From the very beginning, my English writing has been a family affair. Early in my writing career in this country, I wrote several children's picture books about my sons and the issues they faced having a Chinese mother and a Caucasian father. My parents did not speak English, so one manuscript I wrote concerned the issue of communication between my sons and their grandmother. Another dealt with identity issues of sons who are "half-Chinese." In the beginning, the boys thought it was fun being models. Later, I had to bribe them into letting my husband Phil, who is an advanced amateur photographer, take their pictures for the books.
These manuscripts went unpublished. I sent them off to several publishing houses, and received only rejection slips, despite several encouraging notes from editors. (The manuscripts are still valuable to me, however, as they are documents of my family's history.) Undaunted, I continued to write stories that I thought had merit, and did not give up.
The first book I actually had published, A Day on a Shrimp Boat, is about our family making a trip on a commercial shrimp boat out of Frogmore, South Carolina, near Beaufort. This book started as an actual family trip. We were guests of a shrimper whom we had met at church, and who had agreed to let us go out with him all day, just to see how shrimp are caught, since I am a fanatical seafood lover.
Jeremy and me
Jonathan, our older son, has always been obsessed with drawing, and he wanted to illustrate my first novel, which I was working on when he was in high school. He could not, however, because he did not yet have enough art experience. After high school, he entered Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Finally, in his last year of art school, he was able to do the interior illustrations for my fourth novel, Child Bride.
Jonathan and me at Savannah College of Art and Design
Phil took the photograph for the cover photo for my newest book, Tofu Quilt.
He is my first editor, my chauffeur to school visits, my companion on overseas trips, and he helps me with correspondence and promotion. He developed this website for me. Although he once told me I should go out and "get a real job," he has been supportive of my writing. Through failure and success, my family has stuck by me.
As you can see, in many ways in the Russell household, writing is a family affair.
We had so much fun on the boat (except for the seasickness) that I decided it would make a good nonfiction children's book. We got permission to go back on the boat so Phil could take pictures to illustrate the book, and I wrote the story. Then, we had to go out yet again, because when I finally found a publisher, he couldn't use the color pictures and Phil had to take black and white ones all over.
Jonathan is a video game designer for Robot Invader living in Silicon Valley, California. Jeremy is a realtor with RE/MAX and he and his wife, Jessica, a nurse, live in South Carolina. They gave us our first grandchild, Blake, in June of 2013. A little less than two years later, on May 22, 2015, Morgan was born, on her great-grandfather's 97th birthday!
August, 2013, when Jonathan visited Jeremy in South Carolina
September, 2013 with Jonathan in Mountain View, CA
Jeremy and me in May, 2013
Phil had to push me in Singapore
in May, 2012 when I won the Asian Book Award,
after I tore my miniscus.
Little Blake at 3 1/2 months
Me holding little Blake, only a few days old
Little Blake at almost 2 years with his new baby sister, Morgan
Blake about 2 weeks before his second birthday.
Me holding little Morgan at Blake's birthday party. She was just a week old.
Morgan is already a charmer at age 3 months.
This is Blake and Morgan in November, 2017 at Clemson University