>Awards: who needs ‘em?

>I’m bumping up this comment from a previous discussion because I think it brings up questions we can all usefully ponder. The mysterious shewhousually doesn’tdothistypeofthing wrote:

Suppose someone took it into her head to rank the dying and give awards for best last days or near to last days based on certain well thought out criteria, culminating in lots of sugarplums and press and endless discussion. How would that remove us from the experience? How would it remove us from the immediacy and all it might offer us. How would it remove the dying from it, distracted as they are by the possibility of this last big award? It is a toxic practice. There was a writer in East Germany who wrote there before and after the wall came down. Afterward everyone told her how wonderful that she had the opportunity now for artistic freedom, success, money. She said she had more freedom before the wall came down when she simply wrote, knowing her readership would be there, working in peace, nothing to aspire to. Now she had the great seduction of success, competition, it removed her from the freedom of the work. Suppose you could read books without having the distraction and removal to the level of judging them against each other. Then we would see what was there. Each its own experience because of what it is not because of where it is in the line up. Moving freely from book to book. I will not participate in these Newbery talks again. They are only a chance to say look how smart I am. I can tell you what is good better best. They have nothing to do with the truth. They have nothing to do with the artists’ intent. Merry Christmas to all and to all a still night.


I don’t know if I can read without judging, or at least comparing to what I’ve read before. (This got me kicked out of one those human-potential workshops once. The group leader said I was too judgmental. I asked her if she knew what I did for a living. Saved by literature once again!) And while I appreciate that the stakes being set up by prizes, or even reviews, can kill good writing, I also worry about a wafty world where all is “experience,” there is no worse or better, each work of art is a distinct expression, la, la, la. Don’t we write (or paint, etc.) in the first place to throw into relief those flashes of experience that, for us, are the important ones? Isn’t living a process of making distinctions among choices? These are genuine questions, not rhetorical ploys, and I thank She… for bringing them up. Her example of the East German writer reminded me of a friend who was moving from the States to Mexico at a time (late 70s) when the Mexican government was cracking down on press freedoms and political dissent. My friend said “here I can wave my arms and say anything I want but nobody listens. There, at least, political speech matters.”


share save 171 16 >Awards: who needs em?
Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >I know. It’s difficult. Half the time I think as I did in the middle of the night that it is toxic and poisonous and just as bad for the reader as the writer. You see it in all kinds of areas – students going for grades and not caring about the education because they need to the grades to get to the college to get to the jobs. Etc. The other half of the time I think it can motivate you to push through to do better, more important work. That you have to be hungry. I have another friend (they aren’t all East Germans) who is a professional marimba player who wants to go back to Zimbabwe because in North America there is a distinction between the performer and the audience. In Zimbabwe concerts there is no glorification of the performer. A concert is shared in equally by the audience and the performer and considered a joint experience. It is the shared experience that is the thing. I guess that is what I want to remember. We don’t create art for awards, we create it for the connection. But really, I have no answers. Except at one a.m. Then I know everything.

  2. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >And, of course, we all judge. My little rant was a judgement. And y’all bettah listen, cause the lightnin bolts ah comin next.

  3. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >It’s just that I think we’ve made this huge sport around picking the best of everything and it becomes about the sport which is lots of easy fun and we think it’s harmless but it’s not. We pay a price.
    Now I promise to stop. Because I will have to stop or change my name.

  4. Roger Sutton says:

    >ok, She, I’ve got your number. And in fact have been dialing it to wish you a Merry Christmas but there’s no answer.

  5. Andy Laties says:

    >A number of years ago there was an article in the New York Times Book Review on the subject of literary awards in Italy. There was an upsurge: many different organizations (and companies) were founding new awards, because it had become a great way to get free publicity for the organization giving the award. Each awarding organization was shifting its announcement date earlier and earlier in the calendar, to get the jump on competing awards. Leading authors had taken to REFUSING awards given by not-prestigious-enough presenters, since by accepting an award, one was essentially reducing one’s sexiness as a potential recipient for a later-presented (but perhaps more prestigious) awarding body! That is: Awards are as much about the awarding body as about the recipient. The presenter is taking CREDIT for the artwork to which the award is given — associating their organization with that artwork.

