Thursday, March 20, 2008
YA Fiction, ALA Prizes, and the Book Business
We are always suggesting to our fiction writing friends, especially Latino authors because of the dearth of YA Latino fiction, that they consider writing young adult novels. If the work is well reviewed, then the books will have a much longer life span. And there’s the added enticement that YA readers are more adventurous readers. A writer is not necessarily singing to the choir. An example of what can happen is Sherman Alexie's first YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian which won the National Book Award and should have been more seriously considered for the ALA's Printz Award. Sherman writes with deep understanding and wit about the struggles and confusion and honor of the Native American experience in 21st Century America. Like Barack Obama in the political realm, he represents a new breed of intellectual, especially among writers of color who are not strapped down to an old doctrinaire politics. We recommend the novel highly. For a taste of Sherman, he wrote an interesting piece about being a YA novelist in Publishers Weekly (2/18/08).
Speaking of the Printz Award, Elizabeth Devereaux, the Children’s Reviews Editor at Publisher’s Weekly, has a very interesting commentary (1/28/08) on the children’s book awards given out each year by the American Library Association at their Mid-Winter Convention. These awards are extremely important to the publishers of children’s books. A Newbery or Caldecott or Prinz Award can make a book an instant classic. To be on the selection committee for any of these awards is an honor and extremely difficult work. Librarians will read and review hundreds of books during their tenure on a committee. It’s like taking on an extra full-time job. These folks are obsessed in the greatest good way. For a small independent publisher to be considered, be listed as a finalist or even to win is a special honor which does wonders for reputation. A few years ago, Ben Saenz’ young adult novel Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood was talked about seriously for the Prinz. Although the novel was not among the finalists, a loud and generous buzz went about the convention center about Sammy and about Cinco Puntos. People suddenly knew who we were. The YALSA Committee did select Sammy for the 2005list of Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults. We sold through several printings of the hardback, and sold the paperback rights to Harper-Collins.
And to end this post on a distressing and confusing note, the Borders bookstore chain has been struggling financially and is considering selling itself. One of the suitors is Barnes & Noble. Holy conglomeration, Batman.