New Voices Award Winners: Where Are They Now?

New Voices Award sealLast month we brought together past New Voices Award winners to see what it was like to publish their first books. Today, in our final installment in the series, we ask these talented authors to share what they have been doing since entering the contest. guest blogger

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. The submission deadline this year is September 30, 2013, so get those manuscripts in!

Q: What have you been up to in the time since your book won the New Voices Award or Honor?

Linda BoydenLinda Boyden, The Blue Roses  (our first New Voices Award Winner)

Winning the first New Voices Award for The Blue Roses gave me something I didn’t have before: confidence in myself as a writer. I had had a distinguished teaching career, but as a fledgling writer, it seemed I’d never get out of the slush pile. After the New Voices Award, my book also garnered the Paterson Prize and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Children’s Book of the Year. Buoyed by this incredible good luck, I wrote more and queried more. Though not represented by an agent at that time, I was lucky again and found a publishing home with the University of New Mexico Press for my next two picture books. The UNMP editor I worked with, W. Clark Whitehorn, convinced me to do my own illustrations for both Powwow’s Coming and Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas. Recently I’ve written and illustrated my fourth picture book, Boy and Poi Poi Puppy from Progressive Rising Phoenix Press and signed with Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary for my YA novel. I’ve been very lucky and thank Lee & Low Books for believing in me and for the wonderful jump-start!

Paula YooPaula Yoo, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

I won the New Voices Award in 2003 for Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story. Since then, I have had the honor of having two more books with Lee & Low Books. My second book came out in 2009. Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, illustrated by Lin Wang, was a biography about Chinese American Anna May Wong’s rags to riches life from a laundryman’s daughter to an international Hollywood film star. I also have a third book picture book biography coming out with Lee & Low soon, too. Stay tuned for more details! I also had a YA novel published in 2008 (Good Enough from HarperCollins) and I’ve worked on a bunch of TV shows as a TV writer/producer, most recently with SyFy’s EUREKA. But most exciting of all… ever since winning the New Voices Award, I adopted three cats. Hmmm… now how can I sneak my three cats into my next Lee & Low book?

Glenda ArmandGlenda Armand, Love Twelve Miles Long

Since I won the Award, I have retired from my “day job” as a teacher and school librarian. While working part-time, I have been able to spend a lot more time writing.  I love it. I am also happy to say that, next year, Lee & Low will publish my second book about a very talented man with an unlikely dream who I discovered while researching Love Twelve Miles Long.

Don TateDon Tate, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

As a longtime children’s book illustrator, I have several new books out that I painted. But winning the New Voices Honor award launched my writing career. Winning the award boosted my confidence with words. Since then, I’ve written several more picture books. My next authored book will publish in 2015. I will also illustrate this book. I have another authored book under contract, and I can’t wait to share that news, too. I’m thankful that Lee & Low recognized and nurtured my writing talents.

Jennifer TorresJennifer Torres, Finding the Music  (2011 New Voices Winner)

The most significant thing I’ve done since my book won the New Voices Award was have a second daughter! Soledad Daisy was born in March of this year. She and her big sister, Alice, are truly delightful people and it is a joy to watch them grow.

I’ve also been working hard at editing and revising my book, Finding the Music. Though it can be challenging, this is honestly one of my favorite parts of the writing process. To hear a professional’s insights on what you’ve written is illuminating and so helpful. I’m really proud of the way the book is shaping up and of how far it has come since I submitted the manuscript.

Otherwise, I continue to write – I am finishing a book for middle-grade readers, and I contribute regularly to newspapers and magazines as a freelance journalist. I also work for University of the Pacific, helping to lead an early literacy campaign. This is exciting – and so important. We know that the ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s education. Kids who aren’t strong readers when they leave third grade tend to fall behind, and it can be very difficult to ever catch up. Unfortunately, in my community, only 34 percent of third graders can read at grade level. For children of color, and for kids whose first language isn’t English, that percentage is even smaller. That’s one of the reasons it’s such an honor for me to work with Lee & Low – it’s crucial for all of us to support the literacy of all children.

More from our past New Voices winners:

Advice for New Writers from our New Voices Award Winners

New Voices Award Winners: “How I Started Writing”

New Voices Award Winners: Publishing Your First Book