Author/Illustrator Interview: Laurianne Uy

I had the pleasure of meeting Laurianne (Laur) Uy at ALA a few weeks ago. She is such a charming young lady and so obviously talented that I invited her for an interview. Not only did she agree, but she also signed a copy of Polterguys Vol. 1 that I’ll be giving away in a drawing on 10 August. To enter, leave a comment below that states you’d like to win the book by midnight, 9 August. I will mail international.


Full Name: Laurianne Uy
Nicknames: Laur / laurbits / laurchan / psychoe
Contact: [at] gmail [dot] com – See more at:


Let’s start with a few short questions.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the city of Manila, Philippines. In 1992, I was in second grade when my family moved into a unit on the 11th floor of a condominium. This was because the condo would be closer to our school which means we didn’t have to spend hours and hours commuting in traffic. Even then, we still had to be up by 5:30 AM to make it to our 8 AM classes. I guess my siblings and I were slow movers in the morning! But I remember we had a really nice view of the city from our balcony windows.

So, When did you move to the US?

I moved to the U.S. in July of 2002, right after I graduated high school in the Philippines.

Do you have any pets?

I don’t! Unfortunately, I’m allergic to pet hair which is awful because I adore cats! It’s so bad I’m subscribed to a few cat channels on youtube to get my kitty fix. And although I jump at any chance I can get just to be near cats, I always make sure to load up on Benadryl before I meet them.

What do you enjoy watching on television?

I love well-written animated series, cable drama and a few sitcoms here and there. I like shows that have compelling characters that evolve and have stories that can move me. If it’s capable of making me cry in some way, I’m almost positive it will be a favorite.  

Meat or vegetables?

Actually, Nathan and I went semi-vegan for a while just to see how much meat we could eliminate from our diet. I was really surprised how much I got into it considering I grew up with very meat-heavy dishes. For the most part, we just cook vegetables and have them with rice at home (I’m Filipino-Chinese and this is a staple!) but eat whatever we like when we eat out.

Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?+-+7148378_140

Nancy Drew was a big deal for me because it’s the first series I ever collected. I guess you can say I’m really fond of young female detectives solving mysteries! I love that Nancy’s dad was supportive of her escapades and that she dragged her friends into cases, too. I only bought and read up to the 20th book and I don’t think any of the bookstores carried the numbers beyond that.

What book(s) are you in the middle of reading right now?

Oh man, I always come out of the library with a huge haul so it’s a mix of things. I’m reading a bunch of long manga series like Bakuman, Yakitate Japan and Sailormoon. I also listen to audiobooks at work so I’ve been picking up young adult, fantasy/sci-fi and non-fiction books. I recently completed the Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy and Stephen King’s Under the Dome and really enjoyed both.



When did you first realize that you’re an artist?

Maybe it was the fact that I doodled little stick figures all over my piano books instead of practiced with them. I had no idea what sketchbooks were and just found the gutters between columns on newspapers as interesting settings for my stick figure characters. There were a lot of tall cliffs!

Who was the first character that you created?

I don’t really remember! I’m sure it was some stick-figure princess in a little cone hat with some cloth on top but the first set of characters I designed when I started making comics was definitely my high school friends. I wanted us to hang out with our favorite anime characters so I started making comics that chronicled our adventures together.

Tell us about Polterguys! What inspired the book?

Polterguys is the story of a nerdy college girl who ends up moving into a house that’s haunted by five cute ghost guys. Since she’s FINAL-PolterguysVOL1COVER_JPG_minithe only one who can see them, she has to help them resolve their unfinished business.

There are a ton of influences in this book and the first is of course, reverse harem manga like Ouran High School Host Club and Fruits Basket. Girl-centric TV shows that had great female leads like Buffy and Veronica Mars showcase the kind of writing I aspire to. Finally, I also grew up on a lot of fun 90s ghost movies like Heart and Souls and The Frighteners. They’re both great character-driven supernatural stories and anytime they’re on TV, I’m just compelled to watch them because the stories just suck you in.

What happens to Bree in the first volume?

