Marcia Strykowski

December Author Spotlight

jama-headshot-2I’m thrilled to introduce you to Jama Kim Rattigan on this month’s author spotlight. Jama caught my attention not only with her lovely picture books, but with her delightful, colorful blog. There is a wonderful variety of interesting information on her blog including art, books, and novelties, along with members of her adorable teddy bear collection. Scroll down to meet two of her fuzzy friends. But first, a few questions!

Please share a little about your published books.

jama 1Though I’ve published three picture books, I am probably best known for my first one, Dumpling Soup, an autobiographical story about an Asian American girl who learns how to make Korean dumplings for her extended family’s New Year’s celebration in Hawai’i. Illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders, it won Little, Brown’s New Voices, New World Multicultural Fiction Contest and is still in print after 22 years.

jama 2My second book, Truman’s Aunt Farm (Houghton Mifflin) was illustrated by G. Brian Karas and is a humorous story about a boy who receives an ant farm for his birthday. When he sends away for ants, he gets aunts instead. This punny tale was inspired by the many aunts I grew up with and is a nod to one of my favorite writers, Truman Capote, who was raised by relatives in the South.

jama 4The Woman in the Moon (Little, Brown), illustrated by Carla Golembe, is a retelling of an ancient Hawaiian legend. Hina, the best tapa maker in the land, escapes the toil of earthly life by escaping to the moon. A strong female role model, she was able to transcend a life of oppression through artistic expression. Carla is the only one of my illustrators I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person. 🙂

How has where you’ve lived or traveled influenced your work?

Well, I’m from Hawai’i, land of natural beauty, cultural diversity, friendly people, and GOOD FOOD. In Hawai’i, food is a favorite topic of discussion, an expression of love, an endless obsession, a social institution. As my primary frame of reference, it’s no surprise that I continue to be fascinated by what people eat and what that tells me about their personal histories, culture, and social mores. Though Truman’s Aunt Farm isn’t set in Hawai’i like the other two books, I still managed to work food into the storyline (rice pudding, little hot dogs, jelly sandwiches).dscrop2I also lived in England for three years, an experience which reinforced my love for the English language and all things British. I’ve often felt I was born in the wrong century. Studying food history is a wonderful way to connect with the past and explore my former lives. 🙂

Living in Virginia for more than 30 years has piqued my interest in Colonial American cooking. I especially enjoy reading and writing about what our Presidents ate. Jefferson was quite a foodie!

Could you briefly tell us how you came to keep a blog and a little about your process?

 I started blogging to join the online conversation about children’s books, to support my fellow writers, and to learn more about the publishing industry. It was also an exciting opportunity for creative expression.

I’ve always considered blogging a unique art form with unlimited possibilities for a writer. The prospect of being able to write in my own voice, connect with like-minded people, and get instant feedback was irresistible. Writers hear a lot of “no’s” from industry professionals in their careers, and this was my chance to say YES.IMG_3426Alphabet Soup has evolved organically over 8 years, to include more recipes and more of my own photos. I work largely by instinct, both in choosing which books, authors, illustrators, poets, or indie artists to feature, and how best to do them justice. I’m not a professional book reviewer and don’t pretend to be one – I’m here to celebrate tasty stories and poems, share some good recipes, and cultivate joy.

My posts can take anywhere from one day to a couple of weeks – and that includes obtaining review copies, images and permissions from publicists and authors, doing background research, writing interview questions, shopping for ingredients and making recipes, gathering props and setting up photo shoots, taking and editing photos, writing copy, revising, formatting, and proofreading.

Writing remains the hardest part, taking the most time. It’s ironic that a slow writer is trying to work in a fast medium. But that’s the great challenge, where all the learning comes in. I rarely begin writing a post until I have all the images in hand. They help me crystallize my thoughts.IMG_3677What advice would you give to new authors hoping to start up a successful blog?

Be yourself, follow your passions, write about things you truly care about, and don’t worry about trying to please everyone. If you’re bored, your readers will be bored. Write what you want to read. Subject is not as important as voice. The bloggers I read and admire most are those whose voices I can recognize online even when they’re not writing on their own blogs. A good writer can make any subject interesting.