    Now: Roger, you and I both come out of the Chicago professional hothouse. Chicago is the home of the American Library Association, which presents many of the major children’s literature awards. The ALA (or, to be precise, ALSC) deserves great credit for the integrity of their awards process. That’s why we take THEIR awards seriously. THEIR awards have the critical, central purpose of ensuring that librarians across the country acquire at the very least, a few of the finest children’s books each year. And the ALSC/ALA awards often advance an activist agenda (Zena Sutherland for instance was able to push librarians to adopt “Where The Wild Things Are” in 1963, because she chaired the Caldecott committee that year: This despite objections from many librarians to Max’s misbehavior).

    (Horn Book’s Awards also have a very fine pedigree…)

    Andy Laties
    Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, shop manager
    http://www.rebelbookseller.com

  6. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >In the first Harry Potter, Rowling captured a sense of magical excitement and expectation – the kind a writer always feels at the beginning of a book. That she could convery it to her readers and give them that same experience was a kind of genius. But she couldn’t sustain it after the first book. Didn’t matter. People wanted it to badly that they dressed up in wizard costumes and stood in line for hours, hoping that if they worse these costumes, they could recreate the experience themselves. They couldn’t, of course, but they could try in much the same way that going to church doesn’t guarantee you a religious experience, it only expresses your hope of having one. And that’s okay. That’s what the awards are. A great book doesn’t come along every year. We’re lucky if it comes along once a generation but we dress up and give the award every year anyway in a kind of hope. As if we could bestow upon a book our hopes for greatness and that would make it so. As if we could pretend it into being. And that is where we veer so far from the truth that we go into the realm of the ridiculous inspriring shewhodoesn’tusuallydothistypeofthing to bang her head against walls and rant. Great books are always in the keeping of the artists, never the critics. But in a way the dressing up and thehanding out of medals every year in the great hope of something wonderfulcoming along, as ridiculous as it is, is what I like best about the human race.

  7. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >You only think you have my number because our phone has not rung once all morning. So it looks like you’ll have to guess again.

  8. Andy Laties says:

    >Gee, Shewho, I can’t agree. I think great books do come along every year. As to whether the contemporary critics are capable of identifying them: This is a different problem. I wrote a book this year. If I — the author — didn’t think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread (actually, greater than sliced bread (who cares about sliced bread?)) I wouldn’t have worked so hard so publish this book.

    What’s more my small-press publisher does not have his act together to submit it for any awards. I have to submit it all by myself. Since I said to my wife during the (highly contentious) writing process that — dammit — I intended my book to be so good that it could even win the Pulitzer Prize, I decided, post-pub, that I would submit it for the Pulitzer Prize. I was surprised to discover that this is easy. Send the Pulitzer Prize committee $50 and 4 copies of the book. I did. What appalling hubris! But — no more so than writing my first (probably only) book to begin with.

    I hope that every author feels the way I feel: That THEIR book is THE best book. I think that in fact a significant number of authors do feel this way. And who is to tell them that they are wrong. Will you tell them?

    Andy Laties
    Author of “Rebel Bookseller: How To Improvise Your Own Indie Store and Beat Back the Chains”

  9. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >I’ll be happy to tell them. There’s a lot of people out there who think they can write children’s books too. It looks so easy. They are sure they can do it when they get the time. But that doesn’t make it so.

  10. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >There are a lot of GOOD books out there and trying to decide which one is best is angels dancing on the head of a pin time. This one is good for this reason, this for another. A great book is something else. Charlotte’s Web is a great book. It has that indefinable something. And that’s the thing; criteria for awards is nonsense because when a great book comes along you cannot really pin down what made it great and nor should you. That’s Mystery.

  11. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >Never confuse the pleasure you had in writing it with the pleasure other people are going to have reading it.

  12. Andy Laties says:

    >Hmmm — I should CARE about the experience of other people reading my book? Since you’re giving “good” advice, what about the standard “good” advice given to novice writers that one should always “write for yourself”?

