Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Gayleen Rabakukk Wins Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award

Gayleen Rabakukk has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award!

Each year, the faculty at our annual conference nominates one manuscript that they’ve critiqued at the event for our mentorship and the year’s mentor selects the person they’re going to work with for the next year. Our 2022 mentor is Varian Johnson, author of several novels for children and young adults, including The Parker Inheritance, which won both Coretta Scott King Author Honor and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor awards; The Great Greene Heist, an ALA Notable Children’s book and Kirkus Reviews Best Book; and the graphic novel Twins, illustrated by Shannon Wright, an NPR Best Book.

After reading this year’s nominated manuscripts, Varian chose Gayleen’s middle-grade novel CANYON HOME to mentor for one year. We wish them all the best!

The award is named in honor of a long-time Austin SCBWI member who is an inspiration not only as an award-winning and best-selling author, but also as a champion of children’s book writers. Cynthia is an extremely generous member of the Austin kidlit community, offering up her time and knowledge to help fellow writers whenever she can. The award follows her example and gives guidance to up-and-coming writers. Inspired by the Houston SCBWI chapter‘s Joan Lowery Nixon Award, the Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award starts with the critiques at the annual Austin SCBWI conference. Critiquers nominate one of the manuscripts submitted to them for the award, if they feel the manuscript is of a high enough level. The nominated writers will make up the award finalists.

Congratulations to all the nominees:

Lynn Pedersen

Louise Schroeder

Lauren Redmond

Priya Ardis

Jennifer Fier Jasinski

Sue Young

Lisa Tolin

MeiLin Chan

Maria Rodriguez

Seth Barton

Angela Padron

Heather Walters

Getting nominated for this award shows your work is of a high caliber.