Just saying here that all this is my own opinion and has nothing to do with what the AA judging panel thinks or is deciding! And no, you will not hear from me here any juicy gossip about what we're discussing or who thinks what. This is just about what it's like to be a first-time judge, with bits about the CBCAs.
Judging the Aurealis Awards has been a fascinating experience so far. When I haven't been wrestling with the difficulties of making changes in the spreadsheet I've been reading the submissions for the children's section so far.
It's a mixture, so far, of middle-grade, junior and YA that has probably also been entered for the children's AND fantasy sections to give it a better chance.
I've been finding this all a learning process - there are criteria, of course, including a "yes, but is it really suitable for children of this age?" field in the spreadsheet, but so far, we haven't gone into whether or not books we consider aren't really for younger readers should be judged. And then there's one writer whose books read like YA but are also read by many, many primary school children. Middle grade? I think so. Another whose characters are a bit older than the target audience, but whose book definitely IS middle grade.
Doing this, though, I've come to see the wisdom of dividing into sections. In the CBCA Awards, all the judges have to read ALL the books, totalling in the hundreds. It usually works because the judges are mostly high-profile teacher-librarians who can't stop for a minute and get bored if they have five minutes' break. I've interviewed two on this web site, Miffy Farquharson and Tehani Wessely, and both say they'd do it again without hesitation.
To be honest, I don't think I could. I don't have the knowledge of everything from picture books to literary novels that espouse "beautiful writing" at the expense of story and character. I have a good idea of what my own students enjoy and why, but that's all. And I don't have the time. I really don't. Apart from class preparation and such, reading hundreds of books by other people wouldn't leave time for my own writing. It's also why I limit the number of slush stories I read for ASIM.
But yesterday, when the Little Bookroom sent out a survey from the CBCA on how people feel about the current structure of the awards, and one of the questions was about whether the judging should be split into sections I said that it works for the Aurealis Awards and would give judges the time to focus on the area they know most about instead of trying to judge absolutely everything.
It was an interesting survey that gave me the chance to have my say on a lot of things I've been thinking for years. Politely, of course.
It will be good to see whether anything comes out of it.