Monday, October 17, 2011

The Cybil Awards; or,"if you liked it then you should have put a medal on it."

Getting an award is a major achievement for any artist, and often provides a bump in prestige and notoriety than can make careers or break them. Awards are mostly joyous occasions (with some notable exceptions) that honor hard work and The American Library Association gives several awards every year, two of the most well known being the Newbery and the Caldecott, and of course there’s the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Nobel Prize, and my personal favorite, the Cybils awards.

So what are the Cybils? The cybils are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ book awards. If you’re not aware of/into the kidlit book blogging community, you’re missing some excellent reviews, discussions, interviews, and other invaluable resources, all written by extremely passionate and informed writers. I asked Anne Levy, the “Cybils Overlord” as she is known, why the book blogging community felt the need to start their own award and how they made it happen:

“The Cybils Awards began with a stray comment left on a book blog in 2006. The blogger complained the [now defunct] Quills were little more than a popularity contest, while her commenters moaned the ALA awards had gotten too snooty. So I chimed in saying if we’re all so smart, how come we don’t have our own awards? It didn’t take long for the comments, emails and blog posts to start flowing. Within days, we had a name , a blog, 80 volunteers and a mission to strike a middle ground, picking the books we found both literary and kid-friendly.’

“Now in our sixth season, Cybils boasts nearly 120 volunteers – all children’s and YA book bloggers – and just added an 11th genre, book apps. The contest spans from cradle to college, with books for tots and teens and everyone in between. Our schedule is roughly the same every year: nominations run Oct. 1st through 15th, with short lists posted on New Year’s Day and the winners announced on Valentine’s Day.”

I got involved with the Cybils last year, after they put a call out for judges in the easy reader/early chapter book category. I have to admit, it was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. I got to read a whole lot of books that I might not have picked up otherwise, and I was forced to put on my critical thinking hat while I was reading, which is something I don’t always think to do. This year I am a second round judge for YA Fantasy and Science Fiction, which I’m extremely excited about. Speculative fiction is my first love, and its an honor to be a part of the second round judging for such a popular and coveted category.

I think the Cybils awards are a unique addition to the award landscape. Beginning with the nomination process, the Cybils get people talking about and reviewing books for roughly five months, which is great for authors and publishers alike. The panelists and judges also get the chance to read widely and critically, which will make for better reviewers and reader’s advisors in the long run. And throughout the process, the teams of judges have deep, rich discussions about the books (and now book apps) that they are judging, which allows kidlit enthusiasts to meet new people and forge new relationships and partnerships.

So this fall and winter, keep an eye on the Cybils site. You’ll see reviews and updates periodically, and who knows--you might just discover your new favorite book in the process!