Friday, June 5, 2015

How to Write about Your Culture/Heritage Part 2 by Tina Cho

traditional wedding
Welcome back to part 2 of writing about your culture. See part 1 here in which I listed three tips for writing for the cultural market. Here are the rest of my tips.

4. Plant a universal theme into a cultural setting. For example, every child in the world loses a tooth. But what they do with that tooth might be different in each country. In Korea, they throw it on the roof. An example that led to a sale is the theme of seasons. As a former kindergarten teacher I always taught about how the apple tree goes through the four seasons. I have gobs of apple tree books. (Just wait til fall, and you'll see them all on the school shelves.) In Korea, I don't see apple trees, but I do see Asian pear tree orchards. Their beautiful blossoms transform into juicy pears in time for the harvest celebration. So I wrote Seasons of the Asian Pear Tree, a picture book purchased by Schoolwide.

Asian pear
5. Write a "how to" cultural craft or activity. Many children's magazines request crafts from other cultures. I used to write educational activities and crafts for, and the editor asked me to write a series of crafts for Asian American Month (May). My kids & I had fun developing these.

Skyping with a 4th grade class in Indiana
6. Be known as an expert in your culture. Since I homeschooled this year, I participated in some teacher Twitter chats. When the teachers found out I was living in Seoul, they asked if their students could do a Mystery Skype interview with me and my son (4th grade). The students had to guess what country we were from, and they asked my son questions. If your neighborhood school is studying a country that you're an expert on, be a guest speaker!

a product I revised
Along that same line, an editor at Tuttle Publishing knows I'm somewhat knowledgeable about Korean culture. She asked me to revise their "Let's Learn Korean" flashcard product and write some new educational activities to go with it. I got our whole family involved, as my daughter illustrated paper dolls to go with one of my activities (her first publishing stint), and my son helped me write a script, and my husband sang a few songs for their CD. My daughter & I received our author copies in the mail today. Very exciting! Furthermore, that editor at Tuttle passed my name along to another editor at their Singapore office, and she asked me to proofread a Korean grammar book, which I got my husband to help me do. So my advice is that if you're bilingual or knowledgeable about your culture/country, make it known!  You never know the possibilities.

a guard tower and fence~beyond is North Korea
7. Try travel writing. Check your library for travel magazines, and the next time you fly, look at the airline's magazine in the seat pocket. Usually there are articles about special places in the world. Research their writer guidelines and requests. 

traditional ice sledding
8. Write a proposal. After all these tips, if you still don't see anything helpful, research publishers that interest you. Study their list of books, and send off a query of 3-5 ideas that fit. I did, and the editor liked one of the ideas. I wrote the book, and the contract is pending.

If you have other tips, let me know in the comments! Have fun writing this summer. Since it's almost my birthday, I'll leave you with a Korean Baskin Robbins cake.

Baskin Robbins Birthday Cake


  1. Tina. You're an inspiration. Congrats on all your successes, and for sharing more awesome tips, and for sharing such a yummy cake, and great photos too. :-)

  2. Ditto what Tracy said! You are an inspiration, Tina...and very generous, as always, to share your expertise. And I can't wait to buy a copy of your Asian Pear ROCKS!!!!!!

  3. Ditto what Vivian said. You are a gem, Tina. I too would love to see your Asian Pear story. You are such a beautiful writer and always (as Vivian has already said) so generous with your time and knowledge. Just love that cake!

  4. Hi Tina,
    You keep coming up with great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Happy Birthday to you, Tina! Your suggestions about writing your culture are terrific!

  6. Thank you, Tina, for sharing so many writing ideas and possibilities. It is amazing that you can share and include the love of writing with your precious kids.

  7. I enjoyed Part 2 as much as Part 1, thank you! Your information and suggestions are so helpful and have me thinking and inspired. Thanks again for sharing!

  8. Thanks Tina for writing both tips. This is encouraging and helpful as I'm living in Taiwan. Now to sit in chair, research and write - after we get moved, yet again. ;)