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readilearn: Meet Sofia Goodsoul author of Nian the Lunar Dragon

  • Published on January 26, 2018

Chinese New Year multicultural picture book Nian the Lunar Dragon Sofia Goodsoul

This week I am very excited to be interviewing Australian author Sofia Goodsoul about her picture book Nian the Lunar Dragon, illustrated by Marina Kite. With Multicultural Children’s Book Day coming up on 27 January (see previous post I am Australian) and Chinese New Year  (see next week’s post) on 16 February, the time is just right.

Before we begin the interview, let me provide you with a little information about Sofia.

 Sofia Goodsoul is an author, emergency kindergarten teacher and indie-publisher. Her poetry writing has grown from a hobby into a great passion. Now she can’t live a day without writing poems, riddles and stories for young children. The children give themes and inspiration for her books.

 Sofia lives in Melbourne with her family and pets. She loves going to Zumba classes and taking long walks with her husband and family dog Mack.  Sofia dedicates all her spare time to her writing and publishing career.

Nian the Lunar Dragon by Sofia Goodsoul and Marina Kite

Nian the Lunar Dragon, an entertaining and beautifully illustrated rhyming narrative for young readers, is Sofia’s second picture book in collaboration with Marina Kite. The book is about the legend behind the traditions and celebrations of Chinese New Year, sometimes called Lunar New Year. According to the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year commences with the new moon at the beginning of spring.

A long time ago, the dragon named Nian lived in the deep ocean to the east of China. Nian was a strong and ferocious dragon, which no creature could defeat. Once a year, Nian climbed ashore to hunt for cattle and human prey. The people of the nearby villages and towns lived in terror, and each New Year’s Eve they had to leave their homes to save themselves. One day, a monk came to the village. He knew a well-kept secret about how to scare Nian away and free the Chinese people from the danger and their fear.

Welcome to readilearn, Sofia. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

Sofia, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t remember capturing that specific moment, but my grandmother was a children’s book illustrator and I often stayed with her when I was little. She read to me a lot and let me ‘work’ with her on illustrations. I believe that it was her who introduced me to the magical world of picture books. Nian, the Lunar Dragon I dedicated to her, my grandmother Nina.

Sofia Goodsoul's playroom

 Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?

I write in my play-room–that’s what I call my writing room with no windows, but a skylight. It’s where I keep my favourite cultural artefacts and books that I take with me to teaching and reading sessions to share with my kinder students.

What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?

For the first story touch I prefer using a notebook, but then I type it on my laptop. When I work, I sit on my old couch with a laptop and my writing buddies, dog Mack and cat Diesel.

When do you get your ideas?

The majority of story ideas come to me when I am going to sleep and even in my dreams. I try not to forget in the morning what has come to me at night, but often I do. Now I have trained myself to half-wake up and draft those words into my small bedside-table notebook.

Why did you decide to write this version of the famous Chinese legend Nian, the Lunar Dragon?

The idea of retelling the famous Chinese legend of Nian came to me after relieving a kinder teacher in one of the pre-schools. That day, a group celebrated Chinese New Year. I decided to ask the children what they knew about the Chinese New Year festival and why the Chinese people celebrate it wearing red clothes and making lots of noise. I could not get a straight answer, even from children of Asian background, so I decided to educate myself and create a teaching resource.

What do you like best about the story of Nian, the Lunar Dragon?

The legend of Nian is the most famous old Chinese legend. From it, a young reader can learn a lot about Chinese cultural traditions, artefacts and even inventions. I have tweaked the story a little bit to make it more interesting for modern children. For example, in the original legend, a monster is a blend of odd creatures, not a dragon.

Nian the Lunar Dragon by Sofia Goodsoul and Marina Kite

Do you like the way Marina Kite illustrated the story?

I could not wish for a better illustrator for this story. Marina is an extremely experienced children’s book illustrator with hundreds of books in her portfolio. Moreover, her favourite art technique is Chinese painting on silk. She was very happy to help me with illustrations.

