2017 Winners of the National Book Award: Kudos to these Authors!

2017 #Winners of the National #Book #Award: Kudos to these #Authors!


National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Award
Website: http://www.nationalbook.org/

from the story on NPR:
“[F]our writers emerged with one of the world’s most illustrious literary prizes, the National Book Award:
—Jesmyn Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” won for fiction;
—Masha Gessen’s “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” for nonfiction;
—Frank Bidart’s “Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016,” for poetry; and
—Robin Benway’s “Far from the Tree,” for young people’s literature.

“In addition to a bronze medal and statue, each winner receives $10,000 with the distinction. That said, the finalists don’t go home bereft — each author gets $1,000 and a bronze medal of their own.

“…Annie Proulx [is] the novelist who won the medal for distinguished contribution to American letters, the National Book Foundation’s slightly verbose name for their lifetime achievement award.”

FMI: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/11/16/npr-books-national-book-awards?utm_campaign=The+Thread_20171117&utm_medium=email&utm_source=sfmc_Newsletter&utm_content=The%202017%20National%20Book%20Award%20winners%20are…

2017 WINNERS and FINALISTS, National Book Award

Fiction
Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward: Sing, Unburied, Sing = WINNER

Ward’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jesmyn-Ward/e/B001JOW9NW/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
Ward’s Publisher Website: http://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Jesmyn-Ward/547648874

FICTION FINALISTS:
Elliot Ackerman: Dark at the Crossing
Lisa Ko: The Leavers
Min Jin Lee: Pachinko
Carmen Maria Machado: Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Nonfiction
Masha Gessen; Photo: © Tanya Sazansky
Masha Gessen: The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia = WINNER

Gessen’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Masha-Gessen/e/B001H6MBXK/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
Gessen’s Publisher’s Website: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/9953/masha-gessen

FINALISTS:
Erica Armstrong Dunbar: Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge
Frances FitzGerald: The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America
David Grann: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Nancy MacLean: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

Poetry
Frank Bidart; Photo from Sigrid Estrada
Frank Bidart: Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 = WINNER

Bidart’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Frank-Bidart/e/B001H6W2N4/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
Bidart’s Publisher’s Website: https://us.macmillan.com/author/frankbidart

FINALISTS:
Leslie Harrison: The Book of Endings
Layli Long Soldier: WHEREAS
Shane McCrae: In the Language of My Captor
Danez Smith: Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems

Young People’s Literature

Robin Benway: Far from the Tree = WINNER

Benway’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Robin-Benway/e/B001JP7ZO4/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Benway’s Publisher’s Website: https://www.harpercollins.com/cr-115402/robin-benway

FINALISTS:
Elana K. Arnold: What Girls Are Made Of
Erika L. Sánchez: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Rita Williams-Garcia: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
Ibi Zoboi: American Street

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“Grade Inflation”—the Widespread Awards and Exalting of Effort—are Ruining Writing and Writers

I am hereby and for an undetermined length of time giving low credence to most book reviews, awards, contests and other honors conferred upon books/authors.

Why? I know some of the awardees’ writing. Many are undeserving of any accolades.

“Grade Inflation”—the widespread awards and the exalting of effort—are ruining writing and writers.

inflated A
image from http://www.wrkcapital.com

Why does anyone reward mediocrity and worse? How many “open mikes” have you attended in which EVERYONE, no matter how badly they perform or how horribly they read aloud or recite poetry, gets wild applause or even a standing ovation? Does the audience believe that everyone deserves the same response regardless of the quality of their presentation?

I do not.

How does it help any author/artist grow when no one is honest with them about the areas they need to improve and all they hear are overly exuberant praises? Neither are we helping authors or keeping faith with readers when so many provide undeserved 5-star “reviews” for shoddy writing. We are helping our writers and performers when we honestly and with specificity critique their work.

We are not doing our children any favors to give everyone who participates a “winner” ribbon, unless everyone understands that showing up and participation are what get awarded. However, I contend that, for professionals, the industry should not be labeling greatness on effort alone.

Grading on effort makes greatness lose all significance and confuses us all. When everyone “wins,” no one does. For evaluations and competitions to matter, the creation being evaluated of any top-ranking writer or other artist must be excellent by objective standards to have earned that award.

When all are given “A”s, or 5 Stars, or First Place, the rankings become meaningless. Participants can’t begin to discern their actual place among their peers or the value of their work in the world when reviewers and judges do not provide accurate, meaningful, thoughtful critiques and feedback, in the form of awards to the deserving.

participation trophy
image from http://cutemonster.com

At the end of a sports event, such as a foot race or team game, the winners and losers are indisputable. Those that swim are racing each other and the clock, which are immutably obvious regarding who swam the fastest for that race and for all recorded events of that type.

