I keep waiting for the guys to complain about lack of equality! The William C. Morris YA Debut Award is one of the newest awards given to writers by Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association. I was fortunate enough to serve on the committee that selected A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce to receive the very first medal in 2009. I love being on “firsts” because I feel like the first committee sets the standard for those that follow. Recently I realized that part of that standard seems to be women writers win! The second award in 2010, went to the Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan, and this year’s winner was….can you guess? A third woman! The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston was honored. Not only have the winners been women, but for 2011 and 2010 all of the finalists were women. Of the fifteen books honored as finalists (from which 3 medal winners have been selected) only one book has been written by a man! Although I feel like singing a few bars of “Anything You Do, I Can Do Better,” I’ll restrain myself. I like to think that women writers put a lot more effort into their work, often viewing writing as a passion more than a business. Maybe this makes us better writers, at least for debut books? I don’t know how long this trend will last but I’ll enjoy the glory of women while I can. I think Bill Morris would like the fact that women writers are doing so well.
Who was William C. Morris and why does he have an award named for him? The award’s namesake was an influential innovator in the publishing world and an enthusiastic marketer of books for children and young adults. Born in Eagle Pass, Texas, Bill spent his entire career working for HarperCollins Children’s Book. I was fortunate to know Bill, as he attended virtually every conference held by the Texas Library Association, never missing a chance to return to Texas. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens. Writers, librarians, teachers, and publishing professionals were Bill’s family and he died leaving no survivors but plenty of heirs. His generosity included bequests to several library organizations, allowing awards, like the Morris YA Debut Award, and other programs to encourage writing and reading by and for young adults. As a man working with librarians and teachers, fields dominated by women, Bill was a gentle, kind soul, and I feel certain that he continues to cheer the ladies on. We’ve done him proud!
Jeanette Larson is a “retired” librarian who is working hard as a freelance writer, trainer, and consultant. Her first book for young people, written with and illustrated by Adrienne Yorinks, is Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas published by Charlesbridge. Learn more about Jeanette and her work at www.jeanettelarson.com.