Thursday, December 4, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger (SCBWI New York) and illustrated by Dan Santat (SCBWI Los Angeles)

This week's Crystal Kite Spotlight shines on CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat!

A member of SCBWI Metro New York, Samantha's CRANKENSTEIN won for the New York division. Dan Santat, a member of SCBWI Los Angeles, will also be awarded a Crystal Kite for his illustrations!

Award-Winning Author Samantha Berger

Award-Winning Illustrator Dan Santat

I connected with Samantha to find out more...

Samantha: It was (and still is) a high honor to have won the NY regional 2014 Crystal Kite Award for CRANKENSTEIN. I shrieked so loud when I read Lin's email, I frightened the dog. It was also huge for the book to be an EB White Read-Aloud Finalist, and to have a mass market board book edition made, and to be putting out the sequel this Christmas. But honestly, the Crystal Kite means the most, because it's chosen by our peers, the beloved book people. It makes my heart smile to this day. Gratitude. 

Lee: Yay! Please tell us about your book!

Samantha: Crankenstein is the story of a boy who is having *such* a bad day, and is feeling *so* cranky, he transforms into a monster. Ask him anything, and the reply will be a wrathful "MEHHRRRR!," which is the quintessential call of the crankster. As his frustration builds, his anger escalates, and his temper rises to a tantrum-y boiling point, there is only *one* thing that can break his snowballing rage - someone else who is just as cranky as *he* is. When the two Crankensteins meet, they see themselves reflected in each other. This makes them laugh, and as we all know, laughter is the cure to all of life's greatest crankiness. (SPOILER!) The monsters turn back into kids, and it just might be the beginning of a beautiful, empathetic, non-cranky friendship. 

Lee: I'm smiling at that description. Well done! Tell us about the story inspiration. 

Samantha: One seemingly-normal morning, I woke up, made fresh-pressed, hot, delicious coffee, and poured rancid, sour milk into it. Then, my computer crashed. Then, I stepped in dog poop. By the end of the day, I was in the most wretched, foul, monstrously bad mood in the history of bad moods. Just then, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, and between the scowling, the sourpuss, and the seized-up shoulders, I truly *looked* like a monster. That moment of literal self reflection made me stop and laugh at myself. It also gave me an epiphany: as long as we can remember to keep our sense of humor, and be able to laugh at ourselves, we're going to be okay. As the great Roger Rabbit once said, "A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Lee: Ah, Roger Rabbit. Such a sage. How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Samantha: I joined SCBWI in 2009, and right then and there, I knew I had found my Tribe. Since then, I have danced with Ashley Bryan, sang with Loren Long, toasted with Jon Scieszka, met Judy Blume (twice!), and burned my creativity candle with Kathy Erskine. I have sobbed my way through countless keynotes (hint: don't wear mascara), made the friends of a lifetime, and seen people's dreams come true (really, don't wear mascara). SCBWI is the homeland for the lit-loving, kidlit-creating, beloved Book People, and being a part of this community has made magical memories, inspired ideas, and snapped inappropriate photos, that I will cherish eternally. No matter where you are in your publishing path, this is your place, these are your people.

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

Samantha: *Tell the stories you are most compelled to tell. The stories you HAVE to tell! *Be brave enough to live and speak your TRUTH in your work. *If you speak from YOUR heart, it will speak to other people's hearts. *Keep your sense of humor, even in the crankiest times! *Go to the SCBWI conferences--they will change your life.

Thanks, Samantha!

I also checked in with Dan Santat...

Lee: Tell us about the illustrations!

Dan: The art for Crankenstein was inspired by my son, who is small and cranky (especially in the mornings), and also inspired by a pinch of the Incredible Hulk. I had originally planned on illustrating this book with 3D clay sculptures digitally composed into real life settings but the publisher preferred I go with the style I am best known for.

Lee: Can you share how long you've been involved with SCBWI, and what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Dan: I've been a member of the SCBWI since 1999 and over the years I've gained lots of information pertaining to my varying levels each year. I actually got my first two book deal meeting Arthur Levine at the portfolio display at the national conference here in LA and every year since then I've attended seminars about how to be a stronger writer and managing my career for the long term. These days a lot of my time is spent critiquing portfolios, giving keynotes at various chapters across the country, and networking with editors, art directors, and other authors and illustrators. 

Lee: What advice do you have to share with other writer/illustrators?

Dan: Be economical with your text and smart with your design. Be clear, concise, and everything you do for a project should serve a function to the overall theme.

Thanks, Dan!

I also contacted Bridget Casey (who along with Pat Weissner is co-RA for SCBWI Metro New York), and Sally Jones Rogan (who along with Sarah Laurenson is co-RA for SCBWI Los Angeles) to hear a bit more...

 From Bridget:
The Metro New York chapter of SCBWI covers New York City, Long Island and the southern portion of the Westchester County. The chapter is delighted that one of its members, Samantha Berger from Brooklyn, has won the Crystal Kite Award for her work on CRANKENSTEIN with LA's Dan Santat. We are very proud of this achievement and all her amazing work!
From Sally:
SCBWI-LA cries: "Kudos and congratulations!" for LA member, Dan Santat for his cranky and amazing art work on 'CRANKENSTEIN', which earned him the Crystal Kite Award along with talented author, Samantha Berger. Sample more of Dan's talent at Beaming with pride, SCBWI-LA Regional Team
Thanks to Samantha, Dan, Bridget and Sally!

To find out more about Samantha and her work, check out her website here.

To learn more about all things Santat (Dan, that is), visit his online homes-away-from-home starting here on Tumblr.

And you can hit the links for these regional sites: SCBWI Metro New York and SCBWI Los Angeles. 

 Illustrate and Write On,

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