Thursday, November 3, 2011

The National Book Foundation, Lauren Myracle, and Book People in General

Anyone who keeps up with the book world, and especially with young adult books, recalls the enormous media hubbub last month surrounding the nomination--and then, un-nomination--of author Lauren Myracle's book, Shine for the National Book Award. I don't have anything new to add to that story. Ms. Myracle was the absolute picture of grace and class in her response to the whole mess. And the National Book Foundation, who decides the nominees and winners of the award, were justifiably raked over the coals by pretty much every media outlet and book industry publication currently in existence on Earth.

People were pretty angry about the whole thing. My own thinking is that the response had a lot to do with people's general frustration with institutions that seem to feel that "they" know what's best for everybody else, that do as they please no matter how badly they treat people, and etc. People are grumpy, generally speaking, and something like this can really set them off.

Me, for example. I sent a really ornery email to the general email address of the National Book Foundation, telling them that they all ought to take a hike, more or less. I told them that "they" were the reason that there was so much ill will toward New York and its snottiness regarding the book world. Or something along those lines.

In any event, I vented, and felt a little better. Although, again, I sent the email to the organization's general email address. I am no one of any importance, and I certainly didn't expect any kind of response from this bunch of superior know-it-alls.

So, a couple of days later I get an email from the National Book Foundation. The email isn't a form letter. And it's not simply a "Reply" to my email.

Here's the text in full.

"Dear Mr. Suttles,

Thank you for your note. When this mistake occurred, we had good intentions in trying to develop a solution that would benefit everyone concerned but in implementing it, I only made matters worse. We didn't intend to hurt anyone, and I have apologized to Lauren and I apologize to you. Please don't let one unfortunate mistake on our part sour you on an entire organization. We also do good things, and try our best. We made a mistake.


Harold Augenbraum
Executive Director
National Book Foundation"

The Executive Director sent me a response. Imagine sending an email complaint to a large company or, God forbid, an elected official. If you're lucky, you may get a form letter response six months later from the company. Any response from an elected official is likely to be written by an unpaid intern. Also, try to imagine a corporate CEO or elected official coming right out and saying that he or she made a mistake, AND the he or she actually made things worse in trying to correct that mistake. It isn't likely.

As a book person, I'm still sore at the NBF for their goof. Still, in these times when public figures will fight to the death to keep from admitting a mistake of any kind, it's good to see the book people at the NBF stepping up to the plate and at least having the courage to admit that they made an error.

Book People.

Lauren Myracle is a New York Times Bestselling author of numerous young adult titles. She is also the sister of Atlanta author Susan Rebecca White, whose books are well worth a look.


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