I caught the Japan travel bug a couple of years ago, and in April the timing (and the amazing steal on flights) was finally right - my husband and I spent an amazing two weeks in Japan. We explored the city streets in Tokyo, were awe-struck by the temples in Kyoto, and enjoyed the whirlwind energy of Osaka. We were surrounded by beauty in nature and ate delicious meals every day, but the icing on the cake for me was the hunt for picture books along the way. I knew Japan would be an inspiring trip full of color and beauty, so I’m spicing up my blog with a few videos of the cutest Japanese book shops where I found my picture book gems.
Osaka is a busy, electrifying city, and we stayed right in the heart of the tourist area in Namba. We only spent a couple of days there, but we ate delicious street food the area is known for, tried our luck at the arcade, and explored the city streets. Here’s a little video on Athens Bookstore, a small bookstore we went into while in Osaka. Hope you enjoy it!
If I Were a Book
written by: Jose Jorge Letria | illustrated by: Andre Letria
Here's the little book I bought at Athen's Bookstore. I love the way the simple text goes hand in hand with the graphical illustrations. Since I don't read or speak Japanese, I found this to be a perfect example of how strongly illustrations can speak louder than words.
Without even knowing the title of the book, which I didn't at the time I bought it, I found the illustrations created a story all their own- we can imagine ourselves swimming through the ocean, flying high above the bustling city or scaling the tallest mountain in the adventures we take while reading a book.
I found the English translated version of If I Were a Book on Amazon, providing snippets of the actual text written by Letria:
"If I were a book, I'd be full of new horizons"
"If I were a book, I would not want to know at the beginning how my story ends"
Didn't you already get a sense of these words just by looking at the illustrations? The power of art and words, even art without words, experienced inside a picture book is exactly why I love them so much.
Highlights from our short but delicious stay in Osaka.
Our stay in Osaka was a rainy one, but the days were perfect to get lost among the tall buildings, surrounded by the endless posters calling our name to try one savory treat after another.
Delicious street food and cute desserts everywhere!
Below: Earl grey rye pancakes topped with fruit and ice-cream, adorable and yummy roasted green tea latte, okonomiyaki (savory pancakes filled with grilled octopus) takoyaki (flavorful octopus balls topped with fish flakes on a stick) and a warm an pan with vanilla ice-cream inside. For dinner, we had the crispiest, tastiest salt and pepper chicken wings I've ever had in my entire life. Osaka is food and dessert heaven.
My husband and I are not gamblers, but in Japan, there were arcades with bright lights and playful music everywhere. I just had to include these photos of the adorable prizes teasing us and the Miyazaki game that lured me in. Only 1000 yen later ($10) and my husband won me the "ultimate prize"!
Thanks for watching my first ever video blog! Coming soon: Part 2 of my picture book hunt in Japan featuring an adorable little shop in Kyoto!
Friends, for those of you reading this, thank you for taking the time, and for your continued support on my kidlit journey. This is a love letter to 2017, a year that's been so good to my creative soul. And to you friends, who ask me about Little Bat and how the progress is going, I am so grateful for your thoughts and wishes of good luck. It means so much to me. Love you guys!
You've been so good to me. On days like today, when my body is achy, my nose is stuffy and all I want is to disappear under a blanket, I think back on the amazing opportunities I've had this past year, sip my tea and just feel grateful. On evenings after a long day at work and a long commute in traffic, when all I want to do is veg out ,and binge on Terrace House or Broad City, I remind myself that Little Bat has been waiting for me all day, just to get a few more of his expressions drawn out (sometimes I give into TV anyway, because nobody's perfect and a girl needs a mental break now and then).
There's no better time than now, while my body recovers from an annoying cold, to take a minute and catch up on my blog before the end of the year. Let's see... I took my first online illustration course with the Children's Book Academy and it was so much fun! The timing was perfect, as I'm still smack in the middle of illustrating “Wake Up, Little Bat!” The structure of the class, the exercises for each week and the lessons and interviews were just what I needed to keep the inspiration train going. I'm telling you, illustrating can be a lonely pass-time, so it was really fun to see other illustration styles and other projects the very talented students were up to. I submitted to the Golden Ticket contest (didn't win this time, but you can't win 'em all!), and it pushed me to think about color (yay!) for Little Bat.
