At Lee & Low Books we are always interested in biographies of unsung heroes. Stories of lesser-known individuals who used their talents and overcame obstacles to achieve their dreams and serve their society fill our shelves of published titles. Each year our New Voices Award judges consider dozens of biographical submissions on the lookout for a winning combination of compelling characters and well-researched storytelling. But how do these components come together to create a manuscript? How does a writer condense someone’s entire life into a picture book? Does the writer or editor decide what information goes in the story and back matter? What is back matter, anyway? To answer these questions, and for an inside look at the editorial process, we interviewed Andrea Loney, author of the 2014 New Voices Award-winning biography Take A Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! and Jessica Echeverria, our Senior Editor who helped turn Andrea’s manuscript into an absorbing debut!
In this blog post, our editorial assistant Samantha shares her thoughts on the New Voices Award and what she’s looking for from this year’s submissions.
The beginning of summer is my favorite time of year. School’s out, the weather brightens up—although this year in New York, it’s been a bit shaky—and New Voices season begins. This year marks our 15th annual New Voices Award contest, and I can’t wait to watch the submissions come rolling in!
Over the last fourteen years, LEE & LOW BOOKS has published more than ten books that have come to us through the New Voices contest, including Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds by Paula Yoo (2003 Winner) and Seaside Dream by Janet Costa Bates (2006 Honor). It Jes’ Happened (2005 Honor) received three starred reviews, and author Don Tate won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Honor. And we’re very excited about several New Voices winners and honors that will be published in upcoming seasons. We just love reading the amazing stories that have been submitted to the contest, and it’s inspiring to us to work with first-time picture book authors.
Now in its fourteenth year, our New Voices Award is given to an unpublished author of color for a picture book manuscript. We’re excited to announce the winner of this year’s New Voices Award: Sylvia Liu of Virginia Beach, Virginia for her story, A Morning with Gong Gong. Congratulations, Sylvia!
Liu’s charming and humorous story, A Morning with Gong Gong, portrays an energetic young girl named Mei Mei, as she spends time with her grandfather. When Mei Mei sees her grandfather, Gong Gong, practicing t’ai chi in the garden, she is eager to join in. He tries to teach her the slow and graceful moves, and Mei Mei, in turn, tries to teach Gong Gong some of the yoga poses she has learned in school. Although they both struggle with these new activities, Mei Mei and Gong Gong realize that it’s the time they spend together that is important.
Last month we brought together past New Voices Award winners to see their advice for new writers. Today, in our next installment in the series, we ask these talented authors to share how it felt to have their first book published.
This year marks our 14th annual New Voices Award writing contest. Every year, LEE & LOW BOOKS gives the New Voices Award to a debut author of color for a picture book manuscript.
Q: What was it like seeing your book published?
Linda Boyden, The Blue Roses
(our first New Voices Award Winner)
When I first held my first baby, the room became flooded with sunlight. She and I were bathed in its soft glow. At that time I thought it was magical yet now I concede it might have simply been the sun breaking out from behind some clouds. Regardless, I felt blessed and triumphant as only a new mom does.