Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Vision Boarding 2009

I am a visual person: I remember passages in books based on where they are on the actual page. I learn from watching and then doing. For as long as I can remember, I've created vision boards for each of my new novels and for my yearly goals. Each image and word on these boards symbolize what's important to me in my new work and my dreams.

I am so ready for 2008 to be over and done! My girlfriends, Dia Calhoun and Lorie Ann Grover, came over on Sunday to give me moral support as I created my vision board for 2009.

Can you guess whose is whose?

Ta da! Here we are after hours of cutting and collaging: Dia and her wings. Me and my security for the yPod Trio. Lorie Ann and her love.

May our visions for the new year all come true--every wish. Every hope. Every dream. I'd love to see your vision board!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Poetry Friday: Rumi

Another beautiful Rumi poem:

Observe the wonders as they occur around you.

Don't claim them. Feel the artistry

moving through, and be silent.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Girl Overboard: In Paperback!

Melissa Walker--new readergirlz diva, author of the fabulous Violet on the Runway series, and co-founder of my new obsession: iheartdaily.com--sent me a paparrazzi shot...of my novel, GIRL OVERBOARD. I didn't realize the book was out in paperback already, but here it is in Barnes & Noble!
Today I am grateful for readers who are still purchasing books to fuel their spirits! And I am grateful for girlfriends who are on the lookout for me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Humming with JOY!

To be honest, it's been a wee bit tense here in the Headley home. My hero of a brother-in-law to the rescue! He braved ice and snow with my sister to serve as my personal IT manager since my computer stopped talking to my printer. And my scanner was giving everything with a USB drive the cold shoulder. AND my doorbell was broken. YAY, Carl! YAY! My techie tools are on better terms again. And I can hear my visitors at the door again.

And then, during a much-needed break, three tiny, quiet visitors arrived, lured back by my daily defrosting of their sugar water. And suddenly, the world seemed a better place again. I mean, the snow outside makes everything fresh. The kids are buzzing around me. And so are the bitty birds. Seeing them makes me want to take out the picture book I had written five years ago about hummingbirds.

Today I am thankful for a techie guru genius of a brother-in-law, Carl! Go, CARL!!!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Art of Underwater Photography

My siblings are all superstars! Meet my brother, Will Chen, whose photographs are featured in a coffee table book, THE ART OF UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY. I'm not sure who was more scared of the up-close-and-personal shot of an open-mouthed SHARK: my mom ("Ack! How did Will take that picture?!") or me ("Ack! It's better not to know!").

Today I am grateful for all my siblings who remind me of what's important and what's beautiful.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Friday: Rumi

One of my favorite necklaces that I had to leave behind in China was etched with a poem by Rumi. So when I was browsing a bookstore, I happened on a journal filled with Rumi poetry. Here, then, in the next few weeks, you can find my favorite Rumi.

Keep knocking,

and the joy inside

will eventually


a window

and look out

to see who's there.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Homegrown House

My good friend, Janet Wong, has a new book coming out this summer, and on the Creating Connections blog, she asked, "How do you turn a house into a home?"

I loved that question since I've newly returned to my old house and needed to turn it into a new home. First off, my girlfriends came over to SWAK (sealed with a kiss)-paint the entry. Every brush stroke bristled with their love. And then the day after my sister finished her grad school finals, she came over...to paint, too. Despite test exhaustion, she powered on for two days straight, spending two nights over--driven by virtual direct infusions of caffeine and her mission to give me a fresh start.

It's amazing how color can completely alter the feeling of a space. And moving furniture. And changing up my enormous stacks of books, which, let's face it, are the ultimate accessories. Books warm up every room.

And finally...one of my friends in Shanghai, Stacey, gave me a tiny bottle of holy water from the fountain at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal. So today, we power cleaned our house. And then blessed our HOME. Every single room. The perimeter. The backyard. And the front.

