Inside Scoop on the Newbery Medal

On Wednesday, we had a visit from Laura Amos, a current committee member for the Newbery award.  While she couldn’t divulge anything about upcoming contenders for the 2012 award, she did give us insider information on what it’s like to serve on the Newbery selection committee.


She first went over the history of the Newbery.  Which you can read here.  The founder of the Newbery, Frederic G. Melcher, was ahead of his time when he demanded that the selection of the winner be kept a total secret until the official announcement.  The secrecy has been great for publicity and creates excitement and speculation each year.

The measures to maintain secrecy were pretty fun to hear about.  The committee is made of 15 members who meet 4 times in person throughout the year.  The room that they meet in is never used and kept locked other than the 4 times they meet.  I couldn’t help but picture a Mission Impossible style sneak in to plant a hidden microphone so you could hear their discussion and the winner.  Hehe!

You have to be either nominated or appointed to the Newbery committee and they have a new rule that you can only serve once every 4 years.  This was done to encourage more panel variety and to bring in fresh faces.

The committee reads books throughout the year (Amos said she’s gotten boxes of 30 books sent to her house from publishers!) and on the 1st of every month they can send “recommendations” to other committee members.  Once a recommendation is made, all 15 members have to read the book.  The final day for recommendations is December 31 of that year.  When they meet to discuss and vote on the winner, it starts on a Friday morning and they must have a winner and press release prepared by 6:15am Sunday morning.  It is often difficult to get 15 people to agree, and they often have to vote, discuss, vote again, discuss, vote again, discuss, etc.

The runners-up were given the official title of Newbery Honor books in 1971.  And it is not required to name any Honor books each year.  It is up to the committee.

Cool bit of Trivia:
In 1953, the Newbery Medal Winner was Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark.  The runner up was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.  It’s rumored that someone on the committee didn’t like E.B. White and didn’t want him to win.

It was a really interesting lecture, and I’m probably leaving a ton out.  But if you have any questions, ask me!  I might have heard the answer!

For Writers:

I highly recommend following the SCBWI blog.  Every Friday, Alice Pope posts interesting news articles related to publishing and children’s lit.  I always find them fascinating and feel more up to date in the biz because of it.

A sampling of articles from this week:

Why You Should Own Your Domain Name (GalleyCat)
Having an online presence is critical for writers to market their work. In a recent blog post, author John Scalzi urged writers to purchase their own domain name online.
Tablet, E-reader Owners Also Print Junkies (MediaPost)
People who are heavy print magazine and newspaper readers might seem like the last ones to embrace gadgets like tablets and e-readers. But new research from Gfk MRI shows tablet owners are 66% more likely than the average U.S. adult to be big print magazine consumers and 54% more likely to be heavy print newspaper readers. Similarly, e-reader owners are 23% more likely to be print magazine enthusiasts and 63% more likely to get newsprint on their hands.  
Cherish the Book Publishers—You’ll Miss Them When They’re Gone (WSJ)
The Klondikers of digital publishing are rushing to stake their claims, inspired by tales of the gold to be found in the Kindle hills. A few pioneering prospectors have indeed struck it rich with light entertainments, most famously Amanda Hocking, who is a sort of Tolkien for our times (if Tolkien had been an avid fan of “Star Wars” instead of an eminent scholar of “Beowulf”). Her self-published e-books racked up so many sales over the past year that St. Martin’s Press recently signed her for some $2 million.

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