Sumo Colors + Sumo Shapes!

Banzai, banzai!! More darling sumos in the house — or in sumo parlance: more sumos in the heya! “Heya” or “beya” means “room” in Japanese and also refers to the sumo stable, which is sort of like a team.

SUMO COLORS and SUMO SHAPES have officially flown from the printer’s coop and are flapping about in the world. I am deeply, deeply in love with these books (okay, I say that about every one of my books, but it’s always true).

I’m thrilled that School Library Journal gave the latest additions to the Little Sumo series glowing reviews, and Sumo Colors even got a star (stars, I hear, are a very good thing)! My dream is for every school and general library to have a copy of all the sumo books.

Here are the reviews:

SUMO COLORS
PreS-K: A merry troupe of sumo wrestlers traipses through a landscape inspired by the iconography of feudal Japan. Soft washes of color depict a carriage ride past a red shrine, a tea ceremony in a green garden, a boat ride over a blue ocean, and a picnic under a pink sunset. Each page features the English name of a color, as well as its Japanese name, both written in hiragana or katakana characters and transliterated into the Latin alphabet. VERDICT: A treat for the eye and an early primer on Japanese vocabulary. Recommended for all collections.

SUMO SHAPES
PreS-K: An energetic band of sumo wrestlers occupies a series of abstract vignettes highlighting various geometric components of sumo culture. The inspired choices include oval fans, pentagonal houses, and crescent bowls of stew. Each page features the English name of a shape, as well as its Japanese name, both written in hiragana characters and transliterated into the Latin alphabet. VERDICT: An additional purchase offering a delightful early primer on Japanese vocabulary and culture.

Hooray!

From beginning to end, working on these board books has been pure joy. Look at how cute they all are:

SUMO COUNTING | SUMO OPPOSITES | SUMO COLORS | SUMO SHAPES

I love that every book in the Little Sumo series incorporates Japanese words in a rather unexpected, lively way and offers up glimpses into the life of a sumo wrestler. I’m a sucker for fun educational components; I believe that people learn best when they’re entertained and/or engaged with the content.

With the publication of these books, I’ve reached a huge milestone — I’ve produced 10 books in collaboration with Sasquatch Books and Little Big Foot. 10!!!!!! My mind is blown.

These sweet board books make delightful gifts and would be a fantastic addition to a child’s bookcase. Who knew that sumos could be so adorable? Purchase your copies today anywhere books are sold and learn some simple Japanese words and fascinating sumo culture! Interested in a signed copy? Signed copies of all of my books are available at Queen Anne Book Company — if you’d like personalization, please email the bookstore and I’m happy to pop on over to the shop to do so. Thank you!!

P.S. I’ll post a little flip-thru of the newest books on Instagram later today — SO happy with the way they turned out!

Encouragers + Sewing Love Launch Day Giveaway! {CLOSED}

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed and I will be contacting the winner directly. Congrats Laura!

“Books are a bad idea. You aren’t making any money. You should get a real job.”

That’s what my husband told me when I published my first book and has repeated a variation of these words over the years as I diligently worked on building a career as an author and illustrator, fueled by copious amounts of hope and coffee. I’ve wanted to make books since I was a wee girl. I used to inhale Japanese comic books ever since I could read, and by the time I was 12, I’d checked out and finished every book in the kid’s and “Youth” sections of my tiny local library (YA wasn’t a thing in 1980s Los Angeles). Multiple times. I am always, always reading a book, even if it’s half a paragraph at the end of a long day. Books taught my daughter to read and write and introduced her to a vast universe of imaginary and real wonders. I understand the magic of books. The importance of them. Books have saved my life on more than one occasion.

My husband’s words — uttered from a place of concern and love, to be sure — were a blow, and I did want to give up on many occasions. Even my editors told me how rare it is for authors to make a living, especially if none of the books ever hit the New York Times bestseller chart. I tell you this because I have found that if you have big, audacious dreams, the people closest to you will often discourage you. It’s surprising, but it’s partly to protect everyone involved from too much disappointment and partly because making dreams come true is not actually supposed to happen when you’re “realistic.”

Despite his words, I kept going. I keep going and keep seeking the alchemy that words and images can create in the human soul. Today, on August 23rd, 2022, my wonderful publisher Sasquatch Books is releasing my eighth book, Sewing Love: Handmade Clothes for Any Body.

I have dedicated this book to my dear, dear friend Annelieke, who has continually filled my doubt-ridden brain with words of encouragement.

For every 10 discouraging comments, I have received perhaps one word of support. I don’t rely on other people to hoist me up at all, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s nice to hear, “You can do this! I believe in you!” What makes Annelieke particularly special is that we’ve never met nor have we spoken to each other. She has quietly and staunchly supported me through many of my side projects, and over the years we’ve exchanged innumerable emails. We are penpals of the modern era and our friendship is proof that genuine connections can be forged through the internet. I love her so much and can’t put into words how much I appreciate her. I have turned to her to share some of my lowest moments and my biggest celebrations, and she has been a font of wisdom and an everlasting encourager. I wish for everyone to have an Annelieke in their life.