Art assessments should not merely be based on the creator’s intention or your affection for the creator.

Exceptions: if the artist is a child or disabled in some way, then that participation alone is sufficient to earn an award. Obstacles that participant has already overcome just to be involved in that competition or performance do deserve to be honored. THOSE types of contests, in which “everyone wins,” I wholeheartedly honor, e.g., the Special Olympics.

BTW: I strongly believe in and promote cooperative games, the postponement of competition, and an “everybody wins” concept for most activities for children and youth. I wish more youth sports and other harshly competitive games would be permanently removed from options so that everyone could play, learn and grow without that pressure.

This post is not to remove those cooperative and noncompetitive games or friendly, networking-type of awards passed around for fun and support. We all need encouragement.

However, when the competition is on a supposedly “level playing field” (more or less: let’s not get into gender, socio-economic class, age, racial and ethnic biases that unfairly prejudice judging and preclude fairness; that’s another subject), I strenuously object to fairly set competitors’ receiving awards, praises, great reviews or any other merit when the subject of the assessment is insufficiently unscrutinized.

I know some awards are merely a matter of “taste” or “current trends,” and that what anyone “likes” is always subjective.

Fine. Let those competitions be labeled clearly as having someone’s personal preferences, not accepted standards of excellence, as the main criteria for winning.

I’m talking about competitions that adults, professionals, and mostly, writers enter that supposedly have criteria that winners have to meet or exceed, in which the “best” is supposed to be honored the most. I wish that all of these competitions would be judged by obvious and agreed-upon standards of excellence and not determine winners based on effort, affection or popularity, or worse, payment of entry fees.

Also, I’m not talking about what people “like.” I’m asking for awards based on what is excellent, as objectively measured as possible.

Maybe it’s easier to talk about what is NOT excellent. I believe these components, below, are not purely subjective measures and therefore can be evaluated fairly and “blindly.”

FYI: For professional writers, grammar matters. Spelling counts. Syntax is significant. Context is not everything.

grammar shit
image from http://the-modern-housewife.blogspot.com

Here are my “what not to award” components for all types of fiction, whatever length.

[NOTE: I do not believe these need any explanations, but comment here or wherever you see this or email me if you are not sure what I mean, below.]

  • Poorly plotted stories
  • Superficially drawn or insufficiently motivated characters
  • Illogical, incomplete or inconsistent world-building
  • Triteness in storyline, characterization or setting
  • Not credible settings and/or situations
  • Poorly edited, insufficiently copyedited, badly spelled and/or incorrectly written sentences, paragraphs, entire works
  • Repetitious language, situations, characters and plots across one or more works by the same author
  • Sexism, racism, ageism, classism, ethnocentrism and other oppressive biases as expressed through one’s characters and plots/situations

The next time I hear a writer “won” an award, I hope s/he deserved it. I really do.

In case you need a reminder of what quality is and how deserving some authors are…

Ursula--Le-Guin-and-Neil--010
Ursula K. Le Guin and Neil Gaiman at the National Book Awards, 2014, in New York.
image from http://www.theguardian.com Photograph: Robin Marchant/Getty

P.S. I find Gaiman unreadable (personal preference) and adore Le Guin, but I recognize the similar greatness in their writing.

15 reasons I could only give a 2-Star #Review for The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide, 2015

I received an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide and promised to write and post an honest review here on my own blog and on at lesat one other ebook site (see links, below) in exchange.

Self-publishing Ultimate cover

According to the co-editors, this Guide “is the first and largest collection of curated and verified resources for independent authors who plan to publish their own books. Produced by a team with long experience in both traditional and independent publishing, the over 850 resources are listed in an easy-to-use format that includes live links, phone numbers, email addresses and brief descriptive copy. The Guide makes vendors and other resources easy to find by separating them into 33 distinct categories within the 3 main tasks the self-publisher must deal with. How to Prepare, Publish, and Promote their books.”

15 reasons I could only give a 2-Star #Review for

The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide

PERSONAL NOTE: This Guide already received some excellent endorsements from “heavy-hitters” in the Indie-Publishing industry, several of whom happen to be my unofficial mentors: Mark Coker of Smashwords, Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, and Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound, to name a few.

