I can make the official announcement now… Today I was given the Evelyn Sibley Lampman Award presented Children’s Services Division of the Oregon Library Association.
“The Evelyn Sibley Lampman Award was established in 1982 to honor a living Oregon author, librarian, or educator who has made a significant contribution to Oregon in the fields of children’s literature and library services. It is awarded annually by the Children’s Services Division of the Oregon Library Association.The award is given in memory of Evelyn Sibley Lampman (1907-1980), noted Oregon teacher, journalist, and author of children’s books.”
What a fabulous honor! I can’t thank you enough for recognizing my work with this award. I’m only sorry that I wasn’t able to be there myself to receive it. But my lovely and kind wife, Marie, stood up for me. Below is her outstanding acceptance speech. Thank you Marie. I love you.
Thank you Korie Jones Buerkle and all your helpers for that wonderful introduction about my husband Roland Smith and his books. Thank you Stephanie Lind for the many emails that got me here today. She tracked us down in Baja. I am thrilled to be here and sorry that Roland couldn’t be here in person. I tried to rearrange his schedule but couldn’t. He is in Boise right now doing a Children’s writing festival that was booked over a year ago.
If you read Zach’s Lie and remember Roland’s dedication it says, “This one is for my nephew Zachary Teters, a great reader and an extraordinary young man” With me today is Zach’s mother. Karen Teters– my sister in law. She is a constant reader and has been a neo natal nurse for years at St. Vincent’s. She is married to my brother John who is a math teacher at Rex Putnam—whenever I say to John– you have such great kids he says “oh that’s all Karen’s fault”.
This is the third acceptance speech I have given for Roland in the last 6 months! So I feel almost giddy with it all! I am glad I knew well in advance that he was selected as the recipient for the Evelyn Sibley Lampman Award—no waiting at the event to find out who won. This week I asked him if he was going to write something for me to say and he said no you could do it!
Guys never talk about things most women like to know and Roland considers himself a regular guy. Everything I say today is my own decision and he had no editorial control.
Once upon a time—make that 20 years ago. I was a long time divorced mother with three kids—14/18/20 I lived next door to my parents. I have 5 brothers, 4 sisters—in laws to match and I’ve lost count of all the nieces and nephews! Roland was a newly divorced man had no kids never been around kids and had just lost his mother. Mike Roydan a mutual friend thought we should meet. I really didn’t get the possible connection at the time—I told Mike I didn’t date newly divorced men who just lost their mother –Mike never played matchmaker before and assured me that the divorce was a long time coming and Roland was dealing well with the loss of his mother. I was curious –So was Roland. I told Mike to give him my number—Roland called.
He showed up on our first official date with a book under his arm. A signed copy of his first and only book at that time SEA OTTER RESCUE. Roland has always been different. Besides calling regularly he started sending me letters. Beautiful Letters–. Yes I saved every one of them!
He told me he was just quitting the zoo business committing himself to the dream of being a writer that he had had since he was 5 years old. He told me he was Born and raised in NE Portland. Grew up walking along the same streets as Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins attended Fernwood Grade School. At 14 he dropped out of Grant High School ran away with a friend to San Francisco—yes Haight Ashbury! He eventually came back to Portland got his GED entered Portland State University majoring in English. But he got side tracked for twenty years working full time at the Portland zoo and eventually at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma– His zoo job took him on world wide adventures, working with exotic animals, meeting indigenous people, and saving the red wolf from extinction. When he quit to become what he had always wanted to be–a writer –the zoo community thought he was suffering a midlife crisis or he was just plain crazy.
Basically when I met him he said I wasn’t what he was looking for—he wasn’t looking for anything –bad timing. He wasn’t what I was looking for either. He was charming, funny—his zoo stories would make me laugh till it hurt. Did I say sexy, and a wonderful writer. But I wasn’t looking for a sexy unemployed writer—but those letters. Six months later we were married—I guess we got married in a fever. I don’t know if anyone thought it would last– That was 19 years ago. Today we still live next door to my parents. He is a wonderful father to my 3 grown children, a loving grandfather to our four grandsons, fits in well with my extended family and is a husband that supports me in everything I do.
Obviously I didn’t know him in his zoo days. I am not a zoo person—I am not into animals it wasn’t anything that I cared about I did have a dog because what mother of a son doesn’t have a dog and a horse because I lived on a farm. But he had told me about his background and I had an idea he was well known– I didn’t get that he was a “super star” in the zoo business until we went to the Zoo a couple of years ago with our grandkids for a behind the scenes tour with the his friend and director of the Point Defiance Zoo. He collected such an entourage –people kept coming up to him and introducing themselves obviously thrilled to meet THE Roland Smith—not Roland Smith the author –that I was used to but Roland Smith zoo guy that saved the Red wolf from extinction. It had been almost 20 years since he was in the zoo business—I thought he would have been forgotten. I whispered in his ear—who are you? I realized at that time how much he had given up for his dream of writing.
