Back in March, I found out that A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT (illustrated by Floyd Cooper) had won the Golden Kite Award for Picture Book text from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The ceremony was held August 2, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Century City during the annual conference of the SCBWI. There were several things that combined to make this the most exciting trip ever:
- I had never been to California.
- I have only been to two writing conferences (and a couple of writing retreats.)
- There were over 1200 people in attendance.
- I had to give a speech. (Gulp!)
This is what the room looked like for the luncheon.
The most memorable thing about the luncheon to me is that the writers who were presented awards in other categories are all writers I have admired for so long. I felt gobsmacked to be mentioned in the same ceremony with these children’s book professionals:
Golden Kite for Non-fiction: Candace Fleming for The Family Romanov
Candace joked that she wondered who would be interested in a book about Russian History, but you guys, this book is fascinating, GRIPPING history. Also, Candace writes everything well. She’s the author of some of my favorite picture books!
Golden Kite for Fiction: Deborah Wiles for Revolution
With this National Book Award finalist, Deborah has written another documentary novel that transports and engages. I couldn’t put this one down. Also, Deborah will forever be near and dear to my heart because she came to one of my first book signings for my very first book, even when she had never met me before. It meant — and still means — so much to me.
Golden Kite for Illustration: Melissa Sweet for The Right Word
I have loved every book Melissa has ever illustrated. I often take them off the shelf in my library and stare at the illustrations, trying think about how she made them and wondering if I could paint anything in her style (I can’t. Yet.) But it was Melissa’s illustrations that motivated me to take a drawing class this past year and to work on some hand-lettering. I don’t expect to ever be an illustrator, but Melissa’s illustrations are vast enough to swim in creatively and that’s enough for me!
Sid Fleischman Award for Humor: Michelle Knudsen for Evil Librarian
Michelle is another writing hero of mine who seems to write everything well! She is the author of one of my all-time favorite picture books, Library Lion, and Evil Librarian, a young adult novel, promises to be hilarious. I’m sad to say I haven’t read this one yet, because it’s on my next library order, but I just received an email yesterday that it shipped! So, this one will be in my TBR stack soon!
When it came time for me to give my speech, I was already in tears walking up to the stage. I bit my tongue a bit to try to pull myself together. There have been some quotes from my speech posted on Twitter and Facebook as part of promotion of the conference on social media. I thought I’d share a few bits from my speech here that are important to me as well:
“I am thankful to my children and especially my husband Demps whose very life reminds me that deep joy is only found in fulfilling our purpose. Thank you for recognizing that I feel God’s pleasure when I write. Thank you for understanding me, often even better than I understand myself…”
“…I think I write to discover my own empathy, or more honestly perhaps, to work toward it, and in some ways I have that same hope for my readers. As a librarian it is one of the things I want my students to find in books, be it empathy for their own situations or empathy for and a deeper understanding of others. I want to enter in myself and both bring others with me and take others by the hand once I’m there.”
“As I was flying over LA on Thursday, vast city stretching as far as I could see, I thought about all the hopes and dreams held within just one city block, within each city block of every city, every town, every village of this world. It stops me in my tracks. My heart feels the weight of those hopes and dreams. I thought about how fragile those hopes and dreams are and how even on our very best days we still just need enough joy and hope to believe we can become who we’re meant to become…”
“…Our readers are the ones who take our ideas and run with them, tugging and taking them higher than we could on our own.”
It was a day full of joy and gratitude and tears and I am forever grateful to have shared it.
The day ended with a book signing and I shared a signing table with rock star illustrator Peter Brown! Whoo-hoo! I didn’t think lightning struck the same person twice in one day?!