Asian Heritage Month – Celebrating a Book Anniversary

Guitar Hero by Day's Lee

Happy Asian Heritage Month!

As we celebrate Asian heritage in the month of May, and as the author of stories about the Chinese-Canadian community, I thought this would be the perfect time to make an announcement.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of my young adult novel Guitar Hero. Publishing has changed so much in the last 10 years. Back then, I took a daring leap into self-publishing when I released the book in November 2013.

The story about a Chinese teenage boy who dreams of becoming a rock and roll guitarist was well received by reviewers and readers. It was my first book-length work. I had published short stories, newspaper articles, and one children’s picture book up until then. I would get up an hour earlier than usual to write before I left for my office job and try to get at least a couple of hours of writing in, in the evening. With the help of a wonderful mentor, young adult author Lori Weber, I completed a decent first draft within a year. It was exciting and fun finding ways to get the main character in and out of trouble.

When I look back on what I’ve achieved since then, I don’t just see the work that was published. I also see the people I met and the things I learned. 

The people and authors I’ve met over the years have been so supportive. A few have become good friends. I received invitations to do school readings and book fairs. At gatherings, people introduced me to other guests as an author of children’s books. Their generosity and interest means a lot to me. Doing research for articles and books was an opportunity for me to learn about the Chinese culture. My parents, who spent 12 hours a day working at our restaurant, didn’t have the time or energy to teach me about Chinese traditions. As for myself, I was too involved with my own adventures growing up and going to school to think that perhaps there was something I should know.  It was my passion for writing that led me to connect with my own culture and to explore Chinese-Canadian history.

Being a writer can take you down some other interesting paths. Documentary film was the one I chose to travel on. As a self-published author, you wear many hats: writer, agent, web designer, editor, public relations, etc. So, when I decided to make a documentary about Chinese-Canadian restaurants, I took everything I learned from being a writer, the major lesson being that I know how to tell a story and that I can learn the necessary skills to get it done. That’s how I created Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden, a documentary film about my family’s restaurant. It took six years from the day I started working on it to when it finally aired on the CBC network in November 2020.

So, I think it’s time to change Guitar Hero’s title to better reflect what it is about, to refresh it, and to give it a new life. I love telling stories. I have ideas for short stories, books, articles, and films, but the one thing that my brain still cannot seem to do is come up with a title. It’s easier to write a 50,000 word novel!  I agonized over the title back then. I wanted something that would reflect the story, but my brain could not come up with anything other than Guitar Hero.  But this time, I have to thank my friend, Virginia Modugno, for coming up with the new title.

So stay tuned for the big reveal!