In what could well be a first-of-its-kind arrangement between an M.F.A. program and a publishing house, Candlewick Press in Somerville, Mass., has been given the right of first refusal to the final thesis manuscripts of students graduating from Lesley University's low-residency M.F.A. program in Creative Writing—Writing for Young People Program. The program typically graduates 5-8 students per semester.
Publisher and university, which are located within a mile of each other, have long cooperated informally. Candlewick staffers frequently participate in workshops and panels at Lesley. But in late January David Elliott, Lesley's faculty mentor, and Candlewick executive v-p and editorial director Liz Bicknell decided to formalize the relationship.
The exclusive agreement was no doubt made easier by the fact that Bicknell and Elliott, a long-time Candlewick author, have a publishing relationship of their own. She has edited his work, which includes the New York Times bestselling picture book And Here's to You!, illustrated by Randy Cecil, for the past 19 years.
Candlewick editor Kaylan Adair will be reviewing Lesley students' manuscripts. She told PW that she looks forward to a new crop of talent. “Candlewick is delighted to be able to encourage the talent coming out of the Lesley M.F.A. program through this partnership," she said. Adair plans to meet with students on campus as well as to give students a chance to visit Candlewick to better understand how publishing works.
Bicknell regards working with students as a good way to establish long relationships. “We're very excited about this innovative partnership and the incredible, real-world opportunity it affords our graduates," added Elliott.
This isn't the only relationship that Candlewick has nurtured with M.F.A. students. The press sponsors a $2,000 award toward tuition for the best picture book manuscript, which is available to students at Vermont College of Fine Arts's M.F.A. program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.
Other children's publishers also encourage new writers by offering prizes to M.F.A. candidates. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has a similar prize for those attending Vermont's WCYA program. In its case, students are asked to submit third-grade material or higher. The winner receives a careful reading of the submitted manuscript and a phone or e-mail consultation with a Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, or Clarion editor, along with a $1,000 scholarship.
HarperCollins offers Vermont WYCA students a one-time award of $2,000 for a YA novel selection. Winners of its Norma Fox Mazer Award also have their piece read, and responded to, by Mazer's editor at Harper, Rosemary Brosnan.
Children's book publishers sponsor several awards at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. Walden Pond Press provides a $2,500 scholarship to a student with the most promising middle-grade fiction or nonfiction manuscript. Lerner Publishing Group offers a $5,000 Vaunda Micheaux Nelson Scholarship to a student of color who shows exceptional promise. And HMH offers the Anne Stickney Schmidt Scholarship for $1,000 for a promising student of children's or YA literature.