I sent in my final sketches for “Wake Up, Little Bat!” to my editor and publisher! Thats right folks, my entire book is all sketched out! And while there are still changes to be made, I feel ECSTATIC to say I can check this milestone off on my illustrating path. What an amazing feeling!
I also took some extra time to connect to inspiration and fill my creative cup. December was jam-packed with events and I had to take advantage of meeting the very delightful Oliver Jeffers and the positively energetic Cathy Heller. If you ever feel yourself in a slump, get out there and look for events with people who do what you want to be doing. Just feeling the energy of being out at an event will give you the refresher you're looking for. (It didn't hurt to bring along a couple of my closest gal pals for a ladies night of creativity too!) If you're on your own creative path, do yourself a HUGE favor and listen to the Don't Keep Your Day Job podcast on iTunes. Cathy Heller is an amazing force of motivation every one of us creative folks need in our lives. I could do an entire blog post on all the episodes she's hosted alone... (hmm.. now that's an idea.. inspiring podcasts and audiobooks!)
Last week, I reconnected with my book buddy, Emily, a fellow kidlit writer and lover of picture books to catch up on her writing journey as well. So fun and so sweet to chat with someone who loves children's books as much as I do! And did I mention, I was a part of an AMAZINGLY fun webinar through the Children's Book Academy, filled with published writers and illustrators ? Wow, what an honor to be a part of this talented bunch. I learned so much and am so excited to be a part of this kidlit community. (For anyone interested, the live webinar was recorded and is available here bit.ly/AnAwesomeGIFT )
And lastly, this has nothing to do with my writing journey, but I hosted our first ever family fiesta at our house, and it was so full of love and warm fuzzies, I had to include it here too. December, you have been so fun and inspiring, and it's not even Christmas yet....wooooohoo!
You've been an amazing pal, 2017, but I can't wait for what my new friend, 2018, has in store for me!
Staying inspired through the holidays and into the new year!
Art, creativity and the time for it is a dream I’ve been searching for my entire life. It hasn’t been easy, but I am happily handing over every spare minute I have to drawing and thinking about Little Bat these days. But the thing about illustrating is it’s a solitary activity. Sure, I bounce my ideas and show my drawings for feedback to my creative partner/husband when he’s home, but for the most part, the creating happens with me alone at my desk (or more times than not, with a very bored Peanut curled up on the floor behind me, springing into action each time I get up to use the bathroom).
I’m finding that for the sake of my sanity and for overall happiness in general, balance is key. And one of those nuggets of happiness always comes from getting together with the ladies for our monthly book club meets. Throughout my life, books were a form of escape for me. And when I moved away from my bubble in the South Bay to a new neighborhood in Los Angeles, books helped me pass the pre-Peanut days of waiting for my then-boyfriend (now husband) to get home from work. Back then, I craved the company of friends and connecting with others with the same interest, so I went in search of a book club.
At the time, all I wanted was to find a fun group of ladies to have a drink with and share my thoughts (good and bad) for the book I had just finished. Cue The Girly Book Club on meetup.com. It was described as “a global book club for like-minded women to discuss great books!”, and it was just what I was looking for. A week before the meetup, there was still no host and no location. I volunteered to host and find a place to meet, just that one time. There were eight of us ladies, all meeting for the first time at the restaurant I had chosen, the ATX Kitchen (now Momed) in Atwater Village. We read Wool by Hugh Howey (not one of my favorites) but our love of books is what brought us together and I had such a great time. Fast-forward four years and we’re still going strong. We’re no longer a part of the official Girly Book Club, and I no longer officially host, but month after month, we still get together for that drink, brunch and some good conversation in a different, fun spot all over L.A. The most memorable for me are:
1. Brunch at The Front Yard in North Hollywood (http://www.thefrontyardla.com/), where we met on the outdoor patio of the beautiful restaurant, under the shade of the olive trees and umbrellas. This is the most recent, but it was a check on the book club bucket list. Our lovely Rebecca suggested we read a book written by her boss’ friend, who volunteered to come and hang out with us for a book discussion afterwards. It’s been a long lived wish of mine to have an author attend one of our book clubs, and having Anne Cherian, author of A Good Indian Wife, brunch and chat with us about her book was so amazing. She was so warm, smart and open with us about her experience, and we even got an alternate ending to her book! The experience was so much fun, and an extra special treat for us. I would definitely recommend Anne’s book, a work of fiction with an interesting view on arranged marriages in Indian culture and the U.S.
