I connected with Jo to find out more...
Lee: Hi Jo! Congratulations on winning the Crystal Kite for PEARL! Can you tell us about your book?
Jo: PEARL, aka Bean, is about a fifteen year old girl who lives with her mom and grandfather. At the beginning of the book, her grandfather dies unexpectedly, unleashing some BIG family secrets. With her best friend Henry at her side, Bean struggles to find her way through grief, forgiveness, and a way to accept and embrace her new life.
Lee: Okay, now we all want to know about those BIG family secrets. But we'll have to read it to find out... ooh, you're good! How long have you been involved with SCBWI?
Jo: I joined SCBWI about 16 years ago, when I graduated from college and began my writing journey. I had gotten a part-time job at a tiny library in Hatfield, MA and while cleaning up a bulletin board there I came across a flyer for a writing group for children. I hadn't heard of SCBWI before, but I was thrilled to find a writing group at the very library I was working at! It turned out this group was started by Jane Yolen herself, who lived right down the street!
Lee: Wow, to have Jane Yolen as your SCBWI-muse is pretty amazing! Can you share with us what you feel you've gained by being a member?
Jo: I don't know where to begin in listing all the ways that SCBWI has helped me on this journey, there have been so many. I have life-long, dear friends because of SCBWI--and countless happy memories of traveling with them to various conferences. My favorite, driving with Peggy Davol for my first ever visit to New York City to attend the National Conference. Years ago, I won the SCBWI Work-In-Progress grant which helped me connect with my agent, Barry Goldblatt. Barry contacted me after reading the announcement in the SCBWI newsletter! I'll be forever grateful to SCBWI for that connection. Every year I reconnect with friends at my regional SCBWI conference which feels like a big ol' family reunion as much as it does a helpful and informative conference. I would be completely lost without this supportive community.
Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?
Jo: Rather than focusing on when "it"'s going to happen to you, focus on the journey itself. Have fun meeting other writers who share your dream. Push yourself to write the best work you can, and to explore your hidden potential. Celebrate every milestone, rather than focusing on the one you haven't reached yet. Be kind to new writers, and to yourself. And most important, remember to have FUN!
Lee: Great advice, all! Thanks so much, Jo!
I asked Northern New England Regional Advisor Anna Boll to tell us more about SCBWI in New England and more about Jo, too! Cheering Jo's win, here's what Anna wrote:
NESCBWI is unlike most other SCBWI regions as it is really three regions of over 1500 members whose RAs and volunteers work together to create events and programs for professional development. We are most known for our annual spring conference that draws 500 participants and many well-known industry participants from all over the country. In the fall we put on an Illustrator Day and Encore!, a repeat of the best evaluated workshops from the spring conference. We have been developing a series of PAL events and have critique groups all around New England.
Jo taught writing at Simmons. Along with another NESCBWI member, Cindy Faughnan, she teaches a writing camp for children. And for many years Jo led a writing workshop for female inmates at a prison for women.
Jo's blog has a wide following. During the month of November, Jo leads "Jo-NO-Wri-Mo" a community of online children's writers who announce their goals and support each other as they strive to meet those goals. Her Monday morning writing prompts on her blog get us all going and her posts about craft issues are often inspiring and emotional. PEARL is Jo's third novel, her fourth, SEE YOU AT HARRY'S (an amazingly honest portrayal of grief, family, love and self-discovery) launched this past week to wonderful reviews.
Jo is an integral part of the Northern New England writing community- her generosity knows no bounds.
To find out more about Jo Knowles and her books, check out her website here.
And for more about SCBWI in New England, you can visit their site here.
My thanks to Anna for the SCBWI Northern New England update, and cheers to Jo for winning the Crystal Kite award for her YA novel, PEARL!
Illustrate and Write On,