Thursday, May 15, 2014

The SPARK Award Interview: Karen Avivi's SHREDDED

Karen Avivi's YA novel SHREDDED was one of two winners of the inaugural SCBWI SPARK Award, the new annual award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.

Karen Avivi celebrating her SCBWI SPARK Award!

I contacted Karen to learn more...

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Lee: Congratulations on winning the inaugural SCBWI SPARK Award!

Karen: Thank you! It was quite a surprise to receive that phone call, and an honor for Shredded to win the Spark award. 

Lee: The Judges called your girls' freestyle bmx bike YA novel "heart pounding!" - please tell us what the story is about.

Karen: Shredded is a contemporary young adult novel about rule-breaking, gravity-defying girls who shred riding freestyle BMX. The main character, Josie Peters, thinks she’ll do anything to ride in the Ultimate BMX freestyle event the summer before her senior year. To hit the qualifying events in the Midwest, Josie and her friends take off on a summer road trip where late-night parties, an intimidating mega ramp, and the lure of sponsorships spark friction between the girls. When Josie’s best chance for success depends on her relationship with flashy rider R.T. Torres, she has to decide what she’s trying to win and how much she’ll sacrifice. More than a girls’ sports book or a BMX biking book, Shredded is a motivating push-your-limits story that takes on feminism, friendship, sexism, and sibling rivalry. 

Lee: Are you, in some way, your main character Josie?

Karen: I enjoy individual fringe sports; I’ve tried skydiving, scuba diving, stunt classes, archery, winter camping, orienteering, mountaineering, mountain biking and backpacking but I’m not as confident or athletic as Josie. She’s the kind of person I’d admire and want as a friend. 

Lee: The SPARK award is to recognize excellence in a children's book published through a non-traditional publishing route. You self-published Shredded via CreateSpace. Can you explain how you made that decision?

Karen: I wanted to make a print version of Shredded available to as many people as possible without investing in an inventory of print books. The print-on-demand service offered by CreateSpace was the best, most cost-effective option. CreateSpace allows you to upload your own print-ready files without forcing you to pay for an overpriced editing and cover design package. 

Lee: As the writer and publisher of Shredded you're wearing two hats already. We know with traditional publishing there are lots more experts involved, including an editor, a copy editor, a book designer, etc... How did the process of getting Shredded ready to be published evolve?

Karen: There are many professional editors and cover designers who do freelance work. The trick is to do your research and book them in advance because the good ones are busy. My editor, Anne Victory, managed to squeeze me in when someone else missed a deadline. 

Lee: What do you see as the biggest challenge of self-publishing?

Karen: Discoverability. It’s up to me to reach reviewers, bloggers, librarians, teachers, and readers. I’m building my list of contacts one by one. 

Lee: That's interesting, because I would imagine many traditionally published writers would also say that their biggest challenge is 'discoverability!'  Keeping with that question theme, what have you discovered is the biggest advantage of self-publishing?

Karen: I can change anything whenever I need to. Since there is no inventory of printed books, I can change the cover, add review blurbs, and make revisions at any time. 

Lee: Fascinating. I remember a very well-published author answering the revision question 'how do you know when it's done' by saying 'when they rip it out of my hands and publish it.' Being able to change things even after it's "published" sounds like it could be both a blessing and a curse! Anything else you'd like to share about the adventure so far?

Karen: I told myself I’d treat my first self-published book as a learning and information gathering experience. I’d advise anyone else going the indie pub route to do the same. I feel much better prepared to launch my next book, hopefully this fall. Also, Shredded just won a 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award: tied for Bronze in the juvenile / young adult fiction e-book category

Lee: Thanks so much, Karen! And once again, congratulations!

Karen: Thank you!

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To find out more about Karen and her book Shredded, check out her website here.

And to find out more about the SCBWI SPARK Award, visit here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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