My life in the world of books has been decidedly busy as of late – if only there were enough hours in the day to read and write as much as I want. I worked a book signing with Senator George McGovern last week, I finally got the new warwicks.com up and running, and finished reading Ron Carlson’s forthcoming The Signal, The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry, and Tom Rob Smith’s followup to Child 44, The Secret Speech, but am just mid-review on all three. Yet my best guess is that I’ll be taking a few weeks off from posting regular reviews on the Catapult, for a couple of reasons. I mean, it is March Madness, after all. ‘Nuff said, no?
A more interesting (and, frankly, more plausible) reason for this semi-hiatus is that I have been selected for the judging panel of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. This is part of a joint partnership between Amazon.com, Publishers Weekly, and Penguin Putnam in which individuals submit their unpublished fiction manuscripts for award consideration. The manuscript deemed the most worthy (and most readable) will be declared The Winner, the author will be awarded a healthy publishing contract, and Penguin will make their manuscript into a real, live book. I am on the quarterfinal panel – comprised of reviewers from Publishers Weekly – who will read through and review the manuscripts, selecting the best to move on to the semi finals. I have been sent five manuscripts and have until March 30 to read and review as many as I can – not leaving much time for reading other things, nor reviewing other books for this site, let alone watching the Tournament. Not an entirely unhappy prospect, of course, with the exception of the lack of basketball watching, as it is a great opportunity for me to hone my skills a bit in the real world. Here is the layout of the process, culled from Amazon’s contest rules:
Amazon Editors narrow the field of entries to 500 Quarterfinalists. Publishers Weekly will then read the Quarterfinalists’ full manuscripts to rate and review them based on five Judging Criteria: originality of idea, plot, prose/writing style, character development, and overall strength (This is what I do). Then Penguin Editors will select 100 Semi-Finalists and then read each Semi-Finalist’s manuscript, and using the Judging Criteria will select three Entries from the 100 as Finalists. Amazon customers will then read excerpts and vote on the three finalists to select the winner who will be announced on May 22, 2009. During the Finals, an Expert Panel (Sue Monk Kidd and Sue Grafton are headliners) will weigh in with their comments on the three finalists’ manuscripts for customers to consider while voting.
Anyway, this is a huge opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to it. The fun part is that there is far from any guarantee that whatever I am assigned will be any good. Can’t wait.