“Imagination should be the center of your life” Ray Bradbury
Remember when summer seemed like a time to relax and live the “Country Time Lemonade” commercial lifestyle (sidenote: I aways disliked their August ads’ “Summer’s ending” motif, but I digress). Over the past four summers, I’ve been privileged to be part of something hectic, work-intensive, yet powerful—#SunWriteFun. It is a Nonfiction/Info Fiction contest for writers in the #kidlit space. This year, my dear friend/contest co-creator Jennifer Buchet, Maria Marshall, and I asked the writing community to vote on a theme. The results were a dream…
Ok what I meant was that the poll resulted in the theme, “DREAMS.”
But, co-creating #SunWriteFun has been dream-like to me.
I’ve written about this before, but it is worth stating again. When Jenny and I introduced #SunWriteFun, the impetus was to fulfill Ray Bradbury’s quote above. At such a bleak time four years ago, many #kidlit’ers had complained that they lost their mojo. Jenny and I wanted to inspire and ignite their creativity and help promote members of the community (“Sun Fun Points,” anyone?!). Based on the quality of entries, social media buzz, and personal notes we received, clearly it worked!
I don’t know if we thought we would do it again. Setting it up, coordinating, judging, tallying—it is a major amount of work. Just creating fresh, themed content, graphics, et al on the contest pages is extremely time-consuming. But the responses, the enthusiasm, and the successes of those who entered made it clear that we had touched upon something important. People started using their essays as springboards for drafting query-ready manuscripts. Then, came their results... Just last month, a former contestant sent me this clip from an interview about her upcoming debut picture book:
Little Thoughts Press: Is there anything else you wish I had asked? Any upcoming projects, publications, or other news you'd like to share?
Steena Hernandez: In the summer of 2021, I entered the Sun Write Fun contest hosted by the wonderful author Karen Greenwald. Although I didn’t win, I’ll never forget Karen’s encouraging words suggesting I turn my piece into a full picture book. I took her advice, and kept going with it. I recently announced that story as my debut picture book... (https://littlethoughtspress.wixsite.com/ltpmag/post/interview-steena-hernandez)
Did I tear up? YES! Knowing that our #SunWriteFun “experiment” has led to this type of success is overwhelming and incredibly gratifying. (Sidenote: Steena’s story is be-au-ti-ful, and I can’t wait to get a copy).
The chance to use #SunWriteFun as a vehicle for championing literacy causes has been a personal dream come true. I’m clearly obsessed (in the best way😊) with libraries! In fact, my next book is all about one (THE MUD ANGELS, HOW STUDENTS SAVED THE CITY OF FLORENCE-Spring 24’ Albert Whitman). Whether we supported We Need Diverse Books or Reader to Reader, #SunWriteFun’ers have generously participated in our charity-focused efforts. Many under-served school libraries/local libraries in economically challenged communities now enjoy more resources thanks to this effort (Note: donating has and will remain optional).
I am so proud to say that this year, interested Nomineers have been sending new books directly to the Navajo Nation Library. So, thank you to all who have joined in on this facet of the experience. It means more to me than I can say.
Finally, I’m grateful to all our prize donors! I’m not a person who likes asking others for things. But the “ask” is almost always followed with an immediate, supportive, (YES to Oxford Commas!) and enthusiastic “thank you!” The kidlit community never ceases to amaze and inspire me.
So, to Ray Bradbury’s quote above, I say this—#SunWriteFun is fueled by imagination, creativity, kindness, and potential!