Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Edie Parsons is the Inaugural Winner of the Karen and Phillip Cushman Late Bloomer Award!

The Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award is for authors over the age of fifty who have not been traditionally published in the children’s literature field. The grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Karen published her first children’s book, The Midwife’s Apprentice (winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of the field’s most acclaimed novelists.

SCBWI's first winner of this award is Edie Parsons!

Edie Parsons, winner of the first Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award!

I contacted Edie to learn more...

Lee:  Tell us about finding out you'd won the Karen and Phillip Cushman Late Bloomer Award.

Edie:  I was driving home from work when the call came. The voice said "This is Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser with SCBWI…" and I think I went into shock. (I do have a vague memory of pulling off to the side of the road to talk.) Being selected for the inaugural Karen and Phillip Cushman Late Bloomer Award is such an honor! Karen's books are wonderful, of course, and I love that she writes about gutsy kids figuring out who they are. It's a thrill to be associated with her award.

Being selected felt like a lightning bolt, and I think I even said as much on the call. I've been writing for awhile now, gradually learning and improving, and SCBWI has been a big part of my writer's journey. I'm excited that all those pieces have come together in this grant recognition. I truly believe that writing for youth is about passion, craft, and a heart for kids and their joys and struggles, and not about age. I admire Karen for building her writing career and body of work as she's done, and hope I can likewise make her and SCBWI proud, as the recipient of this award.

Lee:  Can you give us a brief description of the middle grade fantasy project you're working on?

Edie:  MERCURY SEA draws on my love of the mystery and poetry of historical alchemy, combining it with my passion for middle grade fantasy and science fiction. The story takes place in a world where alchemy works, crystal ships sail the seas, and the industrial revolution never happened. Twelve-year-old Morgan was raised at sea before being sent to finishing school, where she's a fish out of water. She soon becomes captivated by the alchemical science, but alchemy, with its furnace-driven workrooms, is forbidden to girls. Disguising herself as a boy, she apprentices to the immortal alchemist, Master Marlwyn. In the workroom she discovers that her "girl-essence" sends some alchemical processes awry, while making others work better than expected. Then a crooked alchemist poisons Master Marlwyn with a rare aging chemical, and Morgan is determined to save him, using her unique, girl alchemy to unlock the secret of reversing time.

Lee:  How will you use the grant money?

Edie:  MERCURY SEA takes place in an alternate world where traditional skills such as cooking on wood stoves or open hearths, working metals on blacksmith-type furnaces, and sailing via square-rigged ships are still practiced. Researching the "how to" of these elements, as well as their sight, sound, feel, and smell, is important to conveying a rich, authentic experience. So, I plan to use the grant funds to travel to Mystic Seaport: the Museum of America and the Sea, in Mystic, Connecticut. Mystic Seaport is a living museum, famous for its historical sailing ships, nineteenth century village, and extensive collections. While at the seaport, I'll conduct research for my novel through the collections and exhibits, as well as by taking advantage of the many opportunities for immersive observation and hands-on participation in historical activities. By utilizing this amazing resource, I hope to obtain an abundance of details, especially difficult-to-obtain sensory details, to incorporate into my writing, thus bringing additional depth and three-dimensionality to my story.

Lee:  In the first few pages of MERCURY SEA that you shared in your Work-in-Progress Grant application, you made your main character, Morgan, very likable. Can you share any insights on that?

Edie:  I really enjoy Morgan. She's such a rough-and-tumble, bold girl. She's not afraid to pull off a practical joke, stand up to bullies, break into the bad guy's house to save her master, or join forces with a band of ruthless pirates. Her struggle in this story isn't so much about discovering who she is, but rather about finding her place in a world that wants her to be a demure china doll. I think it's a universal struggle. We all have to do our best to hold on to who we are, while creating our niche within whatever situation or pressures we face. But with Morgan, you just know that journey is going to be a romp. She's someone I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and spending time with through the story, and I hope readers will, too. 
In her application, Edie wrote: "I love middle grade fantasy. It's what I read and what I write. The thing that most attracts me to middle grade fiction is that it celebrates young people discovering who they are and what they are capable of, before the whole boy-girl distraction thing fully sets in. The fantasy element allows those explorations to expand into richly imaginative settings, situations, and experiences not possible in the real world."

And here's what Karen Cushman herself had to say of Edie's win:
I was not only intrigued and entertained by her story but I liked what she said in her statement about the importance of middle grade fiction (I agree), and, as a former museum studies professor, I applaud the use she'll make of the resources at Mystic Seaport. I can't wait to read the rest of the story.
Congratulations, Edie!

Have you seen all the grants and awards SCBWI offers?  Check them out here!

Illustrate and Write On, 

1 comment:

topangamaria said...

Sounds well deserved.
Can't wait to read it.
And what fun to go to
Mystic for research.