Author Chat with Maggie P. Chang (Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box,Too!), Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Maggie P. Chang author of
Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box,Too!
Read on for more about Maggie, her book, plus an giveaway!
Meet Maggie P. Chang!
As a little girl growing up in Kansas, I lived large as a writer and illustrator of my own books, a queen of crafting, and a leader of a dozen different made up businesses within my household.
Today, not much has changed when I say I’m a multi-disciplinary creative and educator with an entrepreneurial spirit. Over the last ten plus years, I've combined my passions to launch and direct innovative programs for schools and museums and have co-founded two nonprofits. My creative work touches on those big (and small) questions in life, and my style is to create with heart and humor. Things that energize me: creativity, nature, animals, your grandma’s cooking, listening, words, collaboration, compassion, and the human spirit. (Hence, that one summer spent living with a friendly family of shepherds on a sheep farm in New Zealand after reading The Alchemist.) Things I believe in: our youth, the power of storytelling, the soul, technology, eco-honoring processes, bullet points, dark chocolate, Woody from Toy Story, timing, legumes, laughter = best medicine, and kindness.
As a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University’s Teachers College, I began my career in education in New York City. This began with a year of national service teaching through City Year AmeriCorps in Spanish Harlem. I went on to manage the construction and opening of the nation's first children's history museum and piloted the first art education programs for the New-York Historical Society, both of which continue to serve thousands of students with limited access to art and enrichment. I then returned to the classroom, expanding the Digital Media Technology program at the acclaimed LaGuardia Arts High School--the public school that inspired the film and TV show Fame. There, I hit the lotto teaching graphic design, branding, package design, web design, digital media, animation, film, illustration, children’s book illustration, water color painting, and fashion to the world's most talented teen artists--aka the coolest people on the planet.
I currently live in Los Angeles with my husband and mini bernedoodle named Benihana. Beyond working as an artist and giving to my various creative projects, you can find me cooking and hosting gluten-free dinner parties, getting down in a hip hop dance class, cackling at a comedy club, or meditating on the beach.
Ultimately, I want to cultivate deeper connection and make positive impacts while guiding others to do the same. Last year, I was recognized for this, receiving a Leadership Award from Comcast NBCUniversal and confirming that great power can come from doing you, doing well, and doing good.
Meet Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box,Too!
Meet spunky, funny, and friendly Geraldine Pu as she takes on a bully and makes a new friend in this first book in a new Level 3 Ready-to-Read Graphics series!
Geraldine Pu’s favorite part of school is lunch. She loves her lunch box, which she calls Biandang. She can’t wait to see what her grandmother, Amah, has packed inside it each day. Then one day, Geraldine gets stinky tofu...and an unexpected surprise. What will she do?
Ready-to-Read Graphics books give readers the perfect introduction to the graphic novel format with easy-to-follow panels, speech bubbles with accessible vocabulary, and sequential storytelling that is spot-on for beginning readers. There’s even a how-to guide for reading graphic novels at the beginning of each book.
~ Author Chat ~
- Which came first, the title or the novel?
The title definitely did! Each book in the GERALDINE PU series is basically Geraldine’s name and a different anthropomorphized object. I love structure--actually, I need structure. So, for each book, the formula goes Geraldine + a belonging she adores that’s relevant to the story’s big theme. Book 1 is Geraldine + her lunch box, and the big theme is food. Book 2 is Geraldine + her cat hat, and the big theme is hair. Once the structure (which is essentially the title) is determined, I can get creative with how Geraldine and the belonging interact and other fun details in the narrative.
- What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
That dinner spread at the start of Chapter 3! I dare you to look at that dinner spread and not have your mouth water! This book’s heart is about the Taiwanese food that Geraldine loves and letting herself love it, even if others reject it. What Amah cooks that night is a good mix of typical home cooking and other standout Taiwanese dishes, and it’s clear Geraldine can’t help but chow down and enjoy it. I guess being proud of this spread is a similar pride one would feel if they’d cooked that meal themselves, but instead of making noodles, fish, pork chops, etc., I drew them. Which did take hours of prep, like studying the ingredients, the way they way the dumplings are pleated … Ok, seriously, just talking about this makes me hungry!
- Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
The most important thing I’ve learned as a writer is to not be too precious about my work. Especially when you’re just starting out and finding your voice, querying agents, pitching to publishers. One way to do this is to work on multiple books and/or creative projects at a time. I got that advice early on from a fellow author/illustrator at an SCBWI event (thanks, Amy!). It probably saved me. Otherwise there’s too much pressure on your one precious baby, and books are living things that need breaks and room to breathe--not you smothering them. Plus, it’ll help you with your craft to write different stories! Not everything you write will be shared with the world. The first book I had hoped to publish was most certainly just for me. I used to be very attached to it, and now I’m like, Oh thank goodness I didn’t try to pitch that! It was just a good warm up exercise.
