Thursday, October 9, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: THE FLAME IN THE MIST by Kit Grindstaff (SCBWI Eastern Pennsylvania)

This week's spotlight is on THE FLAME IN THE MIST by Kit Grindstaff, winner of SCBWI's 2014 Crystal Kite Award.

Kit is a member of SCBWI Eastern Pennsylvania, and Kit's book won for the Pennyslvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland Division.

The 2014 Crystal Kite-winning book

Award-winning Author Kit Grindstaff

I reached out to Kit to find out more...

Lee: Congratulations on winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award for THE FLAME IN THE MIST!

Kit: Thanks so much, Lee! It’s a total thrill to have won. I’m still pinching myself.

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Kit:  Sure! The Flame in the Mist is a spooky, magical middle grade fantasy set in a parallel version of medieval England. It features fiery-haired, 13-year-old Jemma, raised in gloomy, mist-shrouded Agromond Castle, who finds out that she was abducted as a baby and that her entire life has been a lie. Along with her trusted friend, Digby, and two telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, Jemma has to fight the evil family who stole her in order to fulfill a prophecy saying she is the one who will end centuries of their reign – as well as the Mist they create.

The book has a strong supernatural and mystical element, with a cast of characters including ghosts, monsters, and otherworldly beings. As well as coming-of-age issues relevant to tweens and teens, it also contains broader themes that are important to me, the main ones being learning to trust oneself, letting go of prejudice, and transformation and healing. The Mist symbolizes ignorance, illusion, and the dark forces in life (inner or outer); and the sun represents the power within each of us to overcome those forces. The driving force of the evil faction is revenge, so acceptance and forgiveness are big factors too.

Lee: Sounds very cool - and I love how you're able to articulate the themes and even what The Mist represents! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Kit: I became a member of the SCBWI in 2008. I’d heard about it for a while, but until I joined I couldn’t have conceived of all that its fabulous workshops and conferences have to offer. I met astute critique partners, and absorbed a ton about how the business works – things I couldn’t possibly have learned just from web research. And where else do aspiring kidlit authors have the opportunity to have critique sessions with a wide selection of agents and editors, with the possibility of submitting to them afterwards? That’s what led to my contract with Delacorte: I met my editor at the NJ SCBWI conference. Based on my first 15 pages, she invited me to submit the whole manuscript. From that came months of revision with a view to that magic word, “acquisition”. And acquire she did!

The icing on all this are several friendships that I know will be lifelong. So what have I gained? In a nutshell: a support network, great friends, and a book deal! I literally owe The Flame in the Mist’s book’s existence in the world to the SCBWI. That’s one helluva cake. Which makes it extra special to me to have won the Crystal Kite. Icing on the icing! (Icing always was my favorite bit…)

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

Kit: Number one: persistence. After every agent rejection, I kept polishing the first chapters, tightening, figuring there was something they weren’t getting. I’d moved on to another manuscript and pretty much put Flame on the back burner – though not abandoned. So when I saw the opportunity for crit sessions at the NJ SCBWI conference, I pulled it off, tightened again…et voila!

Other than that: Write (or draw) what you love, and love what – and whom – you write; you’ll need that love to keep you going through tougher times. Don’t chase trends. Keep reading. Keep tightening, honing your craft. Remember you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs – which in literary terms means, killing some darlings. (Yes, ouch.) Don’t compare yourself to others: their journey is theirs; you, and yours, are unique. Get there your way. And while it’s essential to listen to advice and be open to trying suggested changes, always listen to your heart. It’s your ultimate compass.

Lee: Wise words! Thanks, Kit!

I also contacted Kim Briggs, who along with Donna Boock is the Regional Advisor of Eastern PA, to find out more about Kit's win and their region:

Kit and I met at the Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Retreat in May 2013. We were in the whole novel workshop with Kathryn Erskine and let me tell you, the moment I heard Kit share her story–I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to read her Crystal Kite winning The Flame in the Mist. I encourage everyone to read it—you will not be disappointed.

Kit Grindstaff attributes much of her writing success to SCBWI. While here in Eastern PA, we can’t take credit for her raw talent and storytelling gift, but we do consider Kit a beloved member of the Eastern PA SCBWI chapter and one of our many success stories. Even after her publishing success with The Flame in the Mist, Kit continues to attend local conferences and workshops. She recognizes the importance of craft development, industry insight, and networking that can only be achieved by attending SCBWI events.

On November 8th, Kit will be presented with her Crystal Kite award at our Fall Philly conference. (There are still spots available: We can’t wait to give Kit her award and HAPPY DANCE for her and with her, because here in Eastern PA we celebrate the success of ALL our writers and illustrators, one happy dance at a time.

Kim Briggs and Donna Boock, Regional Advisors of Eastern PA SCBWI

Thanks to Kit and Kim, and cheers to (and a happy dance for) Kit on THE FLAME IN THE MIST winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

 You can find out more at Kit's website here.

 And for more info on SCBWI Eastern Pennsylvania, check out their regional site.

Illustrate and Write On, 

1 comment:

Ronald L. Smith said...

Great interview. Congratulations, Kit! Sounds like a fantastic read!