The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Author awards? Ya sure, you betcha

Last time I was in Minneapolis, it was Jan. 2 and the very beginning of the Year of Lanie.  I was meeting (for the second day in a row) reading families who love American Girl books and were excited about Lanie.  My sister Joy even got a member of her family to come to the American Girl store to congratulate me.  Go, Mike!

Since then, I haven’t been out of the airport when I fly through Minnesota, but I’ve been talking to girls who’ve made little eeee sounds about visiting the American Girl store there.  This week, more sweetness flowed out of Minneapolis to me. 

Everyone should have the fun of getting a message like this one:

We are so pleased to have selected you as our Kerlan Award recipient for 2011! Each year the Kerlan Award  is given (according to the Kerlan website) “in recognition of singular attainments in the creation of children’s literature and in appreciation of the generous donation of unique resources to the Kerlan Collection for the study of children’s literature.” Our committee was impressed with the depth and breadth of your donations to the Kerlan and your long and distinguished publishing career.  

I look forward to planning the logistical details of the award ceremony with you in the coming months.


I swoon with thrilldom when I look at some of the other authors who’ve been honored by the Kerlan Award:

Margaret Wise Brown

Katherine Paterson

Lois Lowry

Madeleine L’Engle

Karen Cushman…Walter Dean Myers…Jane Yolen…Carol Ryrie Brink

I love books by those authors.  I love being part of the children’s literature world–and my author friends.  Are awards a good thing for the book world?

Well, as one of my author friends says, they’re like fairy dust.  No one can count on them.  They’re lovely when they sprinkle down on you.  I like pointing out these days that there is a very good reason why the words starving and artist go together.  Being an author is a great way to live.  It’s a terrible way to make a living.  Thank goodness for award-givers and other ambassadors for books and champions of authors.

I’m also full of thrilldom to go back to a city that was shiny and generous and comforting when my ND city, Grand Forks, was whomped by the flood in 1997.  I love the independent bookstores in Minneapolis.  I love the outdoor spirit in Minneapolis.  I love the school visits I’ve done there.  UMBA (when it was UMBA) was always a jolt of joy.  I still show pictures from some of the work Minnesota teachers and librarians have done to help students connect with my books.

My sweet sister Joy drove from Minneapolis and did the ugly work of helping me dig out, clean up, and move into a FEMA trailer.  She just showed up.  That same spirit of giving and strong character has been part of every school I’ve visited there, including one where 23 families speak Amharic as a first language at home.  That spirit shines through Twin Cities families who have been library planters for Ethiopia Reads, too.

As far as I can see, only good things come out of Minneapolis.  A terrific project of that city, Books for Africa, has helped Ethiopia Reads get these huge containers full of books to Ethiopia where they’ve gone out to establish the school libraries you can see at

If fences make good neighbors, maybe lots of snow and cold do, too.  Go, go Minneapolis.  I can’t wait to be back there.

4 thoughts on “Author awards? Ya sure, you betcha”

  1. Wowee is right by dear friend. Congrats on being included with such an elite group of authors! How deserving you are. I am so happy for you Jane.

    I have been wanting to write to you since our last meeting. It was so nice to be in that circle that evening.

    The container of books has been heavy on my heart ever since.

    I have also wondered how the retreat went? I am excited that I will be seeing you here again in Feb. while you teach at the CCIRA conference. I will be attending the conference as well, as I look to hone my classroom skills in preparation of perhaps teaching in a classroom of my own next year. With that in mind, I was wondering if your brother would chat on-line with me about his move to the classroom and why he has been pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t the war zone he thought it might be. If he doesn’t mind sharing with me, you can send him my email. Would also like to keep in touch with him about going to Ethiopia next summer….

    Now as for that container. I don’t go away easily as you know, so I am again going to try to motivate the Ethiopian family at my school to help me connect with their Ethiopian family connections in order to educate them about our need to get books there. Do you have any time to connect with them if I could drum something up? We could meet at my home? It is my hope to get them motivated! I will try.

    I am entertaining family from around the U.S. this holiday and am excited to have a sister and brother with me, as well as my three kids. I pray you will have a blessed holiday Jane. Talk to you soon!
    Joyfully, Mary Beth


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