Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Speaking of awards...

Uh oh
Waiting on
Waiting on Sunday
Waiting on Sunday to land
--Tori Amos, "Spring Haze"

I hadn't even realized until a few days ago that this coming Sunday around 1PM central time, the phone calls will begin. The Romance Writers of America staff will call the finalists for the Rita Awards*, which is supposed to be our industry's equivalent to the Oscars(TM). The finalists dress up in gowns, go to a lavish ceremony, get treated like a big shot for months and try not to cry onstage (or try to look like they're trying not to cry). That's as far as the comparison goes for me.

According to romance novelist Barbara Samuel, Sunday is nervous-making time.

And believe me, RITA day, as we fondly call it, is a day when cyberspace and telephone lines are afire. None of us get much work done. I think it’s one of the most exciting days of the year and I still cry when a friend who has been aching for that nod calls me screaming, or I read on an email loop that book I adored has made the lists.

By the end of the day, bitter tears are sometimes spilled, too. Because this matters desperately to us—making the RITA finals has meaning and power. Trust me when I say that it might feel great to make other favorites lists, but we don’t weep over not making them.

I can't imagine crying over not finaling for a Rita, or any award for that matter.

Writing-related things that could make me cry:
  • Having a contract canceled (hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure I'd cry, assuming the three bottles of whiskey didn't dehydrate all the tears out of my ducts)
  • Being orphaned (no, wait, that just made me stand there holding the phone with a blank look on my face for about ten minutes)
  • Getting a bad review (no, wait, that just made me go -phhbt!-)
  • Losing a sale because the eager editor who wanted desperately to buy the book was vetoed by higher-ups (who didn't actually read it) who thought it sounded like another book already out there, a book I'd read specifically to make sure mine was nothing like it (no, wait, that just made me throw things)
To me, getting published is the award. Any contest win is just a nice bonus. Perhaps I haven't been around long enough, or haven't raised my measurement of success to the point where awards matter. I don't think they matter to readers.

Do you care if a book has won an award? Which ones make a difference to you? The Pulitzer? NBA? Hugo? Nebula? Edgar? What about movies--do you try to see every Oscar(TM)-nominated film each year?

*which, by yesterday's definition, is actually a contest

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Oscar nominations matter to me -- they steer me toward good movies I might not otherwise see. (Less so with the awards themselves -- I can usually find another film I would have prefered to win than the actual winner.)

I'm interested in hearing who won the Pulitzers, but it's never spurred me to read anything.

If I were shopping for a children's book, a Newberry Award sticker would give me confidence I was picking up something good.

Eisner Awards sometimes steer me toward comics I haven't yet tried.

And I like hearing about the Nobel Prizes, but I don't think they've ever affected my buying of viewing habits. I could be wrong -- but if one did, it would actually be the interview conducted in the wake of the award that sold the book to me, rather than the fact of the award itself.

More than anything, I think that's what awards are -- another chance to talk about your work, and another reason for people to ask. Which isn't a bad prize, to be honest.

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 3/21/2007 10:22 AM

I surf IMDB enough that I already have an opinion of what films I want to see, though an Oscar nomination will lead me to reconsider. I don't remember the last time I saw a file before it was nominated.

Like Rob, I'll take notice of children's book awards like Newberry, but other book awards like Pulitzer or Nebula rarely lead me to seek out a book. If I look at anything, it will be critics' lists.

Posted by: Blogger Andrew at 3/21/2007 10:41 AM

I think the Oscars definitely influence me. If nothing else, I make sure I eventually watch every nominee for Best Writing. But I also go by the end-of-year lists in screenwriting magazines. Right now I'm working on 2003.

The Pulitzers have only affected me on a retroactive basis, when I've rejoiced over a book I loved long before it was famous (Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Life of Pi) or shaken my head at books I hated and couldn't finish at gunpoint (Independence Day).

I could give a possum's patootie about the Nebulas or Hugos. I know too much about how they're chosen. Sausage factory.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 3/21/2007 3:45 PM

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