    That said, my point was simply that it is my firm belief that there are many terrific, mysteriously brilliant pieces of writing produced every year. And I have objective proof. I spent two years working as an actor with Child’s Play Touring Theatre in the early 80s. This company performs stories and poems written by children: schools who hired us sent us 500 pieces written by the students, and when we arrived at each school we performed several of these pieces written by kids in that audience. During that time, I personally read over 20,000 pieces of writing. Of course, most were depressingly bad. But hundreds — HUNDREDS — were really fabulous. My greatest disappointment in moving from children’s theatre into children’s bookselling was discovering that Children’s Literature Written By Grown-ups was so neatened up. I concluded at the time that lots of people, when children, are terrific, natural storytellers, but the school system (and the culture, more broadly) squashes it out of them. I told this story for many years to leading children’s book editors, and they all told me the same thing: They didn’t want to get involved with publishing children’s writings because children couldn’t be counted on to be good rewriters. That is, children wouldn’t be able to respond to editors’ comments and advice. Leaving aside the fact that this is simply wrong (well-known authors Gordon Korman and S.E. (Susie) Hinton were both kids when they wrote their breakthrough novels, and had good relationships with editors), this objection missed the point. This terrific material I was reading was unedited. It was spat out usually during a 45-minute compulsory creative-writing period. The secret wasn’t that an editor would work with the author: the secret was reading a gigantic slush pile that examined the output of EVERYONE — whether or not they thought (or had been told) they “had the ability” to write.

    I believe that EVERY individual has creative storytelling genius. When we discipline ourselves to listen to EVERYONE we will encounter this genius sometimes. It is an ACCIDENT when such story-force survives the editorial process and makes it into book form. But it happens, nevertheless. Of the 1.3 million new titles published each year (!!), very few actually get read by the kinds of contemporary decision-makers (critics; publicists; thought-leaders) who can call attention to the most remarkable of these books and make them “popular”. But merely because a brilliant piece of “outsider” writing is ignored entirely during its year of publication, this does not alter the FACT that it IS brilliant.

    Andy Laties

  13. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >I think you’re wearing a wizard costume.

  14. Andy Laties says:

    >Qui, moi?

    Andy

  15. Andy Laties says:

    >Shewho… said: “the dressing up and thehanding out of medals every year in the great hope of something wonderfulcoming along, as ridiculous as it is, is what I like best about the human race”

    So I guess if I’m wearing a wizard costume, that’s all right.

    Andy

  16. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >I didn’t say it wasn’t all right, I’m just politely suggesting that you know the difference between wearing a wizard costume and being a wizard. Or as my husband said once to me in the middle of a juicy argument, just because you think you’re Napolean doesn’t mean I’m going to buy you one of those cute little three pointed hats.

  17. Roger Sutton says:

    >I’m kinda losing track here, but I think I’m more inclined toward the once-again mysterious SheWho’s point of view than my friend Andy’s. Of the books that Nina Lindsay has on her list of contenders (and I think she is right; these *are* the contenders, by and large) some, in my opinion, are very good indeed, some are fine, some are mediocre, and there are a couple I haven’t read. I see no masterpieces there. Remember, though, the Newbery is the “most distinguished” contribution to literature for children in a given year. Aside from the complete subjectivity that obviously informs the discussion and process of choosing a winner, the key word here is “most.” In a given year. Some years are better than others.

    And I completely disagree about everybody having genius. (And Andy, your “objective proof” is anything but, since you set yourself up as judge and jury there’s nothing objective about it!) Myra Cohn Livingston got so pissed off about Kenneth Koch’s belief in children as naturally gifted poets that she wrote a whole freakin’ book about it. Which, to its enduring credit, the Horn Book published.

  18. Andy Laties says:

    >This comment reminds me of one of my favorite Lord Dunsany stories: “The Coronation of Mr. Thomas Shap”. Since I’m a bookseller and therefore have the privilege of attempting to sell all my favorite books everyday, I just happen to have a copy right here (I’m at work until 8pm tonight). Here are the story’s first two and final two paragraphs:

    “It was the occupation of Mr. Thomas Shap to persuade customers that the goods were genuine and of an excellent quality, and that as regards the price their unspoken will was consulted. And in order to carry on this occupation he went by train very early every morning some few miles nearer to the City from the suburb in which he slept. This was the use to which he put his life.

    “From the moment when he first perceived (not as one reads a thing in a book, but as truths are revealed to one’s instinct) the very beastliness of his occupation, and of the house that he slept in, its shape, make and pretensions, and of even the clothes that he wore; from that moment he withdrew his dreams from it, his fancies, his ambitions, everything in fact except that ponderable Mr. Shap that dressed in a frock coat, bought tickets and handled money and could in turn be handled by the statistician. The priest’s share in Mr. Shap, the share of the poet, never caught the early train to the City at all….

