Paula Yoo is a children’s book author and TV writer/producer. Her latest book, TWENTY-TWO CENTS: MUHAMMAD YUNUS AND THE VILLAGE BANK (Lee & Low), is a Junior Library Guild “Best Book” selection. Other books include the YA novel GOOD ENOUGH (HarperCollins ’08) and IRA Notables SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY and SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY (Lee & Low Books). She is also a writer/producer for TV drama series, including NBC’s The West Wing, SyFy’s Eureka, Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle, and SyFy’s Defiance. When she’s not writing, Paula is also a freelance violinist. She lives in Los Angeles.
For what age audience do you write?
I write non-fiction picture book biographies for the K-3rd grades and YA novels for teenagers. I am also a TV writer/producer for TV drama series.
Henry: Yoo must be a busy lady!
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is TWENTY-TWO CENTS: MUHAMMAD YUNUS AND THE VILLAGE BANK, illustrated by Jamel Akib (Lee & Low Books, 2014). It’s about the life of Professor Muhammad Yunus, who created the Grameen Bank which gave bank loans to impoverished women in Bangladesh. He won the Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank for his pioneering work in the field of “micro credit” which helped people living in poverty become financially independent and
self-sustaining. His dreams of eradicating poverty was his way of trying to achieve world peace so nations did not have to fight each other over resources. I also had the honor of meeting and interviewing Muhammad Yunus for this book. (To find out more, see
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope my readers not only learn and become interested in the practical aspects of Professor Yunus’s story about money management and how banks work, but that they also embrace the concepts of compassion and generosity in helping those less fortunate than them.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
The most challenging aspect of writing for me is finding the voice of my characters. What is their point of view, their personality, their flaws, and their speaking voice? Once I figure out the voice of my main character, the rest falls into place easily. I can brainstorm plot and structure and problem solve very easily, but the writing doesn’t truly begin until I have nailed down the voice of my main character.
Henry: Interesting how we all take different paths. I focus on story arc first.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
A powerful lesson I have learned as a writer is not to take rejection personally. Yes, we put our heart and soul and even bits and pieces of our real lives and world views into our writing, but in the end, the rejection of my writing is NOT a rejection of myself as a human being. Once I
learned to make this distinction, rejection in the world of writing and publishing was no longer a negative thing but a powerful and constructive lesson in learning how to improve my writing and making it bulletproof from rejection.
Henry: Yes, if we took rejection personally, no books would ever get written.
Read the rest of this interview at Henry’s blog on KidLit, Fantasy & Science Fiction.