Bree moves out of her dorm room because she has issues with her roommate and finds a nice place to rent off-campus. It turns out to be populated by ghosts who really just want to be friends with her because she can see them. She ends up becoming responsible for them because they get in trouble with a Reaper, a being who essentially takes ghosts away to move on to great beyond.

What are some of the future adventures that you have planned for her?

I don’t want to get too spoilery but I’d really like her to struggle with relationships with living people this time!

You’re such a visual person, I wonder what kind of experience school was for you. Was it a real struggle to get through reading text and writing answers? Was school interesting to you?

School was good for me. I suspect I was having more fun actually learning than my peers because I didn’t complain as much! I also remember the curriculum as really encouraging creativity and that was definitely something I responded to. We would have art projects for science, english, history and I remember drawing all the time. So, while I never got around to proper art lessons, I got a lot of practice on academic hours.

The only issues I ever ran into were my Chinese classes because I barely understood the teacher and didn’t speak the language at home or with my friends. To this day, I still get nightmares about pop quizzes in Chinese – it’s definitely left some deep psychological scars in me.

What’s challenging you most in drawing these days?

I’d say perspective and backgrounds. I want to be the kind of comic artist that masters fundamentals so I can tell immersive stories and have my characters be in believable settings and environments.

If you could visit any museum in the world, which would it be and why?

I’m going to be boring and say the Louvre because I haven’t been to Europe yet despite having majored in Art History. I just know seeing work I’ve studied for semesters in person is going to blow my mind.

Thank you so much, Laur!


Have you ever had a difficult time deciding if you needed a particular food supplement so you closed your eyes, held it in your hands and quietly waited to see if it there was a natural tendency to pull or push it away? You have to close your eyes and let you instincts kick it for it to work.


Doughnuts of choice in Terre Haute are Square Doughnuts

I was watching this new show on the Cooking Network where the contestants compete to see who could prepare the best doughnuts. Three contestants, this week two white males and one black female. She was cute, young and very articulate. You do have to say ‘articulate’ when referring to a person of color who is well spoken, right? I can’t just say she had a soft voice with a cute lilt, right?

When challenged to create Japanese themed doughnuts, I wondered if any of these contestants knew of the surprises found in doughnuts in Japan. It can be anything from shredded fish to egg salad, usually savory rather than sweet. One of the guys came close with his rice stuff concoction but the young lady seemed even closer with a green tea dough. I wondered if she and the other judges had closed their eyes to the contestants and relied solely upon what they saw in the doughnuts how different would the results have been? I noticed that every time the black woman’s doughnuts were presented, thewhite female judge seemed to put an edge in her voice (could I say she was inarticulate?) and felt mean in her criticism of the black woman’s work.

I’m not accusing these people of racism, but am saying race (and gender…) is an issue. After all, I found myself way more focused on the black woman than that of the white males. What if race had been taken out of this instance?

Seeing race not only causes the doughnut to be discounted, but it also keeps the cook out of the surrounding conversations. It keeps the book by Indian authors segregated on that shelf just for Indian authors and in relegates Asian authors to workshops for Asian authors rather than for mystery writers. It’s like this post on Code Switch that discussing how minorities hurt corporations. A portion:

Those social settings tend to be segregated, with whites tending to spend time with whites and blacks with blacks. (The next time you are in an office cafeteria, notice who sits next to whom at lunch.) In a world where ethnic groups cluster together, those in the minority are less likely to share and benefit from spillover effects in the ecosystem and are therefore less likely to learn early on about important company developments or technological innovations.

I can’t just buy the books by the new Malaysian author and stick it on a shelf. It needs to be included with all the other dystopian fictions and book talked with them as well!

Am I talking myself out of blogging for books of color? HA! No, because this is still American and our eyes are not closed. And I know that this blog brings together people of all backgrounds through shared interest.

This week I’m heading to my first Unconference and it will be held at DePauw University. Topic: Information Literacy. I’m working on a couple of great interviews that should post very, very soon!

Next week, it’s Cincinnati and the National African American Librarian Conference where I’ll be presenting with B. A. Binns and David Miller. Today, I’m expecting my sister to drive over so we can go harvest the garden.  I’m expecting okra, cucumbers, tomatoes and perhaps a head of cabbage! In the meantime and between time, I’m still reading BFYA.

