Monday, October 17, 2011

"No Award For You! Go!"

Wouldn't this just make you sick? You get a phone call from the National Book Awards saying your novel is nominated in the Young People Literature category. You start dreaming big. Then you get a second phone call saying OOPS, we got the name wrong. You're not nominated after all.

That's what happened to Lauren Myracle last week with the announcement of the National Book Awards nominees. You see Myracle wrote a book entitled Shine. The NBA nominated a book by Franny Billingsley is entitled Chime. Somebody thought they heard Shine when it was really Chime. Nobody caught the mistake until they heard the nominees listed on the radio. And then somebody got the fun job of calling Myracle and telling her the news. Read the details here via Publisher's Weekly.

People commenting on the story bring up a good point: it never occurred to anybody at the NBA to put the author's name with the title? No. I was once involved in a situation where I read the wrong name at an awards ceremony, and I have a pretty good idea of what happened. Somebody got in a hurry and didn't take the time to write the titles and authors down. In situations like this, there's no substitute for a pen and a piece of paper.

I don't know for sure what happened in this case, but what typically happens behind the scenes at things like this is a list of possible winners gets printed, and then as nominations are announced somebody puts a star, or an asterisk, or a check mark (or in the case of one incident I was in, they write down the number of what place they won, only to mark them through and write another number) next to the title on the printout. It's a noisy, confusion-filled environment with people running around and almost all of them thinking this is easy. Somebody heard "Shine" when it was really "Chime" and there you are.

Since my unfortunate experience, I have learned to be prepared for this sort of thing. I bring a legal pad and pen to live announcer events, and when the winners are called out to me, I write them down in my own handwriting, asking for the name again, asking for spelling when needed (was that Miss Iowa, or Miss Idaho?) and then running through it slowly before a microphone gets turned on, or in this case a phone call gets made.

This is why, like him or not, Ryan Seacrest and other talent show hosts have an enormously pressure-packed job on live TV announcing winners on "American Idol" and its imitators. He can't carry a legal pad and look like me in reading glasses with my finger holding an earpiece in my ear. He has to look like Ryan Seacrest and read it from a card or a Teleprompter (which can freeze and crash on the air). And during those not-just-pregnant-but-going-into-labor pauses while we wait for the name to be announced, the director is on the intercom making sure he and his crew know who is who.

"Who's our winner? Repeat. Which one is Candy? The blonde? The one on the right? Are you sure? OK, camera two you're one the blonde on the right. Zoom in tight on my cue. Again, the winner is the blonde girl on the right."

Maybe the National Book Awards should hire Ryan Seacrest to make their phone calls.

[Blogger's note: The spellchecker on Blogspot thinks "blonde" is spelled b-l-o-n-d.]

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