On community, curling, and making your own magic

Hello, dear reader! I’m Gloria Chao, the author of When You Wish Upon a Lantern, Rent a Boyfriend, Our Wayward Fate, and American Panda. As a former dentist, I’m thrilled to now spend my days in fictional characters’ heads instead of real people’s mouths. Being an author was the wish I wrote on my metaphorical lantern ten years ago, and thanks to readers like you, it came true.

I love writing contemporary stories with humor, romance, and complicated family members who sometimes may or may not say some of the things my mother says (like, “you have to swing your arms three thousand times a day for good health”).

When I’m not writing, I’m usually on the curling ice. I started because I loved the feeling of flying across the ice and it made the winter go by faster, and now my husband and I are world-ranked in mixed doubles because we both like to get really into things.

What Are You Reading?

cover of At the Speed of Light by Cindy L. Otis, showing the face of a young women with reddish brown hair, blue eyes, and white skin peering from behind pane of cracked glass

I am just starting Cindy Otis’s fiction debut, At the Speed of Lies, about a girl who is searching for missing kids from her school. I loved Cindy’s nonfiction True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News (and think it’s a must-read for everyone), so I’m so excited to dive into her thriller.

I also just finished rereading Ann Liang’s This Time It’s Real, which is a swoony fake-dating celebrity romance. Ann is a new favorite author of mine, and I also highly recommend her debut, If You Could See the Sun, about a girl who suddenly gains the ability to turn invisible.

Books That Shaped Me

cover of The Baby-Sitters Club #: Kristy's Great Idea, showing four young girls in a bedroom with assorted snacks and soda. One of the girls is on a pink corded phone, another is writing in a notebook

The Baby-Sitters Club books were the first I truly loved as a kid. I read and reread them, and I carried them with me everywhere I went. They got a little gross—I take much better care of my books now to the point where I fold special bookmarks to use so I won’t damage the spine (and I’m making them for readers to celebrate the release of When You Wish Upon a Lantern—see below). 

In high school and college, I stopped reading for fun, and it was the height of Twilight that brought me back and introduced me to YA. Some of the first YA authors I fell in love with were Nicola Yoon, Adam Silvera, Zoraida Córdova, and Jenny Han. Reading their stories gave me the courage to write honestly about characters who reflected my experiences.

More Good Stuff

I am so thrilled to share my fourth novel with you! When You Wish Upon a Lantern follows a girl whose family owns a wishing lantern shop, and when she finds out the shop is struggling, she teams up with the boy from the mooncake bakery next door to make wishes come true for the customers in secret. Only, sparks fly and she realizes she has a secret wish of her own she doesn’t know how to grant—to be with him.

This book is a celebration of the beauty of everyday moments, of love, of community, of Chinese culture. I hope to remind readers that even though it’s rare, magic can be found in the real world. And sometimes you have to make your own magic.

I folded corner bookmarks as a gift with purchase, and they are available if you order a signed copy from Women and Children First Bookstore here (while supplies last).

I wrote a post for School Library Journal’s Teen Librarian Toolbox about the history of wishing lanterns, the inspiration for the book, and how you can craft your own paper lanterns with secret wishes.

And you can read the first chapter of the story on We Need Diverse Books here.

Purchases of When You Wish Upon a Lantern through April 10, 2023, in any format from any retailer are eligible for a free button pack from Penguin. You can submit your receipts here.

You can find me online at and on Instagram and Twitter @GloriacChao. Please say hi! I love hearing from readers!