    Final two paragraphs:

    “Slowly, with music when the trumpets sounded, came up towards him from we know not where, one-hundred-and-twenty archbishops, twenty angels and two archangels, with that terrific crown, the diadem of the Thuls. They knew as they came up to him that promotion awaited them all because of this night’s work. Silent, majestic, the king awaited them.

    “The doctors downstairs were sitting over their supper, the warders softly slipped from room to room, and when in that cosy dormitory of Hanwell they saw the king still standing erect and royal, his face resolute, they came up to him and addressed him: ‘Go to bed,’ they said — ‘pretty bed.’ So he lay down and soon was fast alseep: the great day was over.”

    (From: The Book of Wonder (1912, London)

  19. Andy Laties says:

    >My “Shap” post was in response to the “Napoleon” comment. As to my vaunted objectivity: Point conceded. I’m anything but.

    Andy

  20. Andy Laties says:

    >Having poked around on Google and learning a bit about Myra Cohn Livingston’s book “The Child As Poet: Myth Or Reality” — which was published in 1984, while I was touring in 25 states reading tens of thousands of children’s poems written by children — I have to say that it’s not on the same subject as my post above. I agree that 30 children in a single classroom on a date-certain (or during a year-certain) probably will not yield up a Poet or a Great Poem. But I had an experience Myra did not have. I honestly did read 20,000 pieces. I saw the raw data. And: immediately afterward, I read a large number of poems written by Myra Cohn Livingston and her colleagues. I liked SOME poems written by SOME children better than I like SOME of Myra’s poems. Sure it was my own, SUBJECTIVE judgment, but I wasn’t a terrible judge. I was performing in front of children, in hundreds of schools, during those years. Children are very harsh critics.

    From a five year old (who I met, and who criticized our staging of his poem):

    Once there was a bunch of cats, and one of those cats was fat. All the other cats made fun of the fat cat, and this hurt the fat cat’s feelings. One day all of the cats wanted to go to somebody else’s yard to get some catnip. There was a fence around the yard of the catnip patch. There was a dog guarding the gate. There was a tree hanging over the yard. The fat cat climbed up the tree. He climbed out over the yard. He jumped down into the yard. The dog was scared but he didn’t run away crying. Instead, he fainted. Then all the other cats squeezed under the fence, and one of the cats said for all the other cats to carry the fat cat on their shoulders, as a hero, to the cat-nip patch.

    BOOM. I remember this exact text because I performed it a lot (we did it as a beat/rap piece). I’m sorry, Myra, but this 5-year-old author was, at that age, a genius. When we called him up on stage and presented him with one of the thousands of awards we gave away during those years — a “Certificate Of Creativity” — he deserved it.

    Andy

  21. Andy Laties says:

    >Correction — I apologize. We didn’t perform “The Fat Cat” very much. We worked it up really thoroughly into a very hot little dance number, and then we actually had to stop performing it soon after we debuted it because we realized after a few shows that its content was inappropriate for elementary school kids (bullying/fatness; hazing ritual; drug abuse (the catnip!)).

    I remember the piece verbatim because I’ve recited it many times to try to make this point about some children being good writers! (Why do I go on about this! No one in the field of children’s literature ever concedes this point to me! And I KNOW this fact is because my own experience as an actor with Child’s Play Touring Theatre (www.cptt.org) was so strange and unique that no one who hasn’t had this experience can believe what it was like!)

    Andy

  22. Jonathan Hunt says:

    >I’ll be attending Nina’s mock Newbery and I agree with Roger that she has put together a very good list. I’m looking forward to it.

    I’m wondering, though, how much the criteria of plot, character, setting, theme, and style help us find a distinguished book. See, I think they help us find a notable book whereas a distinguished book can only be found by examining the whole field and looking for books that separate themselves (i.e. distinguish) from the competition.

