Awards, starred reviews, and citations—when and if they come—and welcome as they are—need, I think, to be considered as gifts, not rewards. I suppose some people sit down and write book a book intending to win a Newbery. If they do, I’m willing to bet my bottom buck they don’t.
I’ve won my share of awards and they have always come as a surprise. I’ve also NOT won an award, such as when my (unnamed) publisher insisted I would win one.
When you do win you need to say “Thank you,” of course. Then go back to work. That said, one of the hardest books I wrote was written right after I won the Newbery. I think it was hard because I had won. Expectations beyond me were high. My own expectations were impossible: A case of “I’ll show them it was no stroke of luck.” (It probably was)
But what does the author gain by awards, starred reviews, and citations? Generally speaking, your income goes up, not because of any (if it exists and it rarely does) award money that comes, but because you get increased sales. That is to say that you get more readers. As one publishing market person once told me, “Stickers suck in readers.” Tasteless but true.
So I was particularly pleased to know that my 2019 book, The Button War (Candlewick) was just selected as a 2019 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts.
It’s a hard book to read. It’s not hard because it is long or complex. On the contrary, it is short and simple. But it is a story about war and kids, and there is nothing to suggest a happy conclusion. War is brutal, and what happens to the boys in this tale is equally brutal. That it is based on a true story doesn’t make it easier. “War,” said a famous American General, “is hell.”
But here is one review of the book:
“I so wanted to like this middle grade historical fiction book set in Poland during WWI. But the characters were just horrible. Patryk, our MC, is a very weak character and a bit of pushover. He and his friends are the epitome of meek followers. They seem more concerned with the going along with Jurek’s rules than their own safety and the lives of their friends. Jurek was a bully and slightly unhinged. There was seriously something wrong with him. He creates a dare type game to see who can get the best button (from the soldiers stationed in their city). He much resembled a sociopath and I honestly couldn’t stand him. I didn’t like any scene that he was in even though I knew he was to play the part of the villain.
“I did enjoy the parts that looked at the war coming to their town. In one aspect everything changed when the first bombs were dropped on their town, but as children, whose worlds greatly revolved around themselves, much went on the same as always.”
Which, of course, is precisely the story I intended to tell.
My own mantra is, “Writers don’t write writing. They write reading.”
That’s to say having readers is what it is all about.
Which means, I’m delighted to have received the citation.