Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lauren Myracle

Lauren Myracle is a New York Times best-selling young-adult author; she is the first author to be nominated for the prestigious National Book Award before having that nomination revoked.

From her Q & A with Brett Berk for Vanity Fair:

VF Daily: Walk me through what happened with the National Book Award nomination.

Lauren Myracle: On Monday of last week, I got a call from Harold Augenbraum, who told me that I was a finalist for the National Book Award. And I said, “You’re fucking kidding me!” He said, “That’s not usually the response we get.” But we went through the whole back and forth confirming that it was my book, and my name, and my publisher, and then he said, “Keep it to yourself until the official announcement on Wednesday.”

On Wednesday, they did a live-stream announcement from Oregon Public Radio, and I watched it online. There was this drama of pulling books out of black sleeves. And they got to Shine and my heart was so happy. Then, a couple hours later, I got this e-mail from an editor at the School Library Journal, who asked, “What’s this Shine/Chime business?” And I didn’t know. But she wrote back, “Do some Googling. I’m so sorry.” And I started Googling, and what was written from the National Book Foundation was that they’d added a sixth book to the list—Chime, by Franny Billingsly—that there was an error in communication, but they’d decided that there were going to be six nominees this year.

I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under my feet. So I called Harold, who was a darling, and he said, “I’m so sorry this happened. Yes, there was a miscommunication. But the judges unanimously would like to keep all the books on the list.”

Then the next day, I got the bad call, and it was Harold again. And he said, “Well, we’ve got a problem.” He was diplomatic, but he more or less said that the position was being changed and that people wanted Shine off the list. And how did I feel about that? I felt gutted. I felt embarrassed, and ashamed that I had the gall to believe that this book was worthy. So over the weekend came the question of, Do I withdraw, or do I let them strip it from me? I first thought: They made the mistake; they can clean it up. Then I realized that I had a chance to either be classy or be seen as someone gripping with white knuckles to something they didn’t want me to have. And I was going to be taken off the list regardless.

So I decided to step down, and that’s when we thought it would be nice to ask the National Book Foundation to make a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation—I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is where Matthew was medevac-ed after his assault in Wyoming, and he came to the hospital where all my kids had been born, and is right around the corner, all of which was very much in my mind when I was writing Shine. [Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, died of injuries sustained in a notorious anti-gay hate crime in October 1998.] And they graciously agreed to donate $5,000 to the foundation. And that’s the one unsullied good thing that’s come out of this for me. And that’s more tangible good than a shiny gold sticker any day.

When people hear this story, they can’t help but wonder if Shine’s subject matter had something to do with the decision to pull the nomination. What do you think?

I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue