2011 Morris Award

The Morris Award is one of two YALSA Awards that work a bit different. It (and the YALSA Award for Excellence in NonFiction for Young  Adults) announce a shortlist about six or so weeks before Midwinter. Then, at Midwinter, the announcements are made about the winner and honor books. The announcements are made on Monday morning, and that same night, a reception is held.

This year’s winner was The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston. From my review: “the real strength of the book is the fascinating character of Loa and the glimpses into the people around her. Any one of them is strong enough to support their own book, because each has their own story or motivation or damage and we only see glimpses, the glimpses that Loa knows, and part of Loa’s growth is when she realizes that people do things for reasons that are not all about her.”

The finalists were Hush by Eishes Chayil; Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey;  Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride; and Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber.

YALSA‘s webpage explains the use of a shortlist: “The shortlist will help raise awareness of the award and allow for new promotion and marketing to raise awareness about debut books for teens, ALA and YALSA.”

What do you think about the shortlist method for a YALSA award? I’m a bit torn. On the one hand, it is nice to have the list beforehand, to find the books, and to read them with an eye towards “why is this on the shortlist.” But, on the other, after awards are announced books are tracked down and read the same way.

Does this build excitement the way, say, that the Oscars build excitement? Are people debating both what title will win, and what did and didn’t belong on the list, the way they do the Oscars?

From the point of view of an author, does it matter whether one’s book is a finalist that wasn’t selected as a winner? Is it different to think of something as an “honor” book?

If you attend YALSA Midwinter Meetings, do you usually leave Monday or Tuesday? Have you attended a Morris Midwinter Reception?

11 thoughts on “2011 Morris Award

  1. I like the shortlist method quite a bit. It gives a wider swath of “best of the best” titles and does give non-committee members an opportunity to read and debate among ourselves why something made the list and whether or not we think it could win. It’s a nice way to feel out a wide array of titles and styles. I think this is the case in particular for readers and librarians who, unlike us, don’t read quite as much. It’s a real slice of a year.


  2. I would think that as an author or a marketing person/publicist you’d be angling toward being on the shortlist so that you could get the most possible exposure. Sure, winning would be fantastic and one would hope it would carry with it a level of prestige (which I think ultimately it does) but I think more and more these days it’s less about being the “winner” and what you can really get out of it over the long haul. The shortlist seems to be the goal and the winning the cherry on top.


  3. I don’t feel strongly about the shortlist one way or another, but the award ceremony itself definitely feels like an afterthought since so many people have already left the conference or are just burnt out and winding down at that point. The height of the excitement is at the Youth Media Awards in the morning, to be honest. Morris appeared to be poor scheduling.


  4. In full disclosure, my first novel ASH was a Morris finalist in 2010. It was an incredible honor to have ASH selected as a finalist, and I’m very proud of that, but let me tell you, that was a nerve-wracking month and a half before the winner was announced for me!! (And I’m betting for the other finalists, too.)

    Nerves aside, I think there are pros and cons to the finalist situation, because yes, it does get people out reading the finalists — and during the holiday season especially, it’s a nice push. At the same time, it does feel different than the medalists/honor books situation, because the Morris Award is mostly celebrated at Midwinter, which in the past hasn’t been as big of a conference as Annual. I would love it if future Morris winners were feted along with the Printz at Annual.

    And yes, being a “finalist” feels and sounds a little different than being an “honor book.” There is indeed more of a sense of winners/losers with the finalist/winner situation, but I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal. Plenty of other awards are also finalists/winners, including the NBA.


  5. Kelly, it’s nice that my self imposed reading obligations (reading the shortlists/honor lists /etc) are spread out to be half before, half after midwinter.

    Michelle, what I wonder is does it matter for sales/promotion post-Midwinter, after the winner is announced?

    Meg, burnt out – true! I know a couple people who went to the reception for a short time because of end of ALA tiredness. I didn’t stay for as long as I hoped, either.

    Malinda, thanks for sharing your perspective. I’ve been told one problem with having it during Annual is that so many time slots are reserved for other things (Edwards lunch, Newbery, etc.) I’m intrigued by the idea of having the Morris winners celebrated at the same reception as the Printz winners.


  6. Liz, that’s interesting to know. I admit my comment was kind of off-the-cuff about pairing it with the Printz thing, but now that I think about it … I admit as a YA author I’m totally jealous of the glitzy Newbery/Caldecott banquet! LOL. Wouldn’t it be cool if YA books had a similar kind of shindig, incorporating Printz, Morris, and the Nonfiction awards? In my fantasy banquet scenario, Maureen Johnson and John Green would emcee. 🙂


  7. I would love to see this and the Nonfiction Award reception be a part of the PRINTZ. It would lend some gravitas to the awards, I think. I know these are the “toddler” years for the awards, but if we want them to grow in visibility, we need to have presentations at Annual.


  8. Malinda & Teri, that is a great idea. One question: what about honor/shortlist/finalist speeches? Printz, NF & Morris have all give speeches, but I do think the first year of the Morris it was just the winner & was done at the Sunday Morning Coffee.


  9. My take on the short list – it’s great but it’s tough. I was on the committee this past year and just think – we had to come up with a short list without a meeting. We met at Annual and then at Midwinter. Short list comes out BEFORE the Midwinter meeting.

    Re – having the awards with the Printz – I think this is a nice idea. However it does carry over the committee requirement to one more ALA meeting, with no committee work to do. This can be pricey.


  10. Speaking as a reader, I love that shortlists give me a head start on my reading. I’ve been trying to read winners & honors for as many awards as possible, and having a few shortlists out ahead of time helps spread out the reading (although attending a Mock Printz and a Mock Newbery doesn’t really help me get around to the shortlists!) I managed to read 2 Morris finalists ahead of time this year.


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