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>One for the boys

>Peter asks a really good question about the William C. Morris Award for first-time YA writers. I hadn’t realized that fourteen of the fifteen shortlisted finalists thus far have been women. Given the buzz around  (and the merit of) Charles Benoit’s You, I was expecting to see that there. [Edited to read: until I discovered the book wasn’t eligible; see comments.] Also, what about Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere? That’s the Girl Book of the year.

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.



  1. Andrew Karre says:

    >Is Benoit eligible? We understand debut to mean unpublished in any book genre. Benoit has published adult mystery novels. We did not enter any books from authors who'd published in other genres (Ilsa Bick is a perfect example–lots of adult sci/fi).

  2. Melissa Rabey says:

    >Based on my understanding of the Morris rules, Charles Benoit couldn't have been nominated for the Morris for YOU, since he has published adult books.

    "The William C. Morris YA Debut Award celebrates the achievement of a previously unpublished author, or authors, who have made a strong literary debut in writing for young adult readers."

  3. >Third person is the charm? My reading of the rules is that Benoit isn't eligible. "The award winner(s) must not have previously published a book for any audience."

    Theoretically speaking…. I have no idea how the committee would treat an Alloy-type work for hire, especially under another name. Would having written such a work mean that a later book isn't eligible?

  4. Andrew Karre says:

    >Liz B.: That would be my take, though publishers would have to count on authors to disclose pen-name work (and since most do as an inducement for us to publish, that's not a problem).

    Given how common this is, I think YALSA would do well to clarify on way or the other.

  5. >I'm wondering why Peter is calling the Morris Awards when they are actually reflecting the actual demographic of YA writers. You can go to SCBWI conferences or MFA programs for writing for childnen, and each time you're going to be surrounded by women. And yet, imho, it seems to me that the men receive a disproportionate share of the market and awards (not counting the Morris, obviously).

    Readers: Here's a little mind game. List three of your favorite YA authors off the top of your head. –Now tell me, how many of those authors are women?

    I'm damn happy that the Morris is ironing out some of the difference. Gotta start somewhere.

  6. Roger Sutton says:

    >Melinda, your evidence might only mean that more women than men tend to be joiners. Let me see what I can pull out of the Horn Book Guide numbers.

  7. Anonymous says:

    >Melinda, men don't receive a disproportionate number of Newberys.

    As of this year, we have 59 female winners…and 30 male winners.

    And if you factor in all the Honor Books there are 258 titles written by women…and only 120 by men.


  8. Roger Sutton says:

    >I remember we did this with picture books a while back . . . . Here is a snapshot: the spring 2010 issue of the Horn Book Guide (covering hardcover books published in the last six months of 2009) unselectively reviewed approximately 250 novels for teens. Of those, 76 were written by men, so that's about a third, right? I am not suggesting the Morris Awards need to demonstrate a similar ratio, only that, as I think Peter was saying, it seems odd.

  9. Anonymous says:

    >"Readers: Here's a little mind game. List three of your favorite YA authors off the top of your head. –Now tell me, how many of those authors are women?"

    Interesting question, but what is this meant to suggest, Melinda? Where do you think the field gets tilted in favor of men, and by whom? So many more gatekeepers in the field are women rather than men, so many more editors, and so many more librarians, and so many more reviewers, and if you look at the awards committees, the ratio of women to men is usually something like 10:1.

    So if your top 3 authors are men, well, what does that mean?

  10. Anonymous says:

    >Also, fifteen novels. No nonfiction. No poetry. No graphic novels.


  11. >Also, The Morris is only debut novels. Maybe the ratios of who's publishing are more gender-weighted when you look at only the youngest generation of young adult novelists?


  12. >Anon 3:34, that bothers me too. Though the women are a majority in the children's book field, it seems like the men get more than their share of the market and acclaim. I've been to children's writing conferences since 1998, and my observations, though random, seem to bear me out as far as the overwhelming numbers of women in the rooms.

    I'm still exploring the idea. Is it because we're trained to see men (i.e. white men) as more competent and able? Is it because of the huge disparity in time that women spend in household chores and child care compared to men? (I think it's both.)

    Yes, the field is tilted. Dude, our whole *society* is tilted toward default mode. The sooner we can tilt the field to better represent the folks in it, the better.

    (And could we work on fixing the whole racefail thing while we're at it?)

  13. Anonymous says:


    The Morris is **NOT** for debut novelists. Read the eligibility criteria.

    1. The award and honor book winner(s) must be authors of original young adult works of fiction in any genre, nonfiction, poetry, a short story collection, or graphic work.


  14. >Roger, The Sky Is Everywhere is Jandy Nelson's first novel, but she's had poetry published (for adults, I'm guessing), so she was ineligible. Bummer.

  15. >Do the criteria for any of these awards state anywhere that nominees, honorees and winners must accurately reflect the gender percentages of works published that year?

  16. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yum, trollbait 🙂 Of course the criteria don't lay out percentages, but that should not prevent anyone asking if a given award does its job with blinders on.

  17. >I wonder if more male than female novelist get their start outside of YA; this year there's Paolo Bacigalupi and Greg Van Eekhout whose first YA/MG novels were published this year but had previously published adult books, and before that Scott Westerfeld, perhaps the most popular male YA author, started out in adult science fiction.

  18. Jandy Nelson says:

    >Roger–Hi! Thank you so much for the mention above–it made my day!

    Jen–I believe I was eligible, because before The Sky Is Everywhere, I've only had individual poems published in literary journals, not a book of poems published. Did you hear otherwise?

    Thanks again for the wonderful mention!
    Jandy Nelson

  19. >Roger, you're probably right that women are more likely to attend conferences, writing classes, and so on. (Though not so much more likely as to fully account for such events typically being 95 to 100% female.)

    However, looking at the Horn Book Guide only tells you how many men and women have published children's books. Consider the possibility that a man who writes a children's book is more likely to get it published than a woman who does. Then it's like a snowball: disproportionately published, disproportionately admired and paid attention to, disproportionately awarded.

    I'm with Melinda.

  20. >Whoo-hoo!

  21. Roger Sutton says:

    >I think we established pretty conclusively that men are disproportionately awarded in picture books but I'm not sure we see that anywhere else in juvenile publishing. As for ratios of accepted manuscripts, how can we tell?

  22. Roger Sutton says:

    >And Jandy, welcome! May this be the first of many terrific books. Have you read Mary Downing Hahn's The Wind Blows Backwards ? Another beautifully stormy, literary romance.

  23. Jandy Nelson says:

    >Thank you so much!! Haven't read that book–love the title. Will check it out, can't get enough of stormy literary romance!


  24. Cindy Dobrez says:

    >I thought THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE was a shoe-in for the Morris…and have consoled myself that it must have been ineligible due to Nelson's published poetry…but perhaps not. The portrayal of the grieving process for the whole family was remarkable.

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