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How did Save the Pearls win awards?

If you've been following the #savethepearls kerfluffle on twitter or tumblr or here or here  or here or here you might wonder how such a racefail of a book (whites oppressed by blacks!  beast-like blackmen!  cute white kids in blackface!  on youtube!) managed to win the four awards it brags about.  The answer is relatively simple.  It entered contests where the primary business is the doling out of awards and charging a hefty entrance fee. 

The Save the Pearls Awarders:

Eric Hoffer Award
Entry fee: $50
Number of awards/HMs given in year of Savethepearls : 112
Parent company: Hopewell Publications
Primary business: Selling publishing services to new writers
URL: http://www.hofferaward.com/
Additional info: per a Jan 2012 column by the founder of the Hoffer Award Christopher Klim, it accepts 1000 entries annually.  Doing the math (1000/112), that means if you enter this contest, you've got roughly 1 in 10 chance of having an award or honorable mention to use to promote your book.  Contest revenue: 1000 x $50 = $50,000.  Cash prizes given: $2,500.  Other companies that seem to promote this award (US Review of Books, Infinity Publishing, Best New Writing) are all part of Hopewell Publications,

Books and Authors
Entry fee: $50
Number of awards given in year of SavethePearls: 31
Parent company: John Weaver, who specializes in book marketing (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/john-weaver/9/6a4/4a6); domain registration here
Primary business: selling publicity to new writers
URL: http://www.books-and-authors.net/Contests.html
Additional Info: Site is registered under "Page One Literary Newsletter" and includes links to such. Many of the articles on the site seem to date from 2007-2008. Various rankings sites list the site as having 79 visitors a day or a mere 15. There's an internet discussion between Weaver and others regarding a client dispute on the writers weekly forums. Writer Beware search didn't turn up anything of note on Weaver, so perhaps of all Savethepearls awards this one is the most legitimate. It is, however, bestowed by a little-visited website with outdated web design and links.  This is an award created by a publicist.

San Francisco Book Festival
Entry fee: $50
Number of awards/HMs given in year of Savethepearls: 191
Parent company: JM Northern Media LLC
Primary business: creating online contests like this one
URL: http://www.sanfranciscobookfestival.com/index.html

Los Angeles Book Festival
Entry Fee: $50
Number of awards/HMs given in year of Savethepearls: 130
Parent company: JM Northern Media LLC
Primary business: creating online contests like this one
URL: http://www.losangelesbookfestival.com/

These last two "Book Festivals" are especially egregious.  If you click on the their links, on the upper right is a link for "multiple entries."  That lets you enter all 15 of their festival contests run by JM Northern Media LLC (at $50 per entry) for $775  ~$697 (you get a 10% discount!) with one easy submission.  As opposed to most book festivals, which involve stalls of books that people peruse, there don't appear to be any actual festivals associated with these events.  They simply rent a hotel room to give out the "awards." 

Action to take:  If you really want to read a book like Save the Pearls, there is a YA series using a similar premise (reverse-racism dystopia) that I keep seeing recommended instead, namely Noughts & Crosses by UK writer Malorie Blackman.  These books received real awards and positive reviews from real sources (Booklist, School Library Journal), and are published by real publishers (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). 

Just the other day I got accepted into KU's Fantasy and Science Fiction Novel Writing Workshop with Kij Johnson.  I'm tremendously excited about this.  It's the first real writing class I'll have gotten to do in about 25 years.  I'll be working on a new project that started from a word prompt challenge last fall, ballooned into an 8000 word short story during January and February, and now is beggining to bloat into a whole dang book.

It's exciting enough that it even prompted me to update this neglected blog.

I am, as always, in deep debt to my wife, not only for encouraging me to apply, but also for watching an 18-month and a 3-year-old while I'm gone.  We'll be working in a visit with the grandparents in Pittsburg, KS, during the trip, but still, I owe Megan a huge debt for this one.

My new refurbished writing machine

Most of the writing I do I do in transit, on a commute on the train to work.  That work has been severly hampered by baby (best baby ever, I might add) induced sleep deprivation for the past year.  But as I've slowly regained some cognitive function as Finn has finally begun sleeping through the night, I realized my other problem. 

