Author Spotlight: Karen Yin


 May 7, 2021

We are excited to feature author Karen Yin and her debut picture book, WHOLE WHALE,  illustrated by Nelleke Verhoeff (Barefoot Books), out now.

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Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.


When I was growing up, reading fiction was a luxury. My mother discouraged it the way some parents discourage playing video games. Childhood was a series of interrupted books. To heal this wound, I write stories for my young self who wasn’t finished reading. And I buy way too many books, but let’s not talk about that.


Congrats on your debut picture book, Whole Whale!  Tell us about it and what inspired you.


Thank you! Whole Whale was born from a chain of inspirations. It began as a title, which came to me as I was waking. The title inspired the original refrain, “But surely not a whole whale,” which appealed to my love of mystery. The refrain inspired the way I entered the story, which is in rhyme. The rhyme inspired the urgent cadence that continually builds. All of the above—the refrain, the rhyme, the mystery, the urgency—led me to write about the impossible task of squeezing a whole blue whale into the pages of a book that already has ninety-nine animals. In my long art note, I proposed a pipe-dream solution to the animals’ conundrum. To my delight, Barefoot Books answered my inspiration by going above and beyond in the design of the book. Whole Whale is 12 by 12 inches, Barefoot’s largest yet.


Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?


There’s a short story and a long story. The short story is that I signed with Red Fox Literary within five months of drafting my first picture book, and my first book offer came three months later, for Whole Whale. But the long story is that I have experience as a copywriter, columnist, and short story writer, so I’m no stranger to the short form. Getting a book published was the product of years of study and practice. Now that my dream of becoming an author has come true, I need another dream. Maybe something to do with making the best gluten-free, no-sugar apple pie to keep me company while I write.


What projects are you working on now?


So many! More picture books, middle grade, young adult, and adult. The only project that’s been officially announced is So Not Ghoul, a Chinese American ghost story after my own heart, out in fall 2022 from Page Street Kids, illustrated by the talented Bonnie Lui. I just peeked at the jacket copy and sketches, and wow! It’s enthralling to see the book materialize—to use a ghost word—in front of my eyes.


What advice would you give to aspiring authors?


When you’re stuck, read a book in the genre you’re writing for or study a book on craft.


What is one thing most people don't know about you?


I love belly dancing! Especially Tribal Fusion performed by dancers of all genders.


Where can people find you online? (sign up for the Purposeful Prose Newsletter)

Twitter: @karenyin,

Instagram: @karensoffice,




Karen Yin is a peace-loving, riot-inciting middle child with one eyebrow permanently arched. She is the author of Whole Whale (Barefoot Books, 2021) and So Not Ghoul (Page Street Kids, 2022) and the founder of Conscious Style GuideThe Conscious Language Newsletter, and the Editors of Color Database. Acclaim for her writing includes a Lambda Literary Fellowship, a Table 4 Writers Foundation grant, an SCBWI Nonfiction Grant, and selection of her flash fiction by the Los Angeles Public Library for its permanent collection and Short Story Portal.



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  1. Congratulations to you, Karen! I can't wait to see what 12 x 12 looks like. Wow! Can't wait for your Chinese America ghost story. So excited for you! Thank you for sharing your story. Best wishes to you always <3

  2. Wow! Can’t wait to see this book! Congrats!

  3. Such a fun concept--fitting in one more animal that just happens to be the biggest of all! Congrats on your debut and your upcoming book too! And if you do make that gluten-free pie, do share the process :)

  4. Congratulations on your beautiful book! I love how the idea came to you.

  5. This sounds like a wonderful! It is so important & special to read to/with children.

  6. This is such a great title for a children's book.

  7. It's sad that you were discouraged from reading fiction. But how beautiful it is that you are now helping young readers experience that joy!

  8. The cover for this is incredibly beautiful and the book sounds like fun!

  9. Book looks so fun, look forward to reading to my twins!

  10. Congratulations! Can't wait to read your book. :)

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