Paula Yoo has some interesting stories to tell about how she knew when she wanted to become a writer. For example, according to her profile at Lee and Low, Yoo began writing short stories and even mini-novels in kindergarten. On the back of the latter, she’d even draw a picture of herself with a biography that read: “Paula Yoo, age 7, is a second grader at Keeney Elementary School. This is her first book.”
In an interview at Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind, Yoo shares that after reading Charlotte’s Web in the first grade, she felt inspired to write her own stories. Her first “novel” was a 75-page handwritten book entitled “The Girl Called Raindrop.” Yoo submitted it to Harper & Row because they published her favorite series, the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Yoo received a nice letter from them saying that she was ‘talented’ and should consider trying out for their writing contest for children ages seven to ten. However, Yoo was so upset they were rejecting ‘The Girl Called Raindrop’ that she tore up the letter. She thought, ‘I’m not a CHILD writer, I’m a REAL writer!’
Basically, Yoo has wanted to be a writer since the moment she learned to read. She loves putting words on paper to create a whole new world, an entire universe filled with fascinating characters. And–Yoo wanted to have her picture on the back of a book, just like her favorite authors!
Before becoming a full-time writer,Yoo worked as a freelance musician, English and music teacher, journalist, and tv screenwriter. By working as a reporter for The Seattle Times, The Detroit News, and PEOPLE Magazine, she paid off her journalism graduate student loans. Journalism taught her how to write on deadline. Yoo then taught for a little bit before switching over to being a full-time TV screenwriter for shows like Beyond the Break (The N), Eureka (SyFy), Hidden Palms (The CW), Side Order of Life (Lifetime), Tru Calling (FOX), and The West Wing (NBC).
Her lifelong dream of becoming an author came true with the publication of Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story. He was the first Asian American to win a gold medal at the Olympics in 1948 for diving after facing racial discrimination. Yoo submitted her nonfiction book to the Lee & Low Books “New Voices” contest, because she loved their books and thought it’d be a good entry for them.
Her first young adult novel Good Enough was written between her TV jobs. Yoo says, “I was unemployed and took advantage of the free time to work on a new novel. I wrote about my life as a teen violin geek. I literally wrote this novel in five weeks straight. It just poured out of me. I then revised it and sent it to my agent and he submitted it to yes, HarperCollins, and they finally decided I was a ‘real’ writer and not a ‘child’ writer and published it!”
The above information I compiled from mostly from online biographies. I encourage you to also check these interviews:
Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature
CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. It was established by in 1936, in memory of the great Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
The Christy Awards are awarded each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview.
Coretta Scott King Award
The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples. It is given to African American authors and illustrator.
children and young adult blogger literacy awards
Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award
The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award was initiated in 2000 to recognize authors, illustrators, and publishers of high quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate, and young adult books that appropriately portray individuals with deve
Hans Christian Anderson Award
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards is given to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. The award is the highest international recognition an author can receive.
Kate Greenaway Medal
The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs.
Middle East Book Award
The Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award
Honors fantasy books for younger readers, in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia
Newbery Medal Award
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Pura Belpré Award
The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. It is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino experience.
Red House Book Award
The Red House Children’s Book Award is a series of literary prizes for works of children’s literature published during the previous year in England.
Sydney Taylor Award
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.