This is the time of year that always telescopes down and passes in a flash for me, and I’m noticing a time-warpy feeling right about now that we’re fully ramped up at Heavy Medal.
If you are feeling frustrated that you haven’t read the titles that we’re posting on: you’re not alone in that feeling. (Doesn’t Jonathan know that my processing department is still mylar-wrapping MOONBIRD while he’s already posting on it?!?! Dang.) Think of September and October at Heavy Medal as a compression of what the actual committee experiences from about January–September in their year:
- Half of the committee is elected. Your ballot goes up in the spring before your Newbery year…which means you got a call from the Nominating committee the fall before that! But it takes up through the following fall…just before the reading year, for your committee to be fully appointed.
- Rarin’ to go (and appointees stunned and excited), you all get together at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January of your reading year for an orientation…then you spend the weekend happily grabbing as many ARCs as possible in the exhibits, because you are ready. You sit with special excitement through the Youth Media Awards press conference, noticing where the current committee is sitting, and thinking “next year”….
- Then you go home and read. And you suggest titles monthly to your other committee members, through the chair who puts out the suggestions anonymously. It’s a way to get a reading list and straw poll going. And you see things pop up on that list and wonder: now how did they get their hands on THAT!?
- And then you wait. Publishers do send materials to the committee, but they’re not required to. And it’s often late, late spring before they start sending boxes in earnest. Then, with a minor flood in May, where do you start? You don’t necessarily have your bar set anywhere yet, so how can you be sure if you’re giving each book it’s due? You might err on the side of generosity, and spend a little longer with each book than you will later in the year.
- At Annual, you get together for some practice discussion on titles you have all gotten, and blast a little more purposefully through the exhibits, keeping an eye out for ARCs you especially want to see. Your chair is politely prompting publishers to send along certain titles, without trying to give away too much about committee deliberations and lists, which are confidential.
- And from there it is all catch up. Making sure you’ve got, or are getting, everything on the suggestion list, and reading them…and also making sure that you are reaching out and trying things that no one has noticed yet. It’s like the beginning of a black hole forming: all that energy going OUT before you start narrowing IN.
And that puts us right about now, here at Heavy Medal. Jonathan and I have had our eye on certain books, and are also reading for titles that you suggest, and want to talk about. While the actually committee is already thinking about its second round of nominations… we’re still trying to get the discussion going on various likely candidates for our shortlist, which will come together mid-season (in time for Thanksgiving), for those of you who will be participating in our live discussion in Oakland in January just before the awards (hold the date: Sunday January 13th!).
So be prepared for some more flurries of titles (you’ve called out some of your favorites in Nominations!) We’ll be coming round again to many of these, so request them at your library! Or start putting out feelers in your community: who else is a Newbery season lurker? There might be a book group…or at least a book trading-post…waiting to be sparked near you.
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About Nina Lindsay
Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at email@example.com
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