As you may know, the Whitney Awards will be announced March 22nd after the 5th Annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference.
As you may also know, the Whitney finalists were announced January 15. While the books were nominated by readers, the academy that votes on the finalists is comprised of slew of industry professionals, including publishers, editors, book reviewers, independent book store owners, and the members of the LDS writing guild, LDStorymakers. (Among others. I'm probably missing some. Regardless, there are a lot of members of the Academy.)
During the months leading up to the announcement of the finalists, I heard some people worrying aloud that the voting would end up being a popularity contest, that people would vote without having read the books and therefore without knowing which really were the better books and hence the most deserving of the awards.
Over the last few weeks, I've seen something that has brushed away any fears I have about that, at least if the LDStorymakers are any indication. They've blown me out of the water with how eager they all are to be informed voters.
For nearly a month now, the e-mail list we're on has consisted of almost daily posts about finding, borrowing, and trading finalists' books. I'll often see messages saying, "I have finished the following titles. If anyone needs to borrow them, let me know," or "I just finished so-and-so's copy of ***. Who's up next for it? I'll bring it to you."
People have driven half an hour or more out of their way to drop off and pick up books for one another. Other titles have been mailed across the country from one author to another, and there are lists of who gets which book next.
It's a reading frenzy!
Almost as impressive as all the reading is the fact that no one is discussing what they thought of the books beyond vague references like, "I'm finding a lot of great books," or "I'm not sure who I'll vote for in such-and-such category." It's as if everyone has a silent but mutual agreement not to publicly influence one another's votes.
I've been impressed and inspired at the cooperation, the excitement, and the passion they all have for the Whitney program. It's gotten me more motivated to read as many of the finalists as I can possibly squeeze in until my ballot is due.
I've got a stack of five books right now waiting for me to get to them. As soon as I get my word count in for the day, you know where I'm headed.
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