“Why Did You Write Bubble Belly?”

“Junko’s mom made him a big juicy hamburger for dinner, and he ate as much as he could. ‘Mmmmm!’, Junko said, as he felt the bubble growing in his belly.”

What is going to happen to Junko after he ate as many fruits, vegetables, and snacks as he could?

“The bubble was as wide and round as that big, juicy hamburger he just ate. It was getting bigger and bigger…”

In this hilarious story, your child’s laughter will grow as big as Junko’s belly.”

I managed to come up with a description that didn’t seem to get the point across. I never had a great elevator pitch as I try to get through every point only to wrap things up with, “You have to read it to understand it.” Recently, I talked to my consultant at Passerport and discussed different ideas for promoting my children story, Bubble Belly, but this time, my consultant asked me a question I wasn’t expecting: “Why did you write this story?”

When he ask me why (which is a question I hate answering!) I’ve been trying to find an answer to that question for quite some time. I think I wrote Bubble Belly because as a first generation Asian-American, writing stories were a place that I found I could truly express myself and question all of the societal roles that had been impressed upon me by my own culture, family, and school.

I’ve taught everything from English as a second language to art and crafts in public schools across China and Japan. I was amazed by the realization that many of my students in my classes found stories to be their outlet. Bubble Belly became a story where young people who are “too much” can see themselves as a reminder they exist and are worthy of attention since at some point in their life, they were told they were too loud or too demanding.

To be fully engaged with the English language, you must learn by being loud and demanding to fully understand it. In many East Asian cultures, it’s expected for students to be nearly perfect in their practice and pronunciation in their pursuit of learning a foreign language. (Which is why many of us are too shy to speak.) Since many of them are trying to learn English within this framework, they’ll never fully understand the beauty English has to offer. It’s a new culture and they get to be whoever they want to be within it.

Before I began writing Bubble Belly, I wrote other manuscripts that I got to share with my students. I loved writing those stories and each one of them have taught me how to become a better writer. The students’ excitement and laughter were my greatest feedback. In my heart, I knew that I wanted my book to be a story that set a strong foundation for my teaching career and if it were the only thing I ever wrote, I wanted it to be something that reflected the values and experiences I hold with my own students.

For writers working on their first book, I’ve learned while trying to answer the “why” that led me to write the story Bubble Belly,  the “why”changed as the release date got closer, but the answer shouldn’t change at all. Every time I think about the book, the heart of my answer will always be this: “Growing up, I wanted to find myself in the stories that I read but struggled to find him in any book, so I decided to write about him. In other words, write the story you most needed to read growing up. You’ll thank your younger self later. 😉

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