    For example, I might observe several different runners practicing individually. I might judge each of them to be pretty fast. One might get out of the blocks quickly, another might have a burst of speed at the end, and yet another might have a long stride. They may all be pretty fast and have good technique, but the only one to know which is fastest is to run them in a race together. Perhaps they all cross the finish line within a couple strides of each other. Has any of them really distinguished themselves from the others? No. But sometimes you will see a race where one runner breaks away from the pack and wins by a very decisive margin.

    I think that’s what we’re looking for here. Distinction is a relative term, I think, not an absolute one.

    Is there a novel this year that outdistances every other one? I think so, as well as a couple informational books, poetry books, and picture books.

    The question, then, to my mind is which of these books more closely approaches the standard of excellence within its genre. In other words, after best of breed is chosen which one wins best of show?

    Jonathan

  23. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >A certificate of creativity. I think we just came full circle. Anyhow, as Leonard Cohen said to Janis Joplin, “we’re not pretty, but we’ve got the music.” That’s true for all of us. All I ever wanted to do, Roger, was tell you that I thought you’d like Our Lady of the Lost and Found.

  24. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >And, Jonathan, art isn’t a competition. I want you to repeat that sixteen times before you go to bed at night as long as it takes until you get it.

  25. Roger Sutton says:

    >Jonathan, I’m with She. Runners in a race are all trying to do the same thing: be the fastest. My own miles vary wildly in terms of their artistic success and richness of insights they afford me but they are all twelve minutes long and I will never win a race. Andy: I love you but think that cat story is, um, really lame. She, I’ll look for The Lady. Right now I have to go back to convincing the dogs that it’s still nighttime and too early to go for a walk. And we can all agree that I should have a cup of coffee before I write my post about why the film of Memoirs of a Geisha is a sixth-grade-girl’s dream come true.

  26. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >Okay, but here’s my prediction. The Newbery isn’t going to come from that list and your pick from the list is The Game of Silence. Which I can hardly believe because I dislike Erdrich so much.

  27. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >And as to your Geisha for twelve year old girls piece, before you even begin let me tell you about seeing The Last Samurai. I had expected, because it had tom Cruise in it, that it would be, in the words of Anne Lamott, a pleasant little piece of perfumed poo. But I was enthralled. That lush Japanese scenery. The lovely serene tatami matlike places. The stunning moment when the Samurai like knights come through the forest on horseback with those masks. it had all the elements of the grand spectacle and I loved it. I was telling a friend of mine (not East German and doesn’t play the marimba) who is part of the asian pacific conference, speaks japanese fluently, spends a lot of time there, knows the culture and he got excited at how much I loved the movie because he loves Japan. Then he said, but you know it really isn’t like that. So, because he thought I had a genuine thirst to learn more, he rented all these real Japanese movies with subtitles and we had an evening of the real deal and I was bored witless. Worse, I didn’t understand any of it. And it turns out that the real Samurai were pretty blood thirsty and it was territorial and not very noble. Well, I mean, really. but i loved the hollywood version. The real stuff didn’t inspire me at all. And anyone in children’s books is really a twelve year old girl, so let’s hear no more about it. NEXT!

  28. shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing says:

    >With amovie like that i think the question is can you have a good piece of work even though you know it isn’t based on the truth of what was but instead seen through the foggy screen of someone’s western sensibilities and what the truth would have been if it had come from an entirely different way of being and understanding. Can you have that kind of hybrid and still have something good and I have to think that if you don’t think so then nobody should be praying.

  29. >Well, that segues into my rant on BRAVEHEART. I live part time in Scotland and I love the history and read it a lot. And let me tell you what a piece of crapola that movie is. No, I won’t waste your time on all the historical inaccuracies, only to let you dwell for a moment (SPOILER AHEAD) on the unlikely scene where a man who has been drawn, hung, and about to be quartered (ie. hanged until he passes out, revived, and then ritually disembowled before being cut into four parts) sits up and cries out “Freedom
    . . .” But the Scots adore the movie and now paint their faces blue at football games.

    I suppose as epic, BRAVEHEART has great moments. Just as Homer was not historically accurate. And Dickens exploited (not exposed) the child labor and gin-swilling underbelly of England.

    We shouldn’t mix up entertainment with historical accuracy.

