October 29, 2015 (New York, New York) – We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB™)has selected the first five winners of its first ever Walter Dean Myers Grant: Naadeyah Haseeb, Jami Nakamura Lin, Yamile Saied Méndez, Shveta Thakrar, and Angela Thomas. The winners will each receive a monetary award of $2,000 to support their writing or illustrating career goals.
The inaugural Walter Dean Myers judging committee consisted of seven highly regarded agents and editors who generously gave of their time and expertise to select the five winners: Marietta Zacker [chair of the committee], Saba Sulaiman, Monica Odom, Michael Strother, Andrew Harwell, Lisa Cheng, and Michael Bourret. In a joint statement the judges stated:
“The members of the WNDB Walter Dean Myers Grant committee would like to recognize the depth and breadth of the applicants’ diverse experiences and to celebrate the number of people who, despite being marginalized, had the courage to write, to illustrate, and to submit applications in order to continue the legacy left by Walter Dean Myers. We would like to encourage all applicants to continue to tell their stories, whether through words or illustrations, because we firmly believe and acknowledge that each of their voices matters.”
Aisha Saeed, VP of Strategy for WNDB, lauded the judges’ efforts. “We are thankful to our judges who worked tirelessly in reviewing the applications. We hope these grants will enable the winners to better pursue their writing careers.”
Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, chair of the Walter Grant committee, added, “I am confident that the conversations we had as we reviewed all applications will inspire us to continue to bring essential changes to the publishing industry. I hope that awarding these grants will be a catalyst for even more writers and illustrators with diverse experiences to share their stories. It is only through them that we can produce and promote the literature young readers seek.”
The Walter Dean Myers Grant is named in honor of the celebrated children’s book author Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014). Walter Dean Myers was a lifelong advocate for diversity in youth literature, and a National Book Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His legacy can be seen in the thousands of lives he touched, including those of readers and authors alike. His legacy is also reflected in the We Need Diverse Books™ organization. WNDB™ seeks to honor his memory by establishing this grant in his name. Winners of the Walter Dean Myers Grant receive a monetary award of $2,000 to support their writing career goals.