I just got back from Ann Arbor MI where I received my Original Voices Award from the fine people at Borders bookstores. The event was really great, and it took place at one of their new "concept" stores which had all the bells and whistles of a theme park for books! My editor, Nami, and my art director, Christine, where there with me which was great because it was a whirlwind day. First stop was the Borders headquarters where I had lunch with the ten committee members who chose my book as this years winner. Next we got a tour of the concept store, then in the back of the store there was a little stage along with giant posters of the four winning book jackets. (Fiction, Non-Fiction, YA/independent reader, and Picture Book). Around 5 o'clock the crowd started building and the award ceremony began. I was up first and here is the speech I read:
When I was 7 years old I won a coloring contest at a toy store in my hometown. I found out when I received an envelope in the mail with my name on it. Inside was a note of congratulations AND a gift certificate for $15 to use in the store. My math might be suspect but in 1974 that was equivalent to about $1 million dollars. I was bouncing of the walls. It was two agonizing days before my mother actually drove me to the store so that I could clean out their stock of super-balls, bat kites and balsa wood gliders.
When we arrived at the store, I jumped out of the car and ran towards the door, ready to set their cash registers ablaze, but I stopped dead in my tracks. There, hanging in the window of the Ben Franklin 5 and Dime was my Art. First prize…John Rocco…7 years old.
I stood there staring at it, filling up with pride till I was about to burst, knees shaking, eyes starting to burn. My mother stood smiling, holding the door open for me. I calmly walked in and bought $15 dollars worth of crayons and construction paper.
33 years later, I walk in to a Borders in Los Angeles, about to give one of my first public readings of the first book I had ever written. There was a sign announcing my arrival, as well as a borders employee standing just inside the door holding a copy of Wolf! Wolf! and telling everyone who walked in the door about the reading. He was about to tell me about the reading, then a look of recognition came over his face. “Welcome to Borders Mr. Rocco, were so glad you could come read your book today. We all love it.” I felt 7 years old again, but in a good way. Overcome with the kind of pride and joy that Seven year olds can only express by bouncing around as if they have to pee real bad.
First off, I would like to thank my fantastic teammates at Hyperion. Namrata Tripathi, my fabulous editor, for helping me find my voice. Christine Kettner, my savvy Art Director, for gently guiding my vision. And everyone else at Hyperion who make creating books for children such a joy.
I would also like to thank Borders, not only for this incredible honor, but for making me feel seven years old again…in a good way.
I was presented with the award which is actually a copy of my book encased in glass, which I thought was really cool. I will always have a pristine copy of my book in it's own little time capsule. I will try to post pictures soon. (My camera broke...so...)