I think we’re all curious about the people behind the books we enjoy, so be generous and share details about yourself, but be mindful of that tricky balance between the personal and the professional.

Favorite books: anything by Maira Kalman, The Secret Garden, A Bear Called Paddington
Favorite food: Pie and Dark Chocolate (special weakness for Sea Salt Caramels)
Favorite movies: My Fair Lady, Notting Hill, Love Actually, A Hard Day’s Night (do you see a pattern here? Anything set in England 🙂 !)
Favorite hobbies: Baking, collecting teddy bears and china, watching British period dramas on television
Favorite color: All the different colors people come in.

Thanks for sharing your creativity, Jama! Check out her amazing Alphabet Soup blog here.


  1. Great blogging advice!


  2. Reblogged this on Jama's Alphabet Soup and commented:
    Thanks to Marcia Strykowski for featuring me and Alphabet Soup as her December Author Spotlight! I enjoyed answering her questions and Mr. Cornelius loved having his picture on her blog :).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jama is one of the top-five best things about the internet.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. So much fun to learn more about the talented Jama (whose blog is the tastiest and most charming on the internets!)


  5. Love me some Jama! Forever grateful to Catherine Johnson for introducing me to Jama’s Alphabet Soup. I agree with Jules, above!


  6. I enjoyed using these books in storytimes when I was a librarian, so it’s nice to meet the person behind them. Kids always got a good laugh about Truman’s ants/aunts mix-up.


    • Fun that you used them for story time. Thanks for your comment, Laurie!


  7. How lovely to celebrate our Jama- who brings us such delight with her fun-filled, tasty and beautiful posts! So nice to learn more about her!


  8. Ashley

    Love this! You find the most interesting people to interview!


  9. This is the very Jama I know from Poetry Friday! I am delighted to know more about her as i love her postings so much. They are a visual treat and so playful! They always get my mouth watering for whatever deliciousness she is sharing. Jama is so generous with her comments and a essential part of the blogging writers’ community. Thank you, Marcia. Your interview questions always give us insights into people worth knowing!


  10. Another fun post Marcia!! combining children’s books with cooking (dumplings) is my perfect match. Our grand-girls are half Chinese and love dumplings– so I think they would also love that book! How do your find all these authors to chat with you?? So fun to hear what’s behind the books… Hope you’re enjoying getting ready for Christmas!! xo


    • Thanks, Rhonda. Most of those I’ve interviewed I know personally from either writing groups or workshops. My connection with Jama is through the internet and like many others, I wanted to know more about her. Enjoy the season!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Jama has such talent. It was great reading about her books. Her blog is simply amazing. It’s a visual and informational treat! I love that she said, “If you’re bored, your readers will be bored. Write what you want to read.” Such great advice! Thanks for celebrating Jama 😀


  12. Jama’s blog is a treat for the eye and the stomach and she has a wonderfully punny sense of humour . Thanks for your fun interview with her, Marcia. I loved learning more about her books.


  13. Bette Norton

    I enjoyed getting to know Jama Kim Rattigan through your delightful post!. I liked her comments on writing blogs, as a chance of writing with her own words. Jama’s picture books look like so much fun with great illustrations! I have a passion for history and never thought of food, as a tool to learn more about the history, cultures and traditions of the past. I love to bake and cook myself and would love to explore food history more. I too am a collector of teddy bears and have many of them. Jama’s photographs of two of her bears with tasty treats are precious! I peeked at her post and I have now registered on her Blog! Marcia, your Author Spotlight Posts are so informative and open up so many new opportunities to meet authors and learn about other special interests, that I never would of had the opportunity to learn about other wise.Thank you again for your wonderful Blog! I always look forward to reading it! The happiest of holidays to you and yours! 🙂


    • Wow, that’s great, Bette. Thanks for all your support and Happy Holidays!


  14. Thanks for the lovely post and introducing me to Jama Kim Rattigan. I will look for her picture books.


  15. Nice post. Very interesting and clear. I enjoy supporting you.


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