Each year, the Sue Alexander Service and Encouragement Award is presented to a regional volunteer who has shown exceptional dedication to SCBWI Los Angeles. This year’s winner, Karol Ruth Silverstein, credits her time volunteering as Schmooze/LitMingle Meister with signing with an agent and subsequently selling a book. She’s since moved on to be our Contest Coordinator and is so dedicated, she was just featured in our previous “Volunteer Spotlight” (here). So instead of the usual spotlight fare, I thought we’d do something a little different and ask Karol some fun questions.
SARAH PARKER-LEE: If you could volunteer for anything you wanted to, other than SCBWI, what would you choose?
KAROL RUTH SILVERSTEIN: In a parallel universe, I’d love to have some basic carpentry skills. I just think it would be fun to be able to build myself a bookshelf or to make one of those Little Free Library kiosks. In that parallel universe, I’d volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in a heartbeat. I can’t think of anything more fun that helping to build a house — and being a part of providing a deserving family with a home to call their own.
SPL: Who is your favorite fictional volunteer?
KRS: I’m sure I can think of several worthy candidates from children’s literature after this is published, but for now, a character that really stood out to me recently was Ngoc Lan Tran from the movie Downsizing, played wonderfully by Thai actress Hong Chau. The character was a Vietnamese dissident who loses part of her leg during a protest and is “downsized” as punishment. Despite being in considerable physical pain, she tirelessly helps those more disadvantaged than she is in the “slums” of the strange downsized world. Not only was this a wonderfully three-dimensional disabled character (still extremely rare in Hollywood), but the actress was amazing in the role.
SPL: Now that you’ve won the SASE, do your cats treat you differently?
KRS: Ninja and Boo were completely unimpressed with my award. In fact, they were angry I’d been out all day at Writers Day and it took hours of snuggling to get back in their good graces! They firmly believe the only “service” I should be performing is catering to their needs.
SPL: Why do you give so much of your time to SCBWI when you have a book to prep for publication?
KRS: Because I’m crazy? Because I had no idea how much work was involved in being Contest Coordinator?? In truth though, without my service to SCBWI LA, I’d have no agent, no polished manuscript, and subsequently, no book to prep for publication, so I’m not sure my debt to the SCBWI will ever fully be paid.
SPL: What is the weirdest, funniest, or most touching thing that’s happened to you as a result of being an SCBWI volunteer?
KRS: Something that was both strange and fun was that I somehow found myself singing with Alexis O’Neil to open the CenCal Writer’s Day in the fall 2013. I’d written a parody — “These Are A Few of Our Favorite Books” — for a Schmooze earlier in the year. I knew Alexis liked to start her Writer’s Day events in song, so I offered her the lyrics. When I arrived the day of the event, she sprang it on me that we’d be singing it together! I’m so glad she hadn’t told me ahead of time because I had no time to freak out or feel self-conscious about it. Throughout the day, attendees and faculty alike came up to me to say how great the song was, and it was a great conversation starter. I met SO many people that day!
The most touching thing is definitely the amazing friendships I’ve developed through being a Schmooze coordinator and later serving on the SCBWI LA Board. Again, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully repay the debt I owe to this amazing organization.
You can learn more about volunteering with SCBWI, all the great perks and freebies it entails, and what positions are open from the links below. We need everything from graphic designers to LitMingle coordinators to event hosts. If you want to give back, we’ll find a place for you!
SoCal Region (email for info)
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Karol Ruth Silverstein writes various genres of children’s books. 2017 brought Karol’s first book sale — her young adult novel, Cursed, was acquired by Monica Perez at Charlesbridge Teen. She is represented by Jen Linnan of Linnan Literary Management and lives in West Hollywood with her two exceptionally fluffy cats, Ninja and Boo.
Sarah Parker-Lee is a Los Angeles Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators board member & the Managing Editor of Kite Tales, a book reviewer for Dwarf+Giant, a content creator for non-profits fighting injustice all over the interwebs, & is available to edit your writerly endeavors. She writes YA alt. history, sci-fi, & is the creator of Dogs & Zombies: Dog’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Twitterings: @SarahSoNovel, @DogsAndZombies
Images provided by Karol Ruth Silverstein and Christine Van Zandt