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Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo + Author Interview [in AsianWeek]

Sixteen Years in Sixteen SecondsThe Patiently Tenacious Paula Yoo

When Paula Yoo got her first official rejection from a publisher, she ripped up the letter and threw a bona fide temper tantrum. She was all of 7 years old. “The publisher told me I was talented for a second grader and that I might be interested in entering a contest they had for child writers,” says Yoo. “I don’t have time for silly children’s contests!” she remembers crying to her mother.

Ironically, almost 30 years later, a contest award is finally putting Yoo on the bookshelves: Yoo’s first picture book, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, is the result of winning the New Voices Award sponsored by Lee & Low Books, one of the country’s largest multicultural children’s presses. “This is the first book that I’ve ever had accepted for publication so I’ll always hold it close to my heart,” says Yoo. “I’ve entered the contest before, and been rejected. But I’m very stubborn and never give up,” she laughs.

Indeed, Yoo is all about tenacity. Remember that first rejection letter? Yoo had sent her 70-page manuscript to Harper & Row publishers because they published all the Laura Ingalls Wilder paperbacks (“I devoured them,” Yoo says). What perfect justice that Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) is publishing Yoo’s next title, a young adult novel, Good Enough. “It better get good reviews,” Yoo jokes. “Or people are really going to be making fun of that title!”

AsianWeek: You’re a writer of various mediums – journalism, television, and film. Where did your initial interest in writing come from?
Paula Yoo: “I knew I wanted to write as soon as I could read. I read so much that I would hide in the closet with a hidden light and I ended up getting glasses at 8. I have really bad eyesight. I started writing in first grade, little novels with a bio of myself in the back: ‘Paula Yoo is in elementary school. This is her first book.’ Writing for me has been a pipe dream. I never remember ever NOT wanting to be writer.

AW: With all the different kinds of writing you’ve done – People, Seattle Times, West Wing – do you have a preference?
PY: My goal has always been to be a fiction writer. But I chose journalism at first because Hemingway was a journalist. I thought being a journalist would be a great way to hone my writing skills, live life, and have great adventures. And I did. But I never plan to go back to journalism, although I might do a nonfiction book someday. Right now, I’m working on a TV series and doing spec movie scripts. I’m constantly writing, whether or not someone pays me. I feel like a renaissance writer – I can go from one genre to the next. I always find something appealing about each of the genres. … [click here for more]

Author interview: “The Patiently Tenacious Paula Yoo,” AsianWeek, May 12, 2005 [This links to the issue cover – whoo hooo! Click here for full article.]

Readers: Adult

Published: 2005

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