Saturday, August 15, 2009

Member of the Year Reflections and Shoulda’s

Sara Easterly didn't have any advance warning before she and Jolie Stekly won the SCBWI Member of the Year award, so she didn't have time to prepare a speech or organize, well, anything. But she did want to share some reflections on what the award means to her:

I’m fresh back from the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles, where Jolie Stekly and I were honored with the SCBWI Member of the Year award. The award was a complete surprise – something I never would have expected – to be among the ranks of previous winners like Susan Burgess, Judy Enderle, Erzsi Deak, Esther Hershenhorn, Priscilla Burris, and Richard (!) Peck.

Sitting in the Hyatt ballroom for the Golden Kite Luncheon, it was special enough to be among dear Western Washington friends that included our current regional advisor team, scholarship recipient Allyson Schrier, and the one and only Karen Cushman. I was anxiously awaiting Bonny Becker’s speech for winning this year’s Golden Kite Award for A Visitor for Bear. But as Steve Mooser was talking about the other awards, I confess to getting slightly distracted.

Jaime Temairik, my graphic novel partner-in-crime and the Assistant Regional Advisor during our RA term, is entirely to blame. I couldn’t figure out why she kept turning around to videotape what I assumed was my melting ice cream. But then (and for those of you who know Jaime, you’ll know why this makes sense), I kept thinking that she had to be seeing something super artistic in it that my writerly brain just couldn’t vision. Maybe something that cleverly tied into our current WIP!

So as I sat there pondering what was so special about that slushy mound of leftover vanilla ice cream, all of a sudden I realized Steve was saying something about two people getting the award this year… then something about our booth at ALA in 2007… then I think there was a bit about our conference… and, as the levers in my brain finally started clicking and my face began heating up, I caught the words “regional advisors.”

My inner critic was in the middle of scolding me for being so big-headed as to think this had anything to do with me when Steve announced our names. The next thing I knew, Jolie and I were being asked by Steve and Lin Oliver to come up and say a few words in front of the mere 1,100-person audience.

Completely stunned, we walked on stage and, probably sounding like a giddy school girl, I recall mentioning how much I love the SCBWI and how much it means to me and omigosh, what a big surprise this was. All very true things. But the delivery was silly and quick and all the deeper things I also wanted to say popped into my head the second my foot stepped off that stage.

What I wish I could have articulated in all my shock and excitement is this:

Steve’s mentioning of the ALA booth referenced our exhibit during the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in January 2007, which was held in Seattle that year. The meeting is notorious for attracting close to 10,000 library professionals from across the country.

Participating in a major conference such as ALA was a first for the SCBWI, and our exhibit strategy and booth design were something we pulled together in a matter of weeks, thanks to the support of Lin, Steve, and RA Chairperson Cheryl Zach. More than 160 librarians and an array of editors and publishers visited the SCBWI booth, in addition to a host of students, writers, illustrators, and fans. We had an overwhelming response from our community of amazing authors and illustrators. Altogether we accepted 35 of them who made appearances and signed books in our booth, including freshly announced Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Newbery Honor medalist Kirby Larson.

It’s such an honor to receive the Member of the Year award largely the result of ALA, in addition to all of the hard work we lovingly poured into our regional conferences. But Jolie and I don’t deserve all the credit.

First and foremost, a huge thanks goes to each of the authors and illustrators who participated in ALA – without whom there wouldn’t have been a reason to be there. And a big thanks to writer-illustrator Kirsten Carlson, who designed the gorgeous booth and its accompanying components. Fellow RAs Esther Hershenhorn, Julie Lake, and Carmen Bredeson were instrumental during our planning phase, so they deserve kudos, too. And appreciation is owed to all of the other RAs who’ve been so encouraging and excited to make use of the booth, which has since been shipped all over the world to various SCBWI events, most recently the summer ALA conference.

This is getting long-winded – which, I’m sure, is exactly why Steve and Lin prefer to keep this award a total surprise to its recipients. After all, with advance notice the Member of the Year speech could easily drag and the whole point of the awards celebration is to honor the Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Award winners.

So I’ll wrap by saying what a great honor and pleasure it was to receive such a lovely thank you for the work that Jolie and I have done in this region – a big bonus, really, for an opportunity that I feel so lucky to have been part of. Jolie, Jaime, and I had massive amounts of fun throughout our term, and the value that I’ve gotten back from the SCBWI and through my role as RA isn’t even close to quantifiable.

Some highlights, though: Close, lifelong friendships… satisfaction in helping grow the careers of our members… insights into the industry… personal leadership and career development… the ability to whip up regional conferences worthy of only the wildest dreams… and now, the opportunity to relish the accomplishments of our new RA team – Joni Sensel, Laurie Thompson, and ARA Kim Baker – as they carry the torch forward for our chapter and for the SCBWI as a whole, already leaving their own mark.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (And omigosh, what a big surprise this was!)


Cuppa Jolie said...

Ah, Sara! So beautifully put my reflections to shame. xoxo

Kjersten said...

Thank you for all the work that you and Jolie did Sara! I also love that your second "acceptance speech" was here, where we could all read it.