Thursday, 14 June 2012

What does it mean to win the Crystal Kite Award - Norman Jorgensen

I asked Crystal Kite Award winner, author, Norman Jorgensen, what it meant winning the award...

"At first I actually couldn’t believe we actually won the award, considering the huge wealth of talent that inhabits SCBWI in Australia. Being a peer chosen award it feels just like winning an Academy Award, but without Angelina Jolie. 

To remind myself of how special this is, I look back through the pages of the book and at James Foley’s gorgeous illustrations and I’m reminded of a piece of advice from a well-known writer who said, if you are going to write picture books make sure your publisher saddles you with a great illustratorIt makes all the difference.

He wasn’t wrong. And seeing as James and I met on a SCBWI retreat, and first decided there to do the book together, it sort of feels appropriate that we will also be at a SCBWI conference to accept the award. SCBWI, what a great organisation. I love it!

Please tell us about your book!
The Last Viking is a picture book illustrated  by James Foley about Josh, a small, timid boy who is frightened of just about everything, including monsters under the bed. When his grandfather gives him a book about Vikings, where he learns they are brave and fierce, Josh decides to change his name to Knut and become a Viking. He imagines if he makes himself a Viking ship, a sword and horned helmet he will automatically become a Viking and become brave and fierce, just like them.
Later, when the local bullies come for him, goes bravely out to face up to them, however, the Norse Gods, who have been watching out for their newest warrior from their hall up in Asgard, intervene and burst from the clouds in a heavenly Longship to save him. 

How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?
I joined SCBWI soon after the hugely talented illustrator, Frané Lessac, started our Western Australia chapter ten years ago. Not only have I loved being with the members and sharing their enthusiasm and their successes, but our new book resulted directly because of James Foley and myself both being members of SCBWI.
Every year we have a SCBWI retreat on Rottnest Island, a magical spot about ten miles off our coast, and at the retreat three years ago I saw a wonderful picture in James’ sketchbook of a young boy dressed up as a medieval knight. I immediately thought, if a boy can dress up as a knight then why not as a Viking?

With my Danish surname I’ve always wanted to do a Viking story, so a tapped James on the shoulder and asked, ‘Are you busy for the next year?’  I then had to quickly think of a plot involving a boy Viking, and, most importantly, go and convince my publisher, Cate Sutherland at Fremantle Press that I had found the greatest new illustrator since Shaun Tan stubbed his big toe on his Oscar.
Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?
Just two pieces.  
1. Persistence. Never, ever, ever give in.  I’m so reminded of JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien both having had had their books rejected over fifteen times, but they still kept at it.
This Crystal Kite Award took twenty years in coming. 

2. And, most importantly, have fun. Write for yourself and not what you think the market or other people may want to read. 

Sage advice, Norman! Thank you so much for dropping in on the Conference Blog. 

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