Meet Rising Star
Author Maria Wen Adcock!
AD: Let’s start with a speed round…
- Top three favorite children’s book authors? Grace Lin, Judy Blume, H.A. Rey
- Coffee, tea (or neither)? Both!
- Where is your safe place? My home.
- Dogs, cats, (or neither)? Cats – I have a tuxedo cat!
- Early bird or night owl? Night Owl – but I know I should go to bed earlier!
- Three words to describe what it takes to make it in the kidlit world…Perseverance, faith, tenacity.
AD: Please dish us the dirt on who you are and your journey into the fabulous world of children’s books. Did you always know you wanted to be an author? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
MWA: Hi! I’m Maria Wen Adcock, and my debut book, “It’s Chinese New Year, Curious George” just came out on January 3, 2023. I’ve known since I was a kid that I wanted to write a book. I just didn’t know how to make that happen. Along the way, I tried to stay close to publishing by working on the business side in marketing for Time Inc. magazines. I worked on titles such as Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Real Simple, Southern Living, and a bunch more. But I always longed to work on the Edit side.
After my first daughter was born in 2009, I bowed out of the corporate world to raise her and started freelance writing from home. Given I had no professional writing experience, my first assignments were either done for free or for pitiful pay. During this time, I recalled my childhood dream to write a book. As such, I started writing picture book manuscripts and also launched a blog, BiculturalMama.com, in 2011.
I originally launched the blog to have a platform for my future books. I just didn’t know it was going to take 12 years! So my blog became a parenting blog with a focus on Asian American culture. It has since evolved to focus on multicultural children’s books and is now my author site as well.
During this time, I queried agents and editors to pitch my manuscripts but to no avail. So I started attending writer workshops and conferences to really learn the craft of children’s book writing, and from there my manuscripts improved.
In May 2020, a literary agent noticed my book pitch at a Twitter book pitching event. She asked to see my other manuscripts and then we spoke on the phone to see if we were a good fit. That is how I acquired my fabulous agent, Lynnette Novak of The Seymour Agency!
Having an agent opened doors to access to the larger publishers who typically will not consider a manuscript unless the author has representation. My agent played a pivotal part regarding my opportunity to write It’s Chinese New Year, Curious George.
Yes! AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing? Favorite genres you like to write in?
MWA: I focus on multicultural stories, specifically on Chinese American culture. It is what I know well and is important to me. I’m currently focused on writing picture books.
: Breaking into the publishing industry is not easy! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far? What have you done to persevere?
MWA: One of the biggest challenges is keeping the faith over the years through many rejections from queries I’ve sent out. Along the way, I birthed two children, and these life events made it even more challenging to find time to focus on my writing. But I’ve always known I wanted to have my stories published, so this kept me going.
AD: Yes! I think all creators can relate to the grit it takes to keep going in this tough industry. As creators (and humans), we also tend to focus on the flaws of our creations or areas for improvement. This helps us grow and develop, but we need not forget the many things we are doing well. With this in mind, what has been your biggest accomplishment or something you are most proud of thus far on your writing journey?
MWA: My biggest accomplishments have been acquiring a literary agent and publishing a book. It has been such a long journey to get to this point. It’s a dream come true!
AD: Yay, congrats on both of those big accomplishments. An inspiration and reminder that if we don’t give up, success awaits! In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author? What makes your writing unique to you?
MWA: I believe my strength is adding authenticity through my life experiences into my stories. This makes it unique to me.
AD: What inspires your work as a whole and what inspired It’s Chinese New Year Curious George?
MWA: As a whole, I’m inspired to write books that spread awareness of the wonderfully diverse world we live in. Although many cultures have different traditions, the values of each often overlap. It’s important for me to show this through my stories.
I had the opportunity through my agent to write It’s Chinese New Year Curious George which is part of a broader series of Curious George tabbed board books that include many holidays. The publisher wanted to expand to include Chinese New Year and was looking for an author who had the background to authentically write about the holiday. I submitted samples of what I would write, and the publisher loved it! I was hired to write the book.
While outlining the book, I delved into my childhood experience growing up in a Chinese American household. There are many traditions, and I packed as many as I could into the space of the book. I feel this is the type of book I wish I had when I was a kid…especially because I loved Curious George!
AD: You did a wonderful job of incorporating facts with fun into the story to keep readers engaged as they learn about the holiday and culture. I learned so much about the many traditions and symbolism pertaining to Chinese New Year and the tabbed format wove each element together beautifully.
Now that we know a bit more about the story and how it came to be, can you tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck? What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author?
MWA: When I have an idea for a story that keeps popping up in my mind, then I know I need to write it down. I’ll write the idea in a notebook or on my computer. If I’m feeling stuck about story ideas, I’ll think about what things in my childhood or my heritage moved me emotionally – positive and negative. There’s usually a kernel of an idea somewhere in there.
Joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) made a huge difference in the development of my writing. I learned it’s not enough to just write a story. You also need to know the structure of writing books and what editors are looking for in terms of a story arc, word count, etc. Attending SCBWI workshops and conferences helped me to grow so much as a writer.
AD: Yes! I considered myself a writer for a very long time but learning the craft of writing for children was a whole new area for me. It definitely took a lot of practice and studying!
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
Join a critique group. This was one of the best things I’ve done. Often we’re too close to our manuscripts to see inconsistencies, wordiness, logic errors, etc. But I can absolutely say that being part of a writing critique group has improved my manuscripts. I actually now oversee one of the critique groups for SCBWI Long Island which is my local regional chapter.
AD: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Website & Social Media Handles
Facebook Maria Wen Adcock Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/mariawenadcockauthor
Instagram: @BiculturalMama or https://www.instagram.com/biculturalmama
Twitter: @BiculturalMama or https://twitter.com/biculturalmama
Pinterest: @BiculturalMama or https://www.pinterest.com/biculturalmama
Win a signed copy of IT’S CHINESE NEW YEAR, CURIOUS GEORGE!!
Everyone’s favorite curious little monkey celebrates Chinese New Year with his friend Mei in this playful rhyming tabbed board book. Curious George joins his friend Mei and her family as they prepare for and celebrate Chinese New Year! From cleaning house and finding red clothes to wear, to hanging decorations and enjoying a family feast, to fireworks and a dragon dance, George and readers will enjoy learning about many Chinese New Year traditions. With a rhyming text, colorful illustrations, and sturdy tabbed pages for the littlest hands, this playful board book makes a great read for all fans of Curious George—those who celebrate Chinese New Year, and those who are learning about it for the first time!
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:
A random winner will be selected to receive a signed copy of IT’S CHINESE NEW YEAR, CURIOUS GEORGE! The deadline for this contest is Monday, January 30th at 9AM EST. The winner will be announced shortly after on Twitter. And if you’d like to order your own copy of the book, check out the link below.