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the carnegie co-author conundrum

I was glad to spot Oliver and the Seawigs on this year's Carnegie Medal nomination list, but something made me do a double-take on the way it was written:

Edit: They've CHANGED the listings! Hurrah!

Now, I feel uncomfortable writing about awards. Partly because they're someone else's business; other people can give awards to anyone they like. Partly because I don't spend a lot of time researching the exact particulars of each award because I'm too busy trying to make good books, and good books that earn enough money to let me keep doing this job. So I'm no expert on the Carnegie and Greenaway medals. But these awards are set forward as the most important of the book prizes and picked up the most by the media, so when I spot something that seems amiss, I feel I need to ask questions, even if they don't directly benefit my own prospects.

Question: Why would the Carnegie list a highly illustrated book with just the writer's name and not the illustrator's name?

Answer (Answered by awards judge @mattlibrarian): Because of the eligibility criteria, the book must be written by a single author:

So books with two writers are out. And books with a writer and an illustrator are eligible, but only if the illustrator remains uncredited.

My publisher and agent didn't know about this nomination listing in advance, and it's causing all sorts of stir. They're asking, should we insist that I'm a a co-author and pull our book out of the running? (I blogged about this co-author business very recently!) Or should we leave it there on the list and pretend I'm not a co-author, like many other illustrators have had to pretend in the past? The book isn't a whole book without the pictures; they're integral to the story.

I'm fine with Oliver and the Seawigs not being nominated for the Greenaway Award, that's the personal taste of the judges, and whether they thought it met the criteria. I wouldn't expect Seawigs to win against full-illustrated picture books; there are too many words in the book to give space for lavish pictures. Compare this page of Oliver and the Seawigs...

... to a wordless page in There's a Shark in the Bath:

Or a page in Jim Field's There's a Lion in my Cornflakes:

Both of the picture books have SO much more room to show off blazing technical skill and overwhelm the reader with pure imagery that makes more visceral impact than the text. (And the Greenaway medal is supposed to be a pure illustration award.) Oliver and the Seawigs doesn't work exactly like that; it's more of an equal partner to a longer text. Occasionally it has moments when the imagery speaks more loudly than the text:

But we also have page with no pictures at all. Compare this to Philip's Carnegie-winning novel, Here Lies Arthur, which is pure text. Philip's a wizard at creating mental word pictures, and he has plenty of room for long descriptive passages:

Or his famous opening lines to Mortal Engines:

Philip CAN write in a way that needs no pictures. But he chose not to write that way for Oliver and the Seawigs because we were trying to do something very different. 'They had met on the top of Mount Everest' is short and says very little; that's a job for the picture to do.

So the Carnegie judging process could go two ways:

1. Oliver and the Seawigs and other highly illustrated chapter books could be read for words alone.
'They met on the top of Mount Everest' with no picture is not going to knock off anyone's socks or be humourous in any way. The 'meh' of the mountain goat doesn't even make sense by itself.

2. The judges take the illustrations into account when they judge the quality of the story, but any award given would be to Philip alone, listed that way in the press release. It would be up to Philip to give me credit, and the prize money situation would be awkward.

Neither of these two options seem ideal. I'm not just asking for our books, but for other writers and illustrators, too.

Why does it even matter?

We don't really have a word for these kinds of books, but in the USA, they call them 'Middle Grade' books, to distinguish from 'Young Adult'. Philip and I think these books are absolutely vital to keeping kids reading; we're losing a lot of readers between picture books and books with no pictures at all. We watched Philip's son start reading Oliver and the Seawigs and he kept going until he got to the first page without a picture, and that's when he put it down. A page with no pictures at all can be completely daunting to a non-bookworm. This is a feeling a lot of book lovers can't even imagine, and it's book lovers who judge these sorts of prizes.

Two things I wish would happen:

1. The Carnegie would be opened to more than one author, to co-authors.
That would allow proper recognition for illustrators as co-authors, as well as close writing partnerships. (Why should authors have to be solitary for a book to be good?)

2. There would be a third prize created for these 'Middle Grade' books. There would be allowances made for stories that might appeal to younger readers, and for illustrations to play a major part in the storytelling process. A lot of kids who can read a bit more text than they find in picture books aren't quite ready for the very grown-up themes of recent Carnegie winners. You don't go straight from reading This is Not My Hat to The Bunker Diaries. Prize money would be spread equally between the awards, to show these books are all important.

