Thursday, July 19, 2012

The 2012 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: Tokyo, Japan's HOLLY THOMPSON

In the Middle East/India/Asia division, the 2012 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award Winner was ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson (Delacorte Dell-Random House.)

Holly is in the unique position of not only being the Crystal Kite Winner, but she's also the Regional Advisor for Japan's SCBWI Tokyo Chapter!

I had the chance to find out more about both Holly's book and the region...

Lee: Congratulations, Holly! Please tell us about your book.

Holly: Thank you, Lee. It’s such an honor for Orchards to receive this Crystal Kite recognition from fellow SCBWI members. Orchards is a novel in verse about Kanako Goldberg, a half Japanese and half Jewish-American girl sent from New York to spend the summer with relatives in Japan after the suicide death of a classmate. In her mother’s ancestral village, Kana spends hours under the hot sun tending to her family’s mikan orange groves. Kana’s mixed heritage makes it hard to fit in at first, especially under the critical eye of her traditional grandmother. But as the summer unfolds, Kana comes to know her relatives, Japan, and village culture, and she begins to process the pain and guilt she feels about the tragedy back home. Then news about a friend sends her world spinning out of orbit all over again.

Orchards raises tough questions about teen depression, bullying and the consequences of not taking action. But Orchards is also a story of identity and friendship, of finding hope and home.

Lee:  It sounds wonderful!  How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member - and a Regional Advisor?

Holly:  I joined SCBWI as soon as I learned of the fledgling SCBWI Tokyo chapter and soon afterward became RA in 2005. Thanks to many key volunteers, SCBWI Tokyo has grown in those years from a few individuals to a dynamic chapter with regular monthly events for writers, illustrators and translators (Japanese to English). Because I have attended all but a handful of events since SCBWI Tokyo formed, I have learned from eight full years of guest speakers—publishers, editors, agents, authors and illustrators, as well as critique groups and workshops, and this involvement has been fundamental to my development as a children’s book writer.

I’ve also attended SCBWI conferences in New York, Los Angeles, Bologna, and the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore that SCBWI co-sponsors. I really believe that my SCBWI RA involvement has been as significant and meaningful as my graduate degree in creative writing.

Lee:  Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Holly:  Focus on craft. Get better and better and better. Push yourself far beyond your comfort zone. Do not stick with one story or one type of story; have multiple projects in different stages going at once. Finish one project and move on to another. And another and another. Learn from others. Scrape together the money to attend conferences and workshops and classes. Join critique groups. Read! If you are willing to listen and learn from others and trust your inner writing voice, you will grow as a writer.

Lee:  As Regional Advisor, can you tell us more about SCBWI's presence in Asia, and about your region specifically?

Holly:  SCBWI Tokyo has about sixty members. We have monthly events usually on weekend days or evenings including guest speaker events, workshops, creative exchanges, gallery exhibitions, sketch and word crawls, and networking nights. We also have all-day events with guest editors, agents, authors and illustrators, and SCBWI Tokyo is the first SCBWI region to have a Translation Group, which focuses on the translation of Japanese children’s and YA lit into English. Our SCBWI Tokyo members are a wonderful mix of Japanese nationals and residents of Japan from around the globe. And our newsletter (available at is a treasure trove of interviews and features relating to Japan and Asia. Our membership is diverse, so the challenge as an RA is to forge a chapter that accommodates this diversity AND makes all this hard work of creating children’s books fun.

Asia has a number of active and longstanding SCBWI chapters—Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan—as well as younger chapters like Singapore, Malaysia and India. We try help each other out, share speakers when logistics allow,  and we love to meet up at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore. The Asia SCBWI chapters are poised to continue growing, and I believe we’ll soon be seeing more and more children’s and YA literature coming from Asia—both local-language and English-language stories set in and related to all the different corners of Asia.

Lee:  Thanks Holly!

You can find out more about Holly at her website here, and about SCBWI Tokyo here.

My thanks to Holly for the scoop on her book and region, and cheers to her for winning the Crystal Kite Members Choice award for Orchards!

Illustrate and Write On,

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