Have a great week and try that thing of closing your eyes and trusting your instincts!

Kicking Up Dust

I’ve been trying to come up with a blog post for the past few days and keep coming up empty. I thought about linking to the many fine posts that are kicking up dust about the state of ethnic children’s literature, but I’m tired of kicking up that dust. I began this blog over seven years ago in my attempt to get books by authors of color into the hands of readers and to work to improve the literacy of teens of color.

Here I am, seven years later still doing pretty much the same thing. Sure, I’ve taken some action by taking up the pen. I’m not just kicking up dust, but

  • those who want books featuring characters of color still have difficulty locating them.
  • authors of color are having an even more difficult time getting published.

I need a word other than ‘frustrating’ but, that’s all I have.

I considered a post about Black Expo which was held in Indy last weekend. I remember taking my children to the event when they were smaller and the convention center would be packed with exhibitors and visitors as items related to black culture were actually available in the city. Between the Circle City Classic and Black Expo,  friends in other cities thought Indianapolis really had it going on. But, not really. Facilities for these events are rented and most money generated by the events does not circulate in the black community.

This year, there were fewer exhibitors (the cost for tables is HUGE) and the crowd was much smaller. The streets of Indianapolis have become quite violent this summer and many feared the violence would spill downtown.  It was sad to see fear impact such a positive event. As I sat in the booth my university sponsored, I was so impressed to see so many families in attendance.  Self published authors were there selling there books. I didn’t visit the vendor sector but I do wonder if any major publishers were there with their books to sell or display.

Guess I had more to say than I thought.

Saturday Trailer: Unravel Me

What better day for book trailers than a Saturday?

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi  (HarperCollins, 2013) is the second book in the Shatter Me series. About this book:

it’s almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.

Shatter Me (HarperCollins, 2011) was the first book in this series.


Back to the Grind


My colleague, Valentine, with illustrator Faith Erin Hicks

About this time last week I was finishing my last Best Fiction for Young Adult committee meeting in Chicago. I met with 14 other libraries and had such good discussions about the best of what is being published in young adult fiction. Despite the lack of age, gender or ethnic diversity in the group, I have to say I was quite impressed with the attention to selecting a wide range of fiction for teen readers and attention to what matters in literature. I just can’t say enough about this group of women and how much I’m enjoying and learning from this process.

I didn’t like missing the entire conference, though! I can only technically say this was my first ALA because I didn’t get to do anything. OK, I did make it to the exhibit hall Friday evening where I was able to meet Laurianne Uy, Kekla Magoon (with whom I’ll be presenting at ALAN this fall), illustrator Faith Erin Hicks and Hannah Erlich (who has been sending me books from Lee and Low for years). I also found Soho Press and Kathie Hanson from Native Voices Books,


John Lewis signing his new book. Photo courtesy of Valentine


Alice Walker. courtesy of Valentine.

But there are so many people I didn’t get to see or meet! So many events I missed!!

ALA is HUGE!! I missed the quilt exhibit, movie previews, parade of bookmobiles, cooking sessions, author readers and signings. While I was in meetings, my colleague was texting me photos of her meeting John Lewis and Alice Walker.

To be honest, I knew I’d miss these things. But mentioning all that went on at the conference gives me the opportunity to share the wide reach of librarians. While there were hundreds of presentations, there were thousands of meetings during the event. From diversity to literacy, ebooks, international libraries, data management anddigital

photo-7 copy

Laurianne Uy

preservation, all that was there! And more!

I’ll be at ALA Midwinter where we’ll once again hear from students who have been reading BFYA books and twe’ll again discuss every book recommended after which we’ll vote on which we’ll add to the BFYA 2014 list. I’m still struggling to get caught up, but I refuse to be as far behind in January as I was in May.

So, now I’m back to work in my little library in Terre Haute. I’m finishing out summer projects and preparing materials for the fall. I’m finally getting a department chair at about the same time the library dean is leaving. Change is inevitable, isn’t it? We’re always surrounded by an abundance of opportunity, the trick is to be prepared. And, to have courage!


