Ocean's Pearl

written and (being) illustrated by 易Linda

Status: First manuscript and concept images created. Currently working on illustrations (to be updated). An idea for a non-traditional book format born. 

Target age: Children's fiction with universal themes (think A Wrinkle in Time). Or for anyone who loves mythology, illustration, imagination.

A rose carp. A luminous pearl. Eight enchanted bracelets and a love tale under silver moonlight...

The Inspiration:

The summer of 2014, I spent two months in the Chinese coastal city of Zhuhai, China.  While there, I heard a story... here's a journal excerpt from that first day:

Statue of the "Zhuhai fish maiden" - photo taken on the first day the DukeEngage 2014 cohort spent in the city. These students were hardworking, caring and inspiring. See their work here.

May 18, 2014 - First full day in Zhuhai. It's a beautiful place and with a beautiful name: translated, 'Zhuhai' = Pearl Sea. Between romping about rain-splashed streets and running hands across a walls fortified by abalone (?) shells, we made a stop by a statue of the "fish lady" - 渔女.

There, one of the younger English teachers gave me the short version of fish lady's legend (though here, I'd like to note that I'd prefer to translate 渔女 as 'fishing maiden').  Long long ago, as the story goes, there was fairy maiden who falls in love with a young fisher boy who lived in one of the fishing villages which have now become Zhuhai.  And as any proper fairy maiden would do, she decides to seek out her love, disguising herself as a local fishing girl and coming to live on land....

Listening to the tale, my interest lit.  I've always been partial to Chinese myths and legends, having grown up on a steady diet Wu Cheng'en's "Journey to the West".  Imagination sparked, simmered... and didn't go out.  

With thoughts about Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid swimming through my mind, I penned the opening passage about the 8th daughter of the sea (who I'd later name Mei) - a maiden with black tresses and sea-storm eyes - who lived in a place of coral and jade.  

I think this'll be a fun one to write...

The Story:


She lived in a palace of coral and jade, deep in the southern sea. She was the youngest daughter of the dragon king and had eyes the color of a storm swept sea. Her skin glowed soft and pearly under moonlight.  Long hair of silk - black as night - fanned and swirled in waves behind her, as she glided through the silent rooms of her palace of coral and jade. 

The autumn moon was but a pale shadow in the sky when she decided to go. She wished to leave this palace of rosy coral and cool green jade, and walk among the people of the nearby village. For years and years, she had heard their songs, drifting to her in salt breezes and swirling winds, clear voices that cried of love and loss and hope...

Thus begins Ocean's Pearl:

A tale of Mei - the eighth daughter of the southern seas - and and quiet steadfast village boy by the name of Ocean. What follows is a tale of discovery, wonder, betrayal and redemption (or so I hope!). 

Learning Curves | My Next Steps

I began the manuscript for Ocean's Pearl on May 18, 2014 while in Zhuhai and Completed it's first version on July 5, 2014 (while sitting on the Great Wall, Beijing, China).  Ocean's Pearl is my first novel. But it didn't start out that way: in fact I had intended this to be a simple translation exercise: I was going to journal a whimsical story I had heard that day. This taught me that lesson I learn over and again:

  • I'm not in complete control of my creative process

I also literally manuscripted the first draft of Ocean's Pearl: wrote it by hand in 15-30 minute snatches of time.  When I would get stuck on a plot element, I'd take a break and sketch a scene I had in mind out... and continue.  Through this, I've learned more about my creative process:

  • I'm just as much an author as I am an illustrator: in fact, the simultaneous writing and drawing process are how I am able to first develop a story. 
  • I can create even if I can't afford to devote studio days/hour long chunks - At the end of a long work day (even if it's work I like to do), I tend to put off creating because "what can I really do with 30minutes?".  I've found that this isn't true. And the process of constant creation (and publication - even if it's just on instagram) is like flexing the creative muscle.  At the very least, it get's me ready to create something of quality. For Ocean's Pearl, it just so happened that even the 15-30 minute sessions led to pieces that made their way to the final project. 

... Indeed, the experience of writing, weaving and adding to Ocean's Pearl can only be described as magical.  At times I felt as if the story were writing itself.  At other times, I felt myself consciously absorbing the details of my surroundings and painting them into the canvas of the novel.  Most importantly, I had many moments of "aha! What I just wrote here... this is what I believe and have learned about life. I hope that this in the hands of readers, this book teaches and inspires them to think about the beauty of being human.

  • So. This. Really convinced me that the underlying theme behind my art is to reflect and encourage beauty for the sake of goodness. 

Lastly, I finished this manuscript in 2 months... and then felt at a loss of what to do with it after.  I then rewrote it (with minor edits) in the three months following, created a facebook page and then a tumblr for it... and shared it at my local open mic.  I got great feedback and encouragement... but then got stuck again.  Am I ready to submit this for publication? Is it good enough for publication? How would I even go about doing so (... a google search  introduced me to the process of writing query letters). 

  • I've learned that writing the book is only part of the equation. At the same time though, I've learned to remember that
  • The fact that I wrote the book is a HUGE accomplishment.  It was hard work and it was good work.  What comes next will also be that.