I would be remiss not to mention that the husband has given up on me ever getting a “real job.” He now says (with a resigned sigh), “maybe your books will work?” He says that I’m talented and tenacious and that though I’m terrible at making money, I have other wonderful qualities. I’ll take it. On my end, I have no intention of giving up on becoming a book-maker and beautiful-things-creator that also earns what is considered a “real” living (what is that anyway?) — I keep going.

Anyway! To celebrate this book that I am so, so proud to have co-created with many magical folks, let’s do a giveaway, shall we? You will discover that I have subtly woven the theme of not giving up into this book about accepting our amazing bodies as is. Although “self -love” is very much a buzz word these days, I believe it’s at the heart of a well-lived life and is quite possibly the hardest thing to do. Tenacity is required. And I am hoping that through the book, I can be the Annelieke-like figure to encourage you to create slopers and gorgeous clothes that delight you.

As a bonus, I’ve created a measurement form PDF to make the process easier. Worksheets and sections that can be filled in are avoided if possible in books, because libraries don’t like them (borrowers end up marking up pages), which is why this form is not included in the book. You can download the PDF here or in the sidebar. Keep in mind that this is an evolving document and my goal is to keep improving it to make it as effective as possible. 

I will be offering up one copy of Sewing Love for this giveaway and to enter….hmmm. Any comment will do, but I’d love to know if there’s something you’ve not given up on, something that you keep being/doing because it’s important and meaningful to you. International entries are welcome as always, and the giveaway will be open until next Friday, September 2nd! Good luck, good luck!

P.S. I’ll be doing a separate giveaway on Instagram, and you can also see some behind-the-scenes posts there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Sixteen

Styling: Rachel Grunig Photo: Manuela Insixiengmay

Happy almost August, everyone! So many big events are happening, the biggest of which is that K is turning sixteen this weekend.  The image above is an outtake from my book Sewing Love, launching on August 23rd. Look how grown-up and beautiful she is! K’s been in every one of my sewing books, and it’s quite emotional for me to see the progression.

I adore this image from Sewing Happiness, when she was a darling seven-year-old:

Styling: Rachel Grunig Photo: George Barberis

She’s wearing the flower crown project, which was one of my favorites. Rachel dyed the background indigo fabric by hand, and it was simply perfect.

And I squeezed this one in at the very back of Animal Friends to Sew, when K was twelve and our cat Katara was just shy of a year:

 

 

Styling: Rachel Grunig Photo: Amy Johnson

We tried to get Katara to wear a beanie with ears too, but she wasn’t exactly cooperative.

There are a lot of photos of K in Sewing Love, and because we had the photoshoot in spring of 2021 she was actually only 14, but we all gasped when Kaija, the hair and make-up artist, completed K’s look — she could easily pass for a college student or older:

Styling: Rachel Grunig Photo: Manuela Insixiengmay

I’m rocking my grey locks, which has actually increased significantly in the last year. There have been some rough moments for us all, yes?

16!! My little girl is not so little anymore (she towers over me), and has blossomed into a brilliant, sensitive, musical beauty. We’ll have a special celebration for this extraordinary young woman. I can’t wait.

I’m off to take care of last minute preparations, so I’ll catch up with you next month! I’ll be doing some fun giveaways for Sewing Love and if you can, it would be wonderful if you could pre-order a copy here!

 

 

 

Books! Books! Books! Pre-Order Time!

Hello, my friends! It’s a crazy thing, but I have three books launching in a few weeks. All three are available for pre-orders now, and I am beyond excited to share the covers with you today! Snag your copies early! 

First up is the one above: Sewing Love: Handmade Clothes for Any Body. My editor called it my “magnum opus,” which is high praise though I suspect she’s being too kind, as she generally is. I was delighted by the review in Publishers Weekly that called the book “uplifting” and assessed that “[t]his guide to garment sewing is a must-read for crafters of all levels.” My friends, this book of almost 300 pages has been delayed multiple times and the pandemic added all sorts of unexpected challenges. We had to postpone photoshoots repeatedly and ended up doing fittings via Zoom on many occasions. If it weren’t for the stellar team of amazing folks including Rachel, Manny, Amy, Karen, Kaija, 8 gorgeous models and 120+ testers — not to mention everyone at Sasquatch Books — who all remained upbeat and accommodating, I don’t think we could have pulled this off. I am proud of this collaborative, inclusive, personally very meaningful book. It is about sewing, yes, but it is also about celebrating our female bodies and learning how to create clothes that fit our unique selves.

There are personal essays just like Sewing Happiness, my first sewing book. Sewing Happiness came out in 2016, and I still get messages that the book resonates, that it provides inspiration, solace, a sense of calm. Such kind words! And my new book Sewing Love was, for me, a must-create type of book. I’ve not seen anything like it in the market, and I’m pleased as punch to have had this chance to make it come to life. Side note: I wasn’t expecting my full face to show up on the cover, and I am feeling trepidations about this. I had assumed that I would be a lot more incognito and even asked the publishers to consider mimicking the cover from Sewing Happiness, but no go. Obviously, I’m gonna roll with it, though let the record show that I advocated for something less…less…I don’t even know.

