Saturday, January 3, 2009

Photos from my trip to Northern China

I uploaded some photos from my trip to Beijing, the Great Wall and Xi'an to my flickr. You can see them here.

I'll post a few of my favorites below.

These two pictures were taken at the Great Wall at Ju Yong Guan near Badaling

The following picture is a detail of the roof at the Lama Temple in Beijing.

Fried Scorpions, anyone? What about silk worm larva? And more delicacies?
I wasn't brave enough to chomp into one of these. And yes, you eat the whole thing!

The Temple of Heaven. The first photo is a detail of roof tiles and the next picture is taken from a sacrificial mound looking toward the northern part of the temple complex.

This next photo was taken at the Ming tombs. It is the top of an outdoor balustrade.

The following pictures were taken in/near Xi'an.The first photo was taken on the Goose Pagoda grounds in Xi'an. The next photo is of of bricks that are part of the huge, absolutely huge, ancient wall of Xi'an. They are signed. If a brick broke the maker would be executed. Now that is extreme quality control! (I think if you click on the photo it will be larger.) The last picture is a closeup of some of the Terra Cotta Warriors.

The train ride to Xi'an was quite interesting. We took the night train. There is no privacy because there are no doors to the sleeping compartments--luckily there were 6 of us and 6 bunks arranged 3 high on a side are in one compartment, or we'd have had to share with strangers. The squat toilets open to the track which flies by underneath.

I also enjoyed the Beijing Capital Museum. I'd suggest visiting this museum to anyone who visits Beijing.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bookstores are wonderful places

I love visiting bookstores in every country where I live. A bookstore (Eymundsson's) in Iceland was convenient for me--it was downtown, just a short walk from my home. There was a coffee shop upstairs. Here in China there are many bookstores. Of interest--most books in the US are printed in the region where I live. The bookstores tend to be either small or tinier than one could imagine.

A tiny book store which is about 4 feet wide and 6 feet deep.

I've seen smaller stores here in Guangzhou.
I'm also amazed when I see a bike loaded up with books and magazines. I've even seen bikes used as movable newstands.

I visited a large bookstore when I was in Beijing. Of course I wandered over to the children’s section, which is comparatively small compared to children's sections in US stores, and spent a long time looking at all the titles. There are several children’s books from the US that are translated into Chinese. I didn’t find the Chinese young adult section, even though I’ve seen one in a much smaller bookstore. I exercised little constraint and bought 9 picture books.

These are dual language books (Chinese and English) and are traditional tales. The cost was reasonable, about $3 for each 46 to 64 page long paperback picture book. (About 6 by 9 inches.) I was excited to find Chang’e Flying to the Moon. There are several versions of the story: The book I bought is closest to version 1, with some notable differences.

I always like to buy a few picture books in each country. These books tend to be folktales. Since a picture book I’m working on is an adaptation of an American tale (a story I’ve always wished was available in a picture book) I’ve been paying more attention to how writers adapt stories, how they stay true to the story while making it accessible to young children. I adapted this story and two other picture books for my workshop at Vermont College Residency later this month.

This next semester I am taking the picture book concentration. The picture book program is by application (and is also open to non-students for a semester certificate).
Because I will focus on picture books, I will let my latest novel sit and keep my first novel (which is also calling me) company. I finished my first draft of River last semester and over my semester break I cut chapters, divided chapters, moved chapters and did other necessary structural revisions. I'd love to work on it, but letting it rest will allow me to see it with fresh eyes.

I love picture books which is why I wanted to want to explore and learn about the craft of this wonderful genre of children’s books. Because I was accepted to the picture program I already know who my advisor is.

I get to work with Uma Krishnaswami!!!!

She blogs here and Cynthia Leitich Smith (who also teaches at Vermont) has an interview with her here. I am very excited to work with Uma.

I fly to Vermont next week.
I've already made arrangements to buy several books from The Flying Pig Bookstore when they visit campus.
Did I ever mention I love bookstores.