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"I learn by going where I have to go."
--Myra Cohn Livingston

 

Myra Cohn Livingston (1926-1996) frequently repeated this line from a poem by Theodore Roethke, one of her favorite poets, and applied it to her writing and to her professional and personal life. In her long career (her first poem was published at the age of eighteen while still a college student) she touched children in creative writing classes, challenged emerging poets in college and workshop settings, and delighted avid poetry readers of all ages.

Myra Cohn Livingston

Myra was one of the authors who responded to the invitation by Dorothy C. McKenzie and a few of her close friends and colleagues in the spring of 1961 to found a society called The Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People, or, SCCLCYP, (now known as Children's Literature Council of Southern California). The new organization was created to promote greater interest in literature for children and young people and to help in developing standards of excellence in this field.

These goals were important to her as evidenced by a note in the 1965 newsletter, whose first editor was Clyde Robert Bulla, where he wrote that Myra would be appearing in a one-week symposium designed to acquaint educators and librarians with standards of excellence in poetry to be held at the University of California at Berkeley. From then on, Myra's name and photogenic image are scattered through the issues of The Sampler, as recipient of numerous awards and, in 1968 for "Comprehensive Contribution of Lasting Value in the Field of Literature for Children and Young People." But Myra was not a prima donna. She served on SCCLCYP committees, took her turns as award "presenter," and attended as many events as possible to cheer on and congratulate her fellow authors.

When Myra received Special Recognition for Excellence in a Poetry Quartet in 1989, author and friend Michael Cart said, "So various are her voices - poet, critic, anthologist, editor, teacher - and so widespread the range of her interests - that Myra, as multi-voiced singer, seems sometimes to rival even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As editor and anthologist, for example, she has set the standard which all others must strive to emulate. As a critic, her hallmarks are both her unwavering belief that we must care enough to send only the very best in books to children...and her courage in challenging all those - no matter how popular, powerful, or fashionable - who dare to merchandise the meretricious."

"Poets, 'the stepchildren of children's literature,' are always surprised by recognition of their work," Myra noted in her acceptance speech. "Recognition in turn imposes a responsibility to live up to it. Talent is not enough," she declared, using the title words of her fellow luncheon speaker, Molly Hunter, "talent requires other people who extend the reach of the writer - notably teachers, leagues, past and present for being the voice, mind, and spirit of the organization, and concluded, "May there always be a SCCLCYP."

Through this award, we pay tribute and thank Myra Cohn Livingston for her talent and her work. May there always be talented, dedicated people like her to inspire all of us.



MYRA COHN LIVINGSTON AWARD
WINNERS



2013 Betsy R. Rosenthal
Looking for Me...in this Great Big Family
(Houghton Mifflin, 2012)
Looking for Me...in this Great Big Family by Betsy R. Rosenthal
       
2012 Lee Wardlaw Lee Wardlaw
Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku
(Henry Holt, 2011)
Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku
       
2010 Hope Anita Smith Hope Anita Smith
Mother Poems
(Henry Holt, 2009)
Mother Poems by Hope Anita Smith
       
2009 Hope Anita Smith Hope Anita Smith
Keeping the Night Watch
(Henry Holt, 2008)
       
2008 Stephanie Hemphill
Your Own, Sylvia
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007)
2007

Brown, Calef
Flamingos on the Roof
 
(Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

 

2006

Stephanie Hemphill
Things Left Unsaid

(Disney Press, 2005)
2005 Kristine O'Connell George Kristine O'Connell George
Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems
Illustrated by Barry Moser
(Harcourt, 2004)
Hummingbird Nest by Kristine O'Connell George
2004

Hope Anita Smith

Hope Anita Smith
The Way A Door Closes
(Henry Holt, 2003)

2003

April Halprin Wayland
Girl Coming In For A Landing
(Knopf 2002)
2002

Kristine O'Connell George
Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems
Illustrated by Kaye Kiesler
(Clarion, 2001)
Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems
2000 Sonya Sones

Sonya Sones
Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy
(Harper Collins, 2001)

 

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy

1999

Kristine O'Connell George

 

Kristine O'Connell George
Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems
Illustrated by Kaye Kiesler
(Houghton Mifflin, 1998)
Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems
       
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