The last couple of weeks, I've been doing much of my kidlitosphere work behind the scenes selecting the judges for this year's Cybils awards. I'm very excited to introduce the panels for Fiction Picture Books, and we're going to have a great time sorting through over two hundred expected nominations to bring you the best titles. Get in your nominations and make us work for it!
I just wanted to say that if you weren't selected this year as a Cybils judge, don't take it personally. Please understand that the category chairs balance a lot of factors in putting together panels that can represent different perspectives and experience. Many times we were passing on former judges to let someone new have a chance. Other conversations had us comparing how many librarians versus authors we had in a category. We might "give up" an experienced candidate to other category that needed more institutional knowledge. A blogger with tons of reviews might balance a less prolific blogger. An impassioned statement of why a candidate wanted to participate in the Cybils might trump their less passionate reviewing. Or not. In putting together panels we're looking for a mix of experience levels, different perspectives, blogging frequency, community participation, thoughtful reviewing, positive referrals, and application statements. Even the state where you live can become a tie-breaker.
And all these factors don't even getting into the various preferences of the category chairs. For me, an enthusiastic statement on the application can be more compelling than in-depth reviews. The Young Adult category, on the other hand, may pass on a candidate that uses a lot of jacket-flap copy. Some of us look first to the "kidlit-related actives" part of the application, while others are noting the Twitter handle.
So while we certainly applaud all this year's judges, not being selected isn't a value judgement. Looking ahead, if I were to give any advice, I'd suggest to apply early in the process, use the two discussion questions to tell us about yourself, make sure you submit sample posts that are relevant and show off some level of book analysis. If you didn't make the Cybils judging, please try again next year. And certainly participate in Cybils 2014 by nominating your favorite titles.