After the early stages, not being too precious about your work looks more like learning to let go. Editors will take things in directions you didn’t foresee. So many words/scenes/brilliant ideas get cut, and only a few people in the world will ever know they existed. But you are still a genius and your work is better off if you can give into this process!
- What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The look on my girl Geraldine’s face. I worked hard to nail just the right expression! Her side smile and head tilt say she’s confident, and she knows it. The softness in her eyes and eyebrows say she’s not going to rub it in your face. She’s both sweet and solid, inviting and self-assured.
- What was your favorite book in 2020?
A tie between PAX, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon Klassen, and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate. Hm, I see some themes--both are heartfelt middle grade novels, and both are first-person narratives with animal protagonists. 2020 was challenging in so many ways, but I think it also challenged us all to break down and take new form. These two books had my imagination firing in fresh ways and built new understandings of what I thought I knew. Plus, my husband and I got a SUPER cute puppy last year, so I think pets, animals, and the ways we humans interact with the natural world were all very much on my mind (and heart!).
- Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Probably the scene where Geraldine has her angry outburst, including the moments leading up to it and the feelings that unravel afterwards. In the lead up, I paid close attention to the pacing and it took me a bit to get right. I wanted to build the tension slowly so that Geraldine’s scream would feel like a satisfying release. And then for the fall out afterwards--I myself had to comb through alllll the many things Geraldine feels. There’s shame and shock that she hurled her beloved lunch box across the room. Sadness that she hurt her lunch box. Relief that her lunch box could be saved with a little glue and TLC. Guilt for wasting her bao. Fear that her Amah, her grandmother who made and packed the bao for her, would find out. And finally feeling defeated that she didn’t handle her anger well. That’s a lot to pack into a few spreads!
I think kids have big emotions that feel very real to them. I really, really wanted this whole scene to validate their feelings and let young readers know that emotional regulation is hard. You don’t always get it right at first, but there will be other chances. I put so much effort into simplifying this complex scene, that I was even editing the final art right up until the printer deadline!
- Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Biandang … or maybe Geraldine … ah, this is very meta actually! Let me explain. GERALDINE PU AND HER LUNCH BOX, TOO! was originally written in first-person, from Biandang, the lunch box’s perspective. It was a fun and original approach, however, it was clear that something crucial was missing--Geraldine’s voice needed to be bolder! She’s a bold girl, after all! So, I eventually made Biandang her sidekick, gave him thought bubbles, and rewrote the story with third-person narration. Biandang serves as an extension of Geraldine (kind of like her subconscious), and I had to be thoughtful about who got which line … Does this feel like Biandang or Geraldine’s voice? The lines that sounded really defensive went to Biandang since he’s literally her food’s trusty protector, and they wouldn’t be things someone as confident as Geraldine would say out loud.
- Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Ooo, good question. I’d say the initial drafting stage is more fun for me. When an idea first comes to me, it feels like I’ve been hit by lightning. I’m giddy. And I can see nearly every scene and hear a good amount of the dialogue, and even sound effects! But it’s all just bouncing around in my head until I get to the drafting part. Then I break out my computer, do an exciting brain dump, and loosely organize everything. And at this stage, I force myself not to worry about fitting the draft into the exact number of pages allotted, which feels freeing. When it’s all down on paper for the first time, and I can hear my own voice reading the story--it’s like I’ve just given birth to something shiny and new and yeah, a little rough … but oh, so pretty.
- Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
The nonprofit Rising Earth: Human Impact Education. I’m one of the co-founders. Our mission is to empower young people to understand, protect, and restore their connection to our planet's ecosystems. With the input from youth in our programs, we are creating graphic novels, curriculum, conscious impact experiences, and outreach … I can’t seem to get away from graphic novels! I just love that kids love them so much.
- What would you say is your superpower?
I have an uncanny ability to remember people’s names after meeting them once. When I was a high school art teacher, teaching nearly a hundred different students a day, l always wanted to learn each of their names by day 3. And I found it doable! I also used to wait tables and could recall names of people I’d waited on after months had passed. I couldn’t tell you what name you would call a superhero with this name-recall superpower, but I think the ability goes a long way with people!
Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too!
By: Maggie P. Chang
Release Date: June 29th, 2021
Publisher: Simon KIDS
One winner will receive a copy of Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too! (Maggie P. Chang) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*