Why would people nominate a book they didn't think stood a chance of winning? If Seawigs is judged by words alone, it won't win. If it's judged as a whole, it will be a blow to the whole illustrator-as-co-author argument.

I did get a tweet from the organisers, CILIP, on the subject:

And Philip's made his stance clear enough. (Can I say how much I love working with my co-author?)

So what should we DO? Pull out of the award? Stay in? I know it's only the long list, not the short list, and I'm tempted to stay in, for Philip's sake, and because I want to give the awards process a chance. I think the inclusion of the book allows us to talk more about these issues. But what do you think? Do you think this issue needs addressing? You can tweet to CILIP at @CILIPCKG and/or use the hash tag #CKG15 and I know they'll welcome the discussion.

Edit: My publicist and agent have both been talking with representatives from CILIP, who've been very helpful. The way the nomination is listed follows the data provided in the book's Nielsen listing, which cites Philip as holding the text copyright and me as holding the illustration copyright. One option for the future might be to try to get Philip and I to have joint copyright on both. But I'd still like to see a third prize for 'middle grade' books that recognises the illustrator as co-author.

Edit 2: Article in The Bookseller by Charlotte Eyre

Edit 3: Wonderful response from prize chair Joy Court! She totally rocks. From Joy (via CILIP Facebook post):

It has been exciting and gratifying to see the excitement online about the remarkable CKG nominations published yesterday. However in the course of the excitement we have come across an issue that will need full consideration by the CKG Working Party. As has been said many times in the past we do continually keep the criteria for eligibility and for nominations under review to ensure that we keep pace with changes in the publishing industry.

One such change in recent years has been the growth of illustrated fiction. We see more and more books which are nominated for both medals and of course in 2012, A Monster Calls was the first book ever to win both medals, for Patrick Ness and Jim Kay respectively.

Yesterday we were contacted by a publisher and an agent who believed that we should have listed two co- authors for a particular book nominated for the Carnegie medal. This would not in fact have happened since the eligibility criteria clearly states that a book must be “written in the English language by a single author” and so if a book was genuinely co-authored rather than written by one and illustrated by the other, then it would not be eligible. It turns out that the book’s text is copyrighted on original publication only to a single individual and is listed on Nielsen with a single author, or main contributor as they term it, and so the book in question is definitely technically eligible.

But what the Working Party needs to consider is if the Carnegie criteria genuinely reflect the creative process involved in illustrated fiction? Perhaps those particular books should and would be more appropriately nominated for the Greenaway medal, whose criteria do talk about the synergy between words and pictures. But the fact remains that even then it would only be the illustrator that would be awarded the medal!

So I think that in fact we are faced with the same issue for both awards and the important thing is that in listing nominations we should ensure that all people involved with the creation of the nominated book are given due credit. We do this already with the Greenaway nominations in that we list the author of the book in addition to the illustrator and it would be consistent and fair to apply the same principle to the Carnegie nominations, so we are consequently producing a revised list as soon as possible.

It is unfortunate perhaps that this particular book did not receive dual nominations and perhaps we should offer more guidance and advice to nominators about this? The Working Party will next consider revisions to the published criteria before nominations open in September 2015 and meanwhile we would welcome opinions from authors, illustrators, publishers and Shadowing groups to assist our considerations.

Joy Court
Chair CILIP CKG Working

Edit 4: One more article in The Bookseller:

So Chris Riddell, David Roberts, Richard Collingridge, Karin Eklund, Martin Impey, David Tazzyman and me are all listed now with our books. Check out David Roberts' amazing pictures in long-listed book Tinder. *fangirl moment*

Edit 5: Response from Scottish Book Trust


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 20th, 2014 07:43 pm (UTC)
It's probably better to nominate books rather than individuals!
An interesting post, Sarah. I think you’ve highlighted a shortcoming of any book award that recognises only one individual in what might well be a collaborative enterprise and this applies to picture books as much as middle grade or any other form of illustrated literature.

While authors names are included in the Greenaway listings, the medal is solely awarded to the illustrator. The 2010 Greenaway medal was won by Freya Blackwood for ‘Harry and Hopper’. Author Margaret Wilde’s text clearly laid the foundations for Blackwood’s illustration work, prefiguring characters and situations, but Wilde is not described as a “Greenaway-winning author”.

