Friday, March 12, 2010

Beauty in the Ordinary

I was at our local indie bookstore the other day looking for a birthday gift for our 4-year-old friend, when I discovered Wabi Sabi, written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young.

Wabi Sabi is about a cat who lives in Kyoto, Japan. Well, it's actually not about the cat, but the cat is the main character. It's really about wabi sabi, the Japanese sensibility of finding beauty in the ordinary and imperfect aspects of life.

The book is uniquely beautiful, with pages that turn from bottom to top rather than right to left, and collages of all sorts of materials that create vivid and textured illustrations. Haiku in English and Japanese weave in and out of the narrative to create a wonderfully rich experience for readers.

Wabi Sabi is one of those picture books worth having on the shelf whether there are children at home or not because it really speaks to the heart of the universal human experience--the ordinary and the imperfect, and it's got me thinking about the wabi sabi in my own life:

The mittens I knit this winter each have a hole where the thumb meets the hand, but the flaws signify that the mitts are hand-made and soul-full rather than machine-produced.

The ground outside is squishy and muddy, and it signals the nearness of spring here in southeastern Pennsylvania.

My story, Ojiisan's Gift, is up for grabs. The querying has begun; I'm on the long road that I hope will end in publication. Will I find beauty in this process that is bound to be wrought with rejection and disappointment? I decided a few days ago that I will revel in it. At the very least, the journey and the inevitable rejection will remind me that I'm alive and that I'm surrounded by people who love, support, and inspire me. That's significant. At best, if I am patient and unyielding, it will eventually lead to the realization of my dreams--this book and many others in print. That, too, is significant, though perhaps not as much so as the former realization.

As I look to end this post which vacillates from book review to contemplative and self-motivational writing, I want to ask two things of you: Will you check out Wabi Sabi by Reibstein and Young the next time you're at a bookstore? In the meantime, will you share a thought or two on the wabi sabi in your own life? Let's end this week with gratitude.


  1. One could think of the querying process as the squishy ground one crosses during the approach of spring. The mud of rejections along the way can't change the fact you've left winter behind and are on a warming path, heading toward flowering.

  2. Congrats on entering the query wars! So exciting. My advice is to enjoy all of the tiny victories. Don't make the mistake of downplaying requests so you don't get your hopes up. Requests are exciting, rejections suck and it's a subjective biz so I'm guessing you'll get a lot of both! I know we did.

    I've heard amazing things about Wabi Sabi. Can't wait to check it out.

  3. Oh, I love WABI SABI (the book). That should have won a Caldecott the year it came out.

    Glad to hear you were shopping in your local indie bookstore. That's enough wabi sabi for me. :)

    But also I think going to all these writing conferences and meeting so many wonderful aspiring writers has been a gift. Whether I get published or not, I've made some great friends.

    Good luck with the querying. From what I've heard and the little I've read, I think your book sounds awesome.

  4. hehe I put it on my wishlist before I got to the end of the post:)

  5. Lisa & Laura: Thanks for the tip--you're right the requests *are* exciting, though the rejections really sting. This is a rough ride. Enjoy WABI SABI.

    Joanne: I love independent books sellers--one of my wabi sabis. I'm glad you liked the snippets. I hope you'll get to read the full story someday.

    Paolo: Enjoy WABI SABI.

    ALL: Happy Spring!


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