I know a few things about winning and losing. (1) If you don’t enter, you won’t win. (2) If you do enter, the odds are against you. (3) Your chances are nil if you do not follow the directions. (4) A purple participant’s ribbon does not lessen the pain of losing, but that is another blog for another day.
With all this in mind, I submitted my manuscript for the Karen Cushman Award sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I qualified as a children’s author over fifty years of age without a traditionally published children’s book. The fact that I had read Karen’s two books that were Newbery and Newbery Honor winners added to the appeal for me to give the contest a try. I meticulously followed the guidelines and sent my manuscript sample well before the deadline. I have my character flaws, but procrastination is not one of them.
I’ll spare you the suspense. When SCBWI announced the winner a few months later, it was not me. I marked the results on my submissions records, threw myself my allotted two-hour pity party, and went back to work.
A few weeks later, Al came in with the mail and asked if I was expecting a package. I was not, and certainly not one with Karen Cushman’s return address! Inside the package was an autographed copy of The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, one of her books that I had not read.
Karen writes superbly in my favorite genre – middle grade historical fiction. In this case, Lucy Whipple copes with life in the California gold rush while mourning her father’s death and longing for the niceties back in Massachusetts. Even the method of starting her chapters reflects the time and place. (Chapter One – Summer 1849 – In which I come to California, fall down a hill, and vow to be miserable here)
I saved the book for my recreational holiday reading and became a twelve-year-old lost in the world of Lucy Whipple who loved books and longed for roots – just like me.
Let me assure you that a great read in a book signed by a Newbery-winning author as a consolation prize beats a purple ribbon by a country mile!