Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth

       Bojagi image from the San Francisco Asian Art Museum 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Joan Schoettler, author of Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth. This beautifully written and illustrated book is about a little girl named Ji-Su. When Ji-Su's mother is chosen by the emperor to be a seamstress in his court, Ji-Su vows to learn to sew the beautiful Korean bojagi, or wrapping cloths, just as well so that she will also be summoned to the palace and be reunited with her mother. 

You can see our interview below:

Please share a little about yourself to our viewers.

Children's literature has played an important part in my life from reading to my children when they were young, to sharing wonderful stories to school age children as a literacy specialist, and to exposing credential students and teachers to outstanding books and ways these books can be incorporated in their classrooms. Teaching children's literature and storytelling at California State University, Fresno provides an opportunity to look closely at recently released books as well as to share books children return to again and again. Studying children's literature is a perfect partner with my writing.

I grew up just outside San Francisco, a city I return to frequently. I live in Central California with my husband where we raised three sons. Reading, writing, gardening, traveling, and being with family and friends fill my days.

Do I have any ties with the Korean culture?

I did not have any ties to the Korean culture, but as I began research for Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth,  I met many Korean people who answered my questions, shared particular aspects of their culture with me, and invited me into their homes. Learning about other cultures is something I am easily drawn to and research is something I enjoy. I love the learning part of writing. As a result of my research and the publication of Ji-su's story, I have met Korean families, students, and scholars at Asian Art Museums in San Francisco and Pasadena, the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Folk Art, and at the Korean Education Foundation. Through this story my world has broadened.

What message do you want your book to send to its readers?

It's interesting because I don't think of a message to share with readers as I tell a story. Maybe it evolves naturally as the story is told. That's what I'm doing...sharing a story. Love and determination are the driving components in Ji-su's story. A child's longing to be with her/his mother is a universal desire. Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth shares that component in a Korean setting where Ji-su's perfection of sewing bojagi invites the reader to learn about another culture.

How did you come up with the story?

I first saw bojagi, or wrapping cloths, at a special Korean art exhibit at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. These unique abstract works of art are often compared to Klee's modern art. The colors, designs, and intricate stitches amazed me.Toward the end of the exhibit, there was a contemporary bojagi created by Chunghie Lee, a world renowned fiber artist who created and dedicated a bojagi to all the anonymous women who spent tireless hours sewing bojagi for utilitarian purposes in their homes and in palaces for the wealthy to store and wrap their treasures. I felt these anonymous women and their art needed to be recognized and their story told.

What age range would you suggest this book for?

My editor suggested the book for the 5-8 age group. It certainly works there, but I have shared it with older students and find them just as engaged and asking inquisitive questions to learn more about the bojagi and Korean culture. Even adults are contacting me with personal ways they are connecting with the story. It's all a wonderful surprise for me.

Do you plan on making more books?

Yes. Some stories are completed and others are in various stages of the writing process. I received the 2010 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award for ON THE RUN, and hope to see Janna's story in print soon. Hopefully with the publication of Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth, other manuscripts will catch the eye of editors and reach the hands of children n the near future.

Is there anything else you want to share?

Jessica Lanan, my illustrator:

Renee Ting, my editor at Shen's Books, chose a talented, research driven, and wonderfully creative artist, Jessica Lanan, to illustrate my book. Jessica brought characters to life on the page in ways I never imagined, like the character of Gomo, Ji-su's great aunt, the cousins, and the cat. The way she revealed the setting amazed me and her research took her into of the Korean culture, learning about bojagi, and Korean family life. Jessica brought much to this story, and for that, I am very grateful.

We thank you Joan for this lovely interview and giving us your personal background and insight into your book, Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth.

Joan will be sponsoring a Giveaway of her book to our Little Seouls customers!  She will also sign the book and personalize it with the winner's name!

If you want to enter the Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth Giveaway, please leave a comment on our blog here and tell us why you want this book. Winner will be randomly chosen and announced on Wednesday, May 30, 2012!