by Brenda Scott Royce, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator
We’re thrilled to announce this year’s Sue Alexander Grant winner—Christine Van Zandt—for her nonfiction picture book, Butterfly Dreams. The book’s inspiration came in May 2020, when Van Zandt and her daughter bought their first milkweed plant, “unaware that a mother monarch had sent us home with a surprise—actually 26 surprises,” she says. “Soon, our plant was covered in adorable caterpillars. We excitedly watched them grow, . . . until all perished.”
The sad turn of events led Van Zandt to research monarch declines, plant milkweed, and educate others by writing this lyrical story.
Here’s what our judges had to say about her manuscript:
- “The combination of clever rhymes and factual information about butterflies kept my attention from start to finish. A fantastic read for inquisitive minds.”
- “Beautifully paced, Butterfly Dreams engages readers in the wonder of the life cycle of a monarch butterfly through a poetic narrative with touches of rhyme (and good page turns!) accompanied by informational sidebars. Flitter, flutter/Mother glides through the air/She lands like a breath … and lays eggs with care. With a bit of tightening in the informational sections, this manuscript feels close to becoming published.”
As the winner of the Sue Alexander Grant, Van Zandt will receive a guaranteed spot and free tuition to the Working Writers Retreat: Home Edition, which will be held virtually on October 9, 2021. “Winning this grant is an honor because I know there are many, many talented writers in SCBWI,” she says. “I hope my book finds its way into the heart of an agent or publisher so that I can share my care and concern for this amazing creature with the world.”
Coming in at a close second was Bob Miller for Have Wings, Will Travel: From the Files of Talonfire, Griffin for Hire. Miller describes his middle grade comedy-fantasy adventure as “Indiana Jones meets Zootopia meets the satire of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Here’s his tease for the story: “A dragon has stolen the Proclamation of Principles! The Crown wants it back! Who would be brave enough, resourceful enough, and reckless enough to retrieve it? Talonfire, Griffin for hire. He’ll do almost anything for a buck-buck-buck—and to uphold his reputation. If he fails, the Crown will give him a negative credit rating, a fate worse than death! Awk!”
“The author did an amazing job of world building,” one of our judges said of Have Wings, Will Travel. “The story is rich, with fully developed characters involved in a very unique plot.”
Sue Schmitt’s middle grade fantasy Twice Cursed came in third place. Judge’s comment: “This modern fairy tale has mysterious elements that invite readers to keep turning pages to find out what happens next.”
SCBW-L.A. extends its deepest appreciation to our judges, who serve anonymously and who had a particularly challenging task this year due to the consistent quality of the entries. “After being a member of SCBWI for several decades, it felt great to give back to the community,” one of our judges shared. “I admire all of the entrants for submitting their work. It’s all about perseverance and believing in yourself as a writer. By entering, everyone is already a winner.”
Thanks again to our fabulous judges, and congratulations to the winners and everyone who entered!
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Images provided by the winning authors.