Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Meet Justina!

I'm delighted to be the third stop on Justina Chen Headley's blog tour for her new book North of Beautiful!

To win your very own signed copy of the (excellent) book, be the first to answer this question in the comments:

What is Justina's new community service project tied to North of Beautiful?

And visit the other stops on the tour to learn more about Justina - and for more chances to win.

Monday - Mitali's Fire Escape
Tuesday - Shelf Elf
Wednesday - Archimedes Forgets
Thursday - Bibliophile
Friday - Teen Book Review

S: Coffee and tea both play a role in North of Beautiful. Which one do you prefer?

J: Bubble tea—fruity drinks filled with fat tapioca pearls, sucked out in oversized straws. It’s a party in a cup. Or a cup of tea when it's on vacation.

S: From your blogging and tweeting, it's clear that you're into geocaching. Did you start geocaching before it became one of Jacob's hobbies, or did it move from the book into the rest of your life?

J: I had read about geocaching in an article, thought it was interesting, and tucked the idea away until I started working on this book. It occurred to me that geocaching—high tech treasure hunting using a GPS—could be symbolic of Jacob’s transformative effect on Terra. Her controlling mapmaker of a father who tries to box her into a grid; the boy who uses maps to break open her world. So in the name of research, I bought a GPS, created an account at, and hauled my family on a geocaching expedition. The kids and I were hooked!

One of our best geocaching adventures happened over the summer with the readergirlz, Jackie Parker, and Nancy Pearl. Check out for our footage from that day!

S: During the trip to China, Terra makes a few side trips alone. What's your advice for girls who want to travel by themselves - or just split off from the family vacation for a few hours?

J: Right out of college, Microsoft sent me to Europe by myself. Up until then, I had never been out of the country, much less traveled alone. But in two weeks, I had to visit five countries, train sales people, and conduct research with corporate accounts. Worse, the only other language I spoke was rudimentary Spanish—not particularly helpful considering Spain wasn’t on my itinerary. That said, I had a lovely adventure in every country—whether it was the bus driver who detoured from his regular route to take me to the Microsoft office outside of Paris. (Remember, I couldn’t speak more than three words in French, and so I held up my business card, smiled, and said: “Microsoft!”) Then there was the owner of a bistro who comped my dinner since my credit card was demagnetized somewhere along the way. And then I had no idea what tiny meant until I checked into one hotel in Norway. I could touch opposite walls with my arms outstretched.

So here’s my advice: make sure someone knows exactly where you’re going and you have an exit plan in case something goes wrong. Double check with someone knowledgeable that the neighborhood you’re investigating is safe. Know the essential words: please, thank you, sorry. Practice awareness at all times. Go to the bathroom before you set out. Pack a sense of adventure, a smile, and enough cab fare to get you back to your home base.

S: What's your favorite way to procrastinate?

J: These days? As you’ve noticed, it’s tweeting and blogging!


anilee said...

Find Beauty Challenge?

Justina Chen said...

Thank you, Sarah. It is an absolute honor to be here with you today. I've been a longstanding silent fan of yours. So imagine me at home, squeeing to be on your blog.

BrendaGurung said...

Love your post, Sarah! An ardent fan of Justina's, and I am loving your style.

Thanks for sharing.

The AMAZING MASCOT At The Bellevue Libraries said...

I enjoy the post!!! By the way, the community project service is The Find Beauty Challenge!!!

I'm also a HUGE and local fan of Justina and all of the Readergirlz!!! Too bad it's too late to get the free signed copy by Justina.

But that's OKAY!! I went to her launch party at the Barnes & Noble in Downtown Bellevue!!! She enjoys the fact that I been an AMAZING Mascot to King County Library System and the Bellevue Libraries!!

But thanks for the contest anyways!!!



Melissa Walker said...

I love Justina's travel advice! I've always met the warmest people abroad, but she's also right that exit plans are key.

Kiki said...

Bubble tea! Best way to drink tea, ever.

What a great, fun interview.

Sarah Rettger said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

Yay, Madison!

Justina, the squeeing is mutual.

BGurung, thanks for the love!

Michael, I love your enthusiasm, and I'm glad you were able to go to the launch - sounds like a great time.

You're so right, Melissa, exit plans are crucial - and something I never thought about when I started traveling alone.

Kiki, clearly I'm going to have to try bubble tea now - everyone has such great things to say about it.

Justina Chen said...

We must ALL bubble tea! Really, the drink is one big mouth party. YUM.

anilee said...

My friend and I were talking about tea, and I said about how I liked jasmine tea, and she asked if it was the one with the tapioca pearls. It was kind of funny, considering. :-)

I've never had bubble tea, though. Where does one find it?

(I am partial to iced chai. Yum. And iced black tea with sugar. My current addiction.)

Vivian Mahoney said...

Yay! for Justina! Her book is really good!

The AMAZING MASCOT At The Bellevue Libraries said...

Hey Justina,

I think that bubbling tea is DELICIOUS for me!!! I enjoy drinking tea like that!!!

By the way, I'm pretty much the only fanatic that is local and a male fan to this interview!!!

Sarah Rettger said...

Bubble tea, for everyone who's just learning about it:

tanita✿davis said...

Bubble tea... I've always been afraid to try it. I love that even Justina's characters are adventurous. Thanks for this great interview (which I am very late catching up with!)