Karen Cushman published her first children’s book, The Midwife’s Apprentice (winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of our field’s most acclaimed novelists.
As SCBWI's Executive Director Lin Oliver says,
"creative life has no age limit."
This year's winner of the Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award is JC Kato, for her manuscript "Finding Moon Rabbit."
|Author JC Kato|
Here's what Karen said of JC's work:
“I chose Finding Moon Rabbit because the writing is strong, authentic, and sometimes even lyrical; Koko an intriguing and original character; the subject matter compelling and important,”
Here's my interview with JC:
Lee: Hi JC! Congratulations on winning the 2015 Karen Cushman Late Bloomer Award!
JC: Thank you, Lee, I'm so excited with the opportunity and honored to have been selected. Wow. Thank you Karen and Phil Kushman.
Lee: Tell us about finding out you’d won.
JC: I had one of those really tough days at work, you know, the kind you want to forget? I hadn't had a moment all day to check my phone or emails, and then, not even after work. I was busy rushing across town to see my 81 year old mother's talent show. Sometime between a cha-cha on organ and a puppet show, I opened my e-mail. There it was; Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser's email, filled with the wonderful news--a very surreal experience when there's an organ rendition of Stardust playing--I cried. Karen Cushman's comments about my manuscript brought me to even more tears. I wanted to wail--jump up from my seat and shout. Could've. A room full of fifty very talented seniors intent on watching the show wouldn't have minded. Mother played her piano beautifully. She was beautiful. Everything felt beautiful, and the day I wanted to forget, became the day I'll never forget.
Lee: You won for your Middle Grade historical fiction manuscript, “Finding Moon Rabbit.” Please share with us what it’s about, and why you wrote it.
JC: Koko is a ten year old girl who has a very rough time adjusting to her new home--an internment camp in Wyoming during World War II. She picks up some bad habits like, skipping school, fibbing, breaking promises, and, getting arrested. She vows to change for the sake of her ill mother and grumpy, older sister. She joins Girl Scouts where she's sure to learn how to be good like her friend, Mitzi. In the process, though, she unearths the truth that her Pop is a suspected traitor. Koko's journey leads her to discover where she fits in a world gone upside down, and how the shine of the moon can mend a broken family.
For those in my family, Lee, who were in the camps, it was something never discussed. Out of respect, we never did. They're gone now, and I guess, in my need for emotional balance, and for my children to know more about their heritage, should they ask, I wrote this story.
Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and how has that impacted your career journey so far?
JC: I've been with SCBWI since 2007 and, well, there's just nothing to beat the information, education and support they offer. In 2010 I ventured to the Los Angeles Conference and came away inspired--and hungry to write as well as I'm possibly able.
Lee: The Karen Cushman Late Bloomer award comes with $500 and free tuition to any SCBWI conference anywhere in the world. Do you have big plans?
JC: I haven't wrapped my brain around that one yet. Though, the last time I was in Los Angeles I didn't have a chance to go to the Japanese American Museum there and have always wanted to return. We'll see. The $500 will go toward edits and more edits.
Lee: Thanks so much. Wishing you much success on the adventure ahead!
JC: It was a pleasure, Lee, and thanks for the good wishes.
JC Kato can be reached at jckatowrites (at) yahoo (dot) com
You can find out more about the Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award here.