Sora arrives soon…(plus, an Ode to Türkiye)


Happy Easter & Happy Passover to those who celebrate!

Sora’s Seashells is ALMOST here!! We’re just moments away from the book’s birthday, May 9, 2023. After four years of waiting to see the book in physical form, I finally got to hold an early copy…and it is magical!

The amazing illustrators (Stella Lim & Ji-Hyuk Kim) and the team at Candlewick did such an amazing job – the design, the colors…each page is a gorgeous work of art. The trade publication Kirkus gave the book a thumbs up, and said, “The illustrators deftly layer shadows and blurs boundaries between colors, evoking the feeling of a warm memory.” Here’s a taste of the beauty:

The book is available for pre-order now. A huge, heartfelt thanks to everyone who pre-ordered!!

LAUNCH EVENTS: Join me for these fun, free events!

  • VIRTUAL: Friday, May 12 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific — Virtual storytime hosted by Children’s Book World. This will be a short read of the story, with a brief chat afterwards (perfect for the little ones). Register for free here.
  • IN-PERSON: Saturday, May 13 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific at Children’s Book World L.A.   Join me for a fun time plus some surprises! Bring all your questions about writing & publishing. Event details are here.
  • VIRTUAL: Friday, May 19 at 4 pm. Pacific with the Los Angeles Public Library. Join me for a virtual chat on YouTube Live and you’ll have the opportunity to win a free book, thanks to the generous Library Foundation of L.A. Event details are here and also on the Library’s website. (Be sure to watch the event on YouTube to see more details + engage in the Q&A + book giveaway.)


A visit to Nepal – I got to visit Nepal (virtually!), thanks to Village Book Builders. They build libraries in rural communities across the world, and they invited me to do an inaugural virtual visit with the Gram Sewa Library in Nepal. How cool to meet the students and hear about their hopes & dreams. Our world is truly an interconnected global community, so we should do our utmost to take care of the planet for future generations of humans & other species.

I’m  onscreen with lovely Julie from Village Book Builders. These students were so polite and well-behaved!

Reader Photos – How adorable is this young reader with her lovely smile & sweet pink bow?! She’s a student in Nevada, who selected The Paper Kingdom as one of her picks. Thank you for the photo, @lovethislibrarylv. And thanks to a charming blogger The Book Ferret, I also got to see The Paper Kingdom pictured with a lovely ferret for the very first time! (I think that ferret leads a fancy life.)




We visited Türkiye (formerly spelled as “Turkey”) just a few months before the devastating earthquake in the region, and I wanted to take a moment to express my support and gratitude for a country that filled me with wonder. Below, you’ll see a series of images from our two-week journey through the fascinating home of the old Ottoman Empire, where East & West meet in a truly captivating way.

If you want to help with earthquake relief efforts, here are some good organizations I like to support: Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) & Unicef

And because wildlife and ecosystems around the world need our constant support, the World Wildlife Fund is always a deserving cause. You can even support them by purchasing wildlife-themed socks and hats (which make great gifts), and I often wear one of their cozy sweatshirts at home while I write.

Since we live in Los Angeles (earthquake terrain), we’re building our emergency kit. If you want to build your own kit, here is a good resource.

And now, feast your eyes on the beauty of Türkiye…

We began in Istanbul, with an evening cruise on the Bosphorus Strait. The setting sun created stunning silhouettes of the mosques along the waterway.

To acclimate to the time difference, we got to enjoy a full day of relaxing (with several hours at the hammam) at the Çırağan Palace, where we stayed for four glorious days while touring Istanbul. I highly recommend the hotel — our room had a stunning view of the Bosphorus and the food was SO delicious. Also, Istanbul is a very dynamic, bustling city, but the hotel was located in a serene, waterfront area — what a nice reprieve to return every evening to the stillness and calm!

An interior shot of our palace-hotel…whoa.

The second day, we saw some of the major sites, including the Blue Mosque. The photo on the left is the gorgeous domed ceiling of the Blue Mosque. I loved the calligraphy and the intricate artwork on the archways and walls. Every little detail has a meaning/reason behind it, so definitely hire a knowledgeable guide to view this important historical site.


Travel tip: wear comfortable shoes that are not your favorites, because you’ll be leaving them behind at the entrance of any mosque. You may be able to carry your shoes or place them in a cubby, but it’s quite possible you’ll be required to abandon your shoes at the door with thousands of other shoes. Be sure to wear socks (unless you don’t mind your bare feet touching carpets tread upon by millions of people). Also, women must cover their hair with scarves, so I carried one around at all times.

