Thursday, June 21, 2012

The 2012 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: SOUTHERN BREEZE'S Vicky Alvear Shecter

In the Southeast USA division (Florida/Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama/Mississippi), the 2012 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award winner was CLEOPATRA'S MOON by Vicky Alvear Shecter (Arthur A. Levine Books.)

I contacted Vicky to find out more...

Lee:  Hi Vicky, congratulations!  Please tell us about your book!

Vicky:  Cleopatra's Moon is the story of Cleopatra's daughter--a real person in history--and what happened to her after her parents (Cleo and Mark Antony) died. It's historical fiction set in both Egypt and Rome. It's also a coming of age story in that the protagonist (Cleopatra Selene) must find her own way--and forge her own identity--apart from the expectations and dreams of her powerful and charismatic parents.

Lee:  I didn't know they (Cleopatra and Mark Antony) had a child... what a cool launching point for a novel!  How long have you been involved with SCBWI?

Vicky:   I joined SCBWI in 2005.

Lee:  Can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Vicky:  It's hard to talk about what I've gained from SCBWI without sounding trite but it's all true! SCBWI changed everything for me. I jumped into writing a children's book without having any clue what I was getting into. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled across SCBWI and immediately joined. I discovered that an RA from the Mid-south region (Tracy Barrett, who is now SCBWI's Regional Advisor Coordinator) had also published several books about the ancient world.

I emailed her and within minutes received the kindest, most helpful response I could've imagined. She even gave me the name of one of her nonfiction editors. Nothing came out of the contact, but I was gobsmacked by how quickly this stranger was willing to jump in and help me! I have had that experience again and again. I eventually got that first nonfiction book published and SCBWI came to the rescue again with my second book. The contracted publisher for that book closed its doors when the economy tanked. I had to find another publisher for the book I'd already sold once. Having attended a Southern-Breeze conference months earlier, I sent the manuscript to an editor who had been our keynote speaker. He requested the entire manuscript and ended up publishing it. It never would have occurred to me to query that editor had I not attended our regional conference.

SCBWI saved me again when I was working on my first novel (Cleopatra's Moon). I almost gave up writing it when I discovered that a famous historical-fiction author was also putting out a book based on the life of Cleopatra Selene. Despite the fact that this author wrote for adults, I felt defeated and hopeless. How could I compete? But my SCBWI friends wouldn't let me quit. They insisted I continued working on it, reminding me that just because a topic had been covered before, didn't mean it could never be explored again. They also reminded me that since I was writing for YA, I would have a different "take" on the character and events.  They were right, of course. And I'm forever grateful for their faith and wisdom!

Lee:  Great stories!  We love hearing "SCBWI changed everything for me."  Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Vicky:  Again, at the risk of sounding trite, I would say do not give up! When I talk to kids about publishing, I always ask them to guess how many publishers I submitted my first book to before I got a "yes." They usually start at five or so. I keep making them go up and up until we hit the magic number--thirty. Imagine, I ask, if I'd given up at number 29? There is always a "yes" after the last "no." Only we don't know when that "last 'no,'" will be, so we have to keep submitting. And submitting. 

Lee:  Thanks Vicky!

I asked Claudia Pearson, Co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Southern Breeze to share more both about their region and about Vicky...

The Southern Breeze Region has more than 600 active members  in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. For the Crystal Kite voting we are grouped with Florida, which is a different region, although we do have a few active SCBWI members from the panhandle and northern Florida area who attend our conferences regularly. Our region is geographically broad, and we actively support our  members with events in each state, and our PAL members, including Vicky, support our local "schmoozes" as well as our annual spring and fall regional conferences.

Vicky has been an active member of our region ever since she joined, and I have known her personally since 2005. She is a cheerful volunteer who offers excellent information and feedback to other aspiring writers. At our regional conferences, she has been an "angel" for Kathleen Duey and Cheryl Klein (who bought Vicky's Crystal Kite winning book), a leader for informal critique groups, and has assisted at our registration table where her smiling face welcomes many who have never been to a conference before. She has also written articles for our newsletter, and posted informative links and comments on our listserve.  I recall a really great post and subsequent article about writing what you are moved to write, what you have a passion for, and not giving up just because you find out someone else has also written about the same subject. This had happened to her when she was writing CLEOPATRA'S MOON! Vicky has also been a speaker at several of our local schmoozes -- one of which is occurring right now here in Birmingham!

Claudia Pearson
coRA SCBWI Southern Breeze

You can find out more about Vicky and her book at her blog, History With A Twist.

And you can learn more about SCBWI Southern Breeze here.

My thanks to Claudia for the info on SCBWI Southern Breeze, and Cheers to Vicky for winning the Crystal Kite Member's Choice Award for her YA novel, CLEOPATRA'S MOON!

Illustrate and Write On,

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