Thursday, September 25, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: The Ballad of Jessie Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock (SCBWI Florida)

The first of our spotlights on the 2014 Crystal Kite Winners illuminates THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL by Shannon Hitchcock.

A member of SCBWI Florida, Shannon's book won for the Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana division.

The 2014 Crystal Kite-Winning Book!

Award-Winning Author Shannon Hitchcock

I contacted Shannon to find out more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Shannon: THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL is based on a family story that my son recorded as part of his eighth grade history project. In 1922, my grandmother’s sister developed tuberculosis. She died and left behind a ten-month-old baby and a letter planning her own funeral. That bit of family history sparked my imagination. I started asking questions like what happened to the baby? It turns out he was raised for two years by my fourteen-year-old grandmother until his father later remarried. I started thinking about this fourteen-year-old girl who suddenly had to grow up and raise a child. How did she cope? What mistakes did she make? How did she feel when she had to give the baby to his new stepmother? That’s how THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL was born. Here’s a brief summary:

It’s 1922 and Jessie has big plans for her future, but that’s before tuberculosis strikes. Though she has no talent for cooking, cleaning, or nursing, Jessie puts her dreams on hold to help her family. She falls in love for the first time ever, and suddenly what she wants is not so simple anymore. THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL wraps you like an old quilt in the traditions, tastes, and dialect of rural North Carolina.

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI and what have you gained by being a member?

Shannon: I don’t remember exactly when I joined SCBWI, but it was over ten years ago. The biggest gift SCBWI has given to me is friendships. Writing is a solitary endeavor and it’s wonderful to connect with others who are as passionate about it as I am. I also gain a wealth of knowledge at the conferences. I met my mentor, Joyce Sweeney, at one of the Miami SCBWI Conferences. Joyce gave me lots of guidance as I learned to craft a novel. And none other than Richard Peck himself had a hand in plotting THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL. He critiqued the first ten pages at an SCBWI conference, and then asked me to walk him through the rest of the plot. I confessed that I didn’t know how it would end yet, and he brainstormed with me. Needless to say I used his ending!

Lee: What a great story about your story! Do you have any advice to share with other children’s book writers and illustrators?

Shannon: Educate yourself by taking classes and attending conferences. If I had started taking classes with Joyce Sweeney earlier, I think my road to publication would have been much shorter. Lots of great classes like Joyce’s are offered on-line. You can even attend in your pajamas!

Thanks Shannon!

I also connected with SCBWI Florida's Regional Advisor, Linda Bernfeld, to find out more about both their region and Shannon's win:

Shannon is a wonderful writer who is well deserving of this award. She works hard on her craft, attending SCBWI events and as well as other workshops. I am impressed by her perseverance, it took her many years to get THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL published but she never gave up. I’m thrilled that Shannon has sold another historical novel to Andrea Pinkney at Scholastic.

As far as their region, Linda writes:

We are a diverse community of hardworking volunteers dedicated to making your dreams of becoming published authors and illustrators for kids and teens a reality. Through our Florida Regional Conference, held every January in Miami, our Mid-Year Workshop, held every June in Orlando, and lots of smaller events throughout the year and state, we put YOU in touch with top agents and editors in the children’s book industry. A wonderful place to share ideas, make new friends, find critique groups near you, and learn more about the market, SCBWI Florida is the only writers/illustrators support system you’ll ever need.

Thanks to Shannon and Linda, and Cheers to Shannon on winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award for THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL!

You can find out more about Shannon at her website here.

And learn more about SCBWI Florida and all their events at their online home.

Illustrate and Write On,

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