Thursday, April 25, 2019

Elizabeth Partridge - The Golden Kite Award Interview—Non-Fiction for Older Readers Winner for "Boots on the Ground: America's War In Vietnam"

Elizabeth Partridge was awarded the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Non-Fiction for Older Readers for "Boots on the Ground: America's War In Vietnam" at the SCBWI 2019 Winter Conference in New York City on February 8, 2019. 

Award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge

 Here, we catch up with Elizabeth about her book and winning this honor... 

Lee: Congratulations, Elizabeth! Please tell us about finding out you’d won this Golden Kite Award.

Elizabeth: Lin Oliver called and left a message on my cell phone. I didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t even check my message for a couple of days. Then I heard her message in which said she had “important news.” It didn’t even occur to me she was calling about the Golden Kite! I was working on a deadline, and my mind was far, far away. I was totally blown away when I called her back and she told me the important news was that I’d won the Golden Kite!

Lee: Pitch us to move Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam to the top of our To-Be-Read pile — What's it about?

Elizabeth: Nearly three million Americans served in Vietnam during the war, almost ten percent of their generation. They came home to a divided, disillusioned country. I interviewed men who fought, a nurse, a refugee, and a protestor to hear their stories of what the war was like for them. What did courage look like to them? Honor? How had their morals changed? Their answers were not what I expected.

The Vietnam War changed America forever. It cost the lives of nearly 60,000 young Americans, took down a president, and forced us to deal with a wave of refugees we were ill-prepared for.

We’re divided again as a nation, and the seeds of our divisiveness were planted during the Vietnam War. What lessons can we learn from the turmoil and anguish of the war, so that we can make better decisions for our country today?

Lee: I love how relevant to today you made it! Is there an Ah-ha! Moment from the book’s creation you can share?

Elizabeth: There were so many amazing, intense, overwhelming moments in putting together Boots on the Ground. One that struck me early in interviewing veterans is how the war was still totally vivid for every one of them. As they spoke with me, it was as if they were back in Vietnam.

As I got closer to finishing the book I realized that each individual story is both highly personal, and also woven deeply into the fabric of what makes history. I love the place where personal and political meet up. It’s an intense, powerful cross-current.

Lee: How long have you been a member of SCBWI, and how has SCBWI helped on your journey?

Elizabeth: I’ve been a member of SCBWI since before I was published, 25 years ago. At first, SCBWI helped me sort out my beginner questions: who can I submit to? What is the proper format for a manuscript? How do I write a picture book manuscript? After getting published, I started presenting at SCBWI chapters and really enjoyed meeting other authors and lending a hand/giving advice to the people coming up.

When my friend, illustrator Martha Weston, died unexpectedly, her family wanted to create a tribute to her, and asked me what would be the best organization to sponsor a grant in her name. Without hesitation I said SCBWI, and they set up a terrific grant that is going strong. Check it out.

I’ve always kept my membership current and have loved watching SCBWI stretch its wings to be helpful to more long-time published authors as well as aspiring authors. It really ticks me off when people label SCBWI as being just for beginners. It is so much more! The huge network of local groups all over the United States and a few overseas are invaluable for making our community a real community.

Lee: What advice do you have to share with other children’s book creators?

Elizabeth: Very few people are excellent at writing when they start out. It’s a craft, like cider-making, or weaving. Take classes, read, write. Try out different genres. And in our crazy-busy world, you have to make sure you actually DO it, not just think about doing it. Get your butt in the chair, and keep at it.

Lee: Super advice, yes, we must DO it! Thanks so much, Elizabeth, and again, congratulations!

Illustrate and Write On,

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