I’m daring to add to and not to agree with these experts’ opinions, here. If I were you, I’d also go read theirs! And, please: I’m trying to be constructive, so I give a lot of recommendations and make many pleas. It’s not just a pan.

I wanted to like this book. I wanted to give it 5 stars. I cannot.

The best thing I can say about this is that the editors promise that they want it to be improved and added to quarterly or annually.

I am NOT trying to be snarky or mean. I genuinely went in with high hopes and expectations, given all the hype and positive endorsements this Guide has had. These hopes were dashed in the first few chapters and it did not get better as I went along.

I hope they will take my critique and others’ feedback to make the Guide better, not just longer.

Here are my 15 reasons for giving Guide only 2 stars:

  1. Why isn’t this an actual GUIDE? Why is the Guide almost entirely just a lot of somewhat organized lists?
    Instead of directing, informing, and assisting new indie authors with each selected aspect (and I do like the aspects, or chapters, they decided to include), there is a lot of information not given. This info is either missing, such as the reasons a writer would need to use a section or how to use the information provided, or withheld, such as the providing of a rating system or users’ experiences for each resource—annotations, as in YELP or Angie’s List—for each entry.
    If we wanted to acquire a list of resources, we could do that from many other places.
    The editors say these have been vetted, but where is the evidence of that? What did they assess? Why don’t they include their assessments, or a summary of why each listing is “better” than those not included, and for what, exactly?
    I was very disappointed in the editors’ lack of interaction with each listing provided. They seem to have merely collected a lot of self-written descriptions or blurbs about each entry (meaning, written by each resource provider, not the editors or users) and put the selected listings in alphabetical order.
    Since they say they vetted each entry and rejected some, why aren’t we reading more about WHY they included each entry?
    If I had paid for this “GUIDE,” I’d want a refund.

  2. This book was poorly written and edited. However, the authors’ long, impressive bios (see below) list extensive experiences in editing and proofreading. They also exhort the need for both in this Guide .
    However, even though I wasn’t looking for or expecting to find mistakes, find them I did. There were numerous mistakes in grammar, punctuation and syntax as well as inexcusably sloppy and poor writing in almost every one of their brief intros/summaries for each section/chapter. Finding so many problems was surprising and very disappointing.

  3. The editors mention more than once a warning to readers to “read the fine print” if they choose to enter into contracts, but nowhere do they provide any tips or hints about exactly what to watch out for, what to avoid, what to accept. Why?
    Their advice is so vague as to be trite and useless; without specifics, they’re not helping anyone. Why not a chapter on “Don’ts” or “Beware of…”?
    [It’s as if they started to write a guide and then, halfway through, made it a listing service instead. It makes me wonder if there was some money exchanging hands, ensuring certain listings and keeping out others.
    Is that just my inner cynic talking? There is no evidence of resource providers’ purchasing their listings….]

  4. Why did they not include a chapter on authors’ support networking? There are so many indie authors’ forums, Kindle Boards, authors’ groups, etc.
    If they take my advice and add that chapter, I hope they make notations as to which resources/ groups/ providers are fee-based and which are free, and what the fee ranges are, if applicable, and what the fees avail members of, specifically.
    Fee information is crucial but missing from every chapter.
    Also, I hope they weed out the “review swap” groups, since these violate Amazon’s Terms of Service, and I hope they would EXPLAIN the TOS violation consequences (removal of reviews, for example) in their new chapter.

  5. Why is there a chapter on websites for authors? What makes a website for authors particularly unique vs. a website for bloggers, e.g., or vs. any other small business? This claim of distinction is never explained, yet there is a chapter devoted to a list of people they are supporting who supposedly create websites “for authors.”
    I’m scratching my head over this. If the editors explained their rationale, I might be on board. However, again, no explanations are given.

  6. There is a chapter devoted to Book Reviews with no mention of the extremely important and controversial issue of paid vs. free reviews, and no annotations as to which of those listed charges authors for providing reviews nor how much they charge.
    These omissions are significant oversights. Must correct in future revisions, please.

  7. There are several chapters that are devoted to formatting one’s book—ebooks vs. print vs. Print On Demand vs. “Short Run” [sic]—with no explanation as to the differences among these formats or which to do first and the reasons.
    Also, what about the issue of whether or not even to have a print version: why? when? at what cost? Many of us do not have any print versions: what are the consequences of going ebook-only for each genre?
    Furthermore, when introducing each type of formatting, there is no explanation about the reasons/ bases for ebooks’ formatting issues or the assistance offered, via Smashwords vs. Amazon, for example, or about difficulties of passing through Smashwords‘ “meatgrinder” successfully and what that success generates in benefits; no mention is made of that nor that Digital2Digital does not use such gate-keeping, for example.
    If this is truly going to serve as a guide, MORE ANNOTATIONS and information are needed.

