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#FirstDraftFriday with Kim-Hoa Ung

Author-illustrator Kim-Hoa Ung is here for #FirstDraftFriday with her sweet, debut picture book, A GIFT FOR NAI NAI. Read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.

Cover of My Sister, Daisy

A GIFT FOR NAI NAI, written and illustrated by Kim-Hoa Ung, will be out December 5th from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan.

To pre-order or learn more about Kim-Hoa, visit:

Kim-Hoa is generously offering a manuscript or dummy critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details on how to enter at the end of this post.

Welcome Kim-Hoa! Tell us a little about A GIFT FOR NAI NAI and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?

A GIFT FOR NAI NAI is a story about a girl who wants to crochet her grandmother a perfect lucky hat. Through perseverance and their special bond, Lyn Lyn comes to realize that the perfect gift for Nai Nai comes from within.

I wanted to write about something I knew a lot about and that was crochet. I had not seen picture books about crochet at the time, so that inspired me to write one. I was also inspired by my beloved grandma who was always supportive of my craft.

I love that the cover title is drawn in crochet, by the way! Now, did you dive right in and start drafting or drawing when you had the idea or did you let it stew for a while? Is this how you typically work?

I started with drafting. I tend to just start writing down words. Sometimes I think of a line that I like and I write those phrases down and I draft the story to make sure to include those words. Other times, when there is a scene that I would like to include, I sketch it out and then think of the text for it.

Do you remember what you thought of your first draft of A GIFT FOR NAI NAI when it was done? Did you think it was a winner or were you not even sure you’d keep working on it?

I thought my first draft was a winner haha... I thought my story was sweet, cute, and unique. Thank goodness for my critique partners who helped to make sure my story made sense. One problem they saw was how could a young girl learn to crochet so fast and what problems was she having with crochet? I'm used to crocheting so I had to think back to the troubles I had in the beginning.

Can you share part of your original manuscript that changed significantly, and how it appears in the final book? How did you know this needed work and what was the process like to get it where it is today?


Lyn Lyn and Nai Nai shared a special bond.


Every year Nai Nai crocheted Lyn Lyn a new hat.

These are the beginning lines to my story. A kind agent suggested I show the characters' love through their bond over crochet, instead of telling the reader about the love they have for one another. So I had to think of how to start the story so that the reader can understand the importance of why Lyn Lyn wanted to make a hat for Nai Nai.

Did you have any favorite darlings you had to cut that you’d like to share here. Tell us why you loved it and why it had to go.

"Wo ai ni, Nai Nai! I love you more than pandas love bamboo."

I really wanted to include this line because I thought it was cute and I would be able to include some Chinese words ("Wo ai ni" means "I love you"). But, it didn't move the story along or serve a purpose. So, I had to cut it. Hopefully, I can use it somewhere else someday.

For you, what is the hardest part of writing a first draft? And how do you deal with that?

The hardest part is how to start the story. I always hear about the importance of the first line to hook the reader. So it puts pressure on me. I've slowly learned to just relax and write whatever comes to mind for the first draft. I can always revise later.

Any other tips and tricks for getting that first draft committed to the page?

I've learned to just start writing and to sketch out scenes. Sometimes there is a scene that I'd really like to include in a story. So I draw it out and form words for it and the pages before and after. Having a few random pages will help get the story flowing for me.

Thank you for reading, everyone! Good luck to all of you with your first drafts! Keep writing/illustrating!

Today is definitely a good day to keep writing as it's #FirstDraftFriday! Let's get those stories flowing...

To enter for a chance at a free picture book or dummy critique (non-rhyme, please) from Kim-Hoa, do the following by 10 pm ET today (Nov. 3, 2023):

  1. Follow me and Kim-Hoa on Twitter @HollieWolverton and @AutumnLeaflet (You can also follow Kim-Hoa using the same handle on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Bluesky)

  2. Complete a full picture book draft

  3. Return to this blog post and comment that you’ve completed your draft and provide your Twitter handle or full name. You will need to Sign Up/Log In to leave a comment (it’s easy - just an email and password).

You don’t need to send in your draft or provide proof - we’re all about the honor system here! The lucky winner will be randomly drawn from the comments and announced on Twitter shortly after 10 pm ET tonight.

Have fun drafting!

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Bridgitte Rodguez
Bridgitte Rodguez
٠٥ نوفمبر ٢٠٢٣

I think this might make a perfect gift for my friend and her kids! Her name is Lyn Lin, and her mom crochets!


Thank you for sharing this journey! Love the advice about the first line - I want to apply that to today’s draft! @laureannawrites

Draft done!


I love stories that portray the special connections between grandchildren and their grandparents. There are so many rich ideas that can be developed. Thank you, Kim-Hoa, for sharing and thank you, Hollie for hosting. My new draft is completed and is based on a train ride that was taken with my grandchildren.


Norma Cardenas
Norma Cardenas
٠٤ نوفمبر ٢٠٢٣

I love how you put so much of yourself into your story--it makes it even more special! Draft completed! @cardenas5254


٠٣ نوفمبر ٢٠٢٣

Done! Lots of research, lots of distractions, and lots of rabbit holes, but I'm loving this beginning. I can't wait to see what this math-infused firefly manuscript might become. . . .thanks for the inspiration and tips, ladies! Blessings! @tonnyef

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