Tuesday, January 29, 2013

News, and Contingency

Yesterday was Award Day at the American Library Association Convention, and guess what? I haven't read any of the awards or honors.


I'm particularly anxious to read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which took both a Belpre and a Stonewall.

And it should surprise no one that Katherine Paterson landed the Wilder Award. It was never a question of "whether," with her, but of "when."

I no longer kick myself about not having read the award books before the awards are announced. It takes an on-the-ball reader to keep up with the industry as it comes out, and I'm not that person. Wasn't even in my young vigorous days. I'm a serendipitous reader who reads what she finds and finds what she reads - it's all contingency with me. Readers like me are why awards exist to begin with - they increase the contingency of books. Not just the award winners, either. Buzz beforehand increases contingency; the public guessing games of the on-the-ball. Sharing your favorite reads of the year is just so much more urgent in the lead-up to award season.

Another thing came to my mailbox yesterday: an e-mail prodding participants in the Paleoamerican Odyssey Conference in October to get their poster presentations in. I, of course, have no poster and will be going as an interested layman. But I'll be a very interested layman indeed, listening in on the conversations of people whose names became familiar to me in the books and articles I read while researching 11,000 Years Lost. I haven't been able to do avocational archeology since the Health Crap really kicked in, but by golly, I can sit in an air-conditioned lecture room with the best of them! Just thought I'd mention it here to increase the contingency factor. I'm sure many more people would like to go to this, than would find out about it in the normal courses of their daily lives.

And though ALA is all about books, it is an interesting fact that the floors of scholarly conferences are littered with more story ideas to trip over than those of literary ones. Because what you're coming across in the floor of a convention that's about books is ideas that other people have already turned into books of the sort you want to write. Scholarly conferences are all about the ideas no one has thought to put into your medium yet.

In other words, they're vast smorgasbords of yummy, yummy inspiration.

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