Bad Equipment.

I haven't had money for computer accessories/upgrades since I got married about five years ago.  Money went to wedding expenses after that, then to grad school expenses for my wife, then to classroom supply expenses, then to baby expenses.   And to generally still buying far too many books throughout.

Pre-baby I solved this by writing on pen and paper during my commute and then transcribing at home at night.  For a short time I accelerated my word count using an old Dell Laptop a friend gave me, but at some point the keyboard panel got bent, resulting in inconsistent results when typing.  I'm talking about pounding on the "i" key just to get an "i" and sometimes not even that.  Sometimes there were letter I just couldn't type at all.  Given the already less than perfect state of my normal typing, I think I spent more time correcting errors than I did actually typing a coherent thought, with a consequent loss of flow. 

But tomorrow, my refurbished Acer A150-1777 Netbook arrives from TigerDirect.  Total cost with shipping & tax: $259.

I'm really looking forward to being able to type on the train again.  Woo-hoo!




Writer's Block: Scaredy cat

What animal frightens you most, and why?
 Excepting humans...currently in our household, living in northside Chicago, we are most frightened of...
mountain lions.

One was killed about a mile away from us, and another spotted after that just a few blocks to the west.

Of course, that's irrational fear.  A recent news story (unverified by me, but it sounds about right) mentioned that all of 19 people have been killed in the past 150 years by these cats, as opposed to 300 killed in the past 20 years by dogs.

We've got an eight week old baby and thus are prone to irrational fears at the moment.  Among the many moments I will remember of this year is my wife putting the baby in the stroller and turning to me to say, "It's not fair that I have to worry about mountain lions now."

Writing Workshop Feedback

Elizabeth Moon (Nebula Award for Best Novel, The Speed of Dark) has been posting a number of stimulating essays on her livejournal this week about story, plot, and critical interpolation (giving feedback). They are all worth reading, but I found the one linked to below particularly helpful in the suggestions it presents for obtaining useful feedback from writing workshops.

Helping your first/alpha/beta readers help you 

Any Day Now...

"You're turning red!"

"I can see veins sticking out in your forehead!"

"Is your head going to explode?"

These were the comments from my wife's fifth graders as she finished reading Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to them yesterday.   They were not quite the reactions Megan had anticipated.  

But Megan is pregnant and we're expecting our first child to be born any day now.  The end of the book triggered a huge emotional response in Megan that triggered a hormone surge and irregular contractions, which only settled down last night while she slept.  

She did manage to finish reading the story without crying, albeit with the other symptoms her class found so exciting.  The remaining copies of Because of Winn-Dixie were quickly snatched up from her class library and even the boys now want to finish reading The Tale of Despereaux.   Such is the power of china rabbits.

On the baby side, I'm trying to wrap things up at work in case I need to be at home for  the next two weeks.   I am lucky enough to have a job that gives dads two weeks of parental leave.  

On the writing side, I'm obviously getting ready to leave things alone for a while.   I do most of my writing on the bus ride back and forth from work.  I did a well-received reading of the book's first 54 pages at Twilight Tales on February 25th, implementing most of the suggested changes from the critiques it received at WindyCon34 and the Chicago Spec Fic Meetup.  It only took me about two months to figure out how to discard the double-flashback opening.   I was however distressed to find myself reading aloud that the horse still "shucked" its nose at something (poor horse).   While I've spent most of my time lately doing various writing exercises or critiques to improve my ability to edit my own work, I was so busy doing content re-writes before the reading that the much needed copy-edit proof was neglected.  Assuming I don't have too many more hidden "shucks," the book's pretty solid up to page 84 now.  The remaining scenes to be written or redrafted for the first section are clear in my head, and much improved from their first draft, and should put the book at about 30,000 words.   I look forward to getting back to them sometime in the future as a sleep-deprived dad.

Of course, now that I've bothered to blog this, the baby probably won't come for another week.   

EDIT: of course, it turns out, she was in labor.  She taught 5th grade all the next day (the 7th) when I wrote the above, and our son, Finn, was born the morning of March 8th. :)