Thursday, June 27, 2013

The 2013 Crystal Kite Winner Proflies: Illinois' Aaron Reynolds (For "Creepy Carrots")

The 2013 Crystal Kite Award for the USA Midwest region (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio) is Aaron Reynolds for his picture book, "Creepy Carrots!"

Crystal Kite Winner Aaron Reynolds!

"Creepy Carrots" was published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, and illustrated by Peter Brown.

I connected with Aaron to find out more about his book (and win!)

Lee:  Please tell us about your book!

Aaron:  Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. And he can take the fattest, crispiest carrots from Crackenhopper field anytime he wants. That is, until they start following him home...

The idea for CREEPY CARROTS came from the fact that, I like to get scared, and did as a kid. Not terrified, have-nightmares-for-a-week scared, but getting creeped out is SO much fun when you're a kid. Kids can handle so much more than we give them credit for, and I love to push the envelope on trying to create the kind of stuff they really want. I think that's what the best writers, like Roald Dahl have done, and I just try to tiptoe in their footsteps and do the same in my own weird way.

So, I knew I wanted to do a creepy book, but it couldn't be TERRIFYING...this is a picture book, after all. So I began with something innocuous...a cute little animal...and began asking myself “What would creep this guy out more than anything?” What else...having your favorite inanimate snack stalking you with possible malicious intent. That was the start of the weird idea that became CREEPY CARROTS.

Lee:  How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Aaron:  I learned how to submit my first manuscripts because of SCBWI.
I met my first critique group partners because of SCBWI.
I got my first published book because of an editor I heard speak at an SCBWI conference.

I have been a member of SCBWI since I first started getting serious about writing for publication, probably about 14 years now. I wasn't sure where to start, and SCBWI was instrumental in those early days, helping me learn the business of children's publishing, learn from editors, other writers, workshops at conferences, and manuscript critiques. It was also from my early SCBWI conferences that I got connected with other serious writers like me that eventually became long-time critique partners.

These days, SCBWI continues to be a fantastic connection point for making contact with other great writers, talking shop, learning and growing together.

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

Aaron:  One: Join SCBWI, and take advantage of the conferences, both the big ones, and the local ones! They are a huge advantage in helping new writers start to understand the market of children’s books, talk to and develop relationships with other writers, and learn from editors.

Two: Read these two books.  They were absolutely essential to me when I was getting started back in the beginning:
“You CAN write children’s books” by Tracy Dils
"The Childrens Writers and Illustrator’s Market" – this is an annually updated book and is the BIBLE of children’s publishing. I still get the new one every year. It is packed with great info to help you find your feet and get started, as well as contact information for children’s publishers. 

I also contacted Alice McGinty (who along with Lisa Bierman is co-RA for Illinois) to learn more about their local chapter of SCBWI and Aaron's win...

The Illinois Chapter is a very active region with over 800 members. We've got a great combination of events going on, ranging from large Chapter-wide conferences and retreats, to smaller regional events. Our main Chapter events include Prairie Writer's and Illustrator's Day in November, which usually brings about 250 attendees to learn from a large staff of editors, agents and authors. We have smaller craft retreats in other locations around the state, including Words in the Woods, a weekend retreat held in a lovely mansion on Lake Springfield. The Illinois Chapter, under the leadership of RAE (Regional Advisor Emeritus) Esther Hershenhorn, originated the idea of Networks, dividing the state into small regions, each run by Networks Representatives. The Representatives plan Shop Talks, critiques, and programs with local speakers for the members in their areas, and make a nice community of support and learning for the members in their area. There are also two Illustrator's Networks to meet the needs for our illustrators, both upstate and downstate.

The Illinois Chapter is thrilled that Aaron Reynolds has won the Crystal Kite award for Creepy Carrots. It's a great book! Aaron has been a long-time member, and we've seen him build his career over time. He certainly deserves this honor! We send Aaron our hearty congratulations. Illinois is very, very proud of you!!!!

To find out more about Aaron and his books, visit his website here

To learn more about SCBWI Illinois, check out their site here.

Thanks to Peter and Alice, and cheers to Peter on his 2013 Crystal Kite Win for "Creepy Carrots!"

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