By Frances Park, Ginger Park
Illustrations by Katherine Potter
Authors, Frances Park (left) and Ginger Park
Frances Park and Ginger Park are more than sisters — they’re also partners. Both have been writing for children and adults for years, in addition to owning a small business. Their latest book, The Have a Good Day Cafe, tells the story of a Korean family who is struggling to keep its business going in America. Here the Park sisters talk about writing, working together, and the inspiration behind The Have a Good Day Cafe.
How did you become a writer?
FP: When I was in the fifth grade, having completed all the reading book requirements for the school year, my teacher asked me to write stories during the reading period so that I would have something to do. This opened up a whole new world for me. I wrote my first two books that year: The Mystery of the Empty Treasure Chest and Betty Lou. You might say that I began writing in the fifth grade and never stopped.
GP: Growing up, I kept a diary with all my dreams, passions, and secrets. I guess you could say that writing was always something personal to me. But after my father died, I felt compelled to share the stories of my heritage with the world.
Tell us about how you collaborate to write a story.
FP: Usually one of us comes up with an idea and the other writes a first draft, which is usually a very sketchy version of how the story will ultimately look when polished. We pass the draft back and forth, and work on it separately, editing on the margins in red ink until it’s so messy that a new draft has to be typed. We’re actually solitary writers who only come together to write/edit once the story has been accepted for publication and we need to discuss the editor’s comments.
GP: Frances and I have always been very close sisters. In fact, she’s my best friend. Our experiences collaborating have been very much like our relationship: awesome! Sometimes Frances comes up with the idea and I draft it out, and sometimes it’s the other way around. But we never sit down together unless we’re doing requested edits from a publisher. It’s like we go into our own silent worlds. Writing is often a lonely journey. When I was working on my YA novel, I often wondered if anyone would like it. But collaborating takes that element of doubt out of the process. Frances and I are constantly praising each other!
What kind of research (if any) did you do for The Have a Good Day Cafe?
FP: None to speak of, as we’re well acquainted with Korean food. The cerebral element here — Mike’s grandmother missing her country — was easy to portray as we have a mother who has longed to be back in North Korea for many decades now.
GP: We did some research on food cart licensing. As Frances said, fortunately we didn’t have to do any research on Korean food. Our mother cooks it all the time. We are very familiar with bulgogi, chop chae and jijim!
What do you relate to most in the story, and why?
FP: The struggle of owning a small business. We co-own a very popular shop called Chocolate Chocolate in downtown Washington, D.C. Although we are flourishing today, our early days were very difficult. We were young when we went into business and struggled for many years to build up a clientele.
GP: The little boy, Mike, was inspired by a real boy we used to see every morning on our way to work. Come rain or shine, the boy was there helping his parents set up their food cart. Our hearts broke for that boy.
Have you had a chance to share the book with children? If so, what were their reactions?
FP: We have received emails from adults whose children or grandchildren have enjoyed the book. We also are planning on visiting lots of schools and are very excited about sharing this story with young readers.
GP: The response has been wonderful. The book has made children very curious about Korean food and they have come to appreciate their families more.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
FP: That ingenuity, hard work, and embracing more than one culture is a wonderful way to make a dream come true.
GP: We hope children will have a better understanding of the immigrant experience. And perhaps go enjoy some delicious Korean food in a nearby Korean restaurant!
About This Title
Interest Level:Grades 1 - 4
Reading Level:Grades 3 - 3
Occupations, Immigration, Grandparents, Friendship, Food, Families, Conflict resolution, Asian/Asian American Interest, Poverty
English Fiction Grades 3-6, Fluent Dual Language , Fluent English, Appendix B Diverse Collection Grades 3-6, Realistic Fiction Grades 3-5, Food and Cooking Collection, English Fiction Grades PreK-2, Mother's Day Collection, Asian Pacific American Heritage Collection , Korean Culture and History Collection, Grandparents Collection, Asian/Asian American English Collection Grades PreK-2, Realistic Fiction Collection Grades PreK-2, Immigration Collection, Asian American Collection English 6PK, English Guided Reading Level O, Chinese and Lunar New Year
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