Thursday, January 25, 2007

"This dusty old dust is a-gettin' my home..."

And here are the results, folks. I'm rather pleased with them myself; not just because I trust the committee to have picked good ones...but because they put to rest any rumor that I can predict the awards. Yes, last year my Mock picked the winner, and it's honors all received other medals. But this year, not one of the Newbery winners was on our discussion list. Only two were even considered.

There's great blogging activity over these awards right now, so much so that I'm just going to let you seek it out yourself. This of course goes against the bloggers code of honor, but I find, after this year-long experiment, that I'm actually not a blogger.

That's not to say I haven't enjoyed the experiment. It succeeded in all three of it's goals: 1) made me get organized for my Mock Newbery; 2) Helped spread the word about it, dramatically increasing turnout; 3) Let me prove to myself that I'm capable of blogging.

However, I find that I don't enjoy the pressure of feeling like it's been too long since I posted. While I enjoy following blog threads and scandals with tremendous glee, I don't enjoy feeling like I have to keep up with them, or feel the duty of reporting on them. I am one of those wallflowers who will suddenly barge into a discussion, cutting people off, and then leave when I get tired and go face a wall somewhere and let my mind happily wander with itself. This does not a blogger make.

And so this is my last post. I will leave the blog up, as a happy side-effect has been to let me document some of the issues surrounding award procedures, and many of you who have spoken to me in person (thank you!) have mentioned you hope to be able to refer to it. In a year, who knows, maybe it will be time to crack it open once more. By then, blogging may have become something else entirely.

Now to my magazine, and lunch.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The penultimate post

For the live webcast of the awards announcements, click here at 7:45 am, PST, Monday January 22nd.

The text press release will be posted here that morning at 10am PST.

I'm signing off for a week to head out there (Seattle) myself shortly. You'll hear from me one more time after the annoucements...

More Mock Winners

Allen County--Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
BCCLS--Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck

(Anderson's Bookshop is having their's as we speak...and I may not post again before the actual announcement, so make sure to check the link!)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The juicy part

Alright. If this were the real committee, you'd have heard our results, and brief statements about our winners. What you wouldn't hear is exactly how we arrived at those results. The fun of participating in a Mock Newbery is to experience that process. I'll tell you some tidbits about how it went--stuff you'll never hear from a Newbery committee.

We had four hours, nineteen people, and nine books. I'd budgeted two hours for dicussion, and went 2-1/2...that allowed 10-15 minutes for most titles, and a couple took us 20. Even so, I had to cut us off sometimes when we were really just about to get into it. (No, there were no fist-fights, hair pulling, or even cookie hurling. Jane's cookies were just too good to use as projectiles, and it really was a well-behaved and well-prepared group).

We took a first ballot. Following committee procedures, we each completed an anonymous ballot selected a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice. Up to the whiteboard: each 1st place vote got a title 4 points, each 2nd place vote got 3 points, and each 3rd place vote got 2. In the actual committee of fifteen people, the winning title needs 8 first place votes, and an 8 point spread in total points above the next title down the list. With nineteen votes, we decided we'd need 10 first-place votes and a 10 point spread.

The first ballot wasn't conclusive. There were two that pretty strong at the top...and four spread out through the middle that had each gotten at least 1 first-pace vote. There were three titles that received very few votes, and no first-place votes. We all agreed to remove those three from the table. We'd narrowed our field to six titles.

Back to the table. We took about 20 minutes more in discussion of the six remaining titles. Following committee procedures, you're not allowed to bring up any points that have been brought up previously. You're really looking to persuade people for or against certain titles at this point...but you don't know exactly who you have to persuade. You start even more ferociously and minutely measuring each book against the other.

We took a second vote. ACK! The same two titles still at the top. At this point Drowned Maidens Hair had the 10 point spread, but with fewer first place votes than it'd had before, and the other title had one more first place vote, though still not 10, as many first place votes were still dedicated to other titles lower on the list. Very awkward. Still, there were two titles that could clearly be taken off the table in this round, and with agreement from the table, off they came. We were left with 4, and no time.

Now, when you're not on the committee, getting home in time for dinner is still more important than achieving a clear consensus. If this had been the real committee, we'd have had to go back to discussion once more. The idea now would have been to persuade those who had cast first place votes for books lower down the list to re-cast their lot with one of the two forerunners. We, however, decided to take the shortcut, and just took a straw-poll, show of hands: between the two fore-runners, which should the winner be?

Now the vote was clear: Drowned Maiden's Hair had the majority it needed to make it clearly the committee's choice. It had almost 2/3 of the hands in the straw poll, and it had the 10 point spread. (As an interesting aside: in the second ballot, it received 18 votes: so all but 1 of us picked it as either our 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice. No other title had so many overall votes).

How about honor books? Some committees might have chosen only one honor in this case: the clear second-place title, as it still stood well above the other two. However, since all these had strong votes, and in the spirit of Mock-Newberyness, we decided to call all three our "also clearly distinguished" honor books.

