Category Archives: The Third Degree

The Third Degree with YA Book Prize Judge Imogen Russell-Williams

I am extremely happy to welcome Imogen Russell-Williams to TeenLibrarian today to discuss The YA Book Prize

Would you like to introduce yourself to the audience and let us know how you got to be involved with the YA Book Prize?

Hi audience! I’ve been a massive children’s literature and YA geek enthusiast since I was a child myself, and am now lucky enough to do some reviewing and other journalism on kids’ books for the Guardian Books Blog and the Metro. The Bookseller Children’s Editor approached me because I’m very interested in YA literature, especially YA literature published in the UK, and I know quite a bit about it.

There are 10 judges in all how were you all selected and for how long will you all hold your positions as judges?

We were all selected in the same way – on the basis of being experts in YA fiction – but we all have different kinds of expertise – in book-buying, reviewing, writing, etc. The idea was to get a really diverse mixture of knowledgeable judges to weigh up the shortlist, and we’ll be judges just for this year (although the prize will continue.)

The YA Book Prize is the latest and at present only (I think) national Award for UK (& Irish) YA novels, how did the award come about?

The Bookseller ran a feature about current prizes for children’s literature, and realised that since the winding up of the Booktrust Teen prize, there was no UK award that focused specifically on books for teenagers. After that, they heard from some indie booksellers that people were keen to see an award focusing on YA books – and the rest is history!

Currently Movellas is the primary sponsor of the Award, how did that partnership come about?

The Bookseller approached Movellas to see if they’d be interested in sponsoring the award. They felt Movellas would be a good fit for this prize, since they’re at the cutting edge of how teenagers create and consume fiction (especially fanfiction!) and were delighted when they agreed.

How are YA titles selected? Is there a nomination process, or are all YA novels published in the UK eligible for the Prize?

There’s no nomination process, no – publishers were simply invited to submit up to six titles that meet the ‘published in the UK’ criteria and were definitely YA novels.

Who is involved in the short list selection?

An eight-strong Bookseller committee narrowed down the submissions (almost a hundred titles) to the current short-list of ten, which were then passed on to the judges.

Your job (along with the other judges) to select the overall winner is no easy task, what criteria are used to make the final choice?

Judging is always highly subjective (although I’d love to say we’re all totally objective and omniscient!) and it really comes down to what each judge really rates in a book. I’m on the look-out for superb writing, enthralling plotting, and engaging but nuanced characters (I don’t have to like a character, but I do want to be deeply interested in what will happen to him or her.) I also have a particular interest in diversity – putting people front and centre who aren’t just ‘the usual suspects’.

There has been a big social media push to publicise the Award and the short-listed titles, has it been successful in involving readers in the discussion of the titles?

The prize’s Twitter account @yabookprize has 1,387 followers, and the successive #Team(BookName) hashtags have encouraged readers to champion their favourites (in a really nice, positive, generous-spirited way). The YA Book Prize is also active on Tumblr and Facebook, so yes, I think it has been!

#TeamSalvage
#TeamSayHerName
#TeamEllaGrey
#TeamHalfBad
#TeamOnlyEverYours
#TeamLobsters
#TeamFindingaVoice
#TeamGoose
#TeamTrouble
#TeamGhostsofHeaven