Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nancy Bo Flood Guest Post On Winning the 2016 SCBWI Marketing Grant

Nancy Bo Flood won the 2016 SCBWI Marketing Grant. Nancy wanted to use the grant to share her book, "Soldier Sister, Fly Home" with Native American students through book talks and writing workshops. As Nancy wrote, "I want to encourage and support students' own writing. Less than 1% of books published for children are about contemporary American Indians. Every child should see themselves - their stories, their landscape, their people - in a book." 

 Here's Nancy's Guest Post about what she's done with the grant... 

Recently, early one morning I drove across the northern part of the Navajo Nation from Canyon de Chelly to Chilchinbeto Elementary School. The sky glowed scarlet and then gold as the sun rose. I scooted horses off the sandy road, slowed when two coyotes crossed, stopped and pulled off to the side to watch a grandma on horseback deftly guide her sheep from one pasture to a further one.

Canyon Des Chelly

I drove until I came to the school surrounded by piƱon and salmon-colored cliffs. There I began my day, sharing books and stories with students. We performed cowboy poetry together, imagining ourselves at a Navajo rodeo, riding bucking broncos and roping wild calves. We read about and then talked about the wonders of water – all the uses, forms, sounds and smells of water. Together we wrote a group poem, “Seven Ways of Looking at Water.”

 I read the beginning of Soldier Sister, Fly Home, and then we shared how it feels to have a sister or brother deployed. As I began my drive back home I took a photo of the Chilchinbeto sign to remind me about that sky, that horizon, that school full of students with stories to share, waiting to be written.

How could I return and guide students to do just that, to write their own stories?

This what I learned: Grant support was needed. As I wrestled with creating a successful SCBWI marketing application, I learned this - I needed to answer three critical questions. These questions are important to all authors as we prioritize how to spend time, energy, and money to market our books. And market we must if we want our books to thrive.

Why did I write this book?

Who do I hope will read it?

How do I reach those readers?

Why did I write this book? –So children who are Navajo or Native American can see themselves in a book. Fewer than 1% of children’s books are written about Native Americans. We need Native stories that are accurate, positive, and contemporary. Educators, librarians, and READERS need to know about these books.

Who do I hope will read it? –Native children as well as children who have never hiked to the top of a mesa or down into the depths of a canyon – or heard silence broken by the whoosh of raven’s wings - can open this book and step into this landscape.

Another reason I wrote Soldier Sister, Fly Home, is because the worries and cares of the heart are universal. When a sister, brother, father or mother is deployed, we all feel the same anger, frustration, worry and fear - how do we keep a loved one safe? How do we figure out who we are and who we want to be?

How do I reach those readers? –What’s my marketing plan and how do I implement it?

For the SCBWI grant application, I described the traditional tools – book launches, blog tours, and conference presentations. These are all important.

But I also wanted to reach readers where there are trading posts and tourist information centers, but few libraries and no bookstores. Marketing for these readers was less about selling but more about sharing. I wanted to excite these students about reading and then encourage them to write their own stories, their own books.

My marketing journey has begun. At Many Farms Elementary School, Navajo Nation, there are 500 students and no librarian. The school’s dynamo principal, Cheryl Tsosie, invited me for a return visit to share the excitement of books, the importance of reading.

I read the prologue of Soldier Sister, Fly Home to a room full of antsy seventh and eighth grade students. As I began to read, the room became quiet. Silent. I finished reading the first chapter. No one said a word, no one moved. Then one student raised her hand, “Could you read more?” Other students chimed in, “Please keep reading.”

I asked them, “What do you think this story is about?” Students began voicing ideas, “The story is about sisters, about rifles, shooting rifles, maybe about death … about deployment.”

My next question was, “How many of you have someone in your family deployed?” Over a third of the students raised their hands. A third.

Then I asked, “How does that feel?” Students began talking at once. They had many feelings they wanted to share, and stories they wanted to tell, their stories.

This is where this marketing grant has taken me.

Thank you, SCBWI.

Author and SCBWI Marketing Grant winner Nancy Bo Flood

Congratulations, Nancy! 

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


Unknown said...

Thank you SCBWI for the many ways you support and encourage writers and illustrators to create good books for all children.
Nancy Bo Flood

Deborah Holt Williams said...

Wonderful post, Nancy! You made excellent use of the grant. Who knows how many young writers you may have sparked?

Stephanie Greene said...

Terrific post and important thoughts, Nancy. The award was well-deserved.

diannewrites said...

Thanks for sharing your book and marketing journey, Nancy. Stories matter! They have the power to speak to and change us in ways we don't always anticipate. I appreciate those 3 questions: Why did I write this book? Who do I hope will read it? How do I reach those readers? I'd never really thought about it, but these questions, which are the same ones that help us find the heart of our stories, also help lead us to the ways we'll eventually guide and promote our stories to readers. Great post!

Debbie said...

Your humility and candor is inspiring, Nancy. Truly.

Debbie Gonzales

Aimee M. Bissonette said...

And thank you for choosing Nancy as this year's winner! This is a powerful, necessary book. It is beautifully written and now, because of SCBWI, can be shared as intended.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Deb, you continue to be an inspiration and mentor. Nancy Bo Flood

Unknown said...

Your honesty and caring, Steph, helps keep me on track. NBF

Unknown said...

Dianne, your critique comments got me thinking about these key questions- simple but difficult: why am I writing this book? NBF

Unknown said...

Deb, you are the leader of both qualities plus love and laughter, NBF

Unknown said...

Aimee, I appreciate your generous and thoughtful words and I feel honored to know you and your work
Nancy Bo Flood

Sue Heavenrich said...

What a wonderful idea, Nancy! Great way to use the grant.