  8. What is a Short Run [sic]? I have never heard of it (since I have no print books, yet) and it was not sufficiently explained (nor hyphenated?). Why include it if not also to explain more completely what it is?

  9. Several key “players” were omitted, which I know can be corrected, but since some of them provided endorsements or reviews, I’m baffled by their absences. Many of those missing are very prominent in the blogosphere, Google+ or Twitter but not so much on Facebook. What about those who shine on Pinterest, Instagram, or Tsu?
    Maybe these editors not as active on the other social media platforms? The Book Marketing Tools and its free ebooks listing tool, e.g., were not included.
    In order to be an actual GUIDE and not just a list, part of this chapter should include annotations giving pros and cons of authors’ activity on each platform and who the leaders are on each.

  10. Social media platforms are the not the only places authors need to “go” or be “seen.” Start with: Blog Talk Radio shows that feature authors and books, like Indie Books with Will Wilson, The Backporch Writer with Kori Miller, and so many more; Google+ LIVE and taped Hangouts on Air, such as my show, CHANGES, which then go to Youtube; D’vorah Lansky’s and others’ teleseminars and webinars devoted to books, book marketing and authors; The Authors Show, A Book and a Chat and many others on their own “channels”; podcasts and other shows, such as The Author Hangout, with Shawn Manaher and R.J. Adams, via iTunes and other sources, and so many more.
    Please request and create a chapter with annotated listings of opportunities of this type and how to access them.

  11. There was no mention of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and the controversies/problems indie authors face regarding this, nor was a distinction made between Kindle Select and Kindle Direct.
    These are exactly the types of explanations missing from this book that need to be put in, please.

  12. Why was there such a small number of “Social Media Consultants” included? I could come up with more than that, yet I am not one myself nor have I used one.
    The editors need to do better outreach, here, and a LOT of annotating, since many who call themselves “experts” are NOT; I know vetting is something these editors say they have been doing, so let’s see the results.

  13. There needs to be more info about money. For example, if the chapter on contests and awards is going to be useful as more then an incomplete list, each entry needs to be annotated to include info on entry fees and deadlines as well as more about the actual value of winning or placing in each.
    These contests can take a lot of time: show us what’s required, specifically, to enter, please, and what we might gain from winning.
    Great to include a chapter on acquiring funding, too, but that also seemed a bit “light.” There are many more opportunities out there, but at least there were several clearinghouses, like C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers, listed.
    Such lacks make this book more of a jumping-off point than a guide, though.

  14. I also don’t understand why those who provide services in more than one area (as delineated by these editors) are not dually or triply listed, as often ought to be the case. Readers/users will find resources only in the chapters they go to skim and may not read other chapters at all.
    For example, Judith Briles is listed for her private site, but Author U is not listed at all, anywhere I could find.
    I know it would make the Guide longer, but there must be a way to show readers that a listing appears elsewhere in the book, or could appear elsewhere (and in what chapters) but editors decided to list each resource only once for space reasons, right?

  15. I do not think Book Promoters are the same as book PR people, but perhaps I’m alone in this. In any case, I think having the word “Promoters” missing from the chapter headings is confusing.

If/when most or all of these omissions, errors and improvements are managed, I’d love to see that version. Or, maybe they should change the title from “Ultimate Resource Guide” to “Resource Compendium” or “Resource Listings.” They’d have fewer changes to make if they did that.

I wouldn’t think that would be as useful, though, as my revised version could be. I hope SOMEONE makes that version!

Meanwhile, although I believe The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide may be worthwhile as a starting point, it is far from being the “Ultimate Resource Guide” at this point.

Any newbie to self-publishing would have to pick up many other and better guides to make this one useful.


On their book’s website, in the FAQs, they state: “We plan to update the ebook edition of The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide monthly after the launch, eventually moving to a quarterly update. The print edition will be updated once each year, so we’ll have a new edition reflecting all the changes at the end of 2015.”

Proof? they post this excellent exhortation/invitation on the “CONTACT” page:

The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide is a living document.

Although we have tried to gather the most valuable resources for indie authors, it’s inevitable that some have been missed, and new products and services are constantly being introduced. We want your help to make it even better. If you know of a person, company, product, or service of value to independent authors that’s not included in this guide, please let us know. You can send submissions to be included in the next edition of The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide by the contact form below. Thank you.

