Twelve finalists were nominated for our 2017 Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award at our 2017 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference, two of them nominated twice for difference manuscripts. And now we're thrilled to announce not one but two winners!
This year's mentor is the wonderful Bethany Hegedus, teacher and author of middle-grade novels and picture books, including the GRANDFATHER GANDHI series and the upcoming ALABAMA SPITFIRE: THE STORY OF HARPER LEE AND TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. She had a tough time choosing the winner because all the nominees are so amazing. But she finally came to a decision.
Congratulations to Heather Harwood and Alicia Salazar on being this year's winners!
Here's a message from Bethany about her choice:
"Heavens. I labored and labored over this decision, considering each of the fourteen manuscripts from the twelve nominees and as I write for all ages, from picture book to YA, I decided I would pick TWO mentees, a novelist and a picture book writer. But even that didn't make the decision any easier. The manuscripts chosen by the esteemed conference faculty for this year's mentorship were top notch: from picture books rich in language and word play to biographies told with heart, to middle-grade novels full of spunky characters and YAs both realistic and dystopian. Kudos to all the nominees. But, at last, I did choose.
Long-awkward reality show pause before announcing winners:
Heather Harwood's Emmaline was unforgettable–inspired by Willa Cather's My Antonia and calling on the Wright Brothers' invention of flight, this YA historical light sci-fi was intriguing, filled with depth and had a premise I wanted to see reach it's maximum potential.
Alicia Salazar's Elena and Her Mandolin spoke to my artist's heart and I felt a kinship with Elena and her desire to play in a band as her abuelo does. There is music to be made here, and I hope in our work on this manuscript, during this mentorship, Alicia's story graces it's notes to the world of readers.
I look forward to working with Heather and Alicia and applaud all the nominees and everyone who was courageous enough to submit their work for an industry critique. Thank you Austin SCBWI for the chance to work with these two fine writers and to Cynthia Leitich Smith who has given so much to the Austin writing community."
A huge THANK YOU to Bethany Hegedus for being this year's mentor! Bethany is also the owner and creative director of the retreat and workshop space The Writing Barn, and generously gave the nominees a discount for future events.
We look forward to seeing more nominees at our 2018 conference on April 28-29.