Julia Kuo’s beautiful words and art are breathtaking. The color palette is gorgeous. In her newest picture book, Let’s Do Everything and Nothing, I find a strong emotional connection because my youngest daughter, Shannon, and I had similar mother-daughter adventures when she was a little girl. I remember our quiet moments, our joyful moments, and our curious moments like they were yesterday. I am grateful that Julia created this book so that I can share it with my all-grown-up daughter.
Julia will be presenting her book, Let’s Do Everything and Nothing, along with Joyce Hesselberth (Beatrice Was a Tree) at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday, May 21, 2022, a our new location: Gaithersburg’s Bohrer Park, 506 S Frederick Ave, Gaithersburg, 12:15-1:05 pm in the Willa Cather Pavilion.
For those interested in Julia’s process for creating this book, I highly recommend reading about it here!
What is your writing space like?
I write and illustrate in my office on the third floor of a townhouse in Seattle, Washington. Hanging behind me are two pinatas I’ve made – one of a bison, another of a rainbow – that I couldn’t bring myself to destroy. On the window ledge in front of me are 8 air plants that were extras wedding favors from getting married last summer. And down by my feet, in a dog bed nestled in another dog bed, is my snoring pup Carmen.
What do libraries mean to you?
I spent a lot of time in my local library branch as a high schooler, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I began associating libraries with new homes. I moved to Cleveland after college and fell in love with the city; while I was there, I worked with the Cleveland Public Library to create a design for their library card and even designed a summer arts space next to a library called “Literary Lots”. When I moved to Chicago, I signed up for a library card almost immediately. I still remember walking away from the beautiful Harold Washington branch and feeling like the possession of the library card had suddenly made me a true Chicagoan.
What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?
This book is really about companionship and contentment, so I hope readers will take a moment to reflect on how they find these things in their own lives – whether it’s with a child, parent, partner, sibling, or friend!
Who is the reader you are writing for? Describe them.
I’m writing for mothers and daughters! I want women of all ages to see themselves reflected as bold, confident adventurers who can find energy and rest in companionship. If I’m being honest, I’m also writing for myself. This book is for my past self, as a young Asian American girl, to see myself centered in a book and daring enough to attempt great adventures. It’s for my current self, to find satisfaction and contentment in my current relationships, even if we are doing nothing – and for my future self, to see motherhood as the ultimate adventure!
What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?
I love spending time outdoors, whether it’s rock climbing or hiking up a mountain (mostly the smaller ones). I actually wrote this story after climbing Mt. Rainier in 2019! As a 5 foot tall Asian American woman, I know that I don’t fit the typical profile of an outdoor adventurer, but I would love to change that stereotype through my writing and illustrations.
What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your book?
One of my favorite things about the book’s illustrations is that they center around the adventures of a warm skinned, dark haired mother and daughter who live in a home coded as Taiwanese American (rice cooker, wok on the stove). The story doesn’t explicitly address culture or ethnicity, but the characters can just be without having to explain themselves.
What has surprised you most about the characters in your book?
This book is much more poetic than it is narrative, so I expected the illustrations and characters to be quite general. But somehow, the characters in this book have still managed to unearth some of my most private thoughts on parenthood, relationships, and fulfillment. I illustrated an Asian American mother and her daughter, and I have identified with both; as a woman who wishes for a motherhood filled with adventures, and as a daughter who seeks out companionship through both the wildest adventures as well as the most peaceful of moments at home.
What part of the publishing process has been the most meaningful to you thus far?
I’ve been continuously blown away by the collaborative aspect of publishing. I’ve worked with really amazing editors and teams who have definitely improved my work, both in the writing and illustration. It was Bethany Strout’s idea at Little Brown to shift the color scheme from bright to monotone in The Sound of Silence, and it was Connie Hsu of Roaring Brook’s idea to make the characters’ home a Taiwanese-American one in Let’s Do Everything and Nothing! This is also true for the writers I’ve had the privilege of working with, from Katrina Goldsaito to Martha Brockenbrough and Livia Blackburne. I just don’t write the way they do, and it feels like such an honor to illustrate their books. Every person I’ve worked with from the designers to the publicists makes me feel so lucky to be in this profession.
What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?
This will be my first in-person event for Let’s Do Everything and Nothing, and I am so excited to see people in person and to sit in on other author talks!
Julia Kuo is a Taiwanese-American illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, Google and Science Friday. Julia has taught illustration courses at Columbia College Chicago and at her alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis. She is the illustrator of “Drawing Leaves and Trees: Observing and Sketching the Natural World;” “I Dream of Popo,” written by Livia Blackburne; Katrina Goldsaito’s “The Sound of Silence;” Roni Schotter’s “Go Little Green Truck!;” Melissa Gilbert’s “Daisy and Josephine,” “20 Ways to Draw a Dress,” “20 Ways to Draw a Cat” and “Everyone Eats.” Her latest book is “Let’s Do Everything and Nothing.”
Pingback: Be a Tree at Gaithersburg Book Fest (the Tree City) | The Creative Librarian