The call for Cybils panelists has gone out, and anyone who has a website where children's books are reviewed is welcome to apply! If you are unfamiliar with the Cybils, the jist of it is that there are many categories of books (including middle grade speculative fiction, formerly middle grade science fiction and fantasy), and during the nomination period, everyone in the world is welcome to nominate their favorite books in each category. Then comes the first round of judging, in which panelists read all (as far as is possible) the books nominated and come up with shortlists, and then comes the second round, in which a different set of panelists reads the shortlists and comes up with a winner.
So in essence, the first round involves lots and lots of reading, and lots of emails exchanged with co-panelists, and the second round slightly less of each, but perhaps more intense. Books are picked on the basis of good writing and lots of appeal for the target audience.
Here are five reasons why you might want to apply to be a Cybils judge in middle grade speculative fiction!
1. The books are really really good this year. I just scrolled through the Kirkus reviews back to October 16 (the beginning of this year's eligibility period) and there are about thirty mg spec fic books with stars (and others to which I'd have given stars). And I just went through my own list o books read so far, and came up with thirty (!) books I'd be happy to see on the final short list of seven. Good books means good reading, and good, passionate discussion.
2. It makes fall a lot more fun when you are a first round panelist. I love the excitement of the nomination period, the fun of marking books read in the spreadsheet, the wild placing of library hold requests and the packages that arrive full of books not obtainable through the library. I love having a forum in which I can honestly share with no holding back what I really think about books.
3. It will make you really really knowledgeable about the middle grade spec. fic. books of the past year. You will be able to come up with a book for anyone! It is something you can put on your resume. It will bring you to the attention of authors and publishers.
4. You will make new blogging friends and quite possibly be inspired to blog more.
5. I'm the category organizer for middle grade speculative fiction, which means assembling the panels is part of my job, so this reason why you should apply is somewhat selfish. I want lots and lots of people to apply so that I can have new participants along with reliable veterans, and so that the panels can have lots of different view points represented. I take up one of the seven available slots in the first round, but that still leaves six, and five more for the second round....
If you still have doubts, let me reassure you that it is less work than you might think!
There will probably be around 150 books nominated in MG Spec Fic. This might seem like a lot of books to read, but remember, you'll probably have read a fair number of them already (if you haven't, you must not like MG spec fic, so you wouldn't be applying). Also each book only Has to be read by 2 panelists, and since I plan to read all the books, that takes pressure of others. And also if it is clear to you before finishing a book that you could not support it being shortlisted, you don't have to finish it but can still mark it as read. Though the nominating period ends October 15, you can start reading just as soon as you get the invitation email from me in mid September, giving you three and half months for reading (the shortlists must be assembled by the end of December). On the other hand, if you are having a baby, starting a new job, planning on spending the month of December snowbound with no internet access, or moving house this fall, the second round might be a better fit for you!
Things that I look for when gathering panelists:
Obviously, I really want people who know and love MG Spec Fic; this is the most important thing to demonstrate when you apply! (Do not include a link to a review in which you say "I don't really like middle grade fiction, but I liked this book" or some such, which really has happened a few times in the past). I want a mix of parents, educators, librarians, and authors. I want a range of viewpoints. And I want panelists who are able to think clearly (at least most of the time, she says, looking at self) and critically about what makes for a good mg spec fic book.
So here's the direct link to the application form; please apply!
If you are on the fence about applying, please feel free to email me at charlotteslibrary at gmail.com with any questions or concerns!