Sofia Goodsoul book festival

How did you feel when you wrote Nian, the Lunar Dragon?

I was feeling happy that I could assist teachers and educators with my book. I think that feeling inspired and helped me along the creative process.

How do you hope readers will feel?

Our main reader is a child and, as you know, children love being a bit scared. I also expect readers to feel interested in Chinese values.

Sofia Goodsoul creative reading in class

How would you like teachers to present Nian, the Lunar Dragon to children?

I run an author reading program Creative Reading with Children, where I come to educational settings and present my books and picture books written by my colleague authors. This is an entertaining program involving children in reading by playing with props including Chinese drums, dancing with fans to Chinese folk music, making lanterns and folding fans, colouring-in activities and more. I have developed Teachers’ notes to assist teachers with presenting Nian, the Lunar Dragon. They are available free on my author website.

Sofia Goodsoul bringing books and readers together

Are there any messages you would like them to discuss?

I suggest that teachers and students discuss how their families celebrate traditional and national festivals and the stories behind those traditions.

Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?

I work with younger children who can’t yet read or write themselves, but they all love being entertained. If they enjoy how you introduce a book, they will cherish that feeling and be lured into Writing World.

Do you have any advice for children as writers?

Play, play and play using your imagination. Play with friends, colours, nature and words!

What is your favourite picture book?

Oh, it’s a tough question…I have so many favourite authors and picture books…I will name a few I have read in my Creative Reading with Children program that were loved by students: FLORETTE by Anna Walker, Goodnight Possum by Coral Vass and Sona Babajanyan and Bird and Bear and the Special Day by Ann James.

Who is your favourite author? What do you like about her work?

I adore Julia Donaldson’s creative genies. Her writing is playful. It’s fun to read her books to young ones. Her picture books are always in my teaching bag as an emergency entertainment at story times.

As a special treat, Sofia has included this poem for your enjoyment:

My day (describing my average week day 😊)

Open one eye.
See the blue sky.
Birds in a tree
Look back at me.
Hubby comes to the room,
“You better get up soon.”
5 minutes gone,
Then 10 minutes gone
Trying to get
What I rhymed in the bed
Before going to sleep.
Birds in the tree go, “Chirp, chirp.”
Get up.
Have a cup.
Feed a cat,
My curious pet.
Walk a dog. Think,
‘Dog’ rhymes with ‘frog’.
Take a call
From a school.
Their teacher is sick.
Can I come quick?
Back home. Jump in car.
Thanks Dear Lord,
That school isn’t far.
Meet new friends.
Sing, play and dance.
Go outside.
Seek. Hide.
Story time.
Say, “goodbye.”
Back to house.
Talk to spouse.
Read mail.
Write a tale.
Look at the clock.
Have a shock.
Late night.
Off goes the light.

Sofia Goodsoul

Thank you, Sofia Goodsoul, for sharing these insights about your writing process, and especially about writing Nian the Lunar Dragon. We wish you success.

Thank you, and thanks for having me!

Sofia’s credentials include:

Sofia’s other books include:

Nian the Lunar Dragon and Sofia’s other picture books may be purchased from her online shop or from Amazon.

To find out more about Sofia, visit her website,

Connect with her on social media:

Facebook: Sofia Goodsoul

LinkedIn: Sofia Goodsoul

Goodreads: Sofia Goodsoul

Google+: Sofia Goodsoul

or contact her via email: sgoodsoul@gmail.com

 

author interview Sofia Goodsoul Nian the Lunar Dragon
A shortened version of this interview is available in Author Spotlight: Literacy Resources Author Spotlight: Sofia Goodsoul. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.

Check out next week’s blog for some additional suggestions for celebrating Chinese New Year in your classroom.

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Comments

    Wonderful interview, Norah. How interesting that Sofia’s grandmother was a children’s book illustration. That’s a great influence to have! I’m intrigued that she has trained herself to half-wake to capture dreams as potential stories. Her desire to provide books that are resources to teachers reminds me of your extensive work at readilearn. Have you ever considered using some of your own resources as a children’s book?

