Conference’s New Award Recognizes Founding Director of Children’s Literature Studies at Hollins

Amanda Cockrell Award

Amy Deligdisch (left) and Jessi Cole Jackson (right), co-chairs of the 2016 Francelia Butler Conference, with Amanda Cockrell, founding director of the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins.

Hollins University’s Francelia Butler Conference (FBC), a one-day, student-run conference dedicated to celebrating children’s literature, is presenting a new prize this year in honor of the founding director of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature.

The Amanda Cockrell Award joins already established $100 prizes that highlight the creativity, diversity of talent, and drive of Hollins’ children’s literature graduate students.

“When considering all that Amanda has poured into this program from the beginning and all she has done for its students, naming the award after her was the obvious choice,” said Amy Deligdisch, a children’s literature graduate student and co-chair of FBC for 2016. “Over the years she has counseled us, taught us, guided us, answered a million questions, sent a thousand emails, and kept track of dozens of students at once. We salute her for creating a program that has become a safe haven to so many of us, a home away from home.”

With R.H.W. Dillard, Cockrell founded the program in 1992, one of the first of its kind in the country devoted exclusively to the study and writing of children’s and young adult literature. Today, students may pursue an M.A. or M.F.A. in children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustration, or a certificate in children’s book illustration.

The FBC offers graduate students the opportunity to submit creative and critical papers for critique by a panel of distinguished judges. The Shirley Henn Award is given to the top piece in the categories Critical Writing and Creative Writing: Long Form. Students may also submit original artwork to the conference’s art show and compete for the Margaret Kates Award in the Illustration category. The Cockrell Award honors students in a fourth category, Creative Writing: Short Form, which encompasses works such as picture books and poetry.

Another FBC tradition, a silent auction, helps raise funds for future conferences. According to Deligdisch’s fellow conference co-chair, Jessi Cole Jackson, who is also a children’s literature graduate student, “Last year’s silent auction was so successful that it will not only fund the 2016 conference, but also support ten years of a new award category. By dividing the Creative Writing award into Long Form and Short Form, novel excerpts and short stories no longer have to be judged beside shorter works. Authors will now have the chance to have their work considered in comparison to siblings instead of cousins.”

This year’s FBC takes place on Saturday, July 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Niederer Auditorium, Wetherill Visual Arts Center. Admission is free and open to the public. The keynote speaker for this year’s event is Marah Gubar, who teaches and writes about children’s literature from a variety of periods, but is especially interested in 19th– and 20th-century representations of childhood and the history of children’s theatre. Her book Artful Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children’s Literature won the Children’s Literature Association’s Book Award. She is associate professor of English at MIT and previously directed the children’s literature program at the University of Pittsburgh.