But the zoo business was helpful in the success in his non-fiction writing because of his credentials. His first book SEA OTTER RESCUE was published in 1990 and is still in print. He wrote 8 more non-fiction books and was supposed to write another one. He had a book contract to write a book about the Children’s Rain Forest he gave the contract and advance back! And said “NO more non-fiction. I want to write novels”. Again people thought he was crazy—his non-fiction was a hit –readers were waiting for more. But when he gave me a manuscript for THUNDER CAVE. I was introduced to Jake Lansa and his travels across Kenya trying to find his dad after his mother was killed– hit by a car while jogging —his way of dealing with the loss of his mother. I thought who cares about non-fiction this book is wonderful. It took a long time to get anyone to agree. 9 editors said no before he found one that said yes. When it came out it didn’t get the attention we hoped for—except with Oregon Librarians. It was nominated for the Oregon Book Award the same year JOURNEY OF THE RED WOLF won. When the publisher said they weren’t putting Thunder Cave into paperback Roland asked librarians he knew to contact the publisher and ask for a reprint and a paperback issue—they did because you did and it has been in print ever since! Today Teachers use it in classrooms all over the United States and we get fan mail on a regular basis for THUNDER CAVE—it has been optioned for movie rights 7 times. He went on to write more adventures with Jake Lansa in JAGUAR and THE LAST LOBO. Jake is still expected in at least one more adventure—I have no idea when he will finish it.
Besides writing books Roland speaks at conferences– visits schools, public libraries and is on the road a lot from September to June. Which in the beginning of his career was a big part of our income. Oregon School librarians regularly invite Roland into their schools– a special thanks to Jeri Petzel and Margo Jensen for being the first two.
BJ Quinlan unknowningly saved us twice from maxing out all our credit cards by booking road tours for Roland visiting Public libraries across Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties during the summer! We have always been grateful for Oregon Librarians.
I want to spend a few minutes describing Roland’s writing process–Roland is a compulsive/or a well disciplined writer I go back and forth between compulsive –well disciplined. Depending on how I feel about him at the time. He writes everyday even on Christmas. What moves him to write is writing about things that are important to him and he writes to make readers. To write a rough draft He uses a moleskine (mole-ah-skeen-a) notebook. He uses the moleskine because it is portable and can be used on a plane during landing and take off. He carries it with him at all times wherever he goes and it is always next to him on the nightstand when he’s sleeping. He uses a beautiful blue enamel mount Blanc pen with platinum accents called a star-walker to write with—it’s the same pen he uses to sign books. The pen was a gift from me to him. I found it while in Washington DC at Fharney’s Pens—it is a well-known pen store—I didn’t know that at the time. And on that day pen reps were there and talked me into the pen. I won’t even tell you what I paid for that thing but I know it made Roland happy and that makes me happy. He uses an ink pen because that stops him from making corrections when he’s doing a rough draft. While writing his rough draft his writing is uninhibited with no stops. It takes him about a month to write a rough draft. Longer if he is traveling. After he’s done with the rough draft and has filled up the moleskine he starts putting it into his computer. He has had so many computers over the years. I can’t even remember them all. He goes back and forth between a PC and a MAC. Usually he gets one a year. I know he’s planning on getting one when He starts complaining about the one he’s has. I know we are almost at the store. When he transcribes his rough draft from the moleskin into the computer it could take months ending up with what he calls his second draft—then he does a 3rd draft still on the computer This whole process might take two years!
Finally he emails the manuscript to the editor and about 6 people he calls—his first readers for review and editing. He may or may not use these edits but he takes them all very seriously. This is his 4th draft. As soon as he emails it to the editor he forgets it. The longer the editor takes the better Roland likes it before he does his final draft. It takes about 4 or 5 drafts to finish the book. One of the reasons I tell you all this is not to bore you but sometimes living with this process is boring—I don’t see any bolt of lightning! I don’t see any glow around him when he is in the zone. No Moment when he jumps up and says I’ve got it! I just see him sitting a lot of time just staring or sitting in his office in front of his computer—just staring. I try not to bother him when he is in his office working but things come up where I do interrupt him and he never complains too much. When our grandsons come to visit it is a bit difficult telling them not to bother gramps. They know the rules. When the door is shut gramps is working. They have all gone through the stage of laying on the floor outside his office looking through the crack under the door and whispering gramps are you in there! Can I come in? Can you come out and play!
I only know he has been working and not playing computer games, reading or just taking naps is when he finally throws a manuscript at me and walks into the kitchen with a certain swagger and pours himself a rewarding drink.
Then I start reading—the story is wonderful. The characters so real. I just don’t get how he does it! IT is all so magical. The alchemy of Roland Smith writing. He turns thoughts into words– words into sentences, paragraphs, chapters beginnings and endings and a story that touches people’s hearts and moves them. Moves me. I fall in love all over again.
I am proud of Roland and I think he is a great writer a generous writer that loves to encourage anyone to write if that is what they want to do. He encourages everyone to find a dream– follow it and don’t let anyone tell you no.
No writer writes for awards—it’s not something you can ever guarantee or predict. But it is wonderful getting awards—especially from the state Roland was raised in and loves. For Roland Receiving an award from a group of people he respects is an honor. To be on the same list with such prestigious Oregonians—Walt Morey, Eloise McGraw– my personal favorite, Virginia Euwer Wolf and all the rest– is an honor. For me personally being here for my husband and celebrating with so many people that obviously care about him is an honor.
That guy that showed up at my doorstep 20 years ago– I said he was different—sexy and wrote wonderful letters. Besides that he is brilliant, talented, passionate, humble, sensitive and I think the best children’s book writer ever! I think Oregonians will always be proud to have him on this list. And that he will continue to write books that Oregonians will love and read.
Roland knows that you have done so much for him over the years and that he would never have the success he has without all of you. Today I am grateful that a panel of Oregon Media Specialists also saw something in my husband they liked and chose Roland as recipient for the Evelyn Sibley Lampman Award. Thanks so much from the bottom of my heart. And Roland’s too.