Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America,” is the author of over 365 books including OWL MOON, THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC, and HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOODNIGHT. Her works have won an assortment of awards including two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, two Golden Kite, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, the Jewish Book Award, the Kerlan Award, the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal, many state awards, as well as six honorary doctorates. She lives in Massachusetts in the winter and Scotland in the summer. One of her awards set her good coat on fire.
Critically acclaimed children’s book author Jane Yolen created this grant to honor the contribution of mid-list authors. The grant awards $3,000 to mid-list authors and aims to help raise awareness about their current works-in-progress. Jane was the first SCBWI Regional Advisor and currently sits on the SCBWI Board of Advisors.
What do you look for when you read the submissions?
I look for a career of promise cut short through no fault of the author. More than one or two books sold to legitimate publishing houses, books that won small or large awards, got on lists, had starred reviews. Did modestly well, even small bestsellers. And then the crash. No manuscripts taken within the last five years even though the author has continued writing, sending out work, still teaching writing or doing workshops. But a solid midlist career ending in a whimper.
Why did you feel compelled to offer this grant?
Because as an editor and author, I believe in the midlist, those books while not best sellers, get reprinted, loved, and are the stepping stones to even better work ahead.
How can the grant benefit and encourage writers?
First to remind them that we–the readers and the fellow professionals in the field–care. That we know so much of publishing is out of our hands. And the monetary grant can be used any way the winners wish–to my knowledge it has been used to go to a large and/or regional SCBWI conference, to specific workshops, to go to New York, to meet with prospective agents, to buy a better laptop, and more.
What are the special challenges that writers in this particular category face?
We all get lost when that BIG bestseller in the field eats up all the publishing oxygen. When we are not well-enough known to get to be a speaker, or even a panelist at major conferences. When we never make back even our modest advance. Even with all the books I have out, I am still there. When we get rejections because the book is too quiet, too narrow-focused, or the catch-all, “not right for our list.”