Spotlight: Author, David Saechao of Redding, CA
We've partnered up with author David Saechao of children's Mien book: The Legend of the Dog Warrior and sequel, King Pan and the Golden Dragon. David works in the educational field as a instructor and mentor at the Glenn County Office of Education in Redding, CA. His storybook beautifully illustrates the origins of Mien people and the legend that has been passed down for generations. For the first-time, a storybook unfolds to revitalize our most sacred history.
** One of the goals of BAONG it to help promote Mien identity and raise awareness. Therefore, every order placed on our store enables us to purchase a physical book and gift it to a Mien child.
Now, get the scoop on this exclusive interview with the author. Here's what David has to say:
"The book (fiction, grade 4-6) is based on an origin myth of the Mien and Yao tribes from Southern China and Southeast Asia. We’re hoping that this story can be passed on to more children and as always, we greatly appreciate the Mien community for its support."
Author, Writer, Teacher
Legend of the Dog Warrior
By David Saechao
Illustrated by Calvin Saephanh
Tell us about yourself. How did you come up with this? And why?
My educational background includes a Bachelor of History from CSU Chico and a Master of Science in Education - Online Learning and Teaching from CSU East Bay.
The idea of writing a children's book about King Pan (Bienh hungh) actually came to me during a ritual gathering in my old neighborhood in Redding. I remember the topic of King Pan coming up while we were eating, and it surprised me how many elders did not know about the myth. I thought if so many elders did not know about it, how many kids didn't either.
Was there any obstacles or challenges to doing this work?
Yes, there were many challenges. First, even though I've read hundreds of children's books throughout my lifetime, I have never written a children's book. I had to conduct a tremendous amount of research and seek advice from other writers. Also, I didn't have an illustrator when I began writing the book. Thankfully, through a relative in Sacramento, I was able to find Calvin Saephanh, who as it turns out, is also a relative.
Did you think it would turn out the way it did?
No, I actually didn't think it was going to work. There were a lot of complications we were running into, like should we seek a publisher, make it hardback or paperback, what price we ought to charge. In the end, Calvin and I agreed to self-publish through Amazon's Createspace in order to have more freedom to cater to a niche market and to release it as a paperback children's book. It was not until I finished a good rough draft and saw Calvin's drawings that I truly believed it was going to work.
Was there anything preventing you from achieving this success or you felt could have?
There were many things that acted as hurdles. The greatest challenge was time. As someone that works a fulltime day-job, it was difficult to manage my time and simultaneously work on the book. It was also exhausting, mentally, and I often felt burned out. This was in addition to many issues involving formatting and publishing that pushed back our anticipated release date.
Was there anything you discovered on this journey?
I did realize a few things along the way. The first was that the Mien community is rather supportive. Despite notions of us hating on one another, I found a lot of support for the idea and for the book when it was released. Organizations such as Shasta County Iu Mien Community (SCMC), Iu Mien Community Services (IMCS), the Iu Mien Scholarship Fund (IMSF), the Sacramento Iu Mien Association (SIMA), Portland Golf Association reached out later and offered us a chance to sell books at events. Also, Mien groups like Iu Mien America, Iu Mien Network, MIEN News and Events, Mien Around the World, Iu Mien History Resource Center, and IuMien Fingx have helped and continue to promote our books. We have not forgotten this support.
Further, I realized that I was more of a fiction writer. Even though I've written several nonfiction articles online and a nonfiction book (From Mountains to Skyscrapers), my passion for writing lies with fiction writing. For example, King Pan and the Golden Dragon, the sequel to The Legend of the Dog Warrior, was entirely fiction and a story that Calvin and I came up with. Currently, I'm working on a novel that I hope to pitch to literary agents this coming year.
How did your discovery help you on this journey? Was there any conflicts resulting from that?
I would say that realizing my true passion for fiction writing has helped me define who I am as a writer. I have a long road ahead of me as I try to get find a literary agent and a traditional publisher, but focusing my writing on fiction makes it much easier to formulate goals now and in the future.
At first, I did run into some conflict: nonfiction or fiction? While I will enjoy researching and writing informative articles, it is not really what I want to do as a writer. I still recall my 9th grade English teacher asking me one time how I came up with the story for the assignment that week. If I had to pinpoint the moment in time that I knew I wanted to be a writer, it would be that day in class.
Did a moment like "this is it," happen for you?
That "this is it" moment probably came when I searched for Mien related children's books on Amazon and on the internet and found that there were none, at least none in print or written by Mien authors. I felt an achievement that we had taken a step in the right direction for our people, and that hopefully, The Legend of the Dog Warrior would inspire other Mien-Americans to pursue their passion for writing.
Since achieving that how do you feel about it? What do you want to accomplish next?
I do feel that we need to finish up the third book in the trilogy. Folks that have purchased the Legend of the Dog and the sequel, King Pan and the Golden Dragon, deserve that third book. We are currently working on our own projects and have limited time, but this is something that both Calvin and I have agreed to finish at a later date.
Okay, thanks so much David! One last question: what is your advice for someone looking to start as an author? And how can you be contacted?
It is to write because you love writing. While Calvin and I have made some money selling our children's books, and I have made some profit from my nonfiction book (From Mountains to Skyscrapers), we're not necessarily compelled to leave our day-jobs. Also, rejection is difficult to accept, but it is a reality. For example, we received a few rejection letters for our children's book The Legend of the Dog Warrior. Likewise, there is a very good chance that the novel I'm working on will get rejected by literary agents. But you just have to believe in yourself and keep trying.
Yes! I can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
LIVE interview with David Saechao, click here
Support David's works
► From Mountains to Skyscrapers: The Journey of the Iu Mien: https://www.amazon.com/Mountains-Skyscrapers-Journey-Iu-Mien-ebook/dp/B07VKD81JP
► The Legend of the Dog Warrior, a Children's Iu-Mien book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BOAP9C8/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_DFE6NW3SKNK0KNM45QAY