So, you’ve complained about previous years’ Whitney Awards? The book you liked didn’t even make it to finalist status? Well, now is the time to help correct that! ’Tis the season — anytime between now and Dec. 31 of this year — to place novels by LDS authors published in 2013 in nomination for a Whitney Award, simply by filling out a short message here.
But wait, you ask. What are the Whitney Awards? And why should I care?
Established in 2007 by LDStorymakers, the Whitney Awards (together with the AML Awards) represent the primary recognition that is available out there for high-quality Mormon literature. Currently awarded in 8 categories (general fiction, romance, suspense/mystery, speculative fiction, speculative YA, general YA, middle grade, and historical — plus best novel of the year and best novel by a new author), the Whitney Awards represent an ingenious combination of reader input and the opinions of working professionals in the Mormon writing community.
The awards involve a three-part process:
1. A work has to be nominated by five readers above the age of 12 (that’s the way it reads in the rules, though elsewhere it says “12 or older”), with no financial interest in the work itself (i.e., not “the novel’s author, publisher or publisher’s employee, or any other party who has a monetary interest in the work”). The committee then contacts the author to verify word count and publication date, and the work is officially nominated for a specific category. Note that self-published and digitally published works are eligible; in fact, self-published works have won awards some years.
2. A panel of five judges in each genre category reads the works nominated in that category and chooses five finalists.
3. The “Whitney Academy” rank-order votes on the finalists in each category after reading all five of the nominated books in that category. The Academy consists of “all eligible LDS authors” (members of the LDS Church and of LDStorymakers, published by a traditional publisher in the last 5 years, or a current or previous Whitney Award finalist), plus publishers, bookstore owners, and “other professionals in the industry” such as critics and media. (If you think you might be eligible, you can contact the Whitney Awards Committee to become a member of the Academy.)
Note that at no point in the process is there any kind of rubric other than length (different for different categories). People get to vote on the basis of whatever it is they like about the book. But you have to affirm that you have read each book in a category in order to vote. I approve of that. In fact, I approve of the entire process, as a process, though I sometimes haven’t agreed with the decisions in a particular category.
Which is where we all come in.
The first thing that has to happen in order for a book to be considered for a Whitney Award is that readers need to nominate it. And as I said before, that needs to happen by the 31st of this year, for books published in 2013.
It’s pretty easy to nominate a book. Just go here, like I said, and fill out a form with the appropriate information. So my first challenge to you, faithful (or even one-time) AML blog readers: is this: Nominate books you’ve read that you think are worth it!
Second, I invite/challenge you to share in the comments below books published in 2013 that you think are worth nominating, ideally with a short blurb indicating what they’re about and why you think they’re worth nominating. Note that for current purposes, self-promotion is perfectly fine. This can serve two purposes:
- Remind others who have read the same book that they, too, might want to nominate that book.
- Provide the rest of us with a prod to look at some books that might interest us, hopefully before December 31, and if we like them nominate them ourselves.
I know that in past years, books I might have enjoyed voting for didn’t get on the finalist lists at least in part because they never got the initial five nominations to bring them to consideration by the judges. Unfortunately, I tend to find out about titles like that too late — after the year when I could have sent in a nominating vote. So this column is my attempt at being proactive this year, and getting us all to do our bit to put literature we like on the landscape of the Whitney Awards!