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The Calendar Year of a Caldecott Book
ATW jacket
Ages ago, Cynthia Leitich Smith invited me to do a guest post about my experience at ALA in June.
I said yes – who wouldn’t? – but then I didn’t do it.
I kept putting it off.
(While she remained exceedingly kind and patient...)

Finally I started it, but it felt incomplete. Like it needed context. Like posting about the events of that weekend would be akin to reading just the 2nd book in a trilogy, without a lot of sense or connection.

So, here’s my attempt at the context, calendar-style.
And the actual details on that gala weekend in June?
They’re at Cynsations today – as promised.

September, 2009: My second book, All the World, went out into the world in a way that felt both brighter and scarier than anything I was used to. By the time it was released, it had been given starred reviews in Kirkus, Horn Book and School Library Journal, and I was feeling dizzy. Despite my desire to hide underneath my bed ‘til things blew over, I celebrated the launch at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, with zillions of generous and reassuring folk. I signed a lot of books and did not faint.

October, 2009: I shared All the World at the Texas Book Festival. A class of 2nd graders sang an original song about the book by way of introduction. I had a stool there, so if I had fainted, nobody’d be the wiser.

November, 2009: I had so many gratitudes piling up that it would’ve taken the better part of Thanksgiving dinner to list them all. All the World was a New York Times, Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2009, a Scholastic Book Club pick, and it appeared to be headed for Cheerios boxes. Plus, my friends who get pedicures had seen a blurb in People magazine. It was almost too much. My family and I went backpacking in Big Bend National Park and skipped the feast.

December, 2009: People started whispering predictions about the American Library Association Awards. Y’know, Newbery, Caldecott and the like. I put my fingers in my ears and sang, “La, la, la…”

January, 2010: I was in Big Sky, Montana, with my sister, wallowing in our first weekend away together since we’d had our babies a decade earlier. We skied hard, giggled and generally slept well, but on Monday the 18th, crazy-early Mountain Time, I woke to the news that All the World had been awarded a Caldecott Honor. I received so many emails in such a flurry that I thought my computer had a virus. I hugged my sister, took a hot tub, drank a bunch of coffee, called Marla, and cried.

February, 2010: And then All the World landed on the NYT’s Bestseller List. Sheesh.

March, 2010: In a most stunning counterbalance to what was turning into one of the best years of my life, my husband was diagnosed with cancer three days after we arrived home from Spring Break. I was suddenly dizzy again, but in a hard, new way.

April, 2010: My husband spent the month recovering from surgery, and shoring himself up for chemotherapy and radiation. I read and signed All the World at the Texas Library Association Conference, the Corpus Christi Book Festival, and a bunch of elementary schools. Together we went to some 27-trillion doctor’s appointments.

May, 2010: At my husband’s insistence, I followed through on plans for a retreat with my agent and agent-mates in Chicago. It was kind of all about books, and kind of just about life. It was perfect. The day I got home, Kirk had his first of 39 radiation treatments. The morning after, he started chemo.

June, 2010: After eight endless weeks of medicine designed to heal-him-if-it-didn’t-kill-him, we marked Kirk’s final treatment with kiss. I left an hour later for the American Library Association Conference in Washington, D.C. As I sat on the plane I wondered if I was dreaming a very long and very vivid dream, but when I got to D.C., everything felt really real. (See my post at Cynthia’s!)

July, 2010: I finished up the very last itty bitty edits on my next book, and illustrations were begun for the book after that.

August, 2010: It is a new year. Our girls have gone back to school and Kirk is getting well. All the World has a shiny silver sticker on its cover now. And I no longer want to hide underneath my bed, because if I did I’d miss way too much.

Which I guess is why I felt compelled to add this context. A weekend like the kind of weekend I got to have at ALA could be understandably mistaken for a fairy tale. But really, all of our lives are bigger than one dreamy weekend. And our books aren’t created in bubbles – they’re created inside of those lives. In the end, we take the lumps with the luck, making them both all the better.

With hope and peace and love and trust,


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Thank you, Tammi. And hurrah on your Monsterly release!

