Thursday, October 23, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS by Alexis O'Neill (SCBWI California: Central/Coastal)

This week's spotlight is on the 2014 Crystal Kite Award-winning THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge by Alexis O'Neill!

Alexis is a Regional Advisor Emeritus for SCBWI California: Central/Coastal, and won for the California/Hawaii Division.

The 2014 Crystal Kite-Winning picture book, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS
Award-Winning Author Alexis O'Neill
I connected with Alexis to find out more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Alexis: My KITE book is what I call a “biographical slice.” This true story is about an action taken by a boy that had a tremendous impact on transportation and commerce in America. In January of 1848, Homan Walsh flew his homemade kite over the Niagara River between American and Canada against tremendous odds. When he finally landed his kite, the string became the first line for the first suspension bridge over the Niagara River. The bridge ended up carrying not only foot traffic and carriages, but a railroad line as well. I loved the drama of the story, and the idea that persistence and skill carry the day.

Lee: I love how you're able to articulate those themes, and it sounds like a great story! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Alexis: In the early 1980s, I took a class led by children’s author Helen Buckley at University College in Syracuse, New York. The class began as a diversion from working on my doctoral dissertation, but it led me to the best career in the world as a children’s writer. Helen encouraged me to join SCBW (no “I” then), and I did. My move from New York to California was made easier knowing that SCBWI provided a ready-made network of friends. With the wealth of opportunities to learn about the business and grow as a writer, my self-prescribed “graduate degree” in children’s books began with SCBWI and continues to this day.

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

Alexis: Focus on story. Make every word count. Don’t be impatient. Too many new authors and illustrators focus on How do I find an agent? How do I pitch to an editor? instead of asking, What do I need to learn and do to tell this story best?

Great Advice! Thanks, Alexis.

I also contacted Mary Ann Fraser, the current Regional Advisor for SCBWI California: Central/Coastal to find out more about Alexis' win and their region...
After 18 plus years of service to Central-Coastal California as the regional advisor, we couldn't be more pleased that Alexis O'Neill's book, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS, has been honored with the Crystal Kite Award. Here we recognize that Alexis's thoroughness, attention to detail, and respect for quality writing for children is only a reflection of how she approaches all tasks, whether they be an event bringing PAL members and educators together or a Writers' Day featuring top professionals in the field. How wonderful that this recognition now extends beyond our four-county region and to this inspirational story.

SCBWI Central-Coastal California, a warm and welcoming region rich in talent. is comprised of Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Kern counties. Numerous volunteers and an advisory board work together to offer our members a wide range of events including a Writers' Day, Writers' Retreat, numerous craft-focused workshops, and illustrator events. Most recently we have added sketchcrawls and even a traveling sketchbook to the mix, giving our diverse membership not only multiple opportunities to learn from professionals and peers alike, but also a strong sense of community.
Thanks to both Alexis and Mary Ann, and cheers to Alexis for THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can learn more about Alexis, her books and her school visits (she writes the regular column on school visits for the SCBWI Bulletin) at Alexis' website here.

And to find out more about SCBWI California: Central/Coastal, check out their regional site here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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