Five Years On for the Martha Weston Grant

For the past five years, I've been the chair of the Martha Weston Grant through SCBWI. I'm turning the reins over to Lissa Rovetch now. I wrote to all the past winners to hear how they are doing, and got back lovely replies from all of them.

Reading over these replies has made me feel proud and gratified what an award like this can do to encourage people. Publishing is not an easy business, and it's wonderful to see how people can soak up a little bit of juice and transform it into book making. In the end, authors and illustrators, teachers and parents, and especially kids benefit.

I feel incredible grateful to Martha's family for funding and supporting this award.

And Martha, wherever your spirit is these days, I love you. You're still touching us here through your books and your grant.

Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver will give a presentation on the previous winners at this year's SCBWI conference.

Hi Betsy-

Since winning the award, I've submitted a book dummy and have had 6
people turn me down. I'm working on a series of board book ideas that
I'm writing and illustrating and am still working on "The Running
Quilt" manuscript for the teen crowd. I have to support myself and
family as an illustrator and because much of the educational
illustration work is now being outsourced to Korea, South Africa and
India, many of us who depended on that work to support ourselves are
scrambling to find ways to make a living. As a result, I've been
learning about and pursuing Licensing my art so have been in two trade
shows - CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) as well as the International
Licensing Show and will have booths in both of those shows again in
2009. I'm determined to continue supporting myself in the arts and
one of my major goals is to have at least two more manuscripts and
book dummies ready to present before the end of 2008, I'm
concentrating on the board books as I think I have a bet
ter shot at getting these published than my chapter book. I'm still
the Illustrator co-ordinator for the RMC-SCBWI and am getting ready
for our fall conference, followed by my daughters wedding in New York
City, followed by Open Studio's here in Boulder- it's going to be
quite a ride!
Winning the Martha Weston Award was one of the highlights of my life
- I will make you proud- it's just taking longer than I'd hoped due to
the turn of events in the publishing arena. Life is always full of
unexpected turns, and learning to ride the waves is a life-long
challenge for all of us! My motto is "onward and upward", I'm not one
to give up, I just dig my heals in and become more determined than
Thank you again, for the honor! Roberta

Hi Betsy,

The four years since I received the Martha Weston Grant
have been full ones for me. In this business that always seems to move
glacially and be riddled with rejection and wishes, it's good to stop and
reflect about all that *has* gone well. So thank you for sparking that
reflection in me this week. :^)

Since I received the Martha Weston Grant four years ago I've continued to
enjoy successes in my established genre of science writing, including 14 books
published for education and specialty markets for Scholastic U.S., Scholastic
Canada, and Capstone Press; articles in Highlights for Children, YES Mag,
KNOW, and Hopscotch for Girls; and a contract for my first trade book, BUBBLE
HOMES AND FISH FARTS (Charlesbridge, 2009 Carolyn Conahan, Illus.), which
I've just found out has been named a Junior Library Guild Selection.

I applied for the Martha Weston Grant to support my branching out into
humorous fiction. Let me express again my gratitude for being selected for
this grant. It was a huge boost to my fiction writing. The 2004 SCBWI-LA
conference was chock full of award-winning humour writers---Bruce Coville, Jon
Scieszka, Sid Fleischman, Gordon To listen to each of them talk
about their process and approach, and to benefit from their tips and advice
was an amazing education. It put a lot of things in perspective and unlocked
many doors in my head. Since then, I've been hard at work learning the craft
and developing my fiction skills on several projects, two of which I've just
begun to submit to publishers (a surprisingly scary thing to do! :^). No
fiction book contracts yet, but I have had one encouraging humorous fiction
success---a poem sale to Highlights for Children.

An interesting anecdote from the conference...
You know how you hear stories about an author who meets an editor in an
elevator and they go on to sign a book contract together? I thought it was an
urban myth, but it turns out it really does happen---it happened to me at the
2004 SCBWI-LA conference! As I was heading up to my room for 20 minutes of
quiet time before the next conference session, one other person waited beside
me for the elevator. As is the delightful custom at these conferences, we
introduced ourselves and struck up a conversation. After we'd established
names and hometowns, she asked what I did. "I'm a children's science
writer." "Oh?" she said, "What a coincidence. I'm a children's science editor.
Say, would you like to find a quiet place to talk?" By this time, we were in
the elevator and on the way up, so we exited at the next floor, called an
elevator car going down, and found a corner in the main hall, where we
proceeded to have a 45-minute chat, The editor later treated me to supper in
the hotel restaurant. I ended up writing eight books for her publisher. :^)



Hi Betsy,

It's been almost a year since the Martha Weston Grant sent me to the
SCBWI Summer Conference, and it's been a busy and fulfilling twelve

You probably remember that as a picture book author, the new genre I
was interested in pursuing was picture book illustration. As a result
of the grant, I put together my first art portfolio and displayed it
at the conference—the first time I had ever shared my artwork in

Since that time, I've also had my first portfolio review from an art
director at a major publishing house (extremely instructive!), printed
and sold a line of greeting cards through my local children's
bookstore, and developed a series of visually appealing marketing
materials to sell my visiting author services. I'm even using one of
my cut-paper illustrations as a personal "brand" to help potential
clients remember me—an idea I picked up at one of the workshops at the

I have an idea for an author-illustrated book I'm very excited about,
but it's still in the "thinking" stage. Meanwhile, after a long dry
spell, I've signed a contract for my fifth children's book, a picture
book called MONSTERS DON'T EAT BROCCOLI illustrated by British artist
Sue Hendra and scheduled for release in Summer 2009. I have another
picture book manuscript ready to send out and several more that are in
various stages of revision.

Also, after participating in 33 promotional events last year, from
bookstore signings to school and library visits to charitable events,
I've recently hired a booking agent to help me find and manage
additional speaking opportunities around the country. I'm very excited
about the possibilities!

I feel as if my career as a children's author and speaker has jumped
into high gear since last year's conference. Although I'm not there
yet, for the first time I feel as if it might really be possible to
make a living in this crazy children's book business! I am so grateful
for having been the recipient of the Martha Weston Grant. Thanks again
to you and Anna and Martha's family for giving me a chance to explore
and develop my gifts as an author, artist, speaker and entrepreneur!

Barbara Jean

Hello Elizabeth,

How wonderful to hear from you. Yes, I do have some good news since my Martha Weston Grant. My second bilingual picture book, The Woodcutter's Gift, came out in October 2007. I just signed a contract for a third bilingual picture book, The Battle of the Snow Cones, due out in 2010 by Arte Publico Press. I have a historical fiction middle-grade manuscript being looked at by an agent in New York (keeping my fingers crossed).

I've been doing a lot of school visits and my latest one was on July 8 in Weslaco, Texas. It was a Title I Migrant Summer Program. Since I was a migrant worker myself at one time, the children could relate to that when I did my reading/presentation. Every student got one of my books (over 250). It was great. The pic is on my website.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have attended the LA SCBWI. It was an experience I will never forget. Maybe one of these days, I'll be able to attend another one. Best of luck in your new venture. And thank you for your dedication and wonderful work on the committee.