In recent Hamline MFAC residencies I have taken to shouting out that nonfiction is sexy, too. “Try it, you’ll like it.“ Sometimes nonfiction is treated like the stepchild of children’s books or the “redheaded stepchild,” as alum Lauren Tunnell Verdeyen likes to say.

 (BTW, it’s been too long, but I am happy to be blogging again and appreciate Marsha Q’s encouragement to us faculty to contribute a post this fall semester.)

 Nonfiction is getting more attention these days because of the new Common Core standards and hurray for that. We already have several awards given out in our program and we all know how much of a confidence boost recognition of our writing can be. For more on the NF scholarship and other MFAC awards, check out the link.


I wanted nonfiction writing to be honored too. When my parents passed away, their request was that we children continue to donate to worthy causes as they had done. So I talked my siblings into setting up a nonfiction award in honor of my parents. My father, a journalist and lawyer, always had his nose in a book, or we kids had to hide our books, so he wouldn’t poach those, too. He was so delighted when I began writing that this usually humble man marched into libraries and bookstores to make sure they carried my books. I’ll bet that sounds familiar to some of you. My “redheaded” mother, a librarian before raising six kids, signed us up for library cards before we could walk. She would often snap off the television in the middle of a show. But all you had to do to get out of doing the dishes was to call down, “Mom, I’m reading.” I can remember her preparing book reviews for her club, decades before book clubs became popular with the boomer set.

 Maybe you have a proud parent or relative who brags about your writing. I hope so. Who inspired you to write? When you were a kid, what adults loved books like you did? 

The Frances and Kermit Rudolf Nonfiction Scholarship will be awarded every January to a current Hamline student and judged by a nonfiction editor. Since some of our talented grads are also writing nonfiction, Mary Rockcastle, our program’s dean and fairy godmother, agreed that the first award should be given to an alum. Five finalists were chosen and submitted to Sally Doherty at Holt Books for Young Readers, the editor for my upcoming 2014 book My Country Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Sally not only selected the winning entry, but also wrote up critique notes for all five manuscripts.

At the graduation banquet in July, alum Tracy Mauer received the first award for her picture book manuscript “John Deere, That’s Who!” This link will take you to a longer article about the award.  The photo shows our smiling faces on a happy night for all of us in the Hamline program, especially the new grads.

 Okay, this post is now twice as long as I’d hoped. So I need to wrap it up. We don’t and we can’t write for awards. We all know that we have to write for the reward of putting words down every day, and believing in our ability to create stories for young readers. But recognition can help us keep believing, through the ups and downs of the writing life. May you receive some recognition often, from fellow writers, friends and family, editors and agents. Write on. That’s what we do.