Thank you for sharing this.
I loved that you were able to spend a weekend away with your sister before the big announcement, and that the joys of the past year (NYT Bestseller List! On top of the Caldecott Honor! Wow) have helped to bolster you during the tougher times. Sending best wishes for your family. Jeni

Jeni... Thank you! And yes, it is so good to have joys and sisters to balance our lives with...

So glad you don't want to hide under any beds. We get way too much from seeing what you see. Me, and I think All the World, are thankful for your wide open eyes.

Here's to a fall of keeping getting better.

Yes, here's to that. Thanks, Jeannine...

What a beautiful post -- what a year! Life has required that you embrace all that the world is bringing your way, good and bad. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey with us. Sending lots of healing thoughts, and all the best for you and your family. ♥

Thank you.

I knew none of this ... except that ALL THE WORLD won the Caldecott and that I loved it. Thank you for this wise and tender post. But most of all thank you for this window, this perspective, this sense of place in our writer lives.

My ALL THE WORLD copy currently has Marla's autograph but not yours. I so look forward to the day your signature joins hers - because that will be the beautiful day that we finally meet in person.

With warmest wishes,

Thanks, Jean - I can't wait to sign it in person!

tanita says...

Not quite coming full circle, but at least nearly back where you belong after a tough year. xo

Full circle or wacky spiral or something...


It's no wonder your books inspire and win awards. Thanks for this glimpse into your life, your world and your courage. Lovely recap!

Hugs, Carmen

Re: With tears in my eyes

Oh, thanks, Carmen. Thank YOU for reading...

Such a touching post, Liz. Thanks for sharing it. ALL THE WORLD continues to give so much joy to me and my three-year-old.
Laura Resau

Wow! That is seriously intense! I am SO happy to hear that your husband is healing. You all have been in my thoughts often. I just didn't want to be pestering you with are-you-okay-s? all the time.

I would probably feel just how you did if any of my books ever did what yours did--want to hide under my bed, faint, etc. :) I'm sure you handled it with much grace. All the praise was well deserved.

Congrats again for the award and I'm so happy that things are getting better on the health front! Hugs!

P.S. this is me, your agent sis Sarah DeFord Williams.

Hi Sarah - I've missed you! Thank you for coming by and for your sweet thoughts...
Hope you're well!

Glad I Am Behind on Reading Poetry Friday Posts

Hi, Liz. I am a children's writer who is new to blogging, and I found out about your site through Poetry Friday. I realize it is Monday, but I am still trying to find the time to check out some of the posts from last week! I'm glad I'm a little late, though, because I came across your post about All the World. I first read the book while looking for a birthday present for a five-year-old a while back (and eventually bought it for that occasion). Then at ALA I bought another copy for a good friend and another for myself and my kids, and you signed them both. So thanks for that! I'm sorry for all the difficulties you have had in between all the excitement of the past year, but I'm glad I got to read about it. Learning more about your life and the life of the book makes me cherish my copy even more... Kerry Aradhya

Re: Glad I Am Behind on Reading Poetry Friday Posts

Hi Kerry -- Nice to meet you and thanks for coming by...
And thank you, mostly, for your very kind thoughts...

Your life and your writing is all about exposing the ups and downs for what they are: ups and downs, and still being amazed by it all. And, I know I am not the only one amazed by not only how you write but who you are.

Right back atcha, Bethany...

(Deleted comment)
I know YOU know about tough years, Laura. May this new season be good for all of us...

I too had a year filled with wondrous highs and terrible, terrible lows. Thank you for sharing your story so beautifully. And praise God that Kirk is doing well.

It is quite a ride, isn't it, Anne Marie.
Thanks for your thoughts, and please know I'm thinking of you, too....

"But really, all of our lives are bigger than one dreamy weekend." Ain't that the hard, cold truth?

I wish you light and love and peace on your continuing journey, my friend.

Light, love and peace to you, too, Kelly. To you, too....

Liz - Wow! I met you right smack dab in the middle of this roller coaster (at Cyn's house) and I thought you were the calmest, centered person in the room. Who knew all this was going on? You're amazing, and an inspiration. I'm so glad your husband is recovering - that's so scary. Peace to you.

Bookmarking and saving forever.
Hoping for full recovery for your husband and many more magical horizons for you and your gift for words.


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