While it used to be the norm that authors and illustrators worked in isolation, I think that the web is making closer collaborations, such as your’s and Philip’s, increasingly common. Several of my picture book texts have been written in close collaboration with the illustrator. ‘Monster’s - An Owner’s Guide’ was written around an idea suggested by Mark Oliver. My new OUP picture book with Ed Eaves was written around a set of models Ed made at art college. And a new project I’ve developed with my long-time picture book partner Vanessa Cabban is written around characters Vanessa created. Although I wrote all the words for these books and the illustrators drew all the pictures, I don’t think any of us would feel comfortable taking all the credit for either the text or illustration.

And I haven’t even mentioned the crucial roles often played by editors and designers!

I think there’s something to be said for prestigious awards such as Carnegie and Greenaway being given to books rather than individuals. In the meantime, in this particular instance I don’t think it’s unreasonable for you to expect your name to be included alongside Philip’s in the Carnegie longlist (as would be the case if the book was listed for the Greenaway).
Oct. 20th, 2014 09:11 pm (UTC)
Re: It's probably better to nominate books rather than individuals!
That's a really good point, about books being nominated, rather than people!

In theory, I totally agree with you. My only reservation for the Greenaway, in practice, would be that if both writer and illustrator were awarded, the writer would inevitably get more of the kudos and media attention, because that's just what seems to happen.

It would be much easier if Brits would credit illustrators and writers equally. And book people should really be leading that movement.
Oct. 20th, 2014 09:56 pm (UTC)
Re: It's probably better to nominate books rather than individuals!
I agree that the book world could do more to recognise that many books, especially picture books, are co-created by an author* and an illustrator.

When "My Independent Bookshop" launched their web site a few months ago, I pointed out to them (via Twitter) that it was inappropriate for them to omit the illustrator's names from their picture book listings, but they didn't respond. (You can see an example on my page of their site

Wearing my paper engineer's hat (yes it does fold down to be entirely flat!), one of my pet peeves is that even in relatively complex pop-up books, the paper engineer's name is often missing from the cover and title page and is only found in the small-print of the imprints page. Plus the paper-engineer is often only offered a flat fee rather than a royalty. The skills of paper engineer's are even less respected than those of illustrators, and yet many pop-up books are bought as much for the paper engineering as for the text or illustration. This is one of the reasons that I only paper-engineer books that I've also written.

* I meant to say in my first comment that I hope you'll forgive me for continuing to use the word 'author' instead of 'writer'. I did read your Scattered Authors post and I'm aware that you dislike this use of the word, but for me 'author' means someone who writes for a living.
Oct. 20th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC)
CKG co-author debate
hi Sarah, it's me again (Aaaghh aka Helen)
Good comments all, but just for a bit of clarity:
The current list really is just a list of nominations - the judges are only involved in so far as they (hopefully!) made a couple of personal nominations for each award. The rest of the nominations were by the other thousands of members of CILIP - or rather a tiny percentage of those thousands.
The percentage of text vs illustration is genuinely irrelevant for either award. It is completely to do with the quality and how the whole work meshes. I keep banging on about A Monster Calls, because it is a great example of a book that needed the words and the pictures in equal measure - and as a result the author won the Carnegie, and the illustrator won the Greenaway. The book had been nominated for both awards. You will notice that some of this year's titles have been nominated for both awards.
You say "why would people nominate a book they didn't think stood a chance of winning?" - well, fair point, BUT I don't think it is fair to the award or this year's judges to assume this book wouldn't have stood any chance of winning had it been nominated for the Greenaway. You are dismissing how seriously the judges take these awards - every book is considered and discussed in great detail. Books with far fewer illustrations than Seawigs have been nominated and considered in the past (possibly even A Monster Calls - I'd have to get them side by side to compare).
I think your discussion about co-authors is perfectly valid, and I know the CKG working party will take this seriously and discuss it when their annual review of the criteria comes around. I suppose even if they want to make the change they'll have to wait for next year, otherwise there will be cries of "not fair! If I'd known you were going to do that I'd have nominated xxxxxx".
I don't want to bore you by going on, so I'll stop now, but before I go I want to say that you are an amazing artist (in every sense), and your collaborative work is wonderful. I've seen your Seawigs performance with Philip, and you just fill me with joy. I completely agree with you that the rocky time between picture books and picture-less is when we need to take special care to nurture the glowing ember that will burn bright as a love of reading, and you and artists like you gently fan the flames, enticing the emerging reader but never scaring them away. Only you and Philip can decide whether to withdraw from the Carnegie. I think it would be a great shame, but as a professional decision I can understand why you would want to.
Oct. 20th, 2014 09:18 pm (UTC)
Re: CKG co-author debate
Thanks so much, Helen! I'm sure you're right about the judges taking their work seriously, I know they're all real book lovers and care deeply about the subject.

