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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Claudine Gueh Yanting Listens to Her Picture Book's Main Character


I'm thrilled to welcome back picture book author Claudine Gueh Yanting. Her latest book, Brightness Sailors, Bit by Bit, is a bittersweet poetic text about a girl trying to keep her grandmother from drifting away from the real world and memory. Claudine talks here about getting to know her main character.

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A SPECK OF ME, A RIVER OF HER

She was different.

En, my main character in BRIGHTNESS SAILORS, BIT BY BIT, was a seven-year-old who sailed out to relight her grandma’s dark and troubled stream of thoughts. En pushed the boat out alone, her determination as clear as the sky was black.

And off she went, my little heroine.

Who wasn’t a watcher but a doer.

Who did not sit and cry when sad things happened, but went out and made things brighter.

En was so different from my real seven-year-old self (I was more Ramona-on-her-sulky-days) I was worried I might not know her deeply enough. Like every writer then, I carried out imaginary conversations to seek more answers.

First, I spoke to myself:

Don’t idealize her.

Don’t turn her into who you wish you had been. (All right, all right … just not entirely, you clear? Let her be a speck of you, and a river of herself.)

Don’t make her out to be Super Girl 99. She’s only seven, and she’s losing her closest family. Do you not think she’s terrified?

 Then En spoke honestly to me. It was strange she sounded older and more independent than her age. Yet I couldn’t take those traits from her and I didn’t want to change her age. Seven felt right, and En was different, remember? So I let her be her. Here’s what she told me before I wrote her story in verse:

I’m scared. It’s so dark. But then I try not to think about it. Finding Grandma is more important.

And later, when she was in the middle of the stream:

The waves are sneaking higher, b…but I’ll try to ignore them. Reaching Grandma is more important.

And finally:

What if she doesn’t remember … How will we … What can I …  

Loving Grandma is more important. I’ll try and try and try to help her remember.

Trying and doing – that was En’s way of coping. She sailed out alone. She released Brightness from a sack. She rowed on when the waves grew harsher, letting her insecurities show bit by bit through her environment and not through her. She stayed strong, as advised by the spiders in the sky. She smiled despite the wreck. Who knew seven-year-old protagonists could be this cool?

En was afraid, but she didn’t show it much or stray because of it. I’m very proud of her, my little heroine. I hope her Brightness reaches you.

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Purchase Brightness Sailors, Bit by Bit on iTunes, Kobo, B&N, and Sony

Learn more about the book and about Claudine Gueh Yanting at CarryUsOffBooks and Goodreads.

To celebrate its release, Claudine has a gift for everyone called ‘A Little Book of Brightness.’ Please remember to check it out. Thanks for reading!




21 comments:

  1. Beautiful, Claudine! Lovely interview.

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    1. Thanks, Katie. You were one of the first to read my manuscript for this book, and I'm forever grateful for the bits you pointed out to me, especially in that crucial scene. :)

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  2. En definitely sounds like a cool, brave but not perfect character! I wish you much success with the book.

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    1. Thank you, Allyn! En isn't perfect but she is so cool.

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  3. This is a magnificent post. Claudine's is now a must-have book.

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    1. Thanks, Mirka. I hope you enjoy En's story.

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  4. Thanks for having me over, Anne! I'm thrilled & thoroughly honoured to be back on Jester Harley's.

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  5. Claudine, you write so well - I was with En on her journey. Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing this Anne.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara. You're the sweetest.

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    1. Yay!Thank you for loving her, Kelly.

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  7. So cute. I loved it. What a sweet character.

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    1. Thank you, Donna. I really appreciate you dropping by!

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  8. What a beautiful post! Claudine is such a talented writer and I love the message of this book. En is such a great character and I loved learning more about her conversations with Claudine. THanks for sharing!!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Stephanie. :)

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  9. A beautiful, thoughtful post. Like everything from Claudine ;)

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  10. I love the idea of releasing a little bit of brightness in spite of the fear. Such a beautiful and heartwarming story.

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    1. I've realized a lot of steppings-out require some amount of fear in the first place. Thanks for dropping by, Beverly.

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  11. Great interview Claudine and it was a pleasure to meet Anne.

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