Welcome, parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and readers of all sorts! You are in for a wickedly wonderful treat today. Helen H. Wu with Yeehoo Press and her adorable dragon Long are here spreading some Halloween cheer! Helen is the publisher at Yeehoo Press and is also the author of several picture books for young readers, like Long Goes to Dragon School. Plus, she's passing out a superb treat - A Skip-the-Slushpile pass with Yeehoo Press and Long the Dragon book swag, too! Want to know more about Helen, Yeehoo Press, and all of Helen's amazing books? Read on...
Q: Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! We’re thrilled to have you Trick or Treat with us and hear all about your book Long Goes to Dragon School. Please share a little about this book’s journey and/or your journey to kidlit.
A: I had the opportunity to serve as the editor and be involved in every single step of the process - from text editing, illustration thumbnails, sketches, and coloring, every revision to graphic design. I provided a lot of input into the layout design, cover design, and jacket design. In fact, I even came up with the idea for the poster on the back of the book and designed it myself. Working so closely with the team was an incredible experience, while effort-consuming. I always appreciate the efforts from a publishing house, including the editorial team, design team, marketing and sales team, that goes into making a book possible and ensuring that it is the best it can be.
Chinese dragons are typically visually different from western dragons, with their long snake-like bodies. However, in this book, the focus is not on their physical differences but on their unique inner abilities. To bring each character to life, I designed them with distinct personalities and body shapes, and Mae Besom's exceptional talent made them even more captivating with her mesmerizing illustrations. Mae's specialization in drawing cute childlike Chinese dragons, coupled with her mastery of traditional Chinese watercolor art style, added another layer of beauty to the book. When our team pitched the story to Mae, she immediately jumped on board and brought her artistic magic to the project.
Collaborating with Mae Besom is an absolute delight! During the character design phase, she meticulously explored each dragon's background and personality, and the results were breathtaking! From Camila, the fiery dragon who loves to read, to Willy, the hilarious double-headed dragon who breathes lightning, and to Mia, the fluffy dragon who spews lava - each character had a unique and captivating design that perfectly matched their distinct personalities. Mae's artistry was truly remarkable, making the characters jump off the page and into our hearts! I'm thrilled that Mae's talent and passion contributed to the project and that people of all ages can now enjoy the story and its characters.
Readers, check out this amazing artwork by illustrator Mae Besom! You can find Mae on IG at @Maebesom.
Q: Long Goes to Dragon School is such a sweet story! How did you come up with the idea? What made you decide to pursue the theme of finding your unique talent (a wonderfully, universal theme)?
A: Thank you! Long Goes to Dragon School was inspired by my own experience as a minority immigrant student. As a first-generation immigrant, I’ve felt impostor syndrome ever since—including throughout my journey as an author. But here’s the good news: while I don’t think these thoughts will ever go away completely, I’ve learned to control them. In fact, I’ve learned to let them motivate me to think outside the box and find my own unique path in writing and publishing. I managed to use those feelings of insecurity to motivate myself to keep learning, keep going, and seizing every opportunity that came my way. I learned that taking even a small step forward is a significant achievement and should be celebrated. So eventually, I embraced my multicultural identity and began to tell stories that were not only personal to me but also unique and universal. I identified with Long's story because I could relate to feeling like an outsider and struggling to find my place. I wanted to write a story that celebrates cultural differences and encourages readers to embrace their individuality.
Q: That all sounds amazing, Helen! Thanks so much for sharing. What is the reason behind your interest in developing merchandise?
A: Children's picture books have the power to spark joy and curiosity in young minds, and with Long Goes to Dragon School, we wanted to take that experience beyond the pages of the book. That's why we created these adorable dragon plushies that can bring happiness to not just kids, but also teenagers and adults. Made with super-soft premium plush fabric, these huggable toys are perfect for playtime or as a comforting companion during difficult times.
But that's not all - we've also expanded our product line to include pins, stickers, key chains, coasters, tote bags, magnets, and animated gif emojis that can be used on social media. Our hope is that these cute and loveable dragon characters can become more than just book characters, but also everyday companions for people of all ages. And with their heartwarming message of self-discovery and self-love, these plushies and accessories can help spread kindness and compassion in the world.
Q: As a publisher, what might you look for as far as holiday / celebration books? Why or why not would these books be a good fit? What are you looking for right now?
