The Authors Guild recognized Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins with its Distinguished Service to the Literary Community honor at its annual dinner on May 25 in New York City. The annual dinner benefits both the Authors Guild Foundation and Authors League Fund, and marked the first time that the event highlighted children’s literature.

Collins accepted the award with a speech that addressed the impetus for her work. As a child, she was influenced by her father, who “loved the Socratic method more than Socrates,” and recounted an event in which she found a penny on the ground, and in asking her father if she could keep it, was sucked in to a long conversation on whether such an act was right. Ultimately, however, the morality of taking something not rightly yours dawned on her, when he asked, “Does it benefit you to live in a world in which someone takes this penny?”

That driving question, “Does it benefit you to live in a world in which…”, inspired her to create the Hunger Games series, which investigates poverty and just war theory. Whether or not children can understand this is irrelevant to Collins – “no adult author has ever said, ‘And everyone got exactly what I intended,’ ” though she does feel that children are introduced too late to these weighty concepts, and therefore to nonviolent solutions to acts of war and atrocity.

Following Collins’s speech, children’s authors rounded out the evening’s program. Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne paid tribute to former Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken, who died of ALS in January. Following her tribute, three children’s authors, chosen by Collins herself, shared why they write for children.

However, at no point during the evening’s speeches did The Phantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster, Percy Jackson and the Olympians creator Rick Riordan, and Scholastic editor and author Andrea Davis Pinkney ever seem to be apologists for children’s literature. Rather, all three authors shared a sense of joy in doing their work along with the opportunities that writing for children affords in affecting real change in the world. Collins’s sentiment echoed throughout the evening in her statement that in writing for children, “I found an audience on which I could really have an impact.”