CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Sarah Dooley first heard Newbery Award-winning author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor speak at an awards ceremony at the University of Charleston in the mid-1990s, she had no idea their paths would cross again.
Little did the Huntington woman dream she would one day be the recipient of a writing award created by that same distinguished author. Dooley was 15 at the time and had won a county writing contest, thereby earning an invitation to the Young Writer's Day ceremony in Charleston.
This past June, Dooley learned she had been named the recipient of the 2012 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Writing Fellowship, an award presented annually by the PEN American Center, in New York, to a writer who has published at least two works of fiction for young people. Dooley won the fellowship for her third novel, "Free Verse," which will be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Dooley's first novel, "Livvie Owen Lived Here," earned recognition as one of Publishers Weekly's "Flying Starts" profiles for 2010. Both "Livvie Owen" and Dooley's second novel, "Body of Water," were published by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Simon & Shuster.
In a recent email interview, Dooley reflected on her memories of the day she first heard Naylor speak at UC:
"As I recall, she talked about a typical day in her life as a writer. She also talked about how she got started as a novelist. Those two things combined -- the fact that novelists weren't born novelists and that writing is a job that you can actually do when you grow up, like teaching or real estate -- opened my eyes to the fact that my dream job didn't have to just stay a dream.
Naylor's books, especially her Newbery Award-winning novel "Shiloh," have long been beloved by West Virginia students, teachers and librarians. Few may be aware, however, that Naylor is also responsible for creating and endowing this fellowship for writers, who are struggling to gain recognition in the tough world of publishing.
Dooley said she is "extremely grateful to Ms. Naylor for her generosity and for recognizing that writing paychecks do not always come on a schedule, or at all."
By day, Dooley is a teacher of autistic children. She said this fellowship will take some of the pressure off and allow her to focus more on her writing.
In her "spare time," Dooley teaches a writing workshop to school-age students at the Cabell County Public Library. She will attend an awards ceremony in New York City later this month. For more information about Dooley and her books, check out her website, Dooley Noted, at www.dooleynotedbooks.com/2.
Sarah Sullivan is the author of "Passing the Music Down" (Candlewick, 2011). She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and may be reached at sarahgle...@gmail.com or via www.sarahsullivanbooks.com.