The scenario is by now familiar to those in the children’s book world. On a January morning—this year it’s January 28, from Seattle—one author and one illustrator will receive a phone call from the Newbery or Caldecott committee, naming them the newest recipient of the ALA’s prestigious awards. (This year’s announcement signals an additional milestone, as the Caldecott celebrates its 75th anniversary; its slightly older Newbery sibling has been awarded since 1922.) The attendant flurry of interviews and appearances follows, as does the predicted bump in sales for the freshly stickered books. But how do things change in the lives of the winners? We caught up with each of the Newbery and Caldecott medalists of the past five years to find out.

Jack Gantos – 2012 Newbery Medal

“After I received the Newbery, Katherine Paterson [a two-time Newbery winner] e-mailed me and wrote, ‘Welcome to the club,’ ” says Gantos. “So I think I did enter a very special club because she must be, with her multiple awards and talent, the Queen of the Club Newbery. I’d love to find the Club House and all the amenities it offers.”

A dedication to the “very solitary discipline” in which he works has helped Gantos keep an even keel in light of the increased demands on his time since winning his award. “I started another book immediately after turning in the manuscript of Dead End in Norvelt,” he says. “I was well under way with another manuscript by the time the Newbery was announced. But the new manuscript went to sleep on me because of all the Newbery touring and events, so when I woke the manuscript from its coma I had to start from the beginning. I don’t think I feel a new pressure. I’m just trying to work up to the high bar I always set.”

Gantos believes that if he felt compelled to make his new work measure up to the award in some way, “I may fall into the rut of writing the same book over and over and stop taking creative chances which lure me in unknown directions,” he says. “The award doesn’t suggest I slack off, nor does it carry the subtext that my previous books were of a lesser quality. I think the award recognizes Dead End in Norvelt and my achievement in writing it, and I think it is telling me to stay the course, which I will.”

Chris Raschka – 2012 Caldecott Medal

“On the one hand, my life has not changed a bit,” says Raschka. “I still walk to my studio every day, having the same doubts, finding the same fun, thanking the same lucky stars that let me walk to my studio every day. But perhaps that is precisely how my life has changed. The Caldecott Award has allowed me to keep doing what I’m doing for some time longer, for which I am ever grateful.”

According to Raschka, getting back to the drawing board, so to speak, “is no more intimidating now than it has ever been. It will always take a certain audacity to write or to make art of any kind. The question always hangs in the air: Who are you to make art? Who are you to tell me anything, to show me anything? Well, in answer to that question, I’ve always done it—draw and paint—and I always will do it. Hand any four-year-old a fist full of crayons, and it is a very, very few who don’t get busy with them, drawing, coloring, scribbling. I have not stopped scribbling.”

And when the work pressure valve needs to be released? “My coping mechanism is to create a routine and then stick to it, and if things are going badly, change the routine,” Raschka says. Beyond that, he notes, “Editors can help enormously. They can also hinder enormously, even when he or she has no intention of doing so. Editors can be like parents—they are the parents of your books after all—you react to their every twitch overly much; one smile may make you veer sideways, one frown may make you tumble backwards. I have always appreciated Dick Jackson, who gave me my start and with whom I continue to work, for many, many reasons, but especially for never saying anything more enthusiastic than, ‘I think this will work.’ ”

Clare Vanderpool – 2011 Newbery Medal

“There are two answers to that question, and they’re both true,” Vanderpool says when pondering how her life has changed since her Newbery win. “The big important things—family life, activities parents do with their children—are very much the same, and that’s a good thing. But in other ways my life has changed dramatically. So many more people are familiar with my book and me. It’s opened up many wonderful opportunities. I’m invited to speak at schools and library conferences. It’s a fun and stimulating part of my work now. To have this happen, especially for a first book, I feel gratitude, and am still very much in awe.”

As a new author, Vanderpool says she “very definitely” felt intimidated by the idea of a follow-up. “Fortunately I was well into writing my second book, and was fairly well rooted in that story, before the Newbery was announced,” she says. “If that had not been the case, I can’t imagine what it would have been like. There are elements of fear and trepidation—what kind of reception will this next book receive on the heels of the first one winning an award? I compare it to the kind of feelings a mother has when she’s pregnant with her second child—‘How will I love this baby as much?’ But as a writer you do what you do and trust in your craft, trust in the process. I had to work at setting aside expectations and fears that creep in.”

The best advice she received came from her editor, Michelle Poploff. “She told me, ‘Regardless of what you’ve written before or what awards you have won, it’s always about those new characters in that new book,’ ” says Vanderpool. “Those characters don’t know anything about my other books or awards.”

The biggest obstacles for Vanderpool these days are organizational. “I feel like I have three jobs now: being a mom, writing, and speaking and traveling.” Her second novel, Navigating Early, was released on January 8, and she says, “I’m very excited about it, but I didn’t expect all that would go into launching the second book. This time everything is amplified. That has taken up a lot more time than I had imagined. It’s all about prioritizing in a way that’s comfortable.”

