2010 National Book Awards

It seems appropriate for me to sit down on Thanksgiving and give thanks to the National Book Foundation for putting on a series of beautiful events in New York city last week.  First, the nominees in the young people’s literature category got to meet at the wonderful Books of Wonder children’s bookstore in Manhattan and do a little reading and Q&A, which was a great opportunity to meet some amazing authors, not to mention indie owner, Peter Glassman, and staff.  Here are the NBA nominees:

ONE CRAZY SUMMER, Rita Williams-Garcia

LOCKDOWN, Walter Dean Myers

DARK WATER, Laura McNeal

SHIP BREAKER, Paolo Bacigalupi

MOCKINGBIRD, Kathryn Erskine

I have read all of the books and was impressed with each one of them (I’ll be blogging about them in the near future).  On Tuesday morning, we all went to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library, for a teen press conference moderated by Willie Perdomo.  We each read excerpts, middle and high school students asked us questions about our books and about writing (some really great questions!), and we signed books and chatted — such fun!  Thanks to some very special teachers and librarians for making that happen.

That evening, all the NBA nominees attended a reception and medal ceremony at the New School.  I flashed back to school days in South Africa, Scotland, and Canada, where we received ribbons and medals, sort of an out-of-body-and-into-prior-body experience (except without the knee socks).  We also received leather planners and pens from Levenger.  Thanks, Levenger!  After that, we went to the auditorium where every nominee read for up to 5 minutes.  I loved hearing the variety of literature.  Fascinating stuff.  I got to sit next to Terrance Hayes, the other Penguin nominee, who won in the poetry category.  You rock, Terrance!  (I love his poetry, and I’m not just saying that because he’s a Penguin guy or because he won for his poetry collection entitled LIGHTHEAD or because he’s really nice; he simply writes great poems.)  On my other side was two time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey, of PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA, who is an absolute hoot, even though he did tell me very bluntly that Skippy the bush kangaroo (from my favorite TV show when I was a kid) is dead.  I mean, I kind of knew that, but still.

Wednesday night was the banquet at Cipriani Wall Street.  What a gala event!  I’ve been to some very fine parties in my childhood and young adulthood in the Foreign Service, even Queen Elizabeth II’s Garden Party, but I have to say, this one is a winner.  There’s something about all those tuxes and glittering gowns mingling in marbled column splendor.   And how fun to have the red carpet and paparazzi to pretend you’re famous!  Andy Borowitz led us through the evening with laughter where we got to see other funny folks like Jon Scieszka and Elmo (with Kevin Clash)!   They were honoring Joan Ganz Cooney as a founder of the Children’s Television Workshop.  Next up was Tom Wolfe, who received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  And after that, the book awards.

According to Andy Borowitz, we’re not supposed to say we’re humbled by receiving the award.  :o)  OK, so honored.  Very honored.  It’s a good thing my editor told me the day before to come up with remarks because otherwise I would’ve sounded like I did when I received the call informing me of my nomination from Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation.  It went something like this:  “Oh, wow! Oh.  Wow.  Thanks!  Wow.  Cool!”  Not a speech to be repeated.  Many thanks to the judges for this honor.  Then Terrance Hayes received his Poetry Award for LIGHTHEAD — woohoo!  And Patti Smith for Non-Fiction with JUST KIDS!  And Jaimy Gordon for LORD OF MISRULE!

It was a beautiful event and one for which I’ll be thankful for a long, long time.  Now, it’s off to make dinner!

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