This was a big year for YA. Actually, many years were big for YA, but I cannot in good memory recall a time when there were so many storms in a teacup surrounding one genre. One of these events started this blog, and since we didn’t have a time to give our readers a front row view of everything, we’re taking this opportunity to highlight some of the events this year.
On October the twelfth, the finalists for the National Book Award were announced, and the YA category boasted some fine titles. Later, however, a sixth book was added to the list, Franny Billingsley’s “Chime”. It turned out that it was the original contender, and the book that was announced in its place, Lauren Myracle’s “Shine”, was shortlisted because of miscommunication, but the judges had decided to have six finalists instead of five because of the book’s merits. And then, a few days later, Myracle was asked to withdraw in order to “preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work”, a request she complied with.
Lauren Myracle: “How I Was Un-Nominated For the National Book Award”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-myracle/lauren-myracle-national-book-awards_b_1019972.html
What did the interwebs think about that? Here are two pieces, one by YA author Libba Bray ( http://libba-bray.livejournal.com/62266.html) and the other by Isak (http://isak.typepad.com/isak/2011/10/shine-on-the-unbelievable-treatment-of-lauren-myracle.html).
My opinion, when first hearing about this was: “Who cares for how many nominees there are, when there is only one winner?” Truly, the words of someone who isn’t fully aware of the implications. Within a few hours of browsing various articles, I realized that apparently things are more complicated.
But hey, the NBF decided to donate to a charity, didn’t it? Surely some good came out of the whole thing.
No. I don’t think so.
This situation wasn’t about the money, money, money (Jessie J or ABBA, take your pick), nor was it about some shiny sticker on the front cover. Anyone reading Myracle’s account can see how deeply this whole ordeal affected her, but I don’t think people understood what exactly this kind of thing might mean to an author.
Here’s how I see writing: It’s a lonesome, difficult work, without much visible recognition or reward (NOT monetary reward, for anyone about to quote Cyn Balog). Ask anyone who wrote or attempted to write how many hours they put into it, and they won’t be able to tell you because it is just that overcompassing. You spend months, years of your life, planning, reading, writing, researching, rewriting, looking for representation, rewriting some more, fighting with your editor, and then with your copyeditor. You do all this not knowing for sure if any of your hard work will pay off, and if anyone at all will deign to leaf through your book
Even with publication, an author’s work isn’t over. They have to promote, tour, write a better second book, somehow deal with negative reviews. They do it with grace and patience because that’s just how it is and you have to accept that not everyone will love what you do. But it doesn’t matter, because any real acknowledgement, like an email of thanks from a grateful reader or a nice review, makes the whole thing worthwhile.
To be nominated for the National Book Award isn’t just your book gaining critical acclaim, but also having your hard work being noticed and appreciated. The debate wasn’t about whether Shine deserved to be part of the nominee list, or even whether rules needed to be bend to allow for one more finalist in a group of five.
It’s about acknowledging the work of an author. It’s about noticing a book and giving it its due credit. It’s about an author being humiliated because apparently a human mistake could not be tolerated.
In that context, the resolution (the NBF donating to a charity specifically orientating to stopping hate crimes) is satisfactory.
But it doesn’t make the NBF look any better. No matter what they think on the matter: