January 26, 2007

A Profusion of Prizes

I can't keep up.

This is thought that is mostly rambling and unfinished, but it's something I think about often: Those of us in Children's lit kvetch about the small amount of notice children and young adult literature gets from the outside media (unless it's a Potter book), but it still seems to me that there are so many awards given out that I can't keep up. I know about the Scott O'dell, because I've seen the stickers on books, and I know that award goes to an historical fiction novel like Island of the Blue Dolphins, the work of historical fiction by Scott O'Dell. I know the ALA has an award for a work by a person of Latin ancestry, the Pura Belpré, although I've yet to see that as a sticker on a book. (And that could just be what books I read).

Since grad school, my awareness of awards has increased. Or, it seems the list of awards has grown... A Whitbread (now Costa) Book Award. The Bank Street Books. The Boston Globe- Horn Book Award, umpteen-hundred regional book awards, and now the Waterstone Children's Book Prize, which is meant to recognize new authors and alert young people to new books.

Um. Aren't all awards meant to do that?

In all likelihood, I've never heard of the Waterstone's 's because it's a UK award, as is the Nestlé Children's Book Prize. Probably me having heard of it isn't the point anyway -- As long as it's an award and someone can win a bit of recognition from their peers... (at Nestlé?), maybe that's all that matters. Certainly writers can't be looking for actual deep meaning in winning an award... or, rather I should say, no deep meaning other than "these six people really loved your book." As I learned so well doing the Cybils, awards are based on the opinion of ONE group of people, not the value of your work as decided by all people. (I know I said that badly, but I'm sick of trying to parse that sentence correctly. Moving on.) The nominations we received were wildly varying -- from books that I felt had little or no value, to multiple books having so much value that it was well nigh impossible to narrow the list down and say "THIS ONE is best." (And again, good luck with that, Cybils Judges! Feb. 14th is approaching at a fast clip!) Perhaps in the end it comes down to the old argument about myriad award stickers on a book that makes it a worthy read to someone else... Sticker = Shiny Gold Seal of Approval (from someone, anyway) = more readers. Understand I have nothing but positive feelings toward book award winners, but I do think that win or lose, the awards are based on the opinions of a just one group. It's impossible to determine absolute value of one's writing from an award...

Via Cynsations, read a piece by Institute of Children's Lit writer Jan Fields on how to maintain tension in a story, and not write in a way that can be described as "slight." That's not a criticism I've ever heard, but if you find that you or your character is avoiding conflict, the word 'slight' can be very apt!

I've just discovered Wordy Girls, the blog of four women, one of whose award-winning book, Hugging the Rock is sitting on my bedside table. It's nice to discover the blogs of writers and to know that often, all of us waste time most shockingly. (Not referring to Wordy Girls in particular at all, please note.) So, I close with the writing blogger's creed du jour:

"As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly."
~ Paul Rudnick

Back to staring at my keyboard.

1 comment:

DaviMack said...

It's not the sole province of writers to need to procrastinate ... or to think over a problem, or to work it out in their heads. Note that I'm posting comments upon your blog when I should be working?

Now, you could be knitting or baking or something instead ... but that'd take the fun out of procrastinating, wouldn't it?