Congratulations to the Crystal Kite Award Winners

What is the Crystal Kite Award? Isn’t it called the Golden Kite Award? No, I haven’t gone jewel blind (really, I would love any jewels… ) The Golden Kite Award is given by the SCBWI each year to recognize the best in 4 children’s literature categories. The Crystal Kite Award are also given by the SCBWI, but it is the “regional complement” to the Golden Kite Awards. All 70 regions across the globe were put into one of fifteen divisions, and then each division voted for their favorite children’s book by a SCBWI member in their region for that year.

I am in the New England US region, so I eagerly awaited the email notification for each round of voting. There were so many books that I liked on the New England list, and I was especially pleased to see that these great stories were written somewhere in my part of the world.

The winners were recently announced, with Jo Knowles taking the prize for New England with her novel, See You At Harry’s. I had the pleasure of taking a workshop from Jo last October, so I was thrilled for her to get this extra recognition (the book has already received much praise and interest).

In looking at the complete list of world-wide winners, there were other favorites I recognized, and some others that are on my increasingly long To Read List: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (which also received the Newbery Medal this year), Creepy Carrots by Aaron Brown (a Caldecott Honor Book), Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, and 15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins. Admittedly, I am intrigued to read that last one by the title alone.

Have you read any of the other Crystal Kite winners? Any that you would recommend? Please share!

Congratulations to the Crystal Kite Award winners for having their work praised by their peers, a choosy group with very high standards (right?).

My local library reopens Monday after being closed for 6 weeks for a long-awaited renovation. I’m off to see how many of my To Read List books I can jump into this month. Wish me luck!

SCBWI NYC Conference Recap

I was fortunate to spend last Saturday and Sunday in New York at the SCBWI Winter Conference. I returned refreshed, re-energized, and ready to dive back into revision on my novels. I may even have a few new ideas for picture books!

The conference was a combination of keynote speeches, breakout workshops, and networking opportunities. Here are the highlights:

* First Speaker:  Meg Rosoff. I have not read her books, but I am compelled to check them out, after hearing her sassy, hyperbolic, and funny talk entitled, “So When Are You Going to Write a Real Book, You Know, For Adults?”

* Panel Discussion: A helpful and optimistic discussion about the state of the market, what is selling, and how it is selling (traditional publishing, self-publishing, multiple media, etc.)

* Breakout Sessions: We each participated in two breakout sessions with editors and art directors on what “hooks” them. I chose sessions with editors Yolanda Scott of Charlesbridge, and Francoise Bui of Delacorte Press. Both were insightful, giving examples of books they loved that they had edited that demonstrated the different components that hooked them. I was thrilled to discover Jane Yolen sitting in the row in front of me in the first session.

* Day 2 Keynote: Margaret Peterson Haddix gave a talk entitled “Tell Me a Story.” She wove together personal stories with tips on how to tell a good story. She told us that “books help kids understand and make sense of the world.” Our important role as children’s writers in the tender early development years of life was a common thread among many of the speakers.

* Second Keynote: Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton shared their learnings from writing several series (the Dumpy series, the Little Bo series, and The Very Fairy Princess series) together. It was a multilayered talk, and Julie Andrews was everything you would expect: graceful, classy, beautiful, and talented. I was pleased to see what a wonderful relationship mother and daughter have, and how their many years of writing together transcends the typical “celebrity” children’s book writing one might expect.

* Closing Keynote: Mo Willems had me in stitches from the moment he walked on the stage. I expected him to be funny (in a clean, child’s sort of way), but he was humorous in a real, adult way. He spoke directly to us as writers, and shared his take on the profession. He did, however, tell us that if we agreed with everything he said, something was wrong. Some key quotes from Mo:

“Be a filter, not a spigot.”

“Think OF your audience, not FOR your audience.”

“The hook is not the story.”

On writing humor: “Keep writing, then take away whatever isn’t funny. If nothing is left, start over.”

“Childhood sucks, so your job is to be some child’s best friend.”

Joanna and I both love to “collect” rejection stories of successful writers… probably to inspire us to keep going. For Mo, he shared that over a 90 day period in his writing career, he got a rejection letter every day. Yes, 90 rejection letters. And look at him now!

Overall, it was a good conference, full of learnings and ideas. At the end of the conference I participated in the autograph party. I had an amazing opportunity to have 2 books autographed for my children: We Are In a Book! signed by Mom Willems (with a little piggie adorably drawn above his name) and The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart signed by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton.

Not only was I able to obtain two great keepsakes for years to come, I was able to talk briefly with each of them. I had the opportunity to thank Mo Willems for his Elephant and Piggie Books, since they are the reason my son (an initial reluctant reader) now loves to read. I told Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton that my daughter thinks she is a princess like their character Gerry. Truth be told, I could have talked to Julie Andrews about the weather, and I would have been perfectly happy. She and her daughter were just lovely.

For more information on the conference, check out the SCBWI Blog.