    I’m so pleased you enjoyed the interview with Sofia, Charli. How wonderful to have a grandmother who illustrates children’s books. When I think of all the wonderful writers and illustrators I know, I realise there are many lucky children in the world. 🙂
    I agree. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to capture those dreams and fleeting thoughts and immortalise them in words and books.
    I appreciate your final question. I haven’t yet published any of my stories as books for purchase off-site, but some are available on readilearn as ebooks or as printable pdfs. I consider it just another way of Indie publishing. In fact I was thinking I should include “publisher” in my list when I describe what I do. I am really publishing stories and teaching resources that I write on my website, aren’t I? I’m publishing as readilearn. 🙂

    How nice to meet Sofia and her creative muse(s) here. I love the fact that she calls her writing room, her ‘play room.’ RIGHT ON. And I totally agree with Sofia’s advice for children and writing. Too many times, writing is presented to kids as hard work, instead of as wonderful play time. I’d like to know how Sofia is doing as an Indie author – does she sell lots of her beautiful books through marketing? Schools? Thanks Norah for this wonderful interview.

    Hi Pam, Thank you for reading and commenting. I also love that Sofia calls her writing room, her play room. Playing with words and ideas – that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It gives it a sense of fun and adventure, which should be the essence of all writing, even when it’s hard work to write. I’m curious too, about all authors and how they do with their writing. I hope their books reach many loving hands and hearts.

    I can be quite curious at times. 🙂 I loved interviewing you. I find out so much about writers and their writing process through this series. I really enjoy it and appreciate the writers’ generosity in answering so honestly.

    In ‘real’ life, not too many people ask writers about how/why they write. It’s weird. I belong to a (newish) book club (new for me) and except for one member who read my books immediately, no one else in the group even asks about my career of writing, or what it’s like to be a writer, or even what KIND of books I write. It’s disconcerting. It’s as if people are embarrassed to ask, perhaps because they think I couldn’t possibly write anything worth their while? Ah, writers need thick skins, my friend.

    Hmm. That’s an interesting point, Pam, that not many people ask writers about how and why they write. I wonder if other professions are asked. I’m not sure. Are people asked why they are doctors or carpenters, or waiters?
    How lovely to have someone read your books straight away. Did that reader provide feedback?
    Maybe people think they couldn’t possibly know someone who writes well. Or maybe they realise you do, and feel intimidated. I always find those initial conversations difficult. What questions are acceptable to ask and what aren’t. Perhaps a sharing session in which each of you talked a little bit about yourselves may encourage more interest in everyone in the group by everyone else in the group. I guess that’s why I think it’s so important to spend time getting to know each other at the beginning of a school year. It takes time to feel comfortable with each other.
    Thanks for sharing that perspective. It’s given me something to think about and take notice of in the future. 🙂

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Adele. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. Sofia’s book is lovely, and I think her poem is pretty spot-on too. 🙂

    Thank you, Robbie. I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview with Sofia. Julia Donaldson is a fabulous writer. The Gruffalo is a fun story. I love that the mouse wins with wits. This book of Sofia’s is beautiful.

    What a fantastic interview. It was lovely learning about Sofia – I even love her last name! And such a fantastic idea for a book. The illustrations are bright and beautiful. I also like that Sofia writes first in a notebook then onto her laptop, that’s how I roll! 🙂 🙂

    Hi Debby, Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, I rather like Sofia’s last name too. 🙂 I thought about how similar Sofia’s process was to yours as I was interviewing her. It is good to know that you are both in good company.

    Thanks Norah. Every writer has their own formula. And it’s nice to learn about Sofia’s because rarely do I hear about another author who write their books freehand. 🙂

    I wonder how many freehand writers there are, and how many exclusively keyboard. I daresay most would use a combination. Thanks, Debby. 🙂

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