Statement from Barbara DiLorenzo on Winning the Atlantic Avenue Children’s Lit Contest!

The Atlantic Avenue Children’s Story Reading Series and Literature Contest is concluding this weekend and we are pleased to announce Barbara DiLorenzo as the grand prize winner for her story “Atlantic Avenue Dragon.” Please see her statement below.

Come to the readings on Saturday! We have:

Graham Willner “Flight” at The Herb Shoppe at 394 Atlantic Avenue at 10am

Barbara DiLorenzo “Atlantic Avenue Dragon” at Table 87 Coal Oven Pizza at 87 Atlantic Avenue at 11am

Kristabelle Munson “Miles and the Garden” at Gumbo at 493 Atlantic Avenue at 12:30pm

RSVP here: http://bit.ly/1i1YUiA

The final list of winners and finalists is as follows:

1st Prize: Barbara DiLorenzo – “Atlantic Avenue Dragon”

2nd Prize: Stephanie and Dan Elliott – “Raccoons”

3rd Prize: Ruth Chan – “Where’s Bernie?”

4th Prize: Kristabelle Munson – “Miles and the Garden”

Finalists receiving Honorable Mention (not in order): Buzz Koenig, “Cookie Store Wanted”; Kevin Maertens “Quattro Formaggio”; Sarah Heller “Our Walk; Graham Willner “Flight”; and Dana Catharine “Jupi’s Journey.”

See you Saturday!

Josef

Full statement from: Barbara DiLorenzo on winning the Atlantic Avenue Children’s Literature Contest:

When Josef Szende called me about the Atlantic Avenue BID Children’s Literature Contest, I thought he was checking to make sure I had everything ready to go for the December 21st reading at Table 87. I was happy he called, because I wanted to make sure it was ok if I included an illustration in my presentation.

But then he said that he was calling to let me know I had won the Grand Prize. Me. Grand Prize. That absolutely never happens. I was so happy, and yet, I started crying. Poor Josef.

But the reason I started to cry is that my creative journey has been a long one. After graduating from art school well over a decade ago, I became a web designer. I had majored in illustration, but the practicality of paying the bills won out. I found that collaborating with people was enjoyable, but there was something disheartening about the work. Every year or so, my web sites would be completely erased and redone, usually by me. There was no trace left of all the hard work, the problem-solving or the design.

So in 2010, when my family and I moved to New York City, I decided to quit working as a web designer, and focus exclusively on my art and writing. I also taught art classes at The Creative Center, which was great to get me out of the apartment and socialize with folks.

In the past three years, I have been attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conferences, lectures, critiques and networking events. I joined the Children’s Book Illustrators Group. I took Children’s Book Boot Camp classes with Pat Cummings (who is absolutely awesome and I love her so much), and worked within a few different online critique groups. My biggest highlight was last year when agent Adriann Ranta, of Wolf Literary Services, LLC, signed me.

But all of that effort has not lead to a book contract… yet.

So when Josef called, I cried. A panel of judges validated my choice to write for children. That is the prize in all of this. The vote of confidence, from a group, was really what I needed the most. We tell children to believe in themselves, and to follow their path. But it’s so hard to set that example.

The structure of this contest resonated with me regarding the focus on small businesses. During my web design years, I usually painted on the weekends. At one point I had the opportunity to have a solo show at my high school. Since my art teacher was a huge influence in my life, I wanted to do something meaningful (he’s still teaching). So after watching documentaries about the effect of big box stores on communities, as well as seeing a few paintings by Hopper in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, I decided to do an experiment. I paired up independent and chain stores of different categories, and painted them. For example, for grocery stores I painted BJ’s and a small farm stand called Green Meadows, in Hamilton, MA. Home Depot was paired with the local hardware store, Tedfords. Starbucks was compared with our local cafe, Zumis. Borders was compared with the book store near my house, The Book Shoppe. In each case, I spent 2-6 hours painting, then journaled about the experience. I tried not to be biased, but it was hard not to love the independent guys. They would always welcome me in, and sometimes even feed me. On the other hand, Toys R Us told me I was not to set foot on their property. BJ’s and Home Depot as well – so all three of those were painted from the parking lot. Lots of people commented to me that they had never seen a painter in the parking lot before. I realized that the folks that work in those stores are regular folks. But the size of the stores create so much red tape, that a person can’t just make a decision to let a painter paint out of the way of customers. Borders and Starbucks allowed me to paint inside, though I don’t think I really got their permission. I was more tolerated or ignored. But The Book Shoppe still writes to me on occasion. And when one of the clerks at the local hardware store died, people pointed out who he was on the painting. I tried not to be biased, but these two business structures are completely different. And I continue to root for the independent sellers.

I do go to chain stores, but I try to buy locally as often as I possibly can. At the art opening, one woman told me that when she price-checked building materials, the local store was cheaper than the chain. That made me smile.

Because of this experience, the Atlantic Avenue BID Children’s Literature Contest really excited me. And after this contest is over, I hope people continue to celebrate the independent sellers of Atlantic Avenue and beyond.

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