I had been neglecting my garden. Before.



July New Releases


July!! I haven’t worked during the summer since the 1970s. I’m pretty sure that having to do so this summer is why it just doesn’t feel like summer at all to me. I keep waiting for… I’m not sure what; just something to happen to signal that it has indeed begun.

Nonetheless, we’ve passed the Longest Day of the Year and the corn should be knee high by tomorrow. Summer is here! And, here are the summer books by authors of color. First, a more complete listing of the June releases followed by the July books about authors of color.

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. Atheneum, 4 June

Helping the Polonskys (Muslim All-stars) by Kaleel Muhamad, 4 June
Ask my mood ring how I feel by Diane Lopez. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 11 June
Underneath By Sarah Jamila Stevenson; Llewellyn Worldwide; 8 June
The girl of his dreams by Amir Abrams. K-Teen/Dafina, 25 June
Dork Diaries 6: Tales from a Not-So-Happy-Heartbreaker by Rachel Renee Russell. Aladdin, 4 June
Curse of the ancients by Matt de la Pena; Scholastic, June (MG)
Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn; St. Martin Press 11 June
+-+402485563_140Since you asked by Maureen Goo; Scholastic, July Fifteen-year-old Holly Kim, the copyeditor for her San Diego high school’s newspaper, accidentally submits a piece ripping everyone to shreds and suddenly finds herself the center of unwanted attention–but when the teacher in charge of the paper asks her to write a regular column her troubles really start.
+-+649492073_140Star Power (Charly’s Epic Fiasco) by Kelli London; Kensington, 30 July Charly St. James is on top, and she’s determined to keep it that way. That’s why she and the producers have come up with a plan to take The Extreme Dream Team to the next level–by turning loners into VIPs. After all, how can you enjoy your new digs if your life is jacked up?
But when Charly meets her first makeover, Nia, she knows she’ll have to do more than dress her up and boost her self-esteem. Nia is living in the shade of her twin sister, who is luxuriating in a major case of pretty girl syndrome. And the more Charly tries to get Nia to shine, the more her twin sabotages her mission. Good thing Charly loves a challenge, ’cause these twins’ troubles are more than skin deep. . .
51NyxXdEDhL._SY346_Gaby, lost and found by Angela Cervantes; Scholastic 30 July “My name is Gaby, and I’m looking for a home where I can invite my best friend over and have a warm breakfast a couple of times a week. Having the newest cell phone or fancy clothes isn’t important, but I’d like to have a cat that I can talk to when I’m home alone.”




If I ever get out of here by Eric Gainsworth; Arthur A. Levine; 30 July Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white +-+447799563_140people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?


Way too much drama by Earl Sewell; Kimani Tru, 30 July Maya is ready to put the fabulous back into her life—and that means getting her manipulative cousin, Viviana, out of it. Bad enough that Viviana is living under the same roof and tried to claim Maya’s boyfriend, Misalo, for +-+784937332_140herself. Now she’s going to Maya’s high school and she’s part of the quiz team competing on a TV show…alongside Maya, Keysha and Misalo.

Maya has no sympathy when Viviana finally starts to feel the pressure of fitting in to her new world. That’s until her cousin does something drastic…and dangerous. Maybe Viviana isn’t as tough as everyone thought. Maya could be the only person who can help bring her back safely. Question is…does she want to?

Cruisers Book 4 : Oh Snap! By Walter Dean Myers; Scholastic 30 July Walter Dean Myers’s Cruisers series keeps +-+323667083_140going strong! The Cruisers are in trouble — again. The freedom of expression they’ve enjoyed by publishing their own school newspaper, THE CRUISER, has spread all the way to England, where kids from a school “across the pond” are now contributors to their own school’s most talked-about publication. When photos start to go alongside the articles written by kids, things get suspicious. Zander, Kambui, LaShonda, Bobbi — and a bunch of students from Harlem’s DaVinci Academy and London’s Phoenix School — come to learn that words and pictures in a newspaper don’t always tell the whole story.