'The percentage of text vs illustration is genuinely irrelevant for either award. It is completely to do with the quality and how the whole work meshes.'

I guess that's my point; if the whole work meshes well, it's because of both the writer and the illustrator and it seems that both should be mentioned, or there's a gaping hole. I don't quiet understand the difference between the Greenaway and the Carnegie, if that's the case. I thought the Greenaway was an illustration award and the Carnegie was a general book award, with a heavy leaning toward books for older children (which tend to have less pictures).

Oct. 20th, 2014 09:02 pm (UTC)
I think it's worth noting that also on the nominations list is:

Neil Gaiman: Fortunately, The Milk

Now. I've read this book. And as a result, can confidently say that without Chris Riddell's illustrations it would be the worst book ever. They tell 50% of the story easy, if not more. I'm pretty certain Neil Gaiman would be one of the first to agree with this too.

I mention because it emphasises the argument that you're making, because it makes it clear you're not arguing about a one-off isolated example.

It's a sucky situation, I hope the Carnegie changes in the future and recognises illustrators properly.
Oct. 20th, 2014 09:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's so odd to think of Chris Riddell not being mentioned! And yeah, I'm pretty sure Neil wouldn't be thrilled about it; he thinks the world of Chris's work (as we all do).
Oct. 21st, 2014 07:46 am (UTC)
I definitely agree with the idea of splitting the Carnegie into YA and MG.

We had a Carnegie Shadowing group at my school (where students read all the books then discuss and ponder who win), most of the students participating are in Year 8. I remember one year Meg Rossoff's What I Was was nominated - and it flew straight over the heads of every single person in the shadowing group, with the exception of me (who was Year 9, and that extra year meant a lot.) and the supervising teachers. Those who managed to make it through hated it, because it wasn't a book that made any sense to them. And I think a couple of years later, they'd have got it.

Other than that, I hope everything manages to resolve itself, it's an awful situation with not a neat solution.
Oct. 21st, 2014 08:39 am (UTC)
Yes, I would hate to think that by recognising the illustrator as a co-author, that books wouldn't be eligible for the Carnegie. That would take so many potential middle grade books out of the running. But it would be great if they could allow the Carnegie to be awarded by book, or allow for co-authors. I don't think the change would happen this year, because it might have affected the books people nominated. But I hope things might change for future listings.

I know they want the best for kids, and they've been in touch with me on Twitter and with my publisher to say that they'll discuss it.
Oct. 21st, 2014 10:10 am (UTC)
Sarah - you rock
Oct. 21st, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Sarah - you rock
Good post, Emma! You rock too ;-)

One small quibble - you say '...imagine Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake!' - when I started reading Roald Dahl, QB hadn't yet started illustrating RD's books! I'm not sure what the name of 'my' RD illustrator is, sadly, but it's not QB in my case.
Oct. 21st, 2014 02:36 pm (UTC)
All very interesting!

I wonder how much of it is also down to systems not facilitating the easy specification of two creators. On the OUP website the paperback shows 'Author Reeves and Illustrator McIntyre' while the hardback just says 'Reeves and McIntyre'. I think that the latter is the more equitable way of describing you both as co-creators, and I think that the former more easiy lends itself (in an imperfect world) to you getting dropped off as the 'mere' illustrator. So here, there are two ways of the co-creators being credited, and different choices have been made at different times. Which one does the computer system, or the usual processes, normally incline someone to use?

ScribbleStreet above says that maybe the internet is making collaborations closer than they used to be; I'm sure that's part of it but I think it's part of a general sea-change. As far as I can tell from your blog, you collaborate in person quite a lot so it's not all just internet - it's also that there are more events, so people meet up, and also it's easier to keep closer in touch. And of course also there are other models readily available: in the comics world people collaborate & co-create very closely, and have done for a while now!

Edited at 2014-10-21 04:12 pm (UTC)
Oct. 30th, 2014 01:58 am (UTC)
I've been so busy, I didn't get to engage in this conversation at all - but I'm really glad about the outcome. You are so right about the collaborative work behind an illustrated book. You deserve to win that Greenaway ... AND you deserve to be on the Carnegie List. I love that book.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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