Monday, November 20, 2017

My Thanku to Sue (Alexander)!

I know in my heart there are legions of children’s book creators who re-express on a daily basis their gratitude Sue Alexander entered their lives.
I am but one such writer, and a lucky one at that.

All sorts of nouns in apposition describe Sue’s long-time residency in the Children’s Book World, chief among them TeachingAuthor and SCBWI’s Very First Member and #1 Supporter. 

After publishing her first book, SMALL PLAYS FOR YOU AND A FRIEND (Scholastic), in 1973, Sue went on to publish 24 other tiles, including my favorite, the picture book BEHOLD THE TREES (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2001).  As a teacher, she loved sharing all she’d learned - “from the best,” she’d like to say, and that included Myra Cohn Livingston. Sue joined SCBW in 1971 and went on to grow the organization as it took on the “I” for “Illustrators. She served as SCBWI’S Chairperson of the Board of Advisors for 33 years while helping to organize conferences and the Golden Kite Awards and watching over all.

While I’d admired Sue from afar at my very first LA SCBW Conference in 1986 (!), it wasn’t until the early 90’s, when I assumed responsibilities for my Illinois SCBWI Chapter, that I came to know this red-headed Energizer Bunny-like force of nature.
As dedicated as she was to helping children’s book creators be the best they could be, that’s how dedicated she was to making sure those of us working on SCBWI’s behalf did so with professionalism, dedication and kindness. 
Her diminutive size belied the enormity of her spirited actions. Excellence was Sue’s only standard.

IMHO: Sue’s verbs describe her best.
She taught, modeled, mentored, guided, encouraged and supported, not to mention believed in SCBWI and its members.
In so many ways, she “mothered” so many.
And like any mother, she saw the promise in each of us.

SCBWI’s Sue Alexander Manuscript Award, established in 1996, is the perfect award to honor Sue’s dedication, service and, since 2008, her memory.  It’s given to the manuscript submitted for critique to the SCBWI Annual Conference in LA deemed most promising for publication. Conference critiquers determine the finalists and a three-member panel of industry professionals make the final selection.  The work or a synopsis of the work is then presented to an esteemed group of hand-selected editors and agents.  Winners become instant Success Stories.

Whether writing, teaching, coaching or engaging in an SCBWI event, Sue is with me,
perched on my shoulder, whispering in my ear what needs to be done and how well I need to do it.  The height of the bar she set hasn’t slipped an inch. 

Here’s hoping the 17 syllables of my traditional TeachingAuthors Thanku, this time to thank Sue, keep Sue’s Spirit alive.  Paying Sue Alexander forward is something those of us who knew her do gladly and often.

          Sue Alexander –
          the gift that keeps on giving
          so we keep writing!

Happy Thanku-ing – and – Thanksgiving!

Esther Hershenhorn

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