Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sue Alexander Award -- Jay

The Sue Alexander Award is given by SCBWI to the author whose manuscript, submitted for a critique at their national conference, is deemed "most publishable." Winning that award gave me a free trip to New York City to meet with editors. But this post isn’t about winning the award. It’s about not winning it...almost. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone if you want something badly enough.

Before going to my first L.A. conference, I was very shy. I’m still a little slow warming up to new crowds, but I thaw out a lot faster than I used to. And that change can partly be traced back to that conference.

My critiquer was Kathleen Duey, someone I now consider a friend. She read my manuscript (The ChocoBarn Cow, now called My Udder Life), and loved it. She said it was the most polished manuscript she’d read that year.

At the beginning of the conference, Lin Oliver told the audience about the Sue Alexander Award. Each critiquer could recommend only one manuscript for the award. So when it came time for my critique, and Kathleen said so many nice things about my manuscript, I assumed she would submit it for the award. But she never brought it up...and I was too shy to ask.

I spent the rest of that day kicking myself (figuratively...even though I can literally kick myself, as well). "Ask her," I kept telling myself. "Maybe she forgot about it. Or maybe SCBWI forgot to tell her about it. Or maybe she tells everyone they’re her favorite. But she doesn’t seem like that kind of person. But how do you know, you just met her? Stop kicking me!"

Finally, at the autograph party, I stood in Kathleen Duey’s line, ready to ask her a very important question. "Kathleen," I said, "would you sign my book?" And then I asked another important question. "I was wondering, cuz you said you really liked my manuscript, but you didn’t mention the Sue Alexander Award, did you want to submit my book for that award?" As it turned out, she had forgotten about the award. And yes, she would submit it.

I did it! I broke out of my shell. I so much wanted to be a children’s book writer that nothing was going to stop me from reaching my goal...not even myself.

But editors? So far, they haven’t been very cooperative.

- Jay


Anonymous said...

Jay--I can so completely understand about stepping out of your comfort zone! So much in this business is networking and shameless self-promotion. But as you mention, you have to put yourself on the spot to achieve your goals. Now for the editors, wouldn't it be nice to ask, "I was wondering, cuz you've had my manuscript for a while, but haven't gotten back to me yet, did you want to bring it to the acquisitions meeting?


Disco Mermaids said...

Funny you should bring that up, Jessica. Last Saturday I mailed out my very first What's-Taking-You-So-Long letter (though I think I worded it nicer than least, I hope I did). It was for LEAP DAY, my latest mid-grade manuscript, that an editor requested and received last August. She was my critiquer at this summer's SCBWI conference.

- Jay