(Which was the second-place one? That I won't tell. Our agreement was that we want those three to stand together on the Mock-podium.)

So, is that what it's really like on the committee? and yes. The whole points thing is how it's done...but it's taken a lot more seriously than I've portrayed it here. Also, the field for voting is MUCH larger, so the points have more impact in making some titles rise above others. In a real voting process, you'd try not to narrow down the field as far as I did: it's better if discussion and re-balloting can make the votes rise on their own...and you want a large enough field at the end from which to thoughtfully select honor books. It's a mechanised process to come to something called "consensus," and it somehow magically works. Believe me, at the end of a year of reading hundreds of books, these votes aren't cast or changed casually, and the way the numbers are forced to line up really requires that the group has reached some kind of alignment in thinking. Whether one ballot decides it, or several--the ultimate result always feels right.

other Mock winners...

Northport-East Northport chose Gossamer. Rhode Island chose The Miraculous Journal of Edward Tulane. The results are starting to come in...keeping checking those side-bar links for other Mock results, or post a comment with yours here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

And the winner is....

Nineteen of us duked it out yesterday afternoon, but the results were conclusive:

A Drowned Maiden's Hair

Honor Books (in alphabetical order)
Alabama Moon
The King of Attolia
A True and Faithful Narrative

When the real committee finishes, they then sit around and write a press release telling the world exactly what is so distinguished about these titles. Instead, I'll invite those who participated to add comments here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Award season buzz

A colleague pointed out to me that my posting on KofA is prominently displayed on Megan Whalen Turner's website...happily, appropriately attributed.

There's always been a word-of-mouth award buzz this time of year in the children's literature community. As that buzz happens more and more online, in such an easily copy-and-pasteable world, the buzz can turn into a slither... of worms escaping their can.

Here's parts of my reply to my colleague, in response to whether or not I'd be doing this next year, when I'm chairing the 2008 Newbery committee:

I won't do this myself next year, but I'm hoping a certain colleague of mine will take it over. The confidentiality issue [see p.13 in the manual] is an interesting one, with several levels.

All actual committee discussions, lists, and voting are confidential forever. There are a couple of purposes to this: mainly, so that committee members are free to say whatever they need to in discussion. Secondly, so that the award winning books "stand" as a committee consensus, without a lot of the second-guessing-gossip that you see in other awards (remember Roger's post?).

Individual committee members, though, HAVE to be able to always state their individual opinions about books, exactly so that they CAN discuss books throughout the year and form well-thought justifications. Also, it's just silly to expect someone not to express an opinion for a year.

As an example: I was on the 2004 committee that chose Tale of Despereaux as the winner and An American Plague and Olive's Ocean as honor books. I can tell you what I appreciate about these books, and what the committee as a whole appreciated about them. I can also tell you what other books I personally appreciated that year...but not what the committee thought about other books that year. That year, I continued to review titles in SLJ that carried the tag "Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library"....and some people knew that I was on the Newbery, but I didn't advertise it.

It is wise to consider what the world at large (and especially the blog-savvy children's lit world) will perceive. In 2003, since I wasn't chair of the committee, I figured it was fine to run my Mock Newbery (and committee procedures do encourage this)...and someone posted my listserv announcement of the winners of our discussion on amazon's listmania as something like "Nina Lindsay's Newbery picks." Now, at least they didn't claim that these were real Newbery picks. One year, in fact, someone forged a list of "This year's Newbery winners" on listmania, before the actual announcement, signing in with the chair's name and committee affiliation!

So now consider the posting of my comment on Turner's website. (I very purposefully called these "MockNominations" as one word so they would get repeated as such. I've also very purposefully not mentioned, until now, on this blog that I'm chairing next year's committee, or even included my last name or library affiliation. But that didn't fool anyone.) I wouldn't want this to happen in a year I was on the committee...even though it doesn't breach confidentially explicitly, it could be misinterpreted. I ESPECIALLY don't want this happening when I'm chairing the committee, as the chair's main job is to facilitate open and productive discussion.

All this in part to point out why I'll be sunseting this blog after the announcements of the actual award later this month. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

MockNomination for Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen

Humor is perhaps the most personally-appreciated of any genre. This book, however, stands out in its “interpretation of theme or concept.” It is a parody of many threads and layers, each one drawn beyond the breaking point—yet they don’t break. Every word is choice, even when that word is “AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRHHHHHHOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAA- RRRRRRRRRRR” in 42 point type. The barest of narratives is in itself a parody, and allows for a memorable cast and lots of innuendoes, not all of which need to be understood for the book to still be stellar-funny. The coda-like ending takes all that ridiculosity and turns it into a surprisingly complex and heartfelt comment on friendship at a time of preadolescence. It’s understandable to young readers because of the adventures that transpire before…and so which turn out to not only be parody, but allegory. Now that’s “distinguished.”