March 2, 2012

Being a Golden Kite Award Judge

The e-mail asking me to be a Golden Kite Award judge included this sentence:  "This year we expect approximately 200- 300 books in the Fiction category."

I felt honored to be asked.

Then I thought:  200-300 books!!!

Who could I talk to who has read lots of books?  Hmm.  Author and book reviewer Sue Corbett.  Sue generously suggested how I might organize so many books.  Then she said these seven words:  "For what it's worth, I'd say yes!"

I said YES!

Then I spent the early part of the summer giving away my own books.  I emptied a floor to ceiling bookcase to hold the expected Golden Kite books.

Then I waited for the avalanche of books to arrive.

And waited.

About a dozen books came in.  I read them.  Then a dozen more.   I read them, too.

The deadline to receive books was in December, so by early November I was sure there would be fewer than 200 books to go through.  I can definitely do this, I thought.

Then the books came.


And came . . .




I realized I had to stop reading any other books.  In fact, the people who work at our local public library asked my husband, "I haven't seen Donna in here.  Is she okay?"


I was okay.  Just a little booked up . . .


Buddha sits atop the pile of books to be read.


It became clear I not only needed to stop reading other books, I needed to stop writing them.  That was hard.  No writing.  Just reading.

And reading . . . 

Be careful what you wish for . . .

This process gave me an appreciation for what editors and agents do all day, every day.  My only requirement when I opened a book was that it demanded that I keep reading.  If it did, I kept reading.  If not, well . . .

It helped to know I wasn't alone in this Herculean task.

One of the greatest parts of this experience was working with the other judges in the fiction category -- Julia Durango and Steve Watkins, each of whom have won the Golden Kite Fiction Award for their books.  

I can't say enough good things about these talented, thoughtful, hard-working, fun people.  We'd send e-mails to encourage each other through the process.   And sometimes, I'd get an e-mail like this: "Did you get the Random House books?  Mine arrived today!!!"

Living in South Florida, I always got the books a day later than the other judges, so I appreciated the heads up about what would land on my doorstep.  We judges had thought we were nearly done reading when the 70 plus Random House books arrived . . .

Here's our oldest son schlepping in the boxes before his shift at Best Buy.

That floor to ceiling bookshelf quickly filled, and books began piling up everywhere.  Our kids would show their friends when they came over.  I would show my friends.  It was fun to watch their eyes bulge as they looked at the sheer volume of books.

I kept reading.

Eventually, the pile of completed books far outnumbered the to-be-read pile.

 
Julia, Steve and I worked hard to select the winners -- sharing our top three books with each other and working from there.  We've each been on the receiving end of that wonderful phone call -- them for winning the Golden Kite Fiction Awards, me for winning the Sid Fleischman Humor Award -- and we were so excited for the winning and honor book recipients to receive those magical phone calls. 

We wished we could give out several awards.  But we had to make hard choices.  Ultimately, we were proud to send in our selections.

Congratulations to the Golden Kite Fiction Award winner -- Ruta Sepetys for her gripping novel, Between Shades of Gray.  And congratulations to Trent Reedy for winning the Golden Kite Fiction Honor Award for sensitively portraying a young girl in war-torn Afghanistan in his deeply touching novel, Words in the Dust.  We are thrilled for all Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Award winners!

So, it's over.  Except for the books.  About  450 in all.  

I kept some for my home library . . .


I gave several to delighted young friends.

And I was able to donate about 400 brand new books to the Palm Beach County School system.  That felt good -- not just being able to see our floor again, but knowing good books will get into the hands of kids who need them.  Thanks, Janeen Pelser, for picking them up!


Thanks Sue Corbett for encouraging me to say, "Yes!"  Thanks Julia Durango and Steve Watkins for sharing this amazing experience with me.  Couldn't have asked for two better cohorts.  Thanks to my family for putting up with all the books and all the reading.  And thanks SCBWI for honoring me with this request and for the wonderful, wonderful work you do!

18 comments:

Amy Goldman Koss said...

I did it once for a Pen award, but not nearly as many books. Interesting experience, and a nice forced break from reality! Welcome back.

Wild About Words said...

Thanks, Amy. It was a fascinating experience. Of course, I still have piles of books to read, but they're of my own choosing these days.

Janeen Mason said...

You are amazing! AMAZING!

Wild About Words said...

Janeen, you, my talented, colorful friend are AMAZING! Congrats on completing yet another wonderful picture book. Love it!!!

leewardlaw said...

I judged the contest about 15 years ago, back when 'fiction' included novels *and* picture books. I could've built a new wing of my house with all those books! It was great fun, but not the smartest thing to do as a tired mama with a one-year old. The local schools sure enjoyed my donations, though! Job well done, Donna!

Anna Staniszewski said...

Wowza, what an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing!

Sylvia Andrews said...

Another huge achievement, Donna! We are blessed by your generous and undaunted spirit.

David LaRochelle said...

Oh my goodness, Donna! What a monumental task! A huge pat on the back to you and your fellow judges for volunteering for this job. We sometimes forget all the work that goes into making the selection for these awards. Thanks for the fascinating glimpse into this process.

Wild About Words said...

David, this process has really helped me appreciate the hard work of librarians who read for those wonderful state lists. It's a labor of love for sure!
Sylvia, you are a warm and generous human being, whom I'm so glad to count as my dear friend.
Thank YOU, Anna!
Lee, can't imagine how many books you had to read when the categories were combined! You are Wonder (Book) Woman!

tammi sauer said...

Great post. Looooved the photos. So glad you thought to take them. :)

sue corbett said...

good show, kiddo! I completely understand the where-am-I-going-to-put-all-these nature of your book onslaught.

Wild About Words said...

Thanks so much, Tammi and Sue!

Stephanie Theban said...

I just have to say thank you to you and the other judges for being so conscientious about this. What a huge task!

Wild About Words said...

Thanks, Stephanie! I think we each kept firmly in mind how very hard each author worked on each book.

mindyalyse said...

Wow, Donna. That is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing the process with us. :)

Becca Puglisi said...

That is totally awesome. You enter these contests and you don't think about the person who has to do the judging. I never dreamed it was so much work. You never cease to amaze!

Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

Linda Marlow said...

Wow, Donna, wow! Thanks for sharing the process.

Shutta said...

Thanks, Donna, for sharing the process! So many books--I would have blown a fuse...not to mention, need to have my eyes checked several times!!!