Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Winner Interview Series: Jennifer L. Holm, 2011 Golden Kite Award for Fiction

Jennifer L. Holm
For the latest installment of my Winner Interview Series I talked to mutli-award-winning and prolific author of novels and graphic novels Jennifer L. Holm who received the 2011 Golden Kite Award for fiction from SCBWI for TURTLE IN PARADISE.

Jenni is not new to winning awards. She received a Newbery Honor in 2000 for her debut novel OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA and had since been awarded two more (in 2007 for PENNY FROM HEAVEN, and another earlier this year for TURTLE).

Here she discusses her book, talks about winning awards, and tells us about her upcoming projects (including a certain sequel this blogger cannot wait to read!).

You can see Jennifer L. Holm in person at the 40th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference where she'll accept her award at the annual Golden Kite Luncheon. Registration opens soon—watch SCBWI.org for conference news!

Please tell my readers a little about your award-winning book TURTLE IN PARADISE and what inspired it.

TURTLE IN PARADISE was inspired by a story my mom liked to tell about her childhood. Her grandmother, aka “Nana”, was from Key West, Florida. Nana was a “Conch”, what the folks who emigrated from the Bahamas and settled in Key West folks called themselves.

During the summers, Nana would take my mom to Key West to visit relatives. My mom didn’t really like going to Key West. It was hot (people didn’t have air conditioners like they do now) and strange (she was given avocado on Cuban bread for breakfast instead of pancakes.) And then there was the wacky warning that she should “shake out her shoes” every morning. My mom thought this was an oddball superstition until one morning when she shook her shoes and out popped … a scorpion! When my editor, Shana Corey, started asking me about my Key West family, I just knew that there was a story in there somewhere.

Jennifer L. Holm's novel TURTLE IN PARADISE won
both a Newbery Honor and a Golden Kite for fiction.

Your character Turtle is a girl who learns to come out of her shell. Did you ever feel like you had to come out of your shell as a writer? If so, what inspired you to do so?

I was a big reader and always wanted to write, but I was intimidated. I had to get over the fear and just put fingers to keyboard and go for it. By the way, notice I didn’t say “pen to paper?" I love my laptop.

TURTLE is set in Florida in the 1930s. What appeals to you about writing historical fiction?

I love how a time and a place can become a character all its own. But it’s also something I constantly struggle with—it's a fine balance to not let the historical details overwhelm the story.

You've won three Newbery Honors and SCBWI recently chose you as the 2011 Golden Kite Award winner for Fiction. Is winning awards still exciting for you? (Do you feel a little like Babymouse--Queen of the Word?)

I was actually sick as a dog when I got the call about the Golden Kite Award and let’s just say it was better than any chicken soup I’ve ever eaten. And It Is Always Exciting! (Can you hear me Shouting with Joy?)

You've got an ever-growing body of work whose audiences spans from elementary school age readers through tweens with varying projects from graphic novels to historical fiction. Is there a trick to juggling them? To juggling a writing life and a family life?

If there’s a trick, I'd love to know what it is because I am plagued by guilt that I’m not paying enough attention to my kids—the two-legged ones and the literary ones.

Please tell us what upcoming projects we can look forward to seeing from you.

The sequel to my first novel, OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, will be out in April. It is called THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA.

On the comics side, my brother, Matt (and collaborator on the BABYMOUSE series) and I have a new graphic novel series debuting in May about a comic-loving amoeba. The first volume is called SQUISH: SUPER AMOEBA and it’s inspired by Matt’s childhood. (He sort of looks like Squish, but don’t tell him I said so.)


Kirby Larson said...

After reading Jenni's The Trouble With May Amelia, I am predicting another Newbery award for her. It's a don't miss read.

Alice Pope said...

I can't wait to read it, Kirby! She's such a terrific writer.

Bobbi A. Chukran, Author said...

Alice, there's a typo in your headline. :-)

joanie murray said...

Thanks Alice for giving me another author to check out. Heading to the book store now!