About My Cybils Experience

As some of you know, I was lucky enough to be a part of the 2011 Cybils Young Adult Fiction panel. With our duties over [mostly; I have a zillion reviews to write], I thought I’d write up my thoughts on the entire Cybils process.

As I mentioned before, I was initially selected to be a second-round judge, meaning I would be working as we speak with Jackie, the YA Fiction panel’s fearless leader, on selecting a winner of the seven shortlisted books.

There was a bit of a change during the last week of October and I was asked to switch to a Round 1 judge. I, obviously, accepted the change. And the craziness BEGAN.

For our category, 196 books were nominated. While I wasn’t required to read ALL of them by any means, I did need to read roughly 70 books by Christmas (roughly 9 weeks, or 8ish books per week). I had already read 8 of the titles, so that was a bit of help, but not much. So I read.

I read a lot.

Starting late had both good and bad effects. The bad was the fact I was grossly behind my fellow panelists. They were starting to clear the 20, 30 and 40 books read mark by that time. It was hard not to feel like I was bringing down the group. The good, though, was I mostly read only amazing, please-everyone-read-this books. With all 6 panelist being well ahead of me, I read a lot of their shortlisted books. So that was great.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the books that started to pour in. I know it sounds wonderful – and it was. BUT. There was a point, somewhere in mid-December when I would get another book and almost be horrified by it. Mostly because my to-read stack was looking like this:

Between books from the library and the publishers, this was my to-read stack.

Nearly every book with the spine out (except for the very top right stack) was a book for Cybils. I also had a stack behind these. And this was taken on Thanksgiving. By the end of it all I had a long row on the floor. It was overwhelming, truth be told.

[This is probably an excellent time to thank all the publishers, authors and, of course, the awesome public librarians in my area that provided books to me and the other panelists. I am so very grateful for all the help and support. Esp. since I live in Alaska.]

I also read a fair number of ebooks from the public library and I was finally able to confirm that I am a slower reader of ebooks than I am of regular books. True story.

When all was said and done, on Dec. 26, I had read 62 books + 2 rereads. Not quite 70, but I was pretty proud of myself. All said, I read about 18,200 words. Every. Single. One of them.

I would never, ever have made it through each page without my awesome fellow panelists, who welcomed me with open arms and didn’t mind my beginner questions and butting into conversations that had been going for weeks. Jackie, Carrie, Kelly, Paula, Jordyn and Leila: you are awesome. And I thank you. (I also want to thank Sheila, who made sure everything was square for us throughout the madness.)

For our panel, we had a Google group to exchange our thoughts/rants/joys about whatever book we were reading. I’m not sure I’ve ever had my life surrounded by books quite as much as I did for those 9 weeks. It was glorious. It changed how I read and, probably, how I will review books. The 6 women on the panel were my allies and I loved getting about 40 emails from them a day (this number is an understatement, actually).

The Cybils crew tries to warn you from the time you apply to be a panelist or judge about how much work is involved in this endeavor. Really, they do. But it’s easy to think “yeah, but it’s reading! how much work can that be?!?”

A lot.

But, for me, worth every minute. (And every late Christmas present laden with apology for being so late. If I get the honor to do this again I will be much better prepared! I swear it!)(And with my DVR. The DVR was holding me back!)

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2 responses to “About My Cybils Experience

  1. The amount of reading you did was amazing. I cannot even begin to imagine how you kept them all straight. Impressive!

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