Today I am thankful for having a HOME filled with joy and many, many blessings and the promise of future happiness.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Food: The Sixth Love Language

With all due respect to Gary Chapman and his wonderfully insightful book, The Five Love Languages, BUT I think he missed out on an important way people share love. A universal one. Love isn't just shown through quality time, gifts or words of affirmation. Physical touch or acts of service.

It's also shown through food. Yes, food.

Food is the sixth love language. It sure is for the Chen family. Meet my mom, she who is literally trying to nourish me and the kiddos with every morsel known to humankind. But my friends are trying. Here is the latest offering: cream puffs by Peggy King Anderson. As she said, "They're stuffed with love."

That's why I ate two. As I stuffed them gleefully into my mouth, I kept telling myself, they're love-rich, not calorie-rich. Right.

And then here's my love offering to the hummingbirds who have rediscovered our yard since we returned from China. I was so worried about the tiny creatures with the weather dipping to freezing that I woke up early to thaw their nectar.

Today I am grateful for having enough to eat...and for having friends and family who have made it their mission to see the kids and me well-fed. With love.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Poetry Friday: I'm a Wild Child

Wild Child
S. Y. Headley
My anger's red,
bloody red.
I feel like I could
like a wild lion.
My crying is soft,
drips and drops,
mist over the blue sky.
I'm a wild child,
roaming free.
I'm a wild child
with nobody to tell me NO.
I'm a wild child
with ratty brown hair
like logs and bark.
With eyes hazel nutty
as a rabid squirrel.
With clothes like a field of
I'm a wild child,
whose anger is read as blood,
sadness white as the clouds
loathing as black as fire's coal.
I'm a wild child...
or am I just free?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Feed Hope with Dia Calhoun

My dearest friends have been welcoming me home to Seattle in full force! Just yesterday, Dia Calhoun--she of the Mythopoeic Award for Fantasy Writing!--dropped by with a handpainted piece of work she had created just for me. I'm hanging it over my front door. Feed Hope. It is my mantra for this next year. FEED HOPE.

To feed hope to my kids and let them feel the wonder of our lives and our world and our family and our friends.

To feed hope to myself that there is a greater plan. I just have to open my eyes and my heart to see it.

(One really fun fact about Dia. She's not only an amazing, award-winning author and a co-founder of readergirlz, but she's a gifted letterer. She did the lettering for the Alaska Airlines logo! And now her art work (not just her books) graces my home. )
Today I am so thankful for each and every one of my multi-talented friends who are making my home a reflection of my heart.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Naked Spa

Okay. So it's been so heartening that people are reading North of Beautiful and chattering about geocaching, my favorite geeking out pastime. If the book gets people out and about, GPS in hand, I'm a happy camper. But why is no one talking about the Naked Spa featured in the book?

It's a real place, people! And it's Nirvana. If you follow all truly blissed out women in the Northwest, you will be led directly to the Olympus Spa--a Korean-style sanctuary where every bit of a woman's body gets scrubbed and exfoliated. And yes, you shed all clothes so that you can marinate in one of several saunas and hot tubs for an hour before the Scrubdown.

I first heard about the Naked Spa (I mean, Olympus Spa) two years ago when my good friend Lauren raved about it after going through a temporary rough patch in her life. And then out at an SCBWI dinner, Ginger Knowlton--the rocking agent who reps one of my favorite authors of all time: K.L. Going--went on and on about her transcendental experience at the same Naked Spa. Well. I had to see the place for myself.

My very dear Ozzie friend, Nicole, was game for a field expedition to the Naked Spa. Two words: life altering. It's not that the scrubbing feels good--it can actually be downright painful...and more than a little unsettling how much dead skin gets rubbed off. But it's uplifting in a way that a massage is not. You feel like you're leaving much more than your skin on the table, but all the daily worries that you wear. Literally.

So a week after returning to the states, my friend Nicole blocked out her entire day to take me to the Naked Spa to scrub the worst bits of my China experience off my body. I literally floated out of the spa; I felt 10 pounds lighter. As if I had shed dead weight I wasn't even aware I had been carrying.

