Those of you who don’t know us — and maybe even more, those of you who do — may be wondering how two not-so-young Caucasian women became experts enough in the subject of Korean handicrafts to write a book about it. And then to get someone, other than ourselves, to publish it. And a very respectable publisher at that. Well, it’s an interesting story.
Joan and I became friends nearly 20 years ago when we both began volunteering with our children’s adoption agency. We worked together on a number of projects and discovered we shared not only the joys (and trials) of parenting, but a love of arts and crafts, and a growing appreciation and respect for Korea and its culture. One of those projects took us on our first trip to Korea, where we discovered the shops and galleries of the Insadong neighborhood. We roamed in and out of every one of them, oohing and aahing and squealing in our loud American voices, “Oh my gosh, look at this stuff! It’s beautiful!” and we were hooked.
We came home excited to help our kids learn more about the wonderful culture of their birth country, and for us the natural place to start was with its art and handicrafts. Yet when we tried to find resources in the U.S., we discovered there was almost nothing available. And what was available wasn’t very exciting. So over the course of nearly 20 years of trips to Korea, we have learned as much as we could, often from the artisans themselves.
We’ve shared what we’ve learned not only with our kids, but with other Korean-born children and their adoptive parents as well. We’ve had no shortage of ideas, some of which made a lot of sense; some not so much. Some we tried to take directly from idea to execution, skipping right over the planning stage (my husband calls this our “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach.) Some were just wacky, leading my son to comment one day, “Mom, you two are like Lucy and Ethel, except that Lucy and Ethel had their #*%! together more than you.”
But some of our ideas were downright brilliant. (Which is where the book comes in. But not yet.) Two years ago we had the idea to create a website where we would share what we’d learned about Korean art and handicrafts with an audience beyond just other adoptive families. We were convinced that if people saw what we had seen, they would love it as much as we did.
I naively figured I knew enough about graphic design and photography to be able to produce a website. How hard could it be? I mocked up several pages of which I was very proud because they were really pretty, and showed them to the above-mentioned son, the I.T. brain. His response, “That’s nice, Mom, but how are you going to turn that into a website?” Me: “I don’t know. Can’t I just go on the internet and drag and drop the pictures and text somewhere and make a website?” The Brain: “Do you want it to look just like that?” Me: “Yes, of course I do.” Him: “Then, no. You can’t just drag and drop stuff around. If you want it to look just like that, you have to . . .” And then he started saying words like “write code” which immediately made my brains hurt and also made me realize that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. So humbling.
He offered to make the website for us, because we don’t call him The Brain for nothing and he’s a nice son, but he was busy with a new job and it sounded like it might take a few months. In the world of Lucy and Ethel that’s a very long time, long enough for us to come up with ideas for four or five or ten other projects. Plus, we realized that someone, i.e. him, would have to constantly be updating said website. So we told him thanks but no thanks and decided to write a book instead.
We had never written a book before, but once again we figured, how hard could it be? So I sat back down at the computer and mocked up a few pages, which we thought were really pretty. But we wondered if anyone else would think so too. We asked our family and friends, who all said they were beautiful (of course), but we had a feeling their opinions might not be truly objective. So in a moment of really good thinking on our parts, we decided to send them to a guy we’d met in Seoul, who had a bookstore called Hank’s Book Cafe that specialized in books in English about Korea, and see if he thought there’d be a market for such a book. (This counts as one of our best ideas ever, by the way.)
Hank replied that he remembered us – we were “the ones with all the shopping bags” – and that he liked our idea but had questions about target audience and market size and a marketing plan. We decided to answer him with a formal proposal since he is also – get this — a book publisher! (I told you it was a great idea.)
The only problem was we had no idea how to write a book proposal. But that’s never stopped us before, so we took a few books out of the library – “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Book Proposals” was one of them, I am not kidding – wrote the proposal, sent it to him, he liked it and told us to write the book, we negotiated a contract, we actually wrote the book, and lo and behold, with much guidance from our editor, the lovely Miss Eugene, it was published in April.
It was two years from idea to publication, which is a very long time for us to maintain our focus, but we did it. And we think it’s beautiful. 🙂
PS: And here’s the really good news . . . Joan wrote the text for the book, not me!