And the Winners Were…

2010 Award Books

A lot of awarding went on in 2010. The following is a by-no-means-comprehensive list of prize winners.

Anthony Awards (Mystery)

Novel:  The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

First Novel:  A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield

Paperback Original:  Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley

Caldecott Medal (Illustration in Children’s Books)

The Lion and the Mouse illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney

Coretta Scott King Awards (Children’s)

Author:  A Bad Day for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Illustrator:  My People illustrated by Charles R. Smith, Jr., written by Langston Hughes

Hugo Awards (Science Fiction)

Novel: The City & The City by China Mieville, and (tie)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Novella:  Palimpsest by Charles Stross

There are a lot more categories. Check them out.

Lambda Literary Awards (LGBT)

Children’s/Young Adult:  Sprout by Dale Peck

Nonfiction:  The Greeks and Greek Love by James Davidson

Many, many more categories. Please check web site.

The Mann Booker Prize (Fiction)

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Michael L. Printz Award (Young Adult Literature)

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

National Book Awards

Fiction:  Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

Nonfiction:  Just Kids by Patti Smith (editorial comment: YAY!)

Poetry:  Lighthead by Terrance Hayes

Young People’s Literature: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

National Outdoor Book Awards

Nature and the Environment:  Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari With a Cast of Trillions by Mark W. Moffett

Natural History Literature:  An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World by Anders Halverson
&  The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Children’s:  Camping With the President by Ginger Wadsworth; illustrated by Karen Dugan

They have more categories. Click the link above to see.

Newbery Medal (Children’s Literature)

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

PEN/Faulkner Awards (Fiction)

War Dances by Sherman Alexie

Pulitzer Prize

Fiction:  Tinkers by Paul Harding

History: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed

Biography:  The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles

Poetry:  Versed by Rae Armantrout

Pura Belpre Awards (Latina/Latino author/illustrator)

Author:  Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

Illustrator:  Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros , illustrated by Rafael López, written by Pat Mora

RITA Awards (Romance)

Young Adult Romance:  Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Inspirational Romance:  The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal

Historical Romance:  Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

First Book:  One Scream Away by Kate Brady

There are even more categories. Check out the website, linked above.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

Toronto Book Awards

The Carnivore by Mark Sinnett

World Fantasy Awards

Novel:  The City & The City by China Mieville

Happy reading!

Bibliophile’s Ultimate Holiday Gift

Are you looking for the ultimate holiday gift for the bibliophile in your life? How about…

Wouldn’t it be cool to own a bookmobile? I believe in some alternate universe, I do own one. I travel the continent in it. I have a writing space set up in it. I drive from book signing to book signing, reading to reading. And I can sell my books right from the bookmobile, which incidentally sounds a lot like the Batmobile, something that makes it even cooler.

Sadly, I feel the need to tack a cautionary note here: Please don’t anyone think it would be cute to contact the seller if you aren’t serious about buying. The intention of this post isn’t to create harassment for anyone.

Rejection Letter

A friend just had her novel accepted for publication after 30 rejections. Thus, I’m inspired to try at least 31 publishers, if need be, before giving up. Two down. I feel moved to share the more recent rejection letter of the two. I don’t know why, but expect it to happen again. Maybe as an experiment in how many different ways rejection can be phrased.

So here it is, hot off the email:

Dear Author,

“My partners here at Pointless Pothole Press* have looked at your proposal for the novel _ _and we have decided not to ask to see more of the MS. There is no particular reason, and we agree that your idea is interesting. We are a small press, and we need to keep the number of MSS we look at manageable. We are currently considering a number of other proposals.Thank you for considering Pointless Pothole Press.”

Two things strike me. The first is the phrase “There is no particular reason.” Uh….whuh? The second is the way he can’t bring himself to write out the word manuscript. It reminds of me of my grandma always calling toilet paper “TP.”  Sort of like a manuscript is something necessary, but you don’t discuss it in polite company.

On to number three.

*Not the real name of the publisher.

Support Your Local Writer

I know a lot of folks who appreciate the arts and would love to show support, but who don’t have a boatload of money for extras. Some of them don’t even have a thimbleful of money for extras. For those in this situation, let me offer some tips on how you can help out writers you know and/or admire.

If you have some money to spend on books, but not much, prioritize. Choose to spend your book money only on publications by local writers, or only on publications by writers you know personally, or choose one writer you can feel really good about supporting and buy her/his books new. Fill the rest of your reading list at the public library, or buy used. I manage to budget enough money to buy about half a dozen books a year new. Most of these are written buy people I know, some of them self-published. I also buy all of the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher. He’s localish, living in the same state, and he came to speak to my writing group once before he made it to The New York Times bestseller list. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy who wanted to help other writers. And I like the books.

If you have no book money in your budget, you can still help a writer in need by checking out her/his book from the library. The more a book is checked out, the more copies get ordered, and the more likely it is to be replaced if lost or damaged. If you can’t find the book in your library, ask about placing a request to purchase. Public libraries encourage patrons to communicate about what books they want. If the selector knows a book will be read, he/she is likely to buy it.

If the writer you want to help out is someone near and dear, and you don’t mind going above and beyond, there are even more actions you can take. Call your nearest bookstore and ask if they have the title, even if you don’t plan to purchase it. That way you’re helping raise public awareness about the existence of the book. If the bookstore employee asks whether you’d like to place a special order, you can always say “Not right now. I’ll check a couple of other places first.” If the bookstore does have the title, and you have time to kill, you can go in and browse, incidentally leaving the volume prominently displayed when you’re done skimming it.

And once you’ve done all of these things, don’t feel bad about reminding that certain special writer in your life about the purpose of the acknowledgments page. You might get in a mention in the next book.


