I contacted Sara to find out more...
Lee: Congratulations on winning the Crystal Kite Award, Sara! Please tell us about your book!
Sara: DARK PARTIES is a dystopian thriller about rebellion and forbidden love. Sixteen-year-old Neva was born and raised in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. Hundreds of years ago, her country constructed an electrified dome to protect itself from the outside world. What once might have protected, now imprisons. Her country is decaying and its citizens are dying. Neva and her friends dream of freedom. A forbidden party leads to complications. Suddenly Neva’s falling for her best friend's boyfriend, uncovering secrets that threaten to destroy her friends, her family and her country -- and discovering the horrifying truth about what happens to The Missing. .
Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?
Sara: I’ve been an active member of SCBWI on both sides of the Atlantic for nearly 20 years. I was the Regional Advisor for Indiana for three years and now volunteer for the British SCBWI. I would not be published if it wasn’t for the connections I’ve made and the knowledge I’ve gained through SCBWI.
I am the co-creator and co-editor of the British SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices. It’s a bi-annual anthology of novel extracts from 12 unagented and unpublished SCBWI members. I’m very proud of this initiative. The third Undiscovered Voices anthology was published this past February. From the first three anthologies, 16 of the 36 selected authors have had novels contracted for publication and most have signed with agents.
DARK PARTIES appeared in the first anthology in 2008. It’s how I got my agent and ultimately my book deals. I want to help other writers achieve their dreams of publication and Undiscovered Voices allows me to give back to an organization that has meant so much to me.
Lee: How great to learn about that, and what a success story! Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?
Sara: Read. Read. Read. Read broadly for the age group for which you are trying to write. Read the classics but also keep up with what’s on bookstore shelves right now. Learn from the current masters of fiction.
Revise and polish your manuscript until it sparkles and until you can’t think of any way to improve it. Then give it to a fellow writer whose opinion you respect – better yet find a writers group – and then revise some more. Write. Revise. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
Be obsessed by your story. Love your story and characters. Write a story that will continue to intrigue you.
But most importantly...believe in your work and never stop learning and improving and writing and rewriting. I wrote my first story for children when my niece Megan was born. I received my first book contract the year she graduated from high school. The most important advice I could give to my fellow writers is – never give up!
Lee: Great! Thanks, Sara!
I asked Natascha Biebow, Regional Advisor for SCBWI British Isles, to tell us more about Sara and their region. Here's what she wrote:
Sara Grant is the visionary behind the UNDISCOVERED VOICES anthology, now in its third year, promising new and exciting opportunities for fiction illustrators, alongside undiscovered fiction writers. No other project has so single-handedly transformed SCBWI BI’s fortunes and those of so many of our members. UV put SCBWI-BI on the map in the British publishing industry, raising the profile of our organization and in turn that of our members, both published and unpublished. It has opened so many doors.
Frequently, Sara says, “I have this idea. Can we do it?” And then she makes it happen. This is the motto for everything she does. Sara is constantly thinking of innovative ways to help our members succeed -- and then helping them to do just that – with tons of enthusiasm and energy. Sara helped to set up the Networks groups, organized the Professional Series for several years alongside Margaret Carey (generously hosting many events at her house), then established the slush pile challenge single-handedly. Sara continues to give time and resources to SCBWI, now leading published members in helping the exciting evolution of SCBWI British Isles into an organization highly-regarded by all sectors of the children's book industry. Many, many people owe a great deal of their success to Sara who is nothing shy of relentless in helping our members achieve their dreams.
I am really, really proud that the BI region has won the Crystal Kite for the second year running. It shows the high caliber of our members' work and their dedication to their craft. Sara has been working on her craft for many years and this is her first book so it's an incredible achievement. We are all very excited for her! Sara also won one of the scholarships to attend the SCBWI NY conference this year.
You can find out more about Sara and her book at her website, and she invites readers to follow her on twitter @authorsaragrant!
And you can learn more about SCBWI British Isles here as well as their Undiscovered Voices project here.
My thanks to Natascha for the info on SCBWI British Isles, and Cheers to Sara for winning the Crystal Kite Member's Choice Award for her YA novel, DARK PARTIES!
Illustrate and Write On,