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  • Writer's pictureJessie Oliveros

Looking Back: The Golden Kite Awards

In February, I won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for picture book text. Since I didn't have my blog at the time, this is my post-Golden-Kite post.

Once in a while, I will delete the voicemails that pile up on my phone, but I will never delete the voicemails from Lin Oliver.

Yes. You read that right. Voicemails. Plural. She left TWO voicemails for me. I somehow missed that first call and voicemail. I do remember when the second call came in, but I didn't recognize the number. So, I didn't pick it up. In fact, I thought it might be one of the many telemarketing calls I get on my phone. When I did listen to that second voicemail, I was stunned. This came before my ALA call. I'd made a few lists in 2018, and that was AWESOME. But I never imagined awards like the Golden Kite or Schneider.

The next few weeks were a whirl of child care arrangements, travel plans, dress shopping, and speech making. In fact, I practiced my speech until the final moments. Here I am at the airport mumbling to myself as I try to memorize my speech.

My husband and I had visited New York City the previous April, and I never would have thought we'd be going back again so soon. But since we had JUST gone, it was nice to feel somewhat familiar with the city. Not that we actually saw much of the city on that trip! My husband took a couple of walks in the 20 degree weather. I did not. Our taxi took us to the Grand Hyatt Hotel and there I stayed until I left. When we arrived, we had just enough time to get ready for that evening's event--the Golden Kite Gala.

It was so lovely to see real-life faces of those I had only known online. I finally got to meet my acquiring editor, Christian Trimmer. He was at S&S long enough to acquire The Remember Balloons and do major edits with me, but he soon left for Macmillan. (Sad for me, happy for Macmillan.) Christian is this wonderful, vibrant, creative soul, and I just feel privileged to know him.

I saw my agent, Mike Hoogland, as well. My husband and I met him officially during our last New York trip. This is a solid agent and solid person, guys. I think we will have a literary partnership for a very long time.

And finally, I got to meet my Epic 18 lovelies. I got to know so many amazing writers in my picture book debut group, Epic 18, and some were there to cheer me on! Well, they were there for the conference, but they all sat two rows back and cheered me on, and it was so WONDERFUL to see their smiling faces looking up at me.

That's Christy Mihaly in the gold sequins, Melissa Stoller at my immediate right, Jeanette Bradley at my immediate left, Casey Robinson in the green top and black blazer, and Sarah Lynne Reul at the end with the blue sequins. (LOTS OF SEQUINS AND GOLD THAT NIGHT!) Dorothia Rohner isn't pictured, but she was there as well!

Oh, and this guy was there in the first row smiling at me. My husband. I think this was our best date ever, and I'm not sure it can ever be bested.

I got to know Susan Hood, author of several picture books including ADA'S VIOLIN. She has also written a middle grade novel in verse, LIFEBOAT 12. And for that she won a Golden Kite Award. She's a fabulous author, and an even more fabulous person. I was also so lucky to sign right next to her that Sunday at the conference author signing. Here we are with S&S art director, Laurent Linn. Whose golden sequins are unrivaled.

As fate would have it, I was assigned to sit next to Jane Yolen at the Awards Ceremony. She won a Golden Kite Award that night as well--for her YA novel, MAPPING THE BONES. Jane Yolen is such a legend. And such a gracious, humble lady. It was such an honor to meet her, and I'm pretty sure gold glitter from my dress got on her scarf. Which I feel is important to mention. If you ever see Jane wearing that scarf again and there is gold glitter on it...well, you know.

Speaking of incredible authors, my award was introduced by Jarrett Krosoczka. He's the author and illustrator of many things, most notably his YA graphic novel, HEY, KIDDO.

See the award trophy Jarrett is handing me here?

After my speech, I did this:

I LEFT IT BEHIND! See? I'm walking away, and my trophy is on the podium. Ah! Before I could step down, someone pointed out my mishap which I quickly remedied. I also left it behind on the signing table that night, and someone had to chase me down with it. Welcome to my brain.

And the speech! The moment I cherished but also dreaded. All those people!

But all those people? They were a pretty awesome crowd. I talked about my book and the inspiration behind the book--my grandpa. I dedicated the award to my grandma and to all the caregivers of Alzheimer's. I really feel they aren't seen enough, but what they are doing is so hard. Especially when those caregivers are beloved family members who must watch their loved one fade. There were a whole lot of thank you's at the end of my speech,

I will hands down say that the most inspiring speech of the night was given by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. What a blessing to listen to her speak and from a front row seat! When will I ever have an opportunity like that again? Furthermore, I got to meet the Justice. She was so gracious and kind, congratulating all the winners of the Golden Kite.

Then she went above and beyond. She purchased each winner's book. Then she went around to each signing table. See how happy I am?

I could have stayed in that golden evening forever. (There would be some comfort issues with the heels and the dress, and I might miss my kids....) But I am so grateful to SCBWI for awarding me this honor. I will never, EVER forget it.

This perfectly glittery golden balloon.

All above photos are courtesy of SCBWI with the exception of the Jane Yolen photo, Susan Hood/Laurent Linn photo, and the second speech photo.


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