I had the opportunity to find out more from Kathy...
Lee: Please tell us about your Crystal-Kite-winning book!
Kathy: THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE is about 14 year old Mike who has a math learning disability and a father who's a math genius. His father sends him to relatives for the summer to work on a math project ... which turns out to be something completely different. With his new quirky friends and relatives, Mike is able to discover his own real value.
Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?
Kathy: I joined SCBWI in 1997, I think, as soon as I decided to write for kids. It has been immensely helpful. In addition to the publications on craft, marketing, etc., which are great, the people are what make it such an indispensable organization. When I want to chat with other authors or ask questions, I can go to the site; if you want to take a craft workshop, the SCBWI has many (I'm going to one next week, as a matter of fact!); and when I want a chance to meet other authors, as well as editors and agents, I go to SCBWI regional or national events. And I'm grateful for the numerous contests and grants offered, too--such a supportive organization!
Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?
Kathy: Yes--if you're not yet published, don't give up! Mine was a slow path to publication and I think that's true for a lot of people. I published a book through PublishAmerica (which I would not recommend) in 2004, and Quaking came out with a traditional publisher in 2007, ten years after I took my first class in writing for kids. MOCKINGBIRD and THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE have published since, and I'm now fortunate to have a two book contract for my upcoming novels. It takes practice, to be sure, but it also takes determination. Luckily, it's a fun community to spend time in -- both the SCBWI and children's writers in general.
Lee: Thanks, Kathy!
I also contacted Regional Advisor Ellen Braaf to learn more about SCBWI Mid-Atlantic and Kathy. Here's what she shared:
Mid-Atlantic SCBWI serves members living in Virginia and Washington, D.C. We are fortunate to have an amazing cadre of talented and dedicated volunteers. That’s why we can offer such a wide range of programs. Typically our year is scheduled as follows:March—Children’s Literature Panel at The Virginia Festival of the Book; April–New Member Welcome/Regional Get-together; May—Illustrator’s Day; June—Novel Revision Retreat, and October—Fall Conference. As time and resources permit, we offer craft-focused workshops and CritiqueFests for writers and illustrators. Also throughout the year, our PAL Coordinator organizes special events for our Published and Listed members.About Kathy Erskine:A lawyer in search of a creative outlet, Kathy Erskine has been writing for a long time. She joined SCBWI in 1997 and attended our first-ever Novel Revision Retreat in 2004. I believe she was working on Quaking at the time. Kathy has never said “no” to anything we've asked her to do for our local events.MoiraDonohue, whose six-book series VIRGINIA, MY STATE Biographies comes out this month, met Kathy in a Fairfax County “Write For Children” class. When it was over, they started a critique group together.“Kathy showed special talent and promise right from the start. But when she brought Mockingbird to the group, my jaw just dropped,” Moira said. “Recognition (so deserved) has done nothing to change Kathy. She is just as generous with her time critiquing her friends and reviewing the work of new writers. In fact, sometimes I have to remind her to say "no" so that she can get back to creating more of her own, wonderful stories. She has done a ton of Skype school visits for free and has visited more libraries around the country, also for free, than I can list. She is special, humble, generous, and talented!”Kathy Erskine and BeckieWeinheimer, award-winning author of CONVERTING KATE, team –taught “Writing the Young Adult and Middle Grade Novel as an on-line course for the Writer’s Center, headquartered in Bethesda, MD. Beckie said that Kathy’s “care for each student, her ability to edit and critique with grace, generosity, and skill make her a wonderful editor/teacher for anyone wanting to improve their own fiction writing skills. As a friend, she is kind, thoughtful, and very down to earth. She has won so many big awards, but she is still humble, approachable Kathy to me.”Anne Marie Pace, a host of the 4:00 Book Hook—a free newsletter for people who share books with kids—and author of the forthcoming VAMPIRINA BALLERINA, perhaps captured Kathy Erskine best when she said, “Kathy is the kind of friend who brings you chocolate when you need it. Sometimes, she brings you chocolate before you even know you need it.”Congratulations, Kathy!
You can check out Kathryn Erskine's website and blog, and find out more about SCBWI Mid-Atlantic at their website here.
My thanks to Ellen for rounding up the great insights, and Cheers to Kathy for winning the Crystal Kite Member's Choice Award for her novel, THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE!
Illustrate and Write On,