Last week, on the Mixed Up Files blog, we celebrated this year’s literary award winners. Today, I’d like to add my congratulations. I was delighted to see some of my favorite books of the year honored. If a sticker helps more readers find these books, then we are all better off.
Awards seasons are also fun. I love it when a book that I loved wins. I love it when a book that a friend wrote wins. I smile when a book that I have professionally reviewed gets a sticker.
(That last one has happened four times.)
My mother would tell you that none of this is surprising. I have always been sort of an awards season junkie. When I was young, I would watch the Oscars, even though I hadn’t seen the movies. My friends and I often pretended to be famous actresses, accepting our statuettes. Now, the announcements make me tear up. I have given up wearing mascara to banquets and ceremonies. When I watched my dear friend, Tanya Lee Stone, accept the Silbert medal, a woman (who did not know me) patted me on the back, and comforted me with a “There, there…” I was crying THAT hard. When I go to any play, I get very emotional during the applause.
My son, Elliot, who is 16, hates the very idea of stickers. He hates awards. He thinks “subjective competition” is never fair. He complains, “How do they know what book is the best?” Maybe it’s because HIS favorite books do not have stickers.
It’s also a way of thinking. Ever since he was a very tiny boy, he has refused to cite “a favorite” anything! In his world: picking a favorite means denouncing all the other things (in that category) that he likes. He worries that non winners will feel like losers.
He asks me: Why do we care about favorites? Does everything have to be a competition? Why can’t EVERY book get a great review? Why does our society insist on naming winners? Don’t the writers of the other books feel bad when they don’t get recognition?
Luckily, we have a great community. In the world of children’s literature, we recognize our craft. We support each other. We recognize the hard work and dedication that goes into every book. Many of us read hundreds of books every year. We blog about them. We discuss them. We celebrate the authors. We work hard to help our readers find our books.
So, in honor of all the books published in 2010, I would like to offer a rally. A rally of mutual appreciation, a cheer for every book published this past year. Sometimes Elliot is right. When we celebrate the winners, we forget just how important every book is to someone.
And that’s not all.
Let’s honor the process, the steps it takes to turn blank pages into story. Writing books for kids is a privilege. It is a huge responsibility to accept: to inspire and entertain and give hope to readers. And although I am not suggesting that a sticker is anything less than life changing, the REAL reward will always be a letter from a reader—someone out there got what you were trying to say.
So while we’re at it, let’s honor our readers, too. Let’s celebrate their preferences.
We need all kinds of books, because there are all kinds of readers. Whatever we write, we need to understand and connect to the reader who is waiting for our books.
Are you inspired?
I hope so.
Today, let’s celebrate.
No…let’s REALLY celebrate.
Let’s celebrate our favorite books.
Let’s celebrate if we took steps toward writing a book.
Let’s celebrate if you took steps toward finding an editor or agent.
If you wrote a few words, or had an idea, or signed up for a conference, or sent your book into the world and someone, somewhere enjoyed it….
It is so important not just to wait for the recognition that comes when the book is done: celebrate the steps. Each page. Each plot turn. Each new character. Our readers depend on us to be hopeful and ambitious. They depend on us to create the most authentic characters and exciting plots possible. YOUR reader, the one who loves what you write, is waiting.
Awards season is for all of us. For ALL our work and ALL our favorites. Let us work toward celebrating more milestones next year!
Tell me: did you have a favorite book that won…one that needs recognition? Tell us about that book. Let us know why you loved it!