2. ATX Kitchen (now Momed Atwater Village www.atmomed.com/aw/) This place will always have a special place in my heart, as it was the place for the first book club meeting. The food was always pretty tasty, and I loved the open outdoor space, the community tables and the train whizzing by every half hour. (These photos were taken back when it was ATX Kitchen. I miss the personal touch of the mural of owner's mother or grandmother- I can't remember which.)
3. Our 1-year anniversary in North Hollywood at the clubhouse of the condos member Leslie managed. It was the first time we had gathered for a potluck celebration, and it was so fun to have a special place just for us to celebrate! Next year will be 5 years together for us, so I’ll have to plan for something just as special. (Please excuse the low-res, blurry photo, this was from back in 2013.)
We have gone to so many fun spots throughout L.A. (See end of blog for the delicious and fun spots for a drink, and easy parking situations we’ve checked out- all a MUST for an ideal book club hangout.)
Now, the newness has settled into a warm and comfortable friendship. I love these ladies so much! We still see each other every month, have attended each other’s weddings, baby showers, and said sad good-byes to those who have moved away from L.A. We also rotate hosts to pick the book and location, to keep things fresh and casual for everyone. No matter how busy I get, I always try to come back to my girlies to catch up and fill my creative cup with connection, laughs, and delicious food and book conversation. Shout out to my book club ladies! Thank you for your friendship and for sharing your love of reading with me.
If you’re a book-loving lady in the L.A. area looking for a book club, let me know! We’d love to have you join us. Are you reading anything interesting that would be a good book club suggestion? Have you gone anywhere fun and delicious for brunch in L.A.? I’d love to hear your favorites.
Book Club locations for...
...a weekday drink and snacks
Bow and Truss, North Hollywood
Bon Vivant, Atwater Village
Oeno Vino (formerly 55 Degrees), Atwater Village
...delicious brunch and lovely outdoor space
The Front Yard, North Hollywood
The Culver Hotel, Culver City
Chado Tea Room, Pasadena or Little Tokyo
Off Vine, Hollywood
Cliff's Edge, Silverlake
Favorite books we've read...
Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store
The Fates and the Furies
Girl on the Train (mostly because we also watched the movie together)
Me Before You
The Rosie Project
What an exciting, whirlwind of a time! Renaldo and I were engaged November 2015, and we got married in May 2016 (hence the hiatus.. or detour of creative efforts). This was the perfect opportunity to really dive in and make the wedding ceremony our own. Save-the-dates, wedding invitations, bouquets, boutonieres and ceremony decorations were all DIY. I recruited my wonderful bridesmaids and incredible mom and aunt to help me with paper flower decorations for the ceremony. It was the most fun and amazing day to get married to my love, and celebrate with all our closest friends and family. (Photos taken by our very talented and sweet wedding photographer, Adriane White)
I may look Japanese, but I've got deep cultural roots in Peru. This summer, my husband (then fiancé) and I traveled to Peru, for him to meet my family, explore the wonders of Cusco and Macchu Picchu, eat delicious food and experience life in a place so different from our own, yet so close to home.
Art was all around us (the foods we ate, the amazing structures in nature, paintings, murals, ceramics), and for me, there is never a vacation away from art. I sketched here and there, was in awe of all the beauty of the natural surroundings of Cusco and was drawn to the colorful photography at the Peruvian art museum, MATE. Even my cousin is an artist in his own right. He's a musician and plays a Peruvian percussion instrument called the Cajon. He gave me a mini cajon to decorate and it became a part of his artist collection of Cajonearte.
Here you'll find...
a little about me, thoughts on my writing journey, hopefully a spark of inspiration. Enjoy!