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    This is a brief article about the achievements of a local writer and professor in Fredericksburg, VA.
Local writer is awarded for his excellence
By Sara Zolnick

In early August, the Society of Children’s Book Writers andIllustrators awarded a local Fredericksburg writer with the 2008 Golden KiteAward for Fiction.

Steve Watkins, an author and English professor at theUniversity of Mary Washington, received a voicemail from the executive directorof SCBWI, Lin Oliver, in early March informing him of the award, Watkins said.

Each year, the SCBWI chooses a winner for each of the fourcategories of the Golden Kite Award: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Picture Book Text,and Picture Book Illustration. The society strives to recognize excellence inchildren’s literature.

After Watkins waited 6 years to begin the editing andpublishing process, Down Sand Mountain was finally recognized for it’sexcellence.

 When they heardthe news, Watkins, his wife Janet, and daughters Claire and Lili “started doinga Golden Kite dance all around the house,” Watkins said.

But Watkins’ family wasn’t the only ones in overwhelmingexcitement and supportive pride.

In August, Watkins travelled to Los Angeles, CA to receivehis 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 saidAdair 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 aswell.”

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 inherentembracing of the humanistic values that have been illuminated by history.”

Because of the novels focus on racism and discrimination inthe 1960’s surrounded by playful anecdotes and scenes involving the strugglesof a “pre-teen,” 12 year old Dewey is relatable to readers of all ages. 

Oliver said she could relate to the larger themes of thenovel because of her experiences growing up in the 1960’s.

“I love these examinations of themes and these values inparticular as I read,” Oliver said.

Carol Chittenden of the New England Children’s BookAssociation wrote in her review of Watkins’ novel, “It is a coming of age storythat addresses racism in a new and effective way.” Chittenden rated DownSand Mountain a 9 out of 10.

Watkins’ ability to write a novel that is both exciting andinspiring to readers of all ages, and fluid writing style that, according to TeenReads, “invites teens right into the very heart and soul of Dewey,” has earnedhim the respect and honor from fellow writers.