Looking Back

We asked past winners to reflect on what winning this literary award has meant to them. Read what they have to say:

Edwards Home | Previous Winners

 

M.E. Kerr (1993)

I didn't even know what the Margaret A. Edwards award was when I was called and given word I'd won it. I had to pretend excitement, and that I knew all about it.

When my editor told me about it later, I was thrilled, of course, and so appreciative. That should have taught me that there's a big, welcoming world beyond the mean little room containing my computer. Each time a new recipient is named I feel honored again: to be in such formidable and creative company. —M.E. Kerr

Walter Dean Myers (1994)

My writing desk is by a window and each week day I can see children walking past my house to one of several neighborhood schools. I hear snatches of conversation, hear their laughter and sometimes witness their disputes as they make their way along the busy boulevard. They are engaged in the process of learning what life is all about and I often wonder what part, if any, I am in that process.

Yes, there are reviews of my books and yes, I do get letters. But an award such as the Margaret A. Edwards Award, which comes from a panel of judges highly respected in the field of Children's Literature, gave me the comfort of knowing that what I do is not only all right but appreciated.

When I sit at my desk, searching for the next word, or the next scene which will entertain, inform, or at least interest the young people passing by, I do so with confidence. The Margaret A. Edwards Award has made the writing process, for me, a less lonely experience. —Walter Dean Myers

Judy Blume (1996)

Winning an award is always an honor but it doesn't always affect your personal or professional life. Winning the Margaret A. Edwards award has made a profound difference for me, both personally and professionally. By honoring a controversial book like Forever YALSA has sent a message — We're not afraid of challenges. We're prepared to defend books that teens want to read. It gives me heft when I speak out in defense of someone else's book. It reminds me that I'm far from alone in the fight for intellectual freedom. And each time I (or someone on my behalf) defends Forever it helps immeasurably to cite the MAE award. I'm deeply grateful to YALSA for recognizing my work. To have an award that's described as "honoring writers whose work has helped YA readers understand themselves and their world..." well, it's enough to make you want to sit down and start another novel.

Happy 20th Anniversary to the Margaret A. Edwards Award and congratulations to all past and future winners. —Judy Blume

Gary Paulsen (1997)

Awards have never meant much to me (for most of my life, I never got any). But books mean a great deal to me. People who love books mean even more. People who love books and share them with young people mean the most of all. That's what being honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award meant to me—the chance to meet and talk to a great many people who put books, some of them were even MY books, in the hands of young readers.

A long time ago Mike Printz whispered to me that I was a shoo-in for it. I don't really know what shoo-in means and I don't think like that anyway but, I swear, I heard his voice and his chuckle when I got the call. He'd died not long before and, to this day, I wonder about the coincidence in timing. But not too hard because, of course, he loved books and young readers and me and there are some things in this life—like the expression on the face of a child who is lost in the pages of a book, and the sound of sled dog puppies breathing in the dark night of a drowsy kennel, and the way the wind snaps the sailcloth when all you can see is blue in every direction—that you just don't question. When you experience those kinds of things, all you can do is
say thank you. So: Thank you. Thank you again. Thank you always. Thank you, Mike, and thank you YALSA. —Gary Paulsen

Anne McCaffrey (1999)

After I answered the phone call which announced the happy event of the Margaret Edwards award for me, I burst into tears in my daughter's arms. I had won a Nebula and a Hugo but a Library Award was a whole different category...signalizing true success. My daughter, Gigi, and son, Todd, accompanied me to the event so there were loved ones I could inundate with,
and share in, my pride in such an achievement. You must realize that my occupation as a writer of science fiction did not find much favor with my male parent. He never thought I would amount to much so this was proof positive that I did. The Award is positioned full center of framed color prints of six of my Pern novels, all illustrated by Michael Whelan who has,
himself, won many awards for his imaginative covers. I call it 'my Whelan Wall.'

When fans visit me in the House That Dragons Built, aka Dragonhold, the Whelan Wall is the first place I show them. Then my office, which has other minor triumphs, like a photo of Colonel Pamela Melroy, on board the Space Shuttle Discovery which she was commanding. She has a copy of Killashandra floating in front of her in space. That is another of my small personal
triumphs, a really important person as a reader, whom I admire intensely for all the good qualities she is blessed with, and the courage she has shown.

It was at that ALA awards ceremony that a librarian pushed the 2nd Harry Potter into my hands and told me to read it. I did and then bought the first one to catch up on what I'd missed. Of course, JK Rowling had just opened the door on good young adult books and I am not the only young adult author who has had the benefit of that publicity and popularity.

Winning the Margaret A. Edwards Award, especially at that point in my career, was of monumental importance to me. Nothing succeeds like success and that sort of a pat on the back was critical. I give it a nod every time I pass the wall. —Sincerely yours, Anne McCaffrey. 2005 Grand Master, SFWA.

Chris Crutcher (2000)

The thing I like best about winning the Margaret A. Edwards Award is the company in which it puts me. Though I like winning individual awards as much as the next writer, an award that celebrates a body of work seems particularly appropriate. Stories, in their best form, help readers make connections, bring them new information, and more importantly tap into their imaginations, pushing them to express themselves. That's what I believed my stories were being celebrated for when I won the MAE. And like I said, what great company. —Chris Crutcher

Robert Lipsyte (2001)

As an old sportswriter, I was uneasy at first about winning the Margaret A. Edwards Award; in the arena, "lifetime achievement" is about the past, not the future, about hanging up your cleats not hitting the line harder. Was I over? Had anyone ever won the award twice?

I started feeling more secure at the awards ceremony. Librarians didn't pat my butt and invite me to Oldtimers' Day. They treated me as if I still had a few innings left. I was thrilled by a citation declaring that my books "help adolescents recognize their role and their importance in relationships, society, and the world." Yet still.

And then, at a branch library appearance, a kid asked me if winning the Edwards award had put more pressure on me. I surprised myself by admitting that it had, but in a positive "Give me the ball" sort of way. I wanted to prove myself worthy of Margaret.

The next YA novel I wrote, "Raiders Night," was a breakthrough for me. The language and scenes were grittier than any I had written, and I got closer to the heart of what I want say, especially to boys: Jocks live in the real world and jock leaders bear a responsibility to their communities that comes before loyalty to coach and team. Turns out, football players were my most enthusiastic readers, although the book made a lot of librarians uneasy, at first. I told them to blame themselves for giving me the ball. —Robert Lipsyte

Nancy Garden (2003)

The curious thing about receiving a lifetime achievement award when one is, say, not yet in one’s late nineties and not considering retiring from what one is receiving the award for, is that instead of encouraging one to rest happily on one’s laurels, it tends to make one more eager than ever to continue one’s work. At least that has been one of the major effects the MAE Award has had on me!

Of course I was and still am enormously grateful for the honor, and for YALSA’s recognition, in naming my novel ANNIE ON MY MIND in the citation, of the importance of YA books about LGBT youth. It was wonderful at the ceremony to be able to publically thank my partner, Sandy; my various editors, especially Margaret Ferguson at FSG; my friends both professional and personal; and my family for their help and encouragement over the years. And it is very fine indeed to be able to note the MAE Award in my bio and on book jackets. But even more valuable is that the award has encouraged me to go on trying to grow as a writer, to struggle through those dark professional patches that most of us encounter from time to time, and to continue, as I said in my acceptance speech “to try to do my best to live up to this award, to the writers who have won it before me, and to the dedicated librarian for whom it was named.” —Nancy Garden

Lois Lowry (2007)

As I read, once again. the list of past MAE Award winners.I found myself thinking: "Wouldn't it be fun to be at a party with all of these people?" Of course I have been with many of them; I saw Chris Crutcher in Orlando ten days ago, and Judy Blume in Chicago last week. I have never forgotten the quiet afternoon I spent with Robert Cormier about three weeks before he died——or the long intimate conversations with Lois Duncan after we had each tragically lost a child.

I look at the list, too, and see the differences in age, race, religion, and sexual orientation among us, and think what a fine thing that is. We speak with so many voices—-and all of us with the same voice, too, and the same commitment to today's young people.

Awards have never been a big priority for me. But I do love what the Margaret Edwards Award means: an acknowledgment of that commitment, and a place in a long line of distinguished colleagues. It is a fun party, and I'm
glad that new people are invited each year! —Lois Lowry

Orson Scott Card (2008)

I usually prefer not to talk about my own fiction — I’d rather it speak for itself. But this seems to be a moment when I really need to account for myself. What have I done that made some wonderfully deluded people think that I should get the Margaret Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing young adult fiction?

When I was a kid, I thought books were more important than food. I don’t think I bought lunch during the entire time that the Teen Age Book Club order form was open on my teacher’s desk.

  1. I have learned a few things about what young readers choose to read.
  2. No amount of bad or hard writing will keep children from the stories they care about. They’re so naive and inexperienced they don’t know bad writing from good; all the clichés sound new to them.
  3. And it goes the other way. No amount of good or much-admired writing will make them like a story they don’t care about.
  4. You can’t make a kid like a book. You can’t even make them pretend to like a book — that doesn’t usually happen till they get to college.
  5. There is no such thing as children’s literature.

I have to explain that, I know. After all, I’m here to accept an award for lifetime achievement in writing Young Adult fiction. But, you see, I have never written a single piece of YA fiction. I have not worked with YA editors; my work has never been marketed that way until Tor put a YA cover and a new ISBN on Ender’s Game — fifteen years after the book first came out, and long after it had become popular with young readers. Ender’s Game was written with no concessions to young readers. My protagonists were children, but the book was definitely not aimed at kids. I was perfectly aware that the rule of thumb for children’s literature is that the protagonist must be a couple of years older than the target audience. You want ten-year-old readers, you have a twelve-year-old hero.

At the beginning of the book, Ender is six. Who, exactly, is the target audience? —Orson Scott Card