Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interview with Crystal Kite Winner AND National Book Award Winner Kathryn Erskine!

Know what I love about SCBWI? Many, many things, but one of them is the camaraderie you'll find among its members. Like recently, when I was so VERY honored to win the Crystal Kite Member's Choice Award for Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri (Thank you again, SCBWI friends!). One of the fellow honorees (I don't remember who - sorry!) suggested that we invite one another onto our blogs. And so here I am, lucky enough to have NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER Kathryn Erskine by for a visit! Kathryn won the Crystal Kite Award in Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland for MOCKINGBIRD. (And stay tuned for more Crystal Kite winners, too!)


Me: You've grown up all over the world! Do you think those experiences color your writing? How?

KE: Definitely. I like looking at things from a different perspective. I like understanding the differences in people and cultures. I like the varied cadence of languages and music. All of that goes into my writing. Also, growing up as the new kid on the block and odd one out (I went to 8 different schools) leaves its mark. I understand that feeling of being on the outside that we all have at one time or another. That makes it easy to empathize with people, including my characters.

Me: Your latest book is THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE. Can you tell us more about it?

KE: Actually, if you take the two middle letters out of the main character’s name, you’re left with “me.” The story is really about you, the reader. Finding what you’re good at. Finding what you’re passionate about. Finding your value. Mike is trying to live up to others’ expectations and not be who he really is -- partly, because he doesn’t know what he’s good at. After a summer with some really wacky relatives and townspeople, he figures it out and has to stand up for who he really is. There’s lots of humor, and it’s lighter than Mockingbird, although finding out who you are is important business.

Me: What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

KE: Keep at it. That means keep writing (and reading) and working on your craft, and keep going to workshops and conferences to continue to learn. I love discovering information and having “Aha!” moments, and it’s great to see your writing improve.

Me: And of course, I have to ask: THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD for MOCKINGBIRD! Can you share with us getting The Call and what follows in the days after such a wonderful honor?

KE: Yes, when I got the call that Mockingbird was nominated I was so stunned that I said about three words, repeatedly. Harold Augenbraum, National Book Foundation Executive Director, who made the call, was probably thinking, “This must be why she writes . . . she can’t actually speak.”

The award’s banquet was like the Oscars, complete with red carpet, and questions like, “Who are you wearing?” Only there was a dinner, too, so even better than the Oscars! I wasn’t nervous because I really didn’t think my book would win, but my wise editor advised me to come up with an acceptance speech so I didn’t sound like I did during the phone call (see above).

Since then, it has been a whirlwind of travel, speeches, etc., and meeting many wonderful readers and supporters. It has been an incredible treat.

Having YOU visit has been an incredible treat, Kathy! Thank you for stopping by. Please, friends, go visit her on the web: