Penelope Scambly Schott

March 16, 2010

The announcement of the winner of the first Sarah Lantz Memorial Poetry Book Award that went to Penelope Scambly Schott for her collection Crow Mercies has been exciting. It has also kept CALYX and Penelope very busy. We were delighted to receive the news from the Final Judge, Colleen McElroy, earlier in January than expected. Our distributor, Consortium’s (CBSD) deadlines for the announcement of Fall titles were due in January and February. We rushed to get information from the author and write the “tipsheets” for the new title. Then rushed to write the catalogue copy for CBSD and rushed to get a cover design in as well. And at the same time we wrote to authors Penelope has suggested asking them if they would read Penelope’s manuscript and give a cover comment. I just wrote to Lucille Clifton earlier this week without knowing she had been ill, and just received the news she has died. How very sad.

The hard part of the award is all the good manuscripts that CALYX received for consideration that didn’t win. I was left contacting all the authors and letting them know. There’s never an easy way to handle that correspondence.

Sarah Lantz

This award came about because a generous donor set up funds to establish an award in Sarah Lantz’s memory after we published her book, Far Beyond Triage. Sarah was a great poet, a brilliant thinker, and an enthusiast for life. She was a long-time supporter of CALYX and had been an editorial member of CALYX Journal for a number of years. We had published her poetry in CALYX Journal early in her publishing life. When her book ms. was selected for publication, I had no idea that the experience would be life-changing for me. Sarah had become a close friend. She was suffering from brain cancer and had aphasia resulting from surgeries removing the tumors as we started editing her ms. Yet, her sense of humor and her exciting character were still intact through the cancer ordeal. But communication with Sarah over the ms. was a struggle with language. It was the most difficult editorial work we ever have done—discovering, as we worked together on the book, that Sarah, despite signs of hopeful remissions, would not be recuperating. And that Sarah’s struggle with words—this brilliant poet whose life had been the beauty of words—continued throughout the process. Despite all this Sarah’s eyes continued to shine with her remarkable humor and she continued to laugh through her episodes finding words as we finalized her first, and very unfortunately last, book.

Far Beyond Triage was released in October 2007. Sarah died September 10th, 2007 at the age of 48. It was the month before we had her book back from the printer. She did receive the galley copy of her book (the early copy that goes to reviewers months before the final release of the book) and was delighted with the design and cover art which she had helped select. I’ll never forget the day I brought her the galleys. How she hugged her new book and loved it! I miss Sarah but am glad that we are able to commemorate her love of poetry with the Sarah Lantz Memorial Poetry Book Prize.

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