Have you ever just wanted to wall yourself off from a pesky sibling or a menacing bully or an annoying teacher? And maybe you have even gone as far as building an emotional wall, where you ignore the person and “tune out” what is being said or done.
But when 11-year-old Lucy Wu learns that she is going to have to share her bedroom with her grandmother’s sister who is visiting from China, she goes to extremes. The result unfolds in a funny new book called “The Great Wall of Lucy Wu,” by Falls Church author Wendy Wan-Long Shang. KidsPost’s Tracy Grant spoke to Wan-Long Shang about getting into the mind of a tween, writing her first novel and what kids who want to be writers should do.
You really capture the emotions and conversations of Lucy and her friends well. How did you do that?
“I guess I still have that 11-year-old voice going in my head. I really remember what it was like [to be a kid of that age] and feeling that things were so unfair. I felt like no one was listening to me, even though people really were. So I tried to create scenes where you saw where Lucy was coming from but you could see where her parents were coming from, too.”
Sometimes it’s hard for kids to connect with their elders, whether there’s a cultural difference or not. What do you hope kids get about family from your book?
“Every family has really amazing stories to tell. If kids just ask a few questions, they might get answers far more interesting than they might ever expect. [For example,] ask the story of how their family got here. I loved hearing those stories from my parents, who came here [from China] when they were young adults. Even if their parents didn’t come from another country, life is so different now that I think kids should have a good time talking to their parents.”
Sports plays a big role in Lucy’s life; did it when you were a kid?
No, I’m not a jock. My children play sports, and I’m fascinated by the natural drama that comes from sports. For lots of kids, it is the biggest source of drama in their life.
You wrote your first book (about a bunny and a lamb) when you were 5, but this is your first published children’s book. What took so long?
“I wrote that book when I was 5, and I wrote all through elementary school. Then a friend and I wrote a series of stories in high school, making fun of teachers. But it never occurred to me that I wanted to be a writer. So, I went to law school. When I was staying at home with my kids, I started to write this book.”
What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers.
“Read as much as you can; write as much as you can. Sit down and write a little bit every day. A very famous writer wrote down what he ate every day. To get in the habit [of writing every day] is very helpful. . . . My goal is to write two double-spaced pages each day. If I get stuck, I go to another place in the manuscript. Or sometimes I get up to walk the dog.”