Dear Author

sandy brehl guest post

Dear Author Friend,

I’ve been sharing thoughts about serving as a CYBILS AWARDS Panelist volunteer in some recent letters to bloggers, librarians, and others who are deeply invested in quality books for young readers. I hope that some of those discussions are traveling among friends and colleagues in those groups. Thinking about those peer groups made me realize I was missing a huge opportunity to reach out to THE ideal candidates for volunteering—AUTHORS!  Who better to turn to when looking for people involved in children’s books, folks who read widely, care deeply, and encourage reading in every way.

So, I thought of you immediately. My first experience as a Cybils Awards panelist in 2016 grew from my picture book blog. By then I was a traditionally published poet and middle grade author as well. In the ensuing years I’ve served in categories of picture books (both fiction and nonfiction), poetry, verse novels, and nonfiction for elementary and middle grades. There are categories for every interest. When submitting an application for volunteering to serve as a panelist, you’ll be asked to indicate THREE potential categories of interest for reading and evaluating the nominated books.

First, you’ll be reading loads of books in the category, so of course you should choose an area of books that you enjoy and with which you are quite familiar. That can include the category in which you write, if you don’t have a book published during the eligible period in that category. There are certainly others for which you could serve. You will be asked to provide links to pieces you have written about particular titles within the categories for which you are volunteering. These could be blog posts, interviews, articles, reviews on commercial sites or Goodreads, or podcasts, Youtube posts, or even webinar sessions you’ve led/taught.

Wow, just writing that list of your public outreach/outlets spotlights the untapped talent and expertise authors have to contribute to the conversations (and debates) that lead to lists of finalists and winners in the annual CYBILS AWARDS. This is especially true for authors who write nonfiction, in picture book format or for older readers. I know firsthand how much time and effort are invested in research that shapes the best of informative, entertaining, readable, run-to-tell-someone-about-this books. So much of what is discovered in the process of research never even makes the page, and yet every ounce of background forms the foundation for the discriminating and purposeful choices made by the authors of those astonishing books. Who better to recognize and appreciate that on the page than authors who do similar work?

Here’s a bonus benefit: The logos and badges created for use by CYBILS panelists are delightful, fun, and appealing. Adding those images to my platforms allows me to celebrate being in such great company with people who read, respect, and recommend literature for youth. They have a bling store, too, that means you can display a Cybils Awards mug or wear a logo-adorned Tee-shirt while knowing the proceeds go to sustaining this valuable nonprofit group.

When the call goes out for volunteer panelists for 2022 titles/categories, weigh your willingness to spend some extra hours reading, thinking about, discussing, and shaping the decisions about finalist lists in categories you know well. I and everyone who participated in the past was once a beginner. Consider this a personal invitation to join that challenge and experience the fun!

signoff SB

“A writer feels happy when the words connect with the reader’s heart.”
 Avijeet Das