Jane Yolen’s Skylark Story
Jane Yolen was awarded the Skylark at Boskone 27 in 1990; it was presented by Bruce Coville. The Sunday morning report in Helmuth characterized her as “a distinguished writer and a true mensch.” [We love her and we know her – dms]
As such, when David Cherry was awarded the Skylark at Boskone 28, “In presenting the award, Jane Yolen — last year’s winner — told a cautionary tale involving the magnifying lens on her award, a sunny February day and her [burnt] good coat. Also, Susan Shwartz presented Cherry with a fire extinguisher.” (Helmuth issue 5, B28)
Jane’s cautionary tale has been told at every Skylark presentation since, and sounds something like this:
"When I came up here to accept this award, I was thrilled. I was thrilled all through the rest of the convention, and all the way home.
"It’s a handsome piece, too, and of course I wanted to have it someplace where I could see it regularly, so I set it on the ledge of the picture window in my kitchen.
"And there it stood, looking fine. This was New England in February, remember: cold and drizzly and grey. Every day, for over a week.
"But then, one morning the sun appeared, as it occasionally does in New England even in February. As I was working upstairs that morning I smelled something strange… as if I’d left something lit in the kitchen. So I ran downstairs, and there was sunlight in the kitchen, too, pouring through my great picture window, through the lens on the award standing in my picture window — focused directly onto my good wool coat which I’d left over a chair by the window.
"The coat had a hole in it, smoking at the edges. I snatched it away, examining the damage. This was my good coat! I needed to talk to somebody, so I called Bruce — he’d given me the thing, after all. I explained about the window, the weather, and the sun, realizing as I talked that this would happen to anything in the wrong place on a sunny day.
"And I said, ‘I can’t keep it in the kitchen, Bruce. I’m going to have to put this where the sun doesn’t shine!’
"To which, there was a long… thoughtful… silence… from the other end of the line.
"Then I said, ‘I didn’t say that.’ And I hung up.
"So, every year it is my responsibility to pass along this warning, and the appropriate advice: just remember to
[audience participation line] "Put it where the sun doesn’t shine!"