    As to Andy (hi, dear!) and his child cat story, I am afraid I have to agree with Roger here. I run a yearly writing contest at the Hatfield, MA Elementary School and regularly find much better pieces than that. But again we are mixing up two things: the creative urge and the echoing mind. I bet that piece came from a teaching moment about Aesop’s fables. I did an entire month online through Scholastic with kids writing Aesopian fables in rhyme. Some were better than others. (I critiqued them in rhyme.) But all were clearly by kids.

    The Gordon Kormans and Susie Hintons (and Mozarts etc.) are the exceptions.
    Have you read ERAGON? I read it in mss. A good try at a competant fantasy epic, and boy! could I tell what books the 15 year old author had been reading.

    Jane

    PS What do I think about awards? Love ‘em when I get them, decry others. But ever since one of them–with a magnifying glass on top–set my good coat on fire, I have warned everyone: “Put your award where the sun doesn’t shine.”

  30. rindambyers says:

    >I love to critique books and debate issues dealign with books and tell people how much and why I might like or dislike a particular book, but I don’t like “experts” making official judgements on books for me, the reader, like when award winning books get pushed into libraries to the neglect of other books I love to read.

    I cannot see how any expert can tell me what tastes good for me. My husband loves a good steak. I hate a good steak and won’t eat it. I don’t like the taste of steak. I don’t care about trying a new steak prepared in any which new way. And I have to live with me and what I taste. So therefore I rule in deciding what tastes good to me in what I read, awards or no awards. And yes, I think a great many excellent books get easily overlooked in awards and lists of best books. Tragically.

  31. Andy Laties says:

    >Well — you would all have loved The Fat Cat if you’d seen it performed the way we did. Here’s another one, written by an 8th Grader, on the subject of (as he informed us after our performance at his school) the homeless guys who used to hang around outside his uncle’s liquor store. I sang this piece to the tune of “Parker’s Mood”

    The Boys On The Corner

    Well, have you seen the boys on the corner,
    With their shapeless pants, their tattered coats, and their threadbare dignity?
    Young ladies avoid them,
    Young boys annoy them,
    And mothers chase them away.
    With their paper sacks full of ambition,
    And eyes that have seen much,
    It’s a kind of fellowship,
    And even though they may be poorly dressed
    And miss a few meals,
    Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be one of the boys on the corner?

    Now — I’d agree with Jane that such pieces may well emerge from specific lessons in a creative writing curriculum. And — certainly, just because I like that particular piece doesn’t mean anyone else will (again: we did give this child an award, on stage) — but — I return to the central problem. Child’s Play Touring Theatre reads a gigantic slush pile of a kind no publisher has ever seen. I mentioned that I personally read 20,000 pieces in 18 months I toured with them — because during those years (1983-85) the company was handling 75,000 submissions per year. That number peaked in the early 90s, when we were seeing over 200,000 pieces per year! So over the company’s 25 year history (founded 1978) we’ve handled millions of submissions, and the company still handles about 50,000 per year (we now ask each school to submit only a portion of the total written prior to each of our visits). So, we have file cabinets stuffed with pieces we’ve performed over the years: tens of thousands of pieces we’ve developed and toured from school to school (and for which we awarded Certificates Of Creativity during quite heightened, on-stage ceremonies — like the Oscars!).

    I’m certain those awards activities DID motivate children to aspire to become better writers. Many schools bring Child’s Play in year after year: the same children are writing each year in hopes that their work will be performed by a familiar theatre troupe on stage.

    Awards programs DO motivate authors, illustrators and publishers to do their very best.

    Of course I agree that often the wrong artworks may win the awards, and terrific work may be ignored. This isn’t the point. The entire culture simply pays more attention to the activity of creating art if there’s some formalized mechanism (ritualistic) for focusing all of our attention, occasionally, SIMULTANEOUSLY on the simple fact that there are those striving to create excellent art, in our midst.

    Andy Laties

  32. Andy Laties says:

    >Mind you — I don’t believe that the best books are those written by people intentionally aspiring to win an award! The best books are written by people who are IGNORING such outside stimuli during the creative process! But we cannot dismiss the unconscious influence of the knowledge among artists that previous artists’ work HAVE been recognized and HAVE had influence. Yes artists should forget about the audience during the creative process. But YES the future audience DOES have an influence DURING the creative process DESPITE the fact that the artist is “forgetting” about that audience.

    We may pretend to be creating for ourselves alone. But we utilize the culture’s language, do we not?

    Andy

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