Danvers Author Awarded Fellowship at the Boston Public Library
A local author was awarded the Children's Writer in Residence Fellowship by the Associates of the Boston Public Library.
Danvers resident Sarah Winifred was recently awarded the Boston Public Library's 8th annual Children’s Writer-in-Residence Fellowship.
The Fellowship received more than 60 applications this year, and Searle was selected by unanimous decision by the library Associates. She will start her residency at the Boston Public Library in September.
The Fellowship provides Searle with her own room in which to work at the library as well as a $20,000 stipend. Utilizing these tools, she will seize the opportunity to complete a literary work within a nine-month time frame. The stipend is believed to be one of the largest in the United States and is funded anonymously by a gift to the Associates.
With an education in Fine Arts from Maine College of Art, and a degree in New Media from Southern Maine Community College, Ms. Searle is currently studying Humanities at Harvard Extension School.
She is the author of “Under the Apple Tree,” a ghost story graphic novel set in World War II . The book will soon be available online to read for free and the website for the book will feature a transmedia appendix.
Danvers Patch recently had the opportunity to ask Searle more about the Fellowship awarded to her and about her book.
Congratulations on the Children’s Writer-in-Residence Fellowship!
Thank you! I am so unbelievably grateful. September can’t come soon enough!
To be chosen unanimously be the Associates of the Boston Public Library is quite an honor. How did you hear about the fellowship and what was your reaction when you got the news that you’d won?
I originally heard about it online, but it wasn't until a cartoonist friend forwarded me the information and encouraged me to apply that I went for it.
I got the call in the office of my day job. The night before had been sleepless; my contract with them as game artist was coming to an end and I was stressing over where I was going next. I was floored by the unexpected honor, and what impeccable timing! I may have startled a few coworkers with my happy tears.
When your residency starts in September you will have a nine-month window in which to complete your next project. Do you already have a plan in mind or will you spend time this summer setting your goals for the work ahead of you?
I'm fortunate enough to have a considerable amount of time over the summer to get a head start. I'm hoping to have at least one full chapter (of six) finished before I start in September. The project I proposed is a little ambitious... almost 200 pages to script, sketch and paint in 270 days. That's a tall order, but I'll do it!
Your book, “Under the Apple Tree” is a ghost story presented as a graphic novel. Tell us a little bit about the story and how it came to be. What was your inspiration for the book?
I've been in love with history ever since I can remember. The amazing stories and secrets my hometown and ancestry hold have fascinated me ever since I can remember. This is my way to share and preserve these precious remnants of the past.
The main character is based on my grandmother. She's from the Boston suburbs, and she's anything but thrilled when her mother relocates them to a small town in Maine in her last year of high school. And as if her luck couldn't get any worse, her new home is haunted! She ends up investigating the dark mystery of tragic events dating back to the Civil War in an effort to help the ghost move onto the afterlife, and has to balance this burden with the trials and tribulations of adolescence that are only amplified by the background of World War II. I like to think it's somewhat of a combination between American Girl, classic Nancy Drew and Gothic fiction.
Under the Apple Tree is going to be available to read for free, in its entirety, on my website. It is not available yet as I am getting it started, but I encourage people to bookmark my website (www.swinsea.com), follow my blog (www.swinsea.com/blog), and to check back in August when I hope to have the first scene posted. From there it will updated once or twice a week until it's finished. There will also be an appendix that will more deeply explore the themes and research that deserve more light than given in the graphic novel proper. I'm hoping it will not only contain more comics but also animation, prose, and guest works.
You also work as a graphic artist. Where does the inspiration behind your art work come from?
I'm fairly certain my calling in life is to be a visual storyteller. I'm very interested in transmedia – blending different mediums to create a unique storytelling experience – and while Under the Apple Tree is intended to be a graphic novel, I plan to incorporate as many types of media as possible to really bring the characters and history to life. I think that's where a lot of my inspiration comes from, and why I enjoy working in games and web design and other technology. The possibilities are endless.
I find inspiration for the actual stories in a lot of places, but it generally comes from history, literature, and people I know. I've also recently started taking classes at Harvard Extension School, where I'm exploring subjects out of my comfort zone. For example, this past semester I took Tolkien as Translator: Language, Culture and Society in Middle-Earth. The Lord of the Rings is its source material, but the funny thing is that it's an anthropology class, not literature. I learned amazing things about linguistics and how Tolkien used his expertise in languages to create the depth of his work, and Professor Marc Zender's lectures were incredibly inspiring. I'm not sure how I'm going to use that knowledge yet, but I know I'm a better writer for it.
You mentioned that you’ve been in Danvers for about six months. Where are you originally from and how did you choose Danvers for your new home?
I am originally from Kennebunk, Maine, which is the town my project takes place. I moved to the Boston area to take classes at Harvard Extension School and to find work as an artist. I love my hometown, but there aren't many opportunities in my field there. I like Danvers a lot because it's close to a lot of exciting things, but it's also still a town and feels more like home.
Do you have anything else you would like to share with Danvers Patch readers today?
I am considering plans for events to host during my time at BPL, such as cartooning workshops and critiquing services for aspiring author/illustrators. If anyone has suggestions, I would love to hear! You can find my contact information at my website (www.swinsea.com).