When I was in grade school in Wuhan, China, the teacher sent for my mother. I was so nervous because I thought I had failed a test. To my delight, the teacher explained that a magazine wanted to publish an article I had written and the editor of the magazine wanted to meet me. The editor presented me with a hardcover notebook as an award. I brought that notebook with me from China and kept it in my office for all of these years.
I always loved to write, but I never dreamt I would be able to write stories in my second language, English. I used to be so uneasy about writing even a simple note, let alone a book! I worried about spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. In some ways, writing in English helps me face that fear. I discovered that by making mistakes, I became a better writer. I challenged myself to write a book in English and sold my first cookbook in less than two months.
Writing keeps me close to the country I love — China. I enjoy losing myself in my stories. As a young girl, I lacked the patience for sewing, needlework, and fan dancing — things girls were expected to do in China at that time. I preferred playing with boys! I relive my childhood fantasies through the boys in my children's books by allowing them to do all the naughty things I wish I had done. In the end, the boys get rewarded for their creativity and inventiveness.
My three biggest passions are children, travel, and food. I love to be with children; they ask the most fascinating questions. A few of my books were inspired by those questions.
Traveling to new places allows me to search out the best food. After sampling delicious dishes, I become inspired to create new recipes for my books. I enjoy coming up with a good recipe, especially if it goes along with a good story.
My typical workday begins with Tai Chi sword, a type of Chinese exercise. Then, after a long walk, I sit down to write. Walking gives me time to think; it helps me structure my writing. Writing makes me hungry so I go to the kitchen to cook and eat!
Ying is available to talk about her books to book clubs in person, by telephone or by Skype. Click here for details.
About the Author (PDF)
I have always enjoyed teaching, even when I was four years old. My first group of students were children in my neighborhood who were three or four years older than me. During the long, hot, boring summer afternoons in Wuhan, I invited them to come to my home and sit by our front door. I used the door as the blackboard. On it I wrote down the titles of the books I was going to read. The problem was that I could not read very well at that time. So, I made up the story based on the pictures. I then asked them questions based on my version of the stories.
When my father later read the books to me, I was surprised how different they were from what I had taught my "students". Sometimes I liked my version better. Soon, some children decided that I was not doing a good "teaching" job and refused to come to my class. That was when I decided that I had to improve my reading skills.
Much of my life has involved teaching in one form or another. Now, because of my busy writing schedule, I have had to stop my regular teaching career.
There are many days when I miss the students and the classrooms. I love visiting schools. It gives me the opportunity to be with my readers. Their energy and questions always give me new inspiration.
Many times, students ask me what I like to do for fun. In addition to writing, travel and cooking good food, I like to play badminton and go for brisk walks.
I also love reading letters from students. Click here for some of my favorite excerpts.
Ying is the spokesperson for Nestle Maggi and Celestial Seasonings and a regular contributor to the national magazines Cooking Light, Ski, EatingWell, Self, Men's Health, and Delicious Living and Diablo. She was the food editor for Body + Soul, a Martha Stewart magazine that focuses on healthy living.
Ying has lectured around the world on a variety of subjects at writer's conferences and universities, at spas including Canyon Ranch, aboard cruise ships, on television and radio programs, and for numerous other organizations.
Ying's recent destinations include Alaska, Russia, Japan, and Central and South America.
For Chinese Readers: 張 瀛 簡 介