- Local writer is awarded for his excellence
By Sara Zolnick
In early August, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators awarded a local Fredericksburg writer with the 2008 Golden Kite Award for Fiction.
Steve Watkins, an author and English professor at the University of Mary Washington, received a voicemail from the executive director of SCBWI, Lin Oliver, in early March informing him of the award, Watkins said.
Each year, the SCBWI chooses a winner for each of the four categories of the Golden Kite Award: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration. The society strives to recognize excellence in children’s literature.
After Watkins waited 6 years to begin the editing and publishing process, Down Sand Mountain was finally recognized for it’s excellence.
When they heard the news, Watkins, his wife Janet, and daughters Claire and Lili “started doing a Golden Kite dance all around the house,” Watkins said.
But Watkins’ family wasn’t the only ones in overwhelming excitement and supportive pride.
In August, Watkins travelled to Los Angeles, CA to receive his award at the SCBWI awards ceremony and conference. Along with his family, his editor at Candlewick Press, Kaylan Adair, and his agent, Kelly Sonnack, accompanied Watkins.
Watkins said Adair would receive a share of his $2,500 award and “deserves that and more.” Sonnack and her brilliance, Watkins said, “deserve a piece of the award as well.”
Along with the support from his family and colleagues, Oliver was openly impressed and inspired by Watkins’ novel.
Oliver said Down Sand Mountain includes “an inherent embracing of the humanistic values that have been illuminated by history.”
Because of the novels focus on racism and discrimination in the 1960’s surrounded by playful anecdotes and scenes involving the struggles of a “pre-teen,” 12 year old Dewey is relatable to readers of all ages.
Oliver said she could relate to the larger themes of the novel because of her experiences growing up in the 1960’s.
“I love these examinations of themes and these values in particular as I read,” Oliver said.
Carol Chittenden of the New England Children’s Book Association wrote in her review of Watkins’ novel, “It is a coming of age story that addresses racism in a new and effective way.” Chittenden rated Down Sand Mountain a 9 out of 10.
Watkins’ ability to write a novel that is both exciting and inspiring to readers of all ages, and fluid writing style that, according to Teen Reads, “invites teens right into the very heart and soul of Dewey,” has earned him the respect and honor from fellow writers.