Last night I attended the PEN New England Children’s Book Committee (nee Caucus) presentation of the Susan P. Bloom Discovery Awards. The Committee bestows these honors upon unpublished authors of fiction and nonfiction for children based on entries of the first ten pages (or complete picture book text) of a manuscript. The winners receive some prize money and the chance of a lifetime – editors will read their complete manuscript.

This year’s winners:

  • Bette Anne Rieth, for her upper-middle grade/YA  novel Greetings From the Miracle, which opens with Dina re-connecting with her mother after she’s released from prison. Rieth’s evocative language places the reader immediately in the scene and in minds and motivations of the characters, who are as fleshed out as you or I.
  • Linda Zajac, for her upper-middle grade nonfiction text Ice Birds in a Warming Land, which begins in media res with a baby penguin trying to keep ahead, literally, of the melting snow. The premise sounds as if it will contextualize the current global issues into a story of survival that will have your tweens cheering not just for penguins.
  • Heather Jessen, for her picturebook I Won a Robot in a Raffle, which hilariously describes what happens after a prize is achieved. The witty one-liners provide ample room for an illustrator to capture and counterpoint the antics of this larger-than-life robot.

Congratulations, ladies! This award and your hard work (like that of previous wordsmiths) prove that the PEN is a mighty weapon against the constant badgering of relatives who phone you after the Today Show interviews a wunderkind and they wonder why you at tender age of [] haven’t published anything yet.

Attaining publication in the children’s literature world can be as easy and fun as ridding your house of bedbugs. The tears! The little suckers (manuscripts) just keep coming back! The restless nights punctuated by posting on forums with those who know.  But awards like the PEN help us all out and get us one step closer to the dream. Numerous previous winners have gone on to see their names in print.

So cheers to Bette Anne, Linda, Heather. And cheers to the wonderful members of the Children’s Book Committee for providing the writing community with this opportunity.