Blogoversary Day 4: Ellen Oh

I'm really proud to call Ellen a friend. She's taught me a lot about myself, authors, and the industry itself. But, really, she taught me that reviewers should never be afraid to speak their mind as long as such a thing is done in a respectful manner. I don't tweet my reviews at authors unless I give them 4.5 to 5 stars. I understand how it can be a put down. But somehow my review of her debut got into her hands and she tweeted me THANKING me for my criticism. This meant a lot to me because while it was a positive review, it did highly criticize several parts of her novel. And she made me realize that authors really do appreciate constructive criticism and take it to heart. She taught me to always speak my mind and not to fear the consequences of hurting someone (as long as such a thing is done so in a respectful manner). She taught me that the honest truth, even if it's not what you want to hear, is appreciated. Which is one of the many reasons that I am eagerly awaiting her sequel.

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Ello is short for Ellen Oh. Transplanted from Brooklyn, NY, I'm a lawyer, a writer, and a college instructor now living near the nations capital. I have three smart, beautiful little girls and an ultra-supportive husband who tells me to write every day so that maybe, one day, I'll actually get a book published. I'm repped by the amazing Joe Monti of Barry Goldblatt Literary. And what do you know, Da Man was right! My first book, Prophecy,Prophecy Series Bk 1, is being published by HarperTeen for release in Winter 2013! Life is very good.

~*~Guest Post on Asian Mythology~*~

One of my strongest memories of being young is reading all about Greek, Roman and Norse mythology, along with practically every fairytale book every printed. I have a special fondness for the Andrew Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors. I remember rereading the blue, red, yellow and pink books over and over again. I never got tired of them. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that these books I loved were not very diverse. In fact, it began to dawn on me just how underrepresented my culture was in children’s literature.

This became an issue for me when I had my three girls. Trying to find multi-cultural books became my mission. It was easier in picture books, but as my girls got older, I began to notice that something was missing.

Right around when my first daughter was born, I’d begun what has now become a lifelong love affair with Asian history. I read everything I could about Asia, specifically Korea, and I was fascinated by everything I’d learned. Asian myths and legends are just as fascinating as European ones, but not as well known. For example, there’s the Korean myth of the Kumiho – a nine-tailed fox demon who takes the form of a beautiful woman and lures men into marriage in the hopes that they can become human. But just as the kumiho sees her goal within her grasp, the man becomes aware of her demon nature and she is forced to kill him and eat his heart and liver. Or what about the Japanese kami? A kami is a water sprite monster that has a crater on the top of its head that is filled with water. Kami’s are famous for lurking in pools of water and trying to drown people. But they are known for being so polite that if you bow to them, they will immediately bow back, which spills out the water from their crater heads and renders them immobile. There are still signs in front of some ponds in Japan that say “Beware of the Kami!”

Many myths and legends of Asia are completely unknown in the west. Even my children had no idea of what Asian mythology was like. And this is why I wrote Prophecy. I wrote it for my daughters who loved to sit by my side and hear about all those long ago stories. I wrote it so they could be exposed to a side of their heritage they don’t get to read a lot about. And I wanted them to be able to point to a strong Asian girl hero instead of the smart, quiet, nerdy, Asian side-kick. I wanted to destroy the Asian woman stereotype once and for all and give my daughters their own Katniss or Katsa to root for. Now I say this now, but I actually wrote Prophecy way before Graceling and Hunger Games ever came out. And it is interesting to me that the year my first agent went on editorial submission for Prophecy was the year that Graceling and Hunger Games were both published. I’ve always thought of it as a wonderful coincidence of women authors who were ready to write about strong female heroes. We even all gave them names starting with K for kickass!

I admit that I worried about how people would react to the Asian mythology in my book. When I first tried to get published, I came across so many people who told me that “no one wants to read about ancient Korea” and “these names are too strange and too hard to pronounce, nobody wants to deal with it” and “it’s just too foreign.” I have to admit that it hurt a lot. Because it felt like they were telling me no one cared about my culture. But here’s the thing, like all things in life, these naysayers are not everyone. For every one person who might hate reading a book about another culture, there’s at least one who wants to read it. And that’s who I focused on, my true audience—kids.

Because diversity is such an important issue for me, it was a natural decision to write a book for kids and give them exposure to another culture. And the reaction has been all that I could have hoped for and more. I’ve been overwhelmed at the amazing response I’ve gotten from kids. It made me realize that kids are eager for exposure to new and different things. They aren’t close-minded or hyper-critical. What they want is to be entertained, and if in the process they are exposed to diversity, so much the better! And the more diversity our kids are exposed to, the more we can hope that one day, diversity isn’t something we have to go hunting for. That diversity in literature will become the norm.

~*~Giveaway~*~

1. Both books to one winner
2. Open to US and CA
3. Must be 13 years or older
4. One entry per household
5. Anyone caught cheating will be disqualified from any and all giveaways

6. The winner will have 24 hours to respond to my e-mail or a new winner will be chosen.

5 comments:

  1. Wow, I guess I need to read more Asian myths? The ones that Ellen mentioned sound amazing and so unfamiliar, which I love! It's also really cool to hear that Ellen literally went out and wrote the book she wanted to read!

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  2. I love all the mythology she talks about. I haven't really read much of it and it sounds really interesting. Happy Blogoversary!

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  3. I love all of the different Mythology stories. Thanks for the great post!

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  4. Wow... kudos to Ellen!!! As a Korean-American adopted into a Caucasian home, I had the exact same experience growing up! I discovered Korean fables and stories on my own. Not that my parents didn't encourage me, it's just that they didn't "know" enough to help me. I'm dying to read this book, now that I know the back story :)

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  5. Would love to hear more about Asian mythology!

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