|2013 Crystal Kite Winner Jo Knowles|
Here's my interview with Jo...
Lee: Please tell us about your book!
Jo: See You At Harry's is about a busy family trying to keep their restaurant afloat and their family intact. Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. Her dad is always planning how to increase traffic to the family business. Her Mom is constantly disappearing to meditate. Her older sister Sarah is busy sneaking off with her secret boyfriend; and her brother Holden is too focused on his own problems navigating how to come out to his family and survive high school. And then there's Charlie, her three-year old brother who gets all the attention except when everyone's too busy to look after him, and the responsibility falls to Fern. When tragedy strikes though, the family is turned inside out, and they slowly learn that the only way to heal is to come together.
Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?
Jo: I believe I joined SCBWI in 1996. It was after I discovered an old flyer on a bulletin board in the library I'd just started working at. The heading was, "Do you want to write for children?" Since I did (very much) I went to the meeting. There, I met several writers who became my life-long friends and mentors. Society seems like the absolute wrong word for this organization. I think it should be called Community of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Or maybe Family of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Because that is what the members I've gotten to know have become. I would never have published my first book if not for the encouragement, support and love I received from these wonderful people in this wonderful community.
Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?
Jo: Get to work! I hope that doesn't sound too bossy! But you know, lately I've heard a lot of people talking about how much time they spend researching where to submit their work and worrying about how long it's taking to get published, rather than writing and revising every day. I know where that road goes because I've been there myself. It's not fun. On my best writing days, my end goal isn't publication. It's to try to write something beautiful and powerful and uniquely mine. Something I can say about with pure honesty, "I'm proud of this. It's my best work." Those are the days when my writing is at its truest, and most meaningful. So my advice is to give yourself those kinds of creative days as often as you can, and limit the business ones for when you can honestly and proudly say, "I'm done."
I also connected with SCBWI's New England Regional Advisor Marilyn Salerno to find out more about their region. Here's what she shared...
SCBWI New England, over 2500 members strong, was organized by Jane Yolen soon after Lin and Steve began SCBW. Our active region hosts a three day annual spring conference with 650 people and ongoing workshops, retreats, and events during the year. We have a Whispering Pines Writing Retreat, PAL events organized by Melissa Stewart, over 75 critique groups in the region, and an Illustrator's Day, to name a few. We offer the critique group leader grants once a year so that critique groups can invite a speaker or plan an event addressing the needs of their particular critique group. We also have a bi/monthly newsletter that is posted on our website and on the SCBWI master website.
SCBWI New England has an informative website, a listserve open to all members for information sharing, exploring new ideas, and discussing questions and concerns that arise. We have an SCBWI New England Face Book page and a New England Twitter feed. We have four Regional Advisors who have specific duties and along with the ICs and the PAL Coordinator and ARAS form an executive/advisory board to guide and direct the region.
Jo Knowles is one of our best. She has written thought provoking and timely stories and is very deserving of the two Crystal Kites Awards. She takes an active role in our region by attending conferences, blogging, hosting a PAL meeting, and serving on a scholarship committee.
You can learn more about Jo Knowles at her website here.
And find out lots more about SCBWI New England here.