I was so thrilled that Water Can Be… was up for this year’s Minnesota Book Award. And I even acknowledged that it had a chance to win. This was a big step for me, and, I hope, a sign of my growing “writer confidence.”
My first trade poetry collection was Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School. When it was named a Finalist in 2010, I was shocked. So shocked I didn’t even write notes for the short acceptance speech you give if they call your name. When they started introducing the category at the gala, my heart was pounding out of my chest with fear that they WOULD call my name, and I would be literally speechless. They didn’t, but my friend, poet Joyce Sidman won. Whew! I was both relieved and thrilled for her Red Sings from Treetops.
In 2012, BookSpeak was a Finalist, and that time I was prepared, though I still thought there was no way my book would win. But it did! I gave my shaky little acceptance and spent the rest of the night admiring the glass art prize in a daze.
In 2014, A Leaf Can Be… was a Finalist. AND my editor, Carol Hinz, was attending the gala. I just knew it had no chance of winning. I was sure, I told myself, that BookSpeak only won because it was about books. Still, I felt like I was letting Carol and Lerner down when I didn’t win. (Even though they were not putting any kind of pressure on me to win or anything!)
So here we are in 2015, and something magical has happened. As I went to the gala, with my wonderful husband, Randy, and my daughters, Annabelle and Maddie, there to cheer me on, I felt comfortable.
I had no idea whether Water Can Be… would win. The other Finalists in my category were amazing, and I truly admired all their books. I had done a couple of events with Mike Wohnoutka (Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster) and Michael Hall (It’s an Orange Aardvark!), and of course I knew Joyce’s lovely Winter Bees inside and out. We had all four won Minnesota Book Awards before. And I knew any one of us could win this year. Even me!
That was a revelation. For me to feel comfortable and confident that these were four deserving books, and I could celebrate that night no matter who won…that was kind of a new feeling. I think the starred reviews that Water Can Be… got helped a lot, and the lists and honors of previous books. I finally feel like I’m at the place where I know lovely awards are possible for my books.
Certainly, not all my books will win awards or be named to NCTE or Bank Street lists and such (I wish). But I’ve slowly come to see that committees choose books, and the choice will totally vary depending on who’s on the committee. Having been on a couple of committees myself now has brought that truth home! There is no single best book in any category. So being a Finalist or on lists or Shortlists–that is a huge honor, one I will be grateful for and proud of, no matter who actually wins.
It would’ve been wonderful to win, but Water Can Be… didn’t take this one. But you know what? Among the Finalists who didn’t win in Children’s Literature or Young Adult Literature that night were writers who had won: more than one Newbery Medal, Newbery Honors, the National Book Award, NYT Bestseller status, and more. I am feeling pretty good about just being part of that amazing group!
Finally, now that I’ve rambled on awhile, congratulations to Joyce Sidman, who won Children’s Literature, and Margi Preus, whose West of the Moon won Young Adult Literature! Both of these are lovely books that I highly recommend:>)