Essential Qualification Guidelines for those who wish to be listed in The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide.

Extensive, professional experience in serving the self-publishing community.
A current, informative, interactive website.
Complete contact information; location (city, state/province, country), phone number, email address, and contact person if applicable.
Outstanding reputation; positive client/customer testimonials and/or reviews.
The final decision on all listings is at the editors’ discretion.

Note: Personal connection or recommendation of resource/business, is meant for anyone who is recommending someone else’s business. Say you are an author and use an editor not listed in the book. You can put that into the submission as your connection (I am an author who uses these services) and recommendation (what you think of the services you receive). It would not apply to someone who is asking for their own company to be included.


For more information: http://www.spresourceguide.com/

Ebook Purchase and Review Links:
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QSKUS2Q/
B&N (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-self-publisherr-joel-friedlander/1120927172?ean=2940150138957
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-self-publisher-s-ultimate-resource-guide
Apple (iBooks): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/self-publishers-ultimate-resource/id950440919?mt=11

The Authors/Editors:

Joel Friedlander
“…is an award-winning book designer and blogger who has been launching the careers of self-publishers since 1994 from his book design and consulting practice at Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California. Joel is a self-published author and the blogger behind http://TheBookDesigner.com, a popular and award-winning blog on book design, book marketing, and the future of the book. Joel is also the founder of The Self-Publishing Roadmap, a training course for authors, and http://TheBookMakers.com and http://BookDesignTemplates.com, where he provides tools and services for authors who publish their own books. He speaks often at publishing industry events and is a past president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.”

Joel-2014-headshot-300x

Betty Kelly Sargent
“…is the founder of BookWorks, and the founder of The Educated Author, and writes a monthly column on self-publishing for Publishers Weekly. She is a member of the Independent Editors Group (EIG) and has spent more than 30 years in the traditional publishing business, most recently as editor-in-chief of William Morrow, where at one point she had three books on the New York Times best-seller list at once. She has also been executive editor at HarperCollins, executive editor at Delacorte Press, Fiction and Books editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, and book reviewer for CNN. She is the author of seven traditionally published books and one self-published book. She moderates panels and workshops in New York City and Los Angeles and is passionate about helping indie authors learn to navigate the ever-changing landscape of self-publishing.”

Betty-photo-1

Copyright © 2015 Marin Bookworks, All rights reserved.

CONTACT:
The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide Editors,
Joel Friedlander and Betty Kelly Sargent
Marin Bookworks
369-B THIRD STREET #572
SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901
editor@spresourceguide.com

Two in three weeks! “Versatile #Blogger #Award” also landed here!

versatile blogger award

Thanks, Inger D. Kenobi, upcoming guest for Episode 20 on 2/4/15 of CHANGES, and my sangha sister, for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! I am so honored!

Here is her posting with all Inger’s nominations:
http://theviridescentconsumer.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/the-viridescent-consumer-receives-the-versatile-blogger-award-fist-pump-mandatory/

The rules are:

  • Show the award on your blog.
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Share 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 blogs.
  • Link to your nominees’ blogs and let them know.

I am going to take the title of this award literally and nominate those whose blogs are versatile and fascinating (to me, of course):

Seven MORE things most people do not know about me…

  1. My first languages were Yiddish (no longer fluent, though) and English. I also speak/know Spanish as well as some Italian, German, French, Tibetan and Sanskrit.
  2. I won a competition and represented my school on the balance beam in 6th grade and continued to work the beam until I wrecked my ankle during a poorly spotted dismount in 10th grade. This injury prevented me from trying out for cheerleading as well, which greatly improved my intellectual and artistic lives and friendships.
  3. I have a negative physical reaction to roller coasters and anything mechanical that carries people to or across high places (ferris wheels, trams, ski lifts) which includes some acrophobia.
  4. I read about 1000 words/minute unless the text is very dense or complicated.
  5. I have some friends still in my life whom I’ve known since we were 5 years old. We are now 60.
  6. My first role in a play was in Kindergarten. I was cast as the rabbit. The day before the play, I sprained my ankle (not the same one as above), so my mother brought me to school in a red wagon (we lived across the street from the school) and I hopped my way through my part: best method acting ever.
  7. My grandmother (may she enjoy TV in the ether), my mother, and I have all spent way too much time watching a long-running USA soap opera, Days of Our Lives. Knowing this, one of my sort-of-stepchildren gave me a mug with the DOOL logo on it which I recently gifted to my mother.