If you’d like a signed copy and a pre-order goody (handmade by me!), please order through Queen Anne Book Company. You can include information about personalization/inscription in the Order Comments section when you check out.

Next up: SUMO COLORS and SUMO SHAPES, two new additions to the Little Sumo board book series. These little guys were far easier to work on compared to Sewing Love. There are no photoshoots or sample sewing involved, only 30 pages per book, and just a handful of words. The most time-consuming part is the illustrations, and I love love love painting the sumos. The three books kept me fully occupied during the pandemic, and for that I’m extra grateful. If you’d like a signed copy of these cute baby books, please order through Queen Anne Book Company as well!

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll have more interior sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes fun tidbits in the coming weeks. Thank you in advance for your pre-orders! It really, really makes a positive and huge impact on getting the book promoted across various channels. More soon!!

Life Goals: 13,000 Books

Hello, hello, my friends! How are you?

I’m doing well. I have a birthday coming up soon, so I’ve been reflecting on life more than usual. I’ve been thinking a lot about what inspires me. One recent and great inspiration is the author Alan Bradley and about a month ago I finished reading his Flavia de Luce series. I read all 10 books over several weeks, one right after another, transported to the 1950s and soaking in the mysteries. Flavia, a brilliant 11-year-old amateur scientist and sleuth, is growing up quite unsupervised in a ramshackle manor in a quaint English village (for the most part — there’s a short-lived stint at a Canadian boarding school for one of the books). I can’t imagine anyone not being smitten with this indomitable, spunky tween. Spending time with Flavia, the eccentric cast of characters, and the smart plot twists became a comforting nighttime ritual. I was bereft when I completed the last book. To prolong the magic of the Alan Bradley world, I even read the stand alone short story and his memoir

Mr. Bradley published the first Flavia de Luce novel when he was 70-years-old in 2009. He’s now in his early 80s, and after a rigorous publishing schedule of at least one book a year that lasted over a decade, he seems to be taking a bit of a break right now. His books are so clever and wise and witty! I’ve watched quite a few interviews with him, and he’s as charming as his books– there’s so much I love about him. I mean, how cool is it that he published his first novel at 70??? It’s never too late. I made that little sketch up there while thinking about Flavia — I should have included a test tube and a piece of bread toasting over a laboratory bunsen burner. Or her trusty bicycle, Gladys.

In his interviews, he mentions that his inner 11-year-old is alive and well in the here and now — I feel the same way. A staggering factoid he dropped during one interview was that he has roughly 13,000 books in his library. 13,000! He didn’t say that he actually read all of them, but I suspect he’s read a mind-blowing number of books since it sounds like he was a very early and insatiable reader. Having a sizable home library has been a life goal of mine ever since I visited a friend back when I was in my twenties. My friend was subletting a house from a professor on sabbatical leave, and my jaw dropped when I saw the beautiful library with floor to ceiling bookshelves. The requisite comfy leather armchair and reading lamp nestled in the corner of the room. I could just picture myself sitting in that chair, lost in one of the hundreds of books. Right then and there, I decided that one day I would have a home library just like it. The dream hasn’t materialized yet, but I know it’s happening.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared on the ole blog here that a few years ago, I started tracking the number of books I read. For the last three years I’ve read at least 100 books per year, though you’ll have to take this number with a grain of salt since I do include picture books in the total tally. Picture books totally count in my opinion! So far I’ve read 65 books in 2022 (of which about 10 are picture books). I would say that the average page count per novel or non-fiction book is about 275 pages. It’s been enormously enriching to be reading a lot again. Reading has always been, and remains, my favorite activity in the world. I feel so lucky that I get to make books as well.

Mr. Bradley appears to be enjoying his life as an author immensely. As someone who can easily get angsty, that inspires me to no end. I have a tendency to obsessively research authors after I read their books and out of all the writers I’ve “studied” (aka stalked), Alan Bradley seems far and away the most delighted and delightful, at least to me. I admire his humility and his wit and I absolutely love that he dedicates every one of his books to his wife, Shirley, whom he clearly adores. Plus, his book acknowledgements are so sweet and interestingly specific, often with shoutouts to booksellers.

I too have rigorously published an average of 1 book a year for the last 7 years, though my book sales are quite modest compared to Mr. Bradley’s mega-hits. Still, I’m honored that this is my career and hey, I’m only 50 (almost 51!). There’s plenty of time for honing my craft(s). I have three more books coming out in August, which I’ll talk a lot more about next month. And I may have some other exciting news to share soon too! Fingers crossed.

Alright, that’s it for now. I’m looking forward to quiet celebrations, lots of reading, writing, painting, sewing and the like. The usual. I’ll be back next month with fun stuff!