Dear Picture Book Writers, you may know that I serve on the Rutgers University Council of Children’s Literature and help organize our annual conference. Back in 2017, we selected a newly-published author, Kate Dopirak, to be our “Success Story Speaker,” as she had been a mentee at our conference. We also knew her to be a warm, enthusiastic and engaging presenter.

Sadly, Kate passed away the following year. But several of her closest writing friends got together with SCBWI to offer a scholarship in her name. I asked author Trisha Speed Shaskan to tell us about SCBWI’s Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award.

Trisha, tell us, who was Kate Dopirak?

Kate Dopirak was the author of several picture books. The last book she wrote, HURRY UP! A BOOK ABOUT SLOWING DOWN, which is an ode to being present, illustrates one of Kate’s best qualities: She was ever-present as a wife, mom, friend, author, and community member.

Ten years ago, when I met Kate at the SCBWI annual conference in L.A., her smile radiated warmth and welcoming. Each year afterwards, I looked forward to seeing Kate at that conference where we discussed writing, or as fellow educators shared stories, such as the wonder of witnessing a child string together letters into a word for the first time. Inevitably, Kate lit up while discussing her husband Josh and sons Joey and Bobby who often inspired her stories. She used her role as an assistant R.A. to connect people to each other. In Kate’s presence, a party of three quickly became a party of ten.

Although she lived in Pennsylvania and I live in Minnesota, Kate and I kept in touch. Knowing the ups and downs of the children’s book business, Kate was an UP. When the picture book I wrote PUNK SKUNKS was published, Kate bought it, posted about it, and congratulated me—always the cheerleader.

In 2018, Kate passed away too soon from sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Kate is greatly missed by her family, friends, and the children’s book community who have created the Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award in her honor.

What kind of manuscripts does the Award committee hope to receive?

The committee is hoping to receive a picture book manuscript that stands out for the writing, idea, concept, subject or a combination or those qualities. The committee is also looking for a writer who creates and builds a sense of community.

How can picture book writers apply?

SCBWI members can apply for the award. The winner will receive tuition to the SCBWI Summer Conference and 20-minute consultations with a picture book editor and a literary agent. The deadline is February 18, 2022. (That’s soon! Hurry up!)

For more information, go to