Sarah McIntyre (jabberworks) wrote,
Sarah McIntyre

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


  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.