Student Success Stories: Teresa Robeson Wins the APALA Award
I'm giving away a copy of Teresa's award-winning debut picture book, Queen of Physics, and her second picture book, Two Bicycles in Beijing, at the end of this post.
I hadn't read Queen of Physics at the time of our first interview, so I want to take a minute now to talk about it. Physics was my favorite subject in high school, and I felt like the book did a great job of tackling it in an age-appropriate way. The emotional punch, though, hits you through the way that Wu Chien Shiung overcame adversity and prejudice to succeed in a field she was passionate about. That moved me to tears. I'm grateful that this book is out there for kids to experience.
Myrna: You are our first student to win an American Library Association award, and we are so excited for you. Can you just share the experience, please? How did you find out? How did you react? Has winning the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature (for picture books) had an impact on you and The Queen of Physics?
Teresa: My illustrator and I received an email from our publisher congratulating us on the win a couple of weeks before the news went public. We were not to share with anyone until the official announcement, but I figured it was okay to tell my agent and husband. So I forwarded the email to them and then went to exercise. I was happy the book won an award, but I didn’t process that it was such a big deal until I checked my phone after exercising and saw that I had received some screaming texts and voicemail from my agent, who could not believe I had dropped a big award news bomb on her via email instead of calling her so that we could scream together.
So far, winning the award hasn’t impacted me too much, except that I was actually asked to sign books at the ALA meeting in Chicago for both the publishers of my first and second book. Oh, and the library in my town bought two more copies of Queen of Physics to bring the grand total to three! Yay?
Myrna: Haha! I suspect your library wasn’t the only one ordering extra copies. I love Rebecca Huang’s illustrations for The Queen of Physics. Have the two of you talked about how the award sticker complements her cover?
Teresa: That’s a good question! But, sadly, no … Rebecca’s been busy with moving and settling into a new home, and we’ve not communicated much.
Myrna: Did you get your own box of shiny stickers?
Teresa: No! I was wondering how it all worked. When Queen of Physics became a NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book, I had to get my own stickers from NCTE (here I want to give a shout-out my good friend Marcie Atkins without whose help I probably wouldn’t have been able to procure the seals). I don’t know if I should contact ALA to get the award seals. I’ve been busy with a number of other things and haven’t even thought to check yet. I suppose I will ask at the ALA meeting in June, if we can travel at that point.
Myrna: Okay, serious question: Do you have any marketing and/or networking advice for our readers?
Teresa: My advice is to be true to yourself and do whatever makes you comfortable. Everyone told me I needed to have a launch party and a blog tour for my debut book, but the idea of an IRL party stressed me out no end. When I finally decided to do what felt right for me—that is, not have a launch party—I felt so much better and actually enjoyed my book’s release day. I also didn’t line up a blog tour; I agreed to be interviewed for the blogs of a handful of friends, and I was happy with my decision. Choose what feels right to you.
As for networking, being a part of communities like Storyteller Academy, 12×12, Inked Voices and SCBWI gave me a sense of camaraderie, and I learned from the wisdom of writers who know more than I do.
Myrna: Great advice! Your second book was supposed to release on April 1, but Amazon started shipping it early. Was that a good surprise or a bad surprise?
Teresa: For me, the only bad surprises in this business are ones that don’t lead to a sale (like not getting past the acquisitions meeting or having a well-known publication give you a terrible review), so I was absolutely fine with having the book shipped out early! Friends who received the book early gave me shout-outs on social media, which created some buzz for the book.
Myrna: Can you tell us about what led you to write Two Bicycles in Beijing?
Teresa: I was inspired by a family trip to China in 2013. We went to Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, and Hong Kong to see the sights and visit relatives. My kids and husband had never been to that part of the world before, and it was fun seeing it through their eyes. My last visit there was 25 years ago, so it was almost like the first time for me, too. The sights and sounds lingered with me, and one day in 2018, the friendship story popped into my head, and things fell into place.
Myrna: What are your hopes for this one?
Teresa: I would love for Chinese-American kids to learn a little bit about an important city of their cultural heritage and to see characters on the pages who look like them. I would also love for non-Chinese people to savor the beauty that is Beijing through this book and maybe plant a desire for them to visit there one day.
Myrna: Do you have any advice for our readers?
Teresa: My general writing advice is to write from the heart. I’m interested in many different topics, but the stories that have sold are the ones nearest and dearest to my heart: stories featuring my culture and my passions. The right editor will respond best to stories that only you can tell.
Myrna: Oh, I agree! What’s next for you?
Teresa: I have a science picture book out on submission right now, along with a picture book biography. My agent pulled a manuscript out of submission when we submitted the science one, but I still have hopes that the semi-retired story will be picked up because it is also a story from my culture (with immense significance to all Chinese) that has deep meaning for me. While those are making the rounds, I’m working on a middle grade biography project, and also a middle grade contemporary novel.
Myrna: I'm excited to read Bicycles in Beijing and all of your future projects. Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Teresa: I can be found at the following sites:
Myrna: Where can we buy your books?
Teresa: My website has links to Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon for ordering and preordering my books. http://teresarobeson.com/my-books
Myrna: Thank you, Teresa!
Book Giveaway Details
I'm giving away both of Teresa's picture books. To enter, let me know something that you've learned from Teresa in the comments by midnight on March 21. You don’t have to buy anything or be a student to enter.
Please share this post on social media for extra entries, and paste the link to wherever you shared as a reply to your original comment.
Thank you for reading!
Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems.
Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award.
Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.