Author Spotlight: Teresa Robeson
Sept. 13, 2019
Today we are excited to feature author, critique-mate, and best friend, Teresa Robeson and her debut picture book, QUEEN OF PHYSICS: HOW WU CHIEN SHIUNG HELPED UNLOCK THE SECRETS OF THE ATOM!, illustrated by Rebecca Huang (Sterling Children's Books (October 8, 2019) to KidLit411.
Be sure to enter to win a copy!
You've got such a cool background. Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Aww, thank you! English is my second language. It is so different from my native tongue (Chinese) that I fell in love with the novelty of it. I learned English at the age of 8, and by 9, I was writing poetry in my new language, reading voraciously to add to my vocabulary and innate feel of the grammar.
I never stopped reading children’s books even as I progressed to adulthood, being the only one among my friends and peers who read picture books even in high school and university. My mother encouraged me to be a writer and artist but my passion is for science.
However, since children’s books are so much a part of my life, it seems only natural that I would turn back to it. When hubby was doing his Ph.D. and I was working a grunt job, I turned to creative writing as a release from the daily boredom.
I took a course with the Institute of Children’s Literature, sold my first short story to Ladybug magazine from an assignment I did in the course, and 25 years later, I have my first picture book coming out. Easy peasy! Not.
Congrats on your debut picture book, QUEEN OF PHYSICS: HOW WU CHIEN SHIUNG HELPED UNLOCK THE SECRETS OF THE ATOM! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
I began researching this idea back around 2011 or 2012. It’s been so long ago, I’m not sure how I learned of her. It could have been an article in Scientific American or Physics Today, or some more mainstream media. I felt compelled to write about her because I identified with her, being a female Chinese immigrant with a love of physics. She overcame so much prejudice and sexism to become one of the biggest stars in her field. I knew that her story would inspire many kids, girls and people of color.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
As I mentioned in the first answer, it * only * took 25 years from first becoming serious about writing to my debut book. LOL! And that would be 46 years from the time I started penning poems in English to my debut book.
On the other hand, it took virtually no time between taking my first writing course to getting my first byline. The very first story I sent out was the one that was published. I was spoiled by that quick success, which makes it rather discouraging to think how long it took to get a book published.
You have another book in the works! Tell us about it!
My second picture book, BICYCLES IN BEIJING (Albert Whitman), is scheduled for the spring of 2020! It’s an #OwnVoices story inspired by a family trip to China. The illustrations by Junyi Wu are stunning and I am so delighted to work with editor Christina Pulles again. She is just the most wonderful person! I’m also working on a couple of picture books (#OwnVoices, science) and two middle grade projects, one fiction and one nonfiction.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring authors?
I would share the advice that my friend, noted poet/author/artist/illustrator Douglas Florian, gave me: to have more chutzpah. Also, I’d tell myself not to give up so easily, and to not take a writing break while I was raising and homeschooling my kids. It’s hard, if not downright impossible, to catch up after lost time.
The part of that advice I’d give aspiring authors is to not give up easily since most people have more chutzpah than I do. LOL!
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I think I’ve already told many people that I performed gonadectomies on rodents as a research assistant in my undergraduate years, but most people don’t know that when I was about 6 years old, I appeared as part of the audience on a children’s television program in Hong Kong. The fun part was that all the kids got a prize to take home at the end.
Where can people find you online?
Lurking on cooking sites? Hah!
Twitter: @TeresaRobeson Instagram: @tmrobeson Facebook: TeresaRobesonAuthor
Born in Hong Kong, raised in Canada, and living on a small homestead in the U.S., Teresa Robeson writes nonfiction, fiction, speculative fiction, and the occasional poem for all ages. She is currently the Illustrator Coordinator for the Indiana chapter of SCBWI.