In recognition

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?

Good questions.

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!

Sarah Aronson
  1. Sarah, great post. Let’s celebrate blogs! You’re right, it’s so important to celebrate each step in the writing process, from getting that first idea to sending the MS to an editor or agent. It’s easy to forget that writing the first sentence or finishing a chapter are accomplishments. So yeah, let’s celebrate.

    • Hi Margaret!!! Thanks! When I quit my day job (and stopped getting a paycheck), I realized that I would have to provide my own recognition for work well done. So I created a list of incentives for myself. My favorite(!!): when I hit 100 pages (which is still a thrill for me), I make my family Thai Seafood soup. When the kids smell the lemongrass, they know it’s time for a “100 page party!”

      • @sarah aronson, That’s great! Often we have to be our own cheerleaders and setting goals/incentives just like anything else is really a great idea! I think I’ll start thinking of some for myself too! Thanks for such a motivational post 🙂

  2. I recently visited a school, and was telling the class about how many rejections I got before my first acceptance. I always hope this will inspire kids not to give up, but one little girl raised her hand and asked me, “Couldn’t they just accept it anyway? Just to be nice?” And another child said, “Whew! I’m glad we don’t reject each other’s work here in OUR writing workshops!” I’ll tell you, they almost made me wish I was ten years old again.

    • Hi Tricia,

      What a sweet story! A while back, I did a job fair, and I swear, I convinced all my students to find a day job!!!

  3. Great post, Sarah! I love how you always bring it back to the process, which is the only thing that we as writers can control. I appreciate your honesty, Bev, and I’m sure that even being on those lists helped bring your book to new readers, which is cool, too. That’s the thing I see that is so hard: Helping readers find their books.
    Celebrating every step,

    • Thanks, Kellye! For once, I didn’t sound bossy!! Yes, getting books into our readers’ hands is the challenge!

      Every step!

  4. Yes. We must remember to not only celebrate our own small steps in the publishing world, but the release of new books as well as the books that receive critical acclaim.

  5. It’s been an up and down year for me and The Healing Spell, but the emails and letters from people who wrote to tell me the book impacted them in such a personal way, the wonderful bloggers who reviewed my book (found through Google Alerts – ha!) and said it made them cry – well, those letters made ME cry. It’s a surreal, but wonderful thing to know your book has changed people’s lives. What you said is so true, Sarah. Your book belongs to the readers once it’s released into the world. They give it power and strength. Oh, geeze, now I’m getting weepy just writing this comment . . . I had someone tell me last week that they were feeling down about life and their family and decided to read my book a second time because it gave them such hope and then they felt better and ready to tackle another week. Sorry to go on and on but this has never happened to me before! Books are POWERFUL. They were definitely powerful and life-changing to me as a kid and that never goes away.

  6. Thanks! Really, the published book changes hands. In draft form, it belongs to the writer. But once it is in readers’ hands, it belongs to them. They make the book even better. They give it power and strength. It really is the most amazing thing!!!

  7. I love the spirit of this post. The writer and the reader are the most important parts of the story. 🙂

  8. totally agree with celebrating each step along the way.

  9. Great post! I just learned about Ranganathan’s 5 laws of library science – and celebrating all reader preferences reminded me of rule #3: Every book has a reader.

    I’d like to recognize The Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon. This story about a boy on Horse Island who seeks something beyond his mean family life through chicken judging is beautifully written in a very unique setting.

    • I love that! Yes, every book does have a reader. I haven’t read The Chicken Dance. Now I will!!! Thanks!

  10. Speaking as an author with a book that made several “mock” newbery lists and was on the ballot for an ala notable, I do admit to feeling like a bit of a ‘loser’ when my book did not ‘win’ anything in the end. Can you believe it? Instead of being thrilled to have gotten that ‘far’ I was focused on not getting the sticker! Now, several weeks later, I have a better perspective and am back to writing for the reader, not the reviewer! Because all readers care about is a fabulous story – whether it has a shiny sticker on the cover or not:)
    So, yes. Celebrate it all!

    • @Bev, I can believe it, but I am soooooo glad you are enjoying the thrill of being read. When my first book came out, I could not believe there would be even 100 people (who didn’t love me) who would find and read the book. It has been such a journey. The letters I have received have been the most amazing rewarding experience. What we do is important and wonderful! To have readers…it really is something to celebrate!