A: We face a challenge when developing holiday-themed books as we publish in simplified Chinese for mainland China and in English for the US. The holidays in these two countries differ significantly, and the readership also varies. For instance, when creating Lunar New Year books for American readers, we need to provide explanations about the traditions since they might not be familiar with them. However, readers in China are already well-acquainted with the content, and such explanations would be unnecessary. The same applies to holidays like Halloween, Christmas, and others in the US. Due to these differences, we prefer holiday-themed books that are multi-layered and revolve around evergreen topics such as Social and Emotional Learning, STEAM, hands-on experiences, and self-identification. This way, we can infuse the holiday spirit with meaningful and educational content, offering readers a unique and enriching reading experience during festive times.
Q: Please tell us about one of your Halloween / fall-themed acquisitions and what, in particular, drew you to it?
A: Recently, we acquired a translated title called "Wooshi Witch Grows a Garden," which, while not your typical witch book, fits perfectly for our Halloween book list. It takes readers on a whimsical journey, inspiring them to discover their own magical powers in the most unexpected places. As Wooshi the Witch embarks on creating a magnificent garden, she faces challenges and setbacks, leading her to uncover the extraordinary power hidden within ordinary elements. Through unwavering perseverance and a touch of magic, Wooshi learns valuable lessons about resilience and the beauty of embracing everyday wonders, finding that even from imperfections, magic can bloom. This story appeals to me for several reasons. It's multi-layered, touching on themes of resilience, everyday wonders, and the magic found within oneself. The main character being a witch makes it an ideal fit for our Halloween and fall-themed table. Additionally, the setting in the sky with snowing adds to its appeal for our winter book list, while the goal of growing a garden fits well for our spring and gardening book list. Furthermore, the Chinese witch aspect provides a rich multi-cultural background, adding depth to the narrative. Moreover, both the author and illustrator are award-winning creators, enhancing the book's marketing potential. It's truly a delightful addition to our collection.
Q: What is one of your favorite things about Halloween and fall?
A: As an author and publisher with a Chinese background, one of my favorite things about Halloween and fall would be the opportunity to explore and incorporate the rich cultural traditions and symbolism of both Western and Chinese festivals into my stories. Fall in China is marked by celebrations like the Mid-Autumn Festival, which revolves around family reunions, mooncakes, and appreciating the beauty of the full moon. For Halloween, I could draw inspiration from its spooky themes and merge them with elements of Chinese folklore and ghost stories to create unique and engaging narratives that appeal to readers from both cultures. It would be an exciting creative challenge to blend these different traditions and offer readers a fresh perspective on these festivities.
Q: BONUS QUESTION! What’s your favorite Halloween Candy?
Cinnamon gummy candies!
Thanks again for joining today, Helen! We can't wait to read Long Goes to Dragon School and keep an eye out for all of Yeehoo Press's titles.
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: I would love to leave 2 treats! I'm passing out 1) an Above the Slush Submission Pass and 2) Dragon Swags including a signed bookplate, a magnetic bookmark and a dragon keychain!
Wow! Thanks for such sweet treats, Helen!
Contest Details: To enter to win, 1) share this post on social media and 2) comment below and let us know why you can't wait to read Helen's book and which gift you're intrested in!
#SeasonsOfKidLit's Trick-or-Treat Winners will be chosen on or about November 5th.
*Swag giveaways will be shipped in the US only.
Note: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes, perfect for quick MS feedback, provided by Agent Mentee Lynne Marie & Author Heather Macht.
About Helen H. Wu:
Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author and illustrator, as well as a translator and publisher. She is the author of Tofu Takes Time, illustrated by Julie Jarema, and Long Goes To Dragon School, illustrated by Mae Besom. Helen is the Publisher of Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publisher based in San Diego, California. Fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that empower children to understand the world and our connections. Born and raised in Hefei, China, Helen moved to the US in her 20s. Currently, she resides in sunny Southern California, with her family. Learn more about Helen at https://helenhwu.com.
For more about Helen, check out the below links:
Long the Dragon merchandise and books: https://www.yeehoopress.com/long-the-dragon/
For more about Yeehoo Press, check out the below links:
To purchase Helen's books on Amazon, or to leave a review, click here.
A special thanks to David Rodriguez Lorenzo for the amazing custom-signatures!