I connected with Norman to find out more...
Lee: Hi Norman! Congratulations on winning the Crystal Kite! Please tell us about your book.
Norman: The Last Viking is a picture book illustrated by James Foley about Josh, a small, timid boy who is frightened of just about everything, including monsters under the bed. When his grandfather gives him a book about Vikings, where he learns they are brave and fierce, Josh decides to change his name to Knut and become a Viking. He imagines if he makes himself a Viking ship, a sword and horned helmet he will automatically become a Viking and become brave and fierce, just like them. Later, when the local bullies come for him, he goes bravely out to face up to them, however, the Norse Gods, who have been watching out for their newest warrior from their hall up in Asgard, intervene and burst from the clouds in a heavenly Longship to save him.
Lee: That sounds great! How long have you been involved with SCBWI?
Norman: I joined SCBWI soon after the hugely talented illustrator, Frané Lessac, started our Western Australia chapter seven or eight years ago.
Lee: Can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?
Norman: Not only have I loved being with the members and sharing their enthusiasm and their successes, (they really are a lovely bunch) but our new book resulted directly because of James Foley and myself both being members of SCBWI. Every year we have a SCBWI retreat on Rottnest Island, a magical spot about ten miles off our coast, and at the retreat three years ago I saw a wonderful picture in James’ sketchbook of a young boy dressed up as a medieval knight. I immediately thought, if a boy can dress up as a knight then why not as a Viking? With my Danish surname I’ve always wanted to do a Viking story, so I tapped James on the shoulder and asked, ‘Are you busy for the next year?’ I then had to quickly think of a plot involving a boy Viking, and, most importantly, go and convince my publisher, Cate Sutherland at Fremantle Press that I had found the greatest new illustrator since Shaun Tan stubbed his big toe on his Oscar.
Lee: Wow! What a story! I love knowing that. Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?
Norman: Just two pieces.
1. Persistence. Never, ever, ever give in. I’m so reminded of JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien both having had had their books rejected over fifteen times, but they still kept at it.
2. And, most importantly, have fun. Write for yourself and not what you think the market or other people may want to read.
Lee: Excellent advice! Thanks so much Norman, and congratulations again!
I also connected with the SCBWI Regional Advisor for Australia, Susanne Gervay, and asked her to weigh in on Norman's win and let us know more about their region. Here's what she shared:
Norman Jorgensen is a great supporter of SCBWI and a hugely respected award winning author in Western Australia and throughout Australia. He has been a mentor to others. The illustrator James Foley is a young new illustrator who met Norman at the Rottnest retreat on the coast of Western Australia. Norman gave him the opportunity to work with him on The Last Viking.
The Rottnest Retreat is one of those quirky and wonderful events held in the West. Rottnest is a small island which is protected as a National park. It is an island with great colonial heritage and has the little marsupials called quokkas there. They run freely around the island which is car free. Everyone uses bicycles, although there is an island bus. People can stay in cabins on the beach or camp or there are some low key hotels. You catch a ferry from Perth or Fremantle to reach the island.
The major biennial Australia and New Zealand conference which runs from 29th June to 2nd July held at The Hughenden Hotel in Sydney attracts delegates from all over Australia and New Zealand, Norman and James will be attending to receive their Crystal Kite Award. The conference is a wonderful one where most of the Australian publishers attend. We also bring one USA publisher or agent to our shores. This year it will be Jill Corcoran from the Herman Agency.
Australia and New Zealand is a huge region and traditionally we hold events every three months in Brisbane (Queensland), Sydney (NSW), Melbourne (Victoria), Perth (Western Australia) and Aukland (New Zealand). There are additional events/meetings in country/regional areas including Cairns (Queensland), Launceston (Tasmania), Alice Springs (Northern Territory).
As of 4th May, Australia and New Zealand has been divided into two regions which is wonderful for our membership. Australia West includes Western Australia and Northern Territory. Australia East and New Zealand includes the State of Queensland, NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia and of course the country of New Zealand.
The RA for Australia West is Dianne Wolfer; ARA Meg McInlay; IC Frane Lessac.
The RA for Australia East and NZ is Susanne Gervay: ARA Deborah Abela (NSW); ARA Sheryl Gwyther( Queensland); ARA Corinne Fenton (Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania); ARA Frances Plumpton (New Zealand); IC Sarah Davis.
Chris Cheng is Crystal Kite Coordinator; co chair of the SCBWI board; and taking on international roles.
Everyone is thrilled about Norman Jorgensen and James Foley
RA Australia East & New Zealand
To learn more about Norman Jorgensen, you can find his website here.
His illustrator, James Foley, is online here (where you can see the image of the boy in armor!)
And for more about SCBWI Australia, visit the region's website here.
My thanks to Susanne for the Australian update, and cheers for both Norman and James on the Crystal Kite award for their picture book, THE LAST VIKING!
Illustrate and Write On,