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article imageJerry Craft talks 'New Kid' book, winning 2020 John Newbery medal Special

By Markos Papadatos     May 6, 2020 in Lifestyle
Acclaimed author and illustrator Jerry Craft chatted with Digital Journal's Markos Papadatos about winning the 2020 John Newbery Medal for "New Kid."
On winning the 2020 John Newbery Medal for New Kid, Craft said, "That was pretty amazing. I was shocked, but it has been pretty amazing."
He continued, "What makes the lead character Jordan so identifiable is really just a matter of little things that he has to deal with every day with his friends. There are little things we can all do to make things better for each other. I wanted to show these things with Jordan. You don't ever stop being the new kid. I wanted to make an emotional connection with my readers."
"With New Kid, I wanted to do something different. As an African-American author, I wanted to bring people in the culture and I wanted people to like Jordan and his friends. I wanted it to be funny and thought-provoking in certain spots. I had a big set of lofty goals that I tried to tackle one by one," he said.
Craft broke the glass ceiling with New Kid, where it became the first graphic novel to win the coveted Newbery Medal; moreover, he is the first Newbery Medal winner of this new decade. "There have been some really great books that have helped pave the way such as Hey, Kiddo. I am definitely appreciative of those books," he said.
In addition to the John Newbery Medal, New Kid also won the Coretta Scott King Award and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers' Literature.
On being a children's book author in the digital age, he said, "Some aspects of the digital age are great. I drew New Kid digitally. As we speak, I am on a deadline to finish book two. The digital age has allowed me to do things faster, so that's really cool. I've done so many Zoom meetings lately so that takes getting used to."
He noted that all of the moments in his career were "career-defining." "I got so many rejection letters when I was first trying to get published. I didn't think I would ever get traditionally published so I started to self-publish where I learned how to do everything myself such as my own website, my own copyrighting, and my own marketing and social media. By the time I got the opportunity to do this, I was used to doing everything by myself. I worked hard to get good on my own," he said.
For young and aspiring children's book author, he told them, "It's not going to be perfect the first time. It took me years to write New Kid. A lot of young artists specifically put so much pressure on themselves that they never complete a story or finish a sketchbook or drawing, and then, they go to the next thing. If you can, take your time and finish it. Learn to get better. I am a better artist now even when I was when I did New Kid. It's definitely a process, so give yourself credit to fail, and learn from that failure to make it better."
"I am even more committed now because of the awards and people looking forward to the next book. It's not so much pressure as much as I can't wait to get it into people's hands," he added.
On the title of the current chapter of his life, he said, "Faster and More Furious." "My life is like a Fast & Furious sequel," he said.
Craft shared that success is when readers (especially reluctant ones) are able to make a strong connection to his book, and when it can impact his reader's lives in a positive way. "When I think about success, I think about reaching kids like me, who have never seen themselves in a book before, and hearing these great stories," he said.
New Kid is available on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble. "Thank you to the fans and the readers for their support. Knowing that there are so many people that are waiting for the next book is such a cool thing. Now, I definitely work happier and more enthusiastically because I know there are so many people waiting and I know there are so many people that are fans," he said.
For more information on Jerry Craft and his book New Kid, check out his official homepage and be sure to follow him on Twitter.
Read More: Digital Journal's Markos Papadatos reviewed Jerry Craft's award-winning New Kid book, which was hailed as "masterful."
Jerry Craft holding  New Kid  book  which won the Newbery Medal
Jerry Craft holding 'New Kid' book, which won the Newbery Medal
Photo Courtesy of Jerry Craft
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