[Funny side note: many years ago, I went to India, where they have the same rule of removing shoes at some sites, like the Taj Mahal. Well, I didn’t know this, and so I wore my favorite new sandals. Back then, you were required to leave your shoes in a chaotic pile of other shoes. So the entire time I was touring the Taj Mahal, I was pretty stressed out that someone would take my shoes. I was also grossed out that my bare feet were touching where millions of sweaty bare feet had touched, since it was summertime. There I was at “the monument of love,” completely preoccupied with the status of my shoes and desperate to wash my feet. Lesson learned!]

Intricate armor — its pristine condition told me that this piece was made to be worn (by someone wealthy) and admired (by his minions), not so much to be destroyed in battle!


We visited the Topkapi Palace, where sultans used to live & luxuriate. You might be wondering why I’m featuring photos of sofas & beds…that’s because they were everywhere! My phone holds dozens of photos of plush sofas and silken beds, but I’m just posting a couple to give you a sense of how much these sultans lounged around.

The photo on the right shows a giant silk sofa-bed in the sultan’s enormous relaxation room, meant to accommodate him + the many concubines from his harem! You can’t really tell from the photo, but that thing was gigantic, nearly the length of a school bus…so much opulence, decadence and debauchery! (We weren’t allowed to touch the furnishings, but I wouldn’t want to touch them anyway!!) Since I like to keep things light and positive around here, I won’t even delve into the stories we heard about the poor eunuchs…omg they had such awful lives. Be grateful you’re not a eunuch!

After the sensory overload of Istanbul, it was refreshing to escape to rustic Cappadocia, considered to be the “Grand Canyon of Türkiye.” It’s famous for its “fairy chimney” rock formations. We went inside these crazy cave-homes as well as an underground city several stories deep into the earth. How fascinating to go from the overwhelming decadence of the sultan’s palace to the ascetic life of monk-hermits who lived with very few possessions in rooms built inside rocks! This region also has a lot of Biblical history, which was truly fascinating.

I loved Cappadocia! I think the monk-hermits were the originators of the “tiny home movement.”

We stayed for two nights at the Argos in Cappadocia, a fabulous and elegant hotel. And again, the food was SO good. Enjoying breakfast in their restaurant overlooking the valley was just stunning.

We did an amazing sunrise hot air balloon ride across Cappadocia. Hundreds of balloons surrounded us that morning. This was definitely a highlight of the trip! Travel tip: dress super warm. We were outside starting around 4:30 a.m., so it was extremely cold, especially with the altitude/wind of the balloon ride. I wore three layers from head to toe, and I was still freezing!

We then flew to the city of Denizli and drove to the gorgeous natural hot springs in Pamukkale, an ancient Roman spa area. Thermal waters flow down to white travertine terraces that were all naturally formed — nothing is man-made! And actually, the region’s long history of earthquakes has a lot to do with the fascinating geology.


It’s all very dreamy, but don’t let my smile and those crystal-blue waters fool you: we went into several of those pools, and my feet were screaming from the moment I stepped on the super hard white calcification. Even though those terraces look like fluffy whipped cream, they have tiny, slippery spikes…it was like walking on wet teeth! I quickly learned to avoid the shiny areas, like the foreground in the picture to the right. OUCH! Travel tip: You can only step in with bare feet, and several guards patrol around to make sure nobody’s wearing any shoes (not even water slippers or sandals) into the water. Fortunately, we didn’t have any accidents, but don’t go too close to any edge if you’re prone to vertigo. There are some very steep drops that the photos don’t show. While my feet were screaming, my mind started imagining scenarios where I faint from the pain and tumble over an edge, pulling The Geno down with me into a canyon of tiny, painful stalagmite…!

We visited the ancient Roman city of Laodicea. It was quite haunting, especially because we were the only ones there. That’s The Geno pictured with our guide Naci. We had a lot of laughs with Naci!

The Geno in Ephesus. It was super crowded here, and it made us realize how fortunate we were to experience the serenity of the lesser-known site, Laodicea.

The food was SO good everywhere we went. Pictured: a mezze platter with stuffed grape leaves, cheese, hummus, eggplants, etc.

I could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up here with a big thanks to the people of Türkiye for their warmth and hospitality. May they heal from the terrible earthquake.

I’ll be back soon with the launch of Sora’s Seashells – YAY!! And in the next post, I’ll also address one of the weirdest aspects of being an author…

Be well…and pre-order Sora’s Seashells 😉

Your friend,