By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
I struggled with a rare voice disorder for over 10 years. In 2007, when I wrote my debut children’s book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, I found my voice, both literally and literary-ly. I write because I believe it is what I am meant to do in this chapter in life.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My latest picture book Tibby & Duckie is about uncovering one’s gifts and talents. Tibby, a bunny with tiger traits, helps Duckie, an ugly duckling of sorts, who is unable to swim like the other ducks. When Tibby helps Duckie to uncover what she is made to be, she soars with wings like an eagle’s.
I was hoping to show that whilst it’s good to put in our best efforts, some of what we do may not work out. That’s fine. I personally don’t think there’s a need to strive to be excellent in everything. Maybe one’s gifts and talents simply lie elsewhere, waiting to be discovered.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Picture Books are my poetry. Everything from writing, illustrating and producing it touches on the aesthetic, from the end papers to story text and how that sings in harmony with the illustrations.
The picture book is an art form where one has to spin a story with a beginning, middle and end, have a story problem by the third page, find resolution to the problem by the 32nd (and last) page, have the main character face conflict, grow from it, use an active voice, with action-packed verbs in language that speaks to a child plus leave room for the illustrations. And all that has to be achieved in 500 words or less.
Who are your favorite authors?
Kate Dicamillo for chapter books, Oliver Jeffers for picture books, Philip Yancey for questions on faith, and Enid Blyton for sparking my early love of reading.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
My memoir Finding My Voice – a true story of setbacks, new beginnings and toy characters, where I wrote about my journey of losing my voice and self to a crippling voice disorder and finding faith in God and voice through writing children’s books.
It’s one thing to write about toy characters struggling with identity issues. It’s another writing your personal story. I wanted to share enough for it to be a purposeful read and yet not reveal things to the extent of giving up all privacy. Writing it (and then self-editing to no end until my publisher said “Enough, stop!”) took a lot out of me and I went right back to writing picture books after.
What’s your idea of bliss?
Lazing in bed till late, then sipping ice coffee and reading a book without interruption. Yes, that’s a rarity when you are full-time caregiver to a feisty preschooler who thinks sleep is a waste of time.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
I’m not the smashing-china-type. But I would say parenting has definitely tested my limits of patience, perseverance, creativity and the like, and pushed my boundaries on all emotions, from utter exasperation to overwhelming love.
What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Can I bring my Kindle pre-loaded with tons of children’s books? But if you want titles, the first downloads will be all of Kate Dicamillo’s books plus a couple of Philip Yancey’s books. And a notebook to write in!
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
The Bible. At a time like this, I definitely need God’s Word to show me the way forward from such a disaster!
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
I don’t have a one-liner for life philosophy. But I do have a life verse:
“The thief comes only to steal, to kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”
– John 10:10
Multi-award-winning author Emily Lim has written over 30 children’s titles. She is the first outside North America to win 3 medals in children’s books at the IPPY Awards (the world’s largest book awards) and was named Singapore Woman Award Honoree 2013 for inspiring readers through her books. Her 4-book Toy series, which she self-published, has sold over 40,000 copies in 3 languages. She blogs about writing and parenting at http://mummumstheword.wordpress.com/.