Saturday, June 7, 2014


I thought that once The Flame in the Mists debut year was over, my life would slip comfortably back into inner journeys, through words and other worlds, including more regular blogging. Wrong! 2014 has been busier than ever, with school visits, festivals, conferences, library events . . . thousands of miles driven between PA, NJ, NY, DE . . . not to mention a family visit to England, and a songwriting trip to Belgium.

All perfect blog fodder. Yet nary a bloggish word I wrote, and Blog slipped ever farther into the realms of prehistory. Winter came and went. Likewise Spring. But now, teetering on summer, I have news to share and celebrate! 

The Flame in the Mist won an award. An award! A Crystal Kite award! 

Doesn't the award sticker look like a magical orb? What better image for Jemma and her world? And the script matches her eyes and amulet perfectly!

So how did this happen? It all starts with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. . .

I have huge tracts of time for the SCBWI, and I’ll explain why, and how this award brings me full circle, making it especially gratifying to receive. If you’re a children’s author of any ilk looking for inroads, perhaps my story will also tell you why, if you’re not already a member, you should join.

The SCBWI is a fantastic resource worldwide. In the U.S., many states have their own chapter that runs conferences and workshops that not only help kidlit authors navigate the business, but can also result in forging friendships that threaten to be lifelong.

Next tier of awesomeness: If you attend a conference, you can, after the event, submit a query to any agent or editor there – yes, even editors from the normally agent-submissions-only publishing houses.

But the icing on the conference cake is the opportunity to meet and network with those pedastled gatekeepers of kidlit, who actually turn out to be quite human. At some conferences, you can even submit manuscript pages for a critique session with an agent and/or editor. And if an editor from any publishing house – even those biggies – critiques your pages and invites you to submit the whole manuscript . . . Icing on the icing!

So it was with me and The Flame in the Mist. At the New Jersey chapter’s conference in 2010, I met an editor from Delacorte Press, et voila! You can read the whole story here, on Kathy Temean’s blog.

As if all this wasn’t enough awesomeness, the SCBWI also runs the Crystal Kite awards, the only peer-voted award in children's literature. Voting is divided between many regions worldwide, and members vote for books released within the previous year, whose authors live in their region. I’m in the Atlantic Region, consisting of PA, NJ, MD, DE, VA, West VA and DC. And to my gobsmacked elation. . .

. . . of 70 nominated books in my region, The Flame in the Mist won!

The award will probably be presented to me at my chapter’s next main event in November. In the meantime, just last Friday, I received the beautiful shiny award stickers. Tangible evidence! And of course, I love the way it looks on the book cover. A silver disc. It could almost be a symbol from my recording artiste days. . .

Discs, circles, mandalas. I’ve always loved them as a symbol. The wheel of life. Completion. From the earliest, nervous critique sessions I took part in at conferences, through query workshops, mentor sessions, the conference, and now, to winning this year’s Crystal Kite award. The SCBWI has brought me full circle.

Circles also imply continuation. As T.S. Eliot said, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” And yes, I’m about to set off again. The next NJ SCBWI conference is coming up in 3 weeks, and I’ve signed up for workshops on picture book writing. A new round of exploration. . .Who knows what will be next? 

So there it is. If this can happen for me, it can happen for anyone. Aspiring kidlit authors: Join the SCBWI! 

My heartfelt gratitude goes to Lin Oliver, executive director of the SCBWI, SCBWI president Stephen Mooser, and to all the local chapter RAs who make things happen. The Flame in the Mist literally owes its existence in the world to all of you. Thank you.