader Joe’s frozen food section. The “studio” (aka my bedroom where I sew): unspeakable.

And in an effort to walk my talk, I’m calling uncle and reaching out for help: is anyone out there willing to pattern test for book #2? I’ve already roped in a few wonderful folks, but I definitely need more testers as the sewing book I’m currently working on has over 20 projects. If interested, please email me: sanaeishida13[AT] These are super simple (I hope), beginner-friendly projects and I want to make sure I’m not writing up gobbledygook!

[Update: Oh my goodness!! The response has been overwhelming, and I’m beyond grateful. I have more than enough at this point and will contact you individually over the next few days. THANK YOU!]


Okay, I feel better after typing that. Some housekeeping: Furoku membership sign ups will close at the end of today, and I’m so so so close to getting it done but I’ll need just a few more days for furoku #2.


I was giving K a synopsis of The Age of Miracles (such a great book!), about how each day keeps getting longer and longer.

She said, “Maybe the sun had too much caffeine.”

Love that.


Happy Friday, and have a lovely weekend!!

I’m behind behind
Not trying to humble brag
Thanks for being kind* 

*I’ve had to ask way too many people for favors (for babysitting, for extensions on deadlines, for moral support, for a hug) and I feel lucky to be surrounded by kind souls. That includes you, my friends.

P.S. I’ll be posting on Tuesday of next week instead of Monday to celebrate the official launch of Little Kunoichi!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ack!!

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