Erin Stead – 2011 Caldecott Medal

“Before the award, we [Stead and her husband, author-illustrator Philip Stead] sat in our studio and felt like we were making our job up,” says Stead. “Amos was my first book, and it had started to have a little life of its own,” she recalls. “But nothing changed it like the Caldecott. The best thing—besides the busyness—is that I feel like I’ve made 100,000 friends.” Among those friends are the members of the Caldecott committee that selected her book. “I don’t know how other winners feel, but I am indebted to the committee; I feel like they are family,” she says. “I’ve kept in touch with them. If any of those 15 called, I’d drop everything. They changed my life.”

Stead counts a number of Ann Arbor residents in her burgeoning group of new pals, too. “Phil and I had moved from New York back to Ann Arbor where Phil was teaching,” she explains. “It was supposed to be temporary. We were still deciding if it was temporary when they [her publisher] flew me to New York after winning the Caldecott. On the return trip to Ann Arbor, I felt like I was flying home. That was a real moment for me. The people who knew us as regulars at our breakfast and dinner places had all heard about the award and there was a local article about it,” she says. “Since then they’ve become friends. I don’t think that would have happened otherwise.”

“I’m quite shy,” Stead continues, so in the wake of the Caldecott, one hurdle stands out for her. “I am adjusting to doing signings and public appearances. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I know it’s something I’m not good at. I’m so happy to be asked, but when I accept, I think—ugh!” Thankfully, her work in the studio has had a calming effect. “When I had to do appearances after the award, it was good for me to be working on a sleepy hibernation book [Bear Has a Story to Tell].” And when all else fails, she fires up the oven. “I bake,” says Stead. “Baking has very specific rules to follow, so it tends to free up the other side of my brain for work things.”

Rebecca Stead – 2010 Newbery Medal

“Professionally, the Newbery is a pretty profound piece of good news,” says Stead. “It provided me with an identity in a field that’s brimming with talented people. But I don’t think the award has affected my personal life much—it’s hard to impress your children, and my friends and family have supported me from the beginning. Of course, when you’re a writer, the personal-professional line is kind of blurry. My work is personal, so my joy felt personal.”

As post-award reality set in, and new book ideas came to the fore, Stead says, she felt a bit self-conscious about writing for a while. “Self-consciousness is, of course, the death of good writing. But I’m a slow writer, so there was plenty of time for the feeling to wear off, which it did. Writing is humbling, and grounding. Healthier instincts took over.”

And what best gets Stead in the zone to write? “The answer is reading,” she says. “Always. Reading unlocks my writing brain.”

One unexpected benefit of winning the medal was that it helped Stead overcome something she had in common with many other writers: the trepidation that comes with speaking engagements. “Learning to speak in front of people wasn’t easy for me,” Stead says. “I used to be a lawyer, and I talked a lot in that job, but when my first book was published, I discovered that I wasn’t comfortable talking about myself or my writing. I used to lie awake at night before school visits. If you want to be pushed past that fear, I recommend the Newbery.”

Jerry Pinkney – 2010 Caldecott Medal

Artistic recognition is gratifying, but the practical effects of a Caldecott win are difficult to ignore. “Financially there is a big bump, of course, in terms of royalties on that particular book,” says Pinkney. “There’s a security that comes with that, a sense of well-being and confidence. We work in an area that depends on sales, and winning takes away that piece. I think it impacts the work.”

Additionally, Pinkney has noticed changes “in terms of the exposure for the book and opportunities to publish overseas. It’s been extraordinary the number of countries that have come on board to publish The Lion & the Mouse.” On a personal level, he says the award has “changed how I engage in my work. There is a self-confidence in the power of the book itself. We work hard in the rich but crazy world of publishing and hope that our work reaches out and moves people. The Caldecott pushes that further.” Pinkney explains that, at a recent signing, “When people came up to see me with The Lion & the Mouse they had the broadest smiles. They were happy to have the book, but they were happy for me, too. That was very powerful. No other book has done it for me like that. It gives me the sense that what I’m doing has purpose and I have inspired and brought joy to people.”

Post-Caldecott, Pinkney says, “It was a very busy year of accolades and honors after 50 years of work. Rather than intimidation, it gave me a sense that I was finally on the right track, I was comfortable with my work, my age, and what was going on in my life. It was a crowning piece of recognition.”

Neil Gaiman – 2009 Newbery Medal

Gaiman notes one of the biggest changes in his post-Newbery life: “I got married!”— to musician/artist/performer Amanda Palmer. But beyond that? “Truthfully, I’m not sure that anything has changed,” he says. “I had a year or so where ‘Newbery winner’ was attached to my name, and then that kind of faded away. Someone said to me, ‘Now you know what is going to be in the first line of your New York Times obituary.’ But it may not be; it may be relegated to paragraph three.

