Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Road to the Cybils

Now that the Cybils shortlists have been posted, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Working on the nominating committee for fantasy and science fiction was a lot of fun, but challenging. I loved reading all the books and discussing them with my fellow panelists. We had many interesting and thought provoking discussions, such as: Should books have to stand alone, even if they are in a series? Does a weak protagonist detract from the story, or is it appealing to kids who may be able to see themselves in the character? Will teens identify with or reject an angry, bitter protagonist? Is allegory always didactic, or can it be just a reflection of the concerns of the society in which it's written? These are just some of the many issues we wrestled with.

I've seen judges in other awards programs say that the first cut was the easiest, and we found that to be true also. Most of the books nominated were good (there were a few exceptions), but when you compare a list of books like this in such intense scrutiny, you quickly find that there is a difference between good and great. We very quickly narrowed the list from 88 nominees down to 28 possible shortlist candidates.

Some of the 28 had only one person supporting them, so in those cases, the supporter made a case for the book. In some cases, no one was convinced, and we removed the book, in other cases some of the team members agreed that the book should stay on the list. Eventually, we got the list of 28 narrowed down to 15 books. That was the point where our list started to reach equilibrium. Every book on the list had at least two team members supporting it, in many cases passionately supporting it. Then it started to get hard, because no one wanted to give up any of the books they supported.

It started to look bleak, until my wonderful husband asked me, "Which books would you fight for?" So we took his suggestion, and each of us posted a list of the 2 or 3 books we would fight for. By compiling that, we narrowed the list down to 10 really excellent books:

Avielle of Rhia
Beka Cooper: Terrier
Corbenic
The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle
The Last Dragon
Ptolemy's Gate
Pucker
Silver City
Travels of Thelonious
Wintersmith

Then it got ugly. We had to somehow cut the list in half, to only five books, and no one wanted to give up. Three of the books emerged as strong favorites (I won't say which ones lest we influence the judges!) but it was a close race between the other seven books. With only hours to go, we voted, discussed, voted again, discussed some more, ranked, discussed and voted. We all got pretty frustrated before it was over. Finally, (only about 12 hours late) we broke the tie and we had a shortlist:

Beka Cooper: Terrier
The Last Dragon
Ptolemy's Gate
Pucker
Silver City

Not everyone agreed with every book on the list, but I think that overall we ended up with a really good list that reflects the best of children's and young adult literature. View the shortlist with descriptions on the Cybils site.

It was great fun, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I made new friends and discovered great books that I wouldn't have read otherwise. I can't wait to see which of our five outstanding books the judges will choose as the winner!
Post a Comment