|The Crystal Kite-winning Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, written by Heather Lang, illustrated by Raúl Colón|
Lee: Please tell us about your Crystal-Kite winning book!
Heather: Every book I write is a new adventure, and this one was packed with exciting discoveries and personal growth. FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine tells the true story of a daring early aviator, who made up her mind to fly nonstop from Chicago to New York City in 1916. No one had done it in before. Aviation experts thought the flight was doomed, but that didn’t stop Ruth Law!
I am a fearFUL flyer, so friends were surprised to hear I was writing a book about an early aviator. Actually, exploring my own fears has been the spark for several of my books. When I read about Ruth Law, I couldn’t imagine the courage it took to navigate from an open cockpit in a flimsy flying machine made from bamboo and cloth. And what about the huge obstacles Ruth faced as a woman? Her persistence was remarkable. I especially admired how she immersed herself in her passion, becoming a mechanic and learning every nut and bolt on her machine.
Early on in my research, I read that Ruth kept a scrapbook. I tracked down the enormous book at the National Air and Space Museum archives. It was a gold mine, filled with hundreds of articles, ribbons, photos, and Ruth’s own handwritten notes. With so much material I could really focus the book and bring readers along on Ruth’s thrilling flight.
When it came time to do my experiential research for this book, I knew I needed to dig deep and find my own courage. What was it like to fly in an open cockpit? Since I couldn’t find an early biplane, paragliding seemed like a good alternative. As I stood on the edge of the mountain, ready to jump, I tried to internalize Ruth’s words: “I wouldn’t give a cent for any experience that didn’t scare me a little. The scare is part of the thrill.” Once I recovered from the initial panic, it was a wonderful experience—soaring up and down like a bird. It inspired me to weave the theme of liberty into the story—the freedom Ruth felt as a pilot and sought as a woman. Raúl Colón’s stunning art captured this so beautifully. He lifted my words to a higher level. I am still in awe when I look at the illustrations.
|Author Heather Lang|
Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you’ve gained by being a member?
Heather: I can honestly say I wouldn’t be a published author without SCBWI. That’s why receiving this award from my New England peers is so incredibly meaningful.
In 2003 when I first started writing children’s books, I became an SCBWI member and joined an SCBWI critique group at the Concord Library in Massachusetts. I immediately gained a community of writers, as well as inspiration and encouragement to keep pursuing my dream. I attended SCBWI conferences and learned invaluable skills that helped me grow as a writer. I began volunteering at our regional conferences. From managing the new members’ table to helping with freebies to organizing critiques, my connections in the community grew. SCBWI gave me the confidence to have faith in myself and take my writing seriously. I am deeply grateful for the many gifts SCBWI has given me.
Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children’s book writers and illustrators?
Heather: Surround yourself with writers and illustrators. Go to book launches, kid lit events, kid lit drink nights, conferences, and workshops. Go on writing retreats. Join a critique group! You will improve your craft immeasurably by critiquing others’ work and getting feedback on your own.
Just as important is the emotional support you will share with each other. This is a tough business with lots of ups and downs. Whether you are struggling with a revision or discouraged about a tough critique or a rejection, support from peers will get you through the rough patches. And there’s nothing like celebrating each other’s successes. I have made life-long friends during my journey and rely on them tremendously for support.
And don’t forget to treat writing like your profession, not a hobby. Take yourself seriously as a writer, be open to feedback, work hard, and NEVER GIVE UP!
Thanks, Heather, and congratulations again (to you and Raúl) on Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine winning the Crystal Kite Award!
You can find out more about Heather at her website here.
Illustrate and Write On,