I am pleased to announce the news that my picture book manuscript, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor taught himself to draw, was selected as a Lee & Low Books New Voices Award Honor winner! The official news is forthcoming, and will officially be announced in January on Lee & Low's website.
Lee & Low Books is an award-winning children's book publisher specializing in multi-cultural themes. It's truly an honor to have my work recognized by the editorial staff of this publishing company.
I had been up late the prior night celebrating my 42nd birthday, so the cell phone call first thing in the morning barely woke me up. Quickly, I jumped out of bed thinking it might be my mom calling from the highway. I knew that she, my brother and his wife would be passing through Texas on their way to Galveston headed for a 10-day Christmas caribbean cruise. I wanted to wish them one last bon-voyage since I wouldn’t be able to reach them over the holidays. The familiar chime on my phone told me that I had missed whoever had called. I checked for a message.
"Hello Don, this is Louise May—" Nothing else needed to be said. I recognized the person on the other end of the phone. Louise was my editor on two books I had illustrated for Lee & Low. I knew exactly why she was calling. The writing contest! I had hoped to get this call.
"I have some good news about the Lee & Low Books New Voices Award, I left a message on your home phone yesterday, so I thought I'd try your cell today," she said. I hadn’t received the message because I never check my home phone mail. I listened to her message in it’s entirety, then waved my hands up to the heavens like some folks do in church, only I do at home in the privacy of my studio. I dashed, practically tripped down the stairs to share the news with my wife.
Now, the first thing I had to do, after sharing with my wife — even before returning Louise's phone call— was to shoot off an email to Cynthia. She's such a champion of all things concerning writing/publishing, so I knew she'd appreciate my excitement, if anyone would.
After a short round of phone tag, and leaving a completely indecipherable voice mail (I was nervous), I finally connected with Louise who gave me the details. As an honor winner, I’ll receive $500. I must admit, I had to fight back my disappointment at not getting the top award (a publishing contract) but this is fantastic considering just a year ago, I wasn’t writing anything. Besides that, Louise expressed her interest in acquiring this manuscript after some further development and revisions. Should they acquire the manuscript after polishing, they’d like for me to illustrate it. Cool.
What a great way to end the year. I can't express the gratitude I’m feeling toward those who offered inspiration, insight, feedback, critique, copyediting, and all around kindness in helping me to achieve this goal: Austin SCBWI, and specifically, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Dianna Aston and Chris Barton. Thanks again.