“When the Newbery was announced,” he continues, “I felt so honored. I still feel fortunate to be a member of a very respectable secret club that has some of the strangest people in it. I love that Hugh Lofting [author of Dr. Dolittle] is in that club.”

Gaiman says that The Graveyard Book, the project that earned him such status, was different from his other work in a number of ways. “I was really, really proud of my book,” Gaiman says. “I had put off writing it for 20 years. The idea was good enough, but I wanted to be a good enough writer to do it.”

Like others before him and since, Gaiman distinctly recalls the commotion around hearing the news. “I had a vague hope that a Newbery Honor would be a wonderful thing to get,” he says. “But I don’t recall anything that came with such high-intensity madness as the Newbery. The moment it was announced the world went mad. Every newspaper in America wanted to talk with me on the phone, and I was on the phone until the moment I got on the plane to go to New York to do the Today Show. I remember the feeling that the whole world had erupted with love and madness.”

Starting a new project in the wake of the Newbery was not easy, Gaiman says. “Every time you win an award—it doesn’t matter if it’s a Hugo, Newbery, Nebula, Bram Stoker—it makes it harder to face the next blank piece of paper. But who’s to say if that would happen if no award or appreciation came in? You have to get back in. Sometimes you hit it out of the park, and sometimes you hit it into the stomach of the person on the next base.”

Beth Krommes – 2009 Caldecott Medal

When she found out that she had been awarded the Caldecott for her black-and-white scratchboard illustrations for The House in the Night, Krommes was, like many other Caldecott winners, shocked and delighted. And, also like so many other awardees, she felt that one of her greatest challenges still lay ahead. “Writing and giving my acceptance speech was my biggest hurdle,” Krommes says. “I was thrilled when that was behind me.”

With her big speech in the rearview mirror and some of the award chaos subsided, Krommes says she had no trouble settling into her artwork again. “I have always poured my heart and soul into every project,” she says, so her post-Caldecott approach to illustration did not change. “I work to please myself when illustrating a book, and try not to think about how it will be reviewed,” she adds. “I am my own toughest critic.”

Krommes says that post-Caldecott, much has remained the same. Her family still assists her with choosing manuscripts and critiquing her book dummies, and if she ever gets creatively stressed out, she says, “giving my house and studio a really good cleaning helps.” But the award had changed some things. “I definitely have more self-confidence in my professional life,” she says, which should help her navigate another consequence of having one’s name on list of Caldecott winners: “I have many more requests for public speaking engagements.”

Laura Amy Schlitz – 2008 Newbery Medal

Schlitz says she refers to the Newbery as simply “the gold sticker—I call it that to keep from taking myself too seriously.” But no matter what it’s called, the award has signaled a few changes for the author. “I think the most concrete difference is that I used to work five days a week at the Park School library [in Baltimore] and now I work three days,” Schlitz says. Besides altering her work schedule, the Newbery has had an effect on her personal life. “When you win that award you start to think that anything is possible, because winning is so improbable,” Schlitz says. She harnessed that feeling and pursued a longtime dream of taking a trip to see polar bears in the wild. She even had an up-close encounter with one of the creatures. “It was a magical experience,” she recalls. “I felt like it was another miracle that happened because of the first miracle [the Newbery].”

A steady stream of projects (The Night Fairy; Splendors & Glooms) has helped Schlitz keep perspective and encouraged her creative drive. “To win this is in some ways an accident—it all depends on the 15 people on the committee,” she says. “It’s almost like a struck-by-lightning thing. So many good writers have not won it—you want to be worthy of it.”

Brian Selznick – 2008 Caldecott Medal

“Winning the Caldecott was so unexpected and so exciting that it exists as an episode in my life that lives somewhat outside of everything else,” says Selznick. “Professionally it provided a deeply meaningful sort of affirmation, and was a real highlight for a book that turned out to be much more successful than I ever could have imagined—given that it was a book for children about French silent movies, not a guaranteed topic for success!”

However, Selznick says, “creatively, winning a Caldecott doesn’t help at all. “Every time I sit down to work on another book, I’m always right back at the bottom of another mountain, and even though I successfully scaled one previously, it doesn’t mean I’m going to make it up the next one.”

Selznick says he did not find it intimidating to return to work after winning his medal, “because for a long time my goal with each new book has been for it to be ‘better’ than my last one. I don’t mean more commercially successful, I mean with each new book I have tried to push myself to do something I’ve never done before. Therefore, I’m not trying to win another Caldecott, or make a book that sells more copies than Hugo, but I’m trying to take all the things I learned from that book and do something new with them.”

In fact, Selznick says, winning the Caldecott takes a little pressure off, “because even if the next book is a huge failure, I’ve still got that shiny gold sticker on one of my books. The Caldecott buoyed me up and encouraged me, and makes me even more proud that I can continue doing the thing I most love doing, which is making books for children.”