I was THRILLED to hear the wonderful news that Karen Avivi won the SCBWI Spark Award for her contemporary sporty girl book, SHREDDED. I interviewed Karen back in August -- you can read that interview here.
She agreed to share her thoughts about the honor of winning the VERY FIRST Spark Award. Congratulations, Karen. And thank you for being on the blog again!
Thank you Kris for inviting me back to Sporty Girl Books to share the news that I won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators inaugural Spark Award for my girls’ BMX novel Shredded. Having an organization like the SCBWI praise Shredded is a huge endorsement of independent publishing and sporty girl books.
SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver said, “Kudos for Karen Avivi for going about self publishing in the proper way, using the editorial and design services of professionals in the field. Shredded is the perfect kind of book to publish independently. It’s got a built-in audience of BMX fans and supplies a great story for a specific market. The action is tense, her characters are full, and the writing is full of pace and appeal.”
People kept telling me that a novel about girls’ BMX was too “niche,” but to me a niche is a good thing. If you’ve ever tried rock climbing, then you know that even a tiny crevice in the perfect spot is all you need to keep moving. Give me a niche in an interesting place over a crowded ledge any day!
Writing about an individual fringe girls sport is about as niche as it gets. What I love about these sports is their emphasis on creativity and innovation over rules and penalties. A character who has to constantly explain what her sport is, and then prepare for the inevitable “are you crazy” look is immediately interesting to me. There are so few of them, that when they find other like-minded people they instantly connect, whether they like each other or not. That backdrop provides a fantastic landscape for story creation. Exploring the “why do you do it?” and “what drives you?” questions for these athletes keeps my muse working overtime.
Hopefully, the Spark Award will encourage more writers to worry less about mass appeal and write the stories that genuinely interest them, like girls’ sports. With so many talented editors and cover designers freelancing, plus the advances in print-on-demand and electronic publishing, it is possible to independently create a polished, professional-looking book.
Grab those niches and climb on!
Note about the SCBWI Spark Award
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 22,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia.
The Spark Award is open to current writer and/or illustrator SCBWI members who have independently published a board book, picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult novel through a self-publishing enterprise or individually self-published. The judges focused on quality of writing and concept, professional presentation, and editing and design. The Spark Award received over 500 entries in its inaugural year.
Kris: I'm so happy for Karen, and I'm proud to be affiliated with SCBWI (though I have no connection to the award or the decision makers). SHREDDED was a great choice to win this honor.