James Cross Giblin Award
The phone rang as I tossed sautéed vegetables with pasta. My husband said, “It’s for you. It’s Sue Burgess.”
I thought of reminding him I never take phone calls when I’m cooking dinner. But Sue Burgess rang a bell. The name piqued my curiosity.
Sue told me she was calling to announce I had won this year's Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Nonfiction Work-in-Progress Award.
“You’re kidding,” I screamed. So much for original phrasing. She said she wasn’t.
“I can’t believe it,” I screamed. “I’m so excited.” My family stood in the kitchen staring at me. “Thank you. Thank you.” I kept screaming. Sue probably began to wonder if the $1500 shouldn’t go to someone with a few more words in their vocabulary. But she was very kind and said she loved making calls like this.
I don’t know if the pasta dish was finished, or if anybody ate it. I told my family the good news, and then phone all my writing buddies to tell them.
The grant money will fund research for a biography on Fannie Sellins, an early 20th Century labor activist. Sellins had a passionate belief that workers deserved better lives and the charisma to convince them to believe it too. She knew coal miners would not give up their paycheck and walk a picket because their children would starve, so she found food and clothing for their families.
A compelling speaker, she stirred wild applause, often evoked tears and inspired hope. Hats filled with money for the union cause wherever she spoke. Ordered by a West Virginia judge to stop speaking in public, she refused. And went to jail.
She was so successful unionizing miners in Western Pennsylvania that coal company operators threatened her life. She refused to be bullied into leaving and was shot to death on the picket line in 1919.
I am passionate about telling this woman’s story and it means so much to me that the awards committee believes it’s worth publishing. The grant is endowed by SCBWI Board member James Giblin. The noted author and editor named the Anna Cross Giblin award after his mother who enthusiastically supported his own non-fiction writing for young people.
“I can’t imagine anything that would have given her greater satisfaction—or be more appropriate tribute to her memory….” Giblin says, than indirectly helping encourage other nonfiction writers.
~~Mary Cronk Farrell