Today I am thankful for places like the Olympus Spa that cater to a woman's spirit as much as her body. And I'm thankful for true friends who know how to care for a sad heart.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Poetry Friday: Green Mountain

I find so much solace in the outdoors, hiking in the green Cascade Mountains, breathing the clean air, dipping my toes in glacial water. So now...in honor of my stay in Shanghai and my return to the Emerald City (Seattle), here is my last ancient Chinese poem, appropriately named Green Mountain.

Green Mountain

Li Bai (702-762)

You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;

I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.

As the peach blossom flows downstream and is the unknown,

I have a world apart that is not among men.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

North of Beautiful: Starred Review, Publishers Weekly!!

Joy! My editor, Alvina Ling, and her assistant editor, Connie Hsu, have been taking such good care of me. Awaiting at my door when my kiddos and I arrived home was an enormous box of books for them and a fantastic, perfect CD for me (Pink, SO WHAT!).

And then this morning, Alvina sent me news that North of Beautiful just got a starred review in Publishers Weekly! Thanks to Lisa Yee who emailed me immediately after...which was perfect happenstance since I had just opened a packet from Scholastic and there was the galley of her forthcoming ABSOLUTELY MAYBE. I was already screaming with delight as it was.

(PICTURE A BRIGHT RED STAR HERE. hee) North of Beautiful Justina Chen Headley. Little, Brown, $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-02505-8

Laced with metaphors about maps and treasure, Headley’s (Girl Overboard) finely crafted novel traces a teen’s uncharted quest to find beauty. Two things block Terra’s happiness: a port-wine stain on her face and her verbally abusive father, a failed cartographer who views her as ugly and belittles the collages she creates. A car accident brings her together with Jacob, an Asian-born adoptee with unconventional ideas. Besides introducing her to new pursuits like geocaching, a treasure-hunting game using GPS, Jacob ends up traveling with her when they have an opportunity to visit China together with their mothers. The trip, far-reaching on many different levels, gives Terra a chance to rethink the past and re-map her goals. Taking readers to America’s Northwest, then to China and back again, the author confidently addresses very large, slippery questions about the meaning of art, travel, love and of course beauty. All of her characters hold secrets; finding them out will be as rewarding as Terra’s discoveries of caches. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Home Again, Home Again!

Home again! Home again! Jiggity Jig!

And trust me, I've been doing a little jig since stepping off the airplane on Friday morning. There, meeting me at the airport, were a few of the readergirlz divas: Lorie Ann Grover, Holly Cupala, and Janet Lee Carey. I was so touched! And felt so loved!!! And my kiddos' best buddies met us at our house, carrying balloons and signs.

My Strata-sisters descended on Saturday to paint my house and unpack for me. They're part of my pro bono consulting group, StrataGem, which is on hiatus indefinitely. For about 7 years, we helped non-profit groups that helped women and children solve tough business problems...totally for free. And now these amazing, amazing women are helping me. They brought cake! They brought coffee! They brought love! This is probably the one and only time my closet will look like a boutique--my clothes are folded so meticulously.

As thrilled as I am to be home, I think so fondly of my friends back in Shanghai, like Richard and Stacey, and Meg and John. Here we are at my send-off at Sun with Aqua on the Bund...a fantastic restaurant...before we hit my first and only jazz club in Shanghai. The best sushi I have ever had. Check out the sharks swimming in the background. (And you must go to the Cotton Club if you visit Shanghai! Must! A total boozy, smoky scene with fantastic live music.)

In my packing haze, I misplaced my camera so I couldn't photograph the wonderosity that is my traditional Chinese chopping block. It's about 50 pounds--I'm not joking. A single slab of wood, a veritable tree trunk. John had remembered me talking on and on about them while we were in Dunhuang since I had just read Nicole Mones' fantastic THE LAST CHINESE CHEF. These chopping blocks are extremely difficult to source...but John found one for me! I can't wait until it arrives, making its way across the Pacific Ocean to me.

More than that, I can't wait for my Shanghai friends to visit me in Seattle. Make your way across the Pacific to me, my pengyous. Missing you!