That’s Not Quite National Novel Writing Month. It’s my own event. I have way too many responsibilities in November to commit to NaNoWriMo.

For NoQuiNaNoWriMo, there is no registration and no minimum word count. Only a desire to use a writers’ movement to inspire me to buckle down as much as possible. Most of my write-ins will take place in my home office, where I plan to be accompanied by a cat and a space heater. My goal is to write something every day.

If anyone else is interested in participating in NoQuiNaNoWriMo, I’d love to hear how it’s going for you.

My writing buddy

Not Your Grandfather’s Publisher’s Marketing Plan

I’m starting to think everything I’ve learned about the marketing of writing – from articles in trade magazines, presentations at conferences, and so forth – is on the verge of obsolete. The driving force, of course, is the Internet. But it has some accomplices in young writers who haven’t been indoctrinated into the old ways.

I’m acquainted with a handful of teen fanfiction writers. They all hang out together on the internet with other fanfiction writers and readers from around the world. They critique each other’s work; they encourage one another; they provide prompts and other creative nourishment. And some of them write in areas other than fanfiction. A couple of them have novels under their belts. And one young woman recently showed me the stats for one of her fanfiction stories: over 2,000 views.

When she’s ready to promote her marketable writing, her fan base is there already. I believe she could easily publish a book herself, send out a general announcement, and move 1,000 copies with little effort.

While middle-aged writers are still paying hundreds of dollars to attend conferences in order to meet the editors and agents who will give them the inside scoop on getting their work out. I have received my clue, and I’m willing to share. The inside scoop no longer belongs exclusively to the editors and agents. Writers who have grown up with the Internet are creating a new world of publishing, with its own rules. Good for them.

Me, Published

In which the blogger reveals clues to her true identity. Alternative title of post: Shameless Self-Promotion.

One of my short stories is now available for your reading pleasure, in Main Street Rag’s 2010 short fiction anthology: Coming Home.










Follow the link above to purchase a copy. The title of my piece is The Writing on the Wall. If you can’t afford to buy your own copy, you can always head to your local public library and place a request for purchase.

Overused Book Titles

In addition to writing, I work in a public library. This gives me an opportunity to notice when certain book titles have been overused. Looking for a book called The Gift, because your friend recommended it, but you can’t remember the author? Okay, well, sure. No problem. None at all. Let’s spend the next twenty minutes reading through the descriptions of the sixteen different books we have with that title in an effort to figure out which one it is. Authors and publishers, consider yourselves put on notice. I will actively discourage readers from any new book titled The Gift.

Here are more titles on my list for recommended retirement:

Twilight – Did you know about a dozen authors thought of using this before Stephenie Meyer? Time to let it fade into darkness.

On Thin Ice – Don’t go there; too many writers already have.

Redemption – This title is beyond itself

Forever – Which is how long it will take to narrow down the search to the one you’re seeking, if you don’t remember the author’s name.

The Return – It keeps coming back into the publishing world.

Reunion – Publishers keep revisiting this title, too.

The Search – Didn’t go far enough for an original name.

The Secret – It’s enigmatic why you’d want to have your book confused with so many others of the same title.

Sanctuary – It can blend in with the crowd and never be found.

The Island – Where overused book titles go for sanctuary.

In Too Deep – But if you can find your way out, maybe you can build a new title for yourself.

Is it a Scandinavian Thing?

I finally read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. So, I’m a little late to the party. I liked the book; I plan to read the next two. I don’t feel compelled to write any kind of review. Considering the book’s lingering status as an international bestseller, I think it’s been reviewed plenty.

I did come away from the reading with a nagging question. Is it a Scandinavian thing or just a Larsson thing? I’m talking about the author’s need to inform us readers of the exact square footage of every room and building mentioned in the story, along with the engineering specs of every computer used by any character. I know specific is supposed to be better than general when it comes to writing. “Humvee” is better than “really big vehicle.”  “PowerBook” is better than “laptop”. It allows the reader to visualize the scene better. But do we need to know the date of manufacture, size of the screen, hard drive capacity, processing speed, and whether the keyboard is backlit?

I find this more amusing than annoying. My computer jock spouse (he of German ancestry) would likely consider the paragraphs describing the computers as the most important information in the story. But I can’t help wondering if this is a literary tic – all writers have them – or a cultural thing. I haven’t read much Scandinavian fiction, so I can’t compare. Maybe it’s time to broaden my horizons and perhaps find the answer to my question.

Book Thoughts: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

Working in a public library as I do, I’m often reminded of how much has already been written. Occasionally I look around at the shelves full of books and think “It’s all been done already. We can all stop writing now.”  But I’m happy to report I’m consistently proved wrong.

For instance: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow. A werewolf novel written entirely in verse. Epic verse isn’t new, of course. And werewolf novels are everywhere right now. But a combination of the two? I couldn’t not read it, figuring it couldn’t be mediocre; it had to be completely terrible or really, really good.

I count the book a success on all counts. It works as a novel, with engaging characters and an intriguing plot. There’s love and life and death and power plays and vengeance, and confused characters muddling through life caught up in it all. And it works as poetry, the choice of words and meter striking the place in you where poetry strikes, and still keeping the story flowing.  Example: “At night he lies down on the benches and contemplates/ the deception of starlight, long dead suns making small lights/ almost bright enough to guide the way.”

Barlow gets the balance right, sacrificing neither the fiction nor the poetry aspect in the cause of the other.

Is it obvious how much I liked this book? It’s so nice to come across something fresh, a reminder that we humans are endlessly creative. And it’s nice to see a writer following his own vision and making it work. I’m thinking of all of those writing conferences where authors are asking what editors are looking for at the moment, and nobody ever answers “Werewolf poetry.”

I have one warning for the squeamish. Though not gratuitous because it does serve the story, some of the violence is quite graphic.