October 17, 2005

Monday Scattershot

It's only days away - the October 31 deadline for the SmartWriters.com short story contest. Just a $10 per entry fee gives you the chance for cash and prizes, plus inclusion in that sought after YA shorts anthology! Don't forget to give yourself a shot at this!

And now, perhaps in response to my carping about how few book prizes there were for YA writers, Publishers Weekly has come up with The Quill Awards. In an attempt to "inspire an energy and focus around the importance of reading," and together with such partners as Parade Magazine, Borders, Barnes & Noble and The American Booksellers Association, this new award is trying for the populist vote in American literature from readers.

I guess we can expect this to be like voting for the queen and king of prom. Pardon my cynicism, but can we expect real literary merit from this prize? And by that, no, I don't mean the snobby "high art" concept that people sometimes think 'real litt'rechure' must have. I just wonder if at the scope for effort within the general population. What if there was no one who forced people to read difficult things, things that made them think and struggle to uncover new thoughts within themselves? Surely, some people would still strive and reach, but for the rest... Does this award really prove anything/change anything? Does it encourage literature by American Idol poll vote? Does anyone think talent-by-poll really proves anything except that someone can look good and get chosen or be audacious and get more attention? Doesn't 'Reader's Choice' mean that the readers will choose nothing other than stuff that is already popular, already what everyone else is doing?

Maybe I have an appalling lack of faith in the American public. Correct me if I'm wrong.

And now, the envelope please:
Winner, Book of the Year and Children's Chapter Book/Middle Grade - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator), with Arthur Levine/Scholastic

Winner, Young Adult/Teen -Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood, by Ann Brashares, with Delacorte Press

(for the record, the winner of the Children's Illustrated Book, and possibly the only possible surprise in the bunch was Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook, by Shel Silverstein with HarperCollins Children's Books, but, after all, they had a lot of celebrity board books from which to choose. Going with an actual writer like Silverstein must have been tough. Maybe it was made easier because they could choose to award him posthumously?)

All right, all right. No further snarky comments.

Oy, it's awards season, and I'm falling behind!! Has anyone yet read any of the finalists for the National Book Awards Young People's Literature Prizes? On the positive side, these books aren't what you would call popular favorites at all. They seem to be a really varied group, and there are a couple of new voices and others we've heard from before, but not with this depth. (Being a National Book Award finalist really means something, unlike other popular... okay, OKAY!)

The Penderwicks is writer Jane Birdsall's first novel. Go Jane! Adele Griffin who wrote The Other Shepards, a book we read at Mills for YA lit, is notable for her semi-creepy style and dealings with life and the shadows of death in Where I Want to Be.

Printz Award-winning Scotland resident Chris Lynch writes what I call "boy books;" intelligent, yet pretty scary with tough and often violent characters. His Inexcusable is a scary story of a date rape from the point of view... of the accused. Walter Dean Meyers' work also depicts the gritty urban texture and bleakness of boys, and often their life in gangs in Autobiography of My Dead Brother. And it's another funny and sweet Southern coming-of-age tale in Deborah Wiles' Each Little Bird That Sings.

It's always encouraging to write about more new books that I haven't even had time to hear about! We writers are still out there, still working, in spite of incredible odds. Well, brava for us. I'll be running these down as soon as I can. Pull out your comforter and snuggle down these brisk fall evenings with a good read.

Happy Autumn!

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