Karen Cushman lives, works, and procrastinates on misty green Vashon Island near Seattle. She has published nine books since she started writing at age fifty, including the Newbery Award winner The Midwife’s Apprentice and her newest title, Grayling’s Song. Ms. Cushman loves the rain and when the weather turns warm and dry, she grumbles and blames the weatherman. She is crazy about Brother Cadfael, crossword puzzles, and all warm and fuzzy creatures. Her husband thinks she is a bit nuts but he has stayed married to her for 48 years, so how bad can she be?
The Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award is for authors over the age of fifty who have not been traditionally published in the children’s literature field.
The grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
The award is open to unpublished children’s book authors or author/illustrators over the age of fifty, and one winner will be chosen from the pool of those who have submitted material for the SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grants.
What do you look for when you read the submissions?
Selfishly, I look for a manuscript that makes me want more, a manuscript with writing and characters that leave me yearning to read the rest of the book. If the setting is unusual and the story is one I haven’t heard before, that’s a plus.
Why did you feel compelled to offer this grant?
I wrote a lot as a child but as I grew up and married and had a child and a job, I wrote nothing. I still had stories in my head that I shared with my husband but nothing on paper until he challenged me to write it down. So I did, and so I urge others to do so. Write it down! Put thoughts and stories and ideas into words. Over 50 is not too late to begin a writing journey–I was over 50 when my first book was published.
How can the grant benefit and encourage writers?
I hope that the recognition the award brings leaves the writer more confident and committed to her writing. Appreciation, respect, and encouragement are good motivators and soothing to the spirit. And an award-winning manuscript will more likely get an agent’s or editor’s attention.
What are the special challenges that writers in this particular category face?
I hate to say it but I think older writers, especially women, often are not taken seriously. It’s easy to think well, if she’s over fifty and has never yet published, she must not be very good. And I hear a lot about editors seeking out new young writers. Young? Well, the heck with that! We are here, we are old, and we write!
A personal challenge I find is the decline in energy that we older folks often feel. I can no longer write all day but eventually what I accomplish in chunks of time adds up.
But on the other hand, being older has made me wiser, more tolerant, more self aware, and more accepting of limitations. I hope these are reflected in my writing.