I think nearly every industry has rock stars in it. Rock stars are usually recognizable to non-industry people and are the ones people want to be around. Sometimes rock stars are only known to the people that follow that genre or subject matter. I think a list of author rock stars would include Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and David Eggers. This is, of course, not a complete list and your list would be different if you thought of a bunch of names in five minutes.
What I’m about to reveal is really old news as it was reported in February of this year. The Quill Awards are no more! You may be wondering what exactly the Quill Awards are and with good reason. The intent was to create the literary equivalent of the Oscars. Voting was done by the public after the nominees were chosen. The awards ceremony was televised on NBC but it was taped about a week before the broadcast. Other than an occasional reminder to vote I can’t remember anyone or any news publication really mentioning it.
So how did the nominees get chosen? The Quills Selection Committee included editors from Publishers Weekly. To qualify for selection the book needed (1) a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, (2) a position on the Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller List or (3) be specially chosen by the committee. After narrowing each category to five nominees the Voting Board placed their votes over several months. The Voting Board was comprised of 6,000 invited librarians and booksellers. The public then had one month to place votes for their favorites. Categories were diverse enough to represent a wide variety of authors and books though some titles were nominated in more than one category.
Now, if you’ve made it this far you are probably wondering how literary rock stars and the Quill Awards go hand in hand? Writing is a mostly solitary profession and feedback from readers is generally received after a new project has been started. It can be difficult for a writer to get his or her head back into the most recently published work to generate more enthusiasm among the reading audience. Except for the rare televised book appearance on C-SPAN it’s difficult for an author to become a personality. I think the Quill Awards wanted to make more authors into rock stars. The award ceremony let you see the people behind the words. Reading is perceived by many to be non-sexy, unglamorous and time consuming. I couldn’t disagree more.
I’ll take a man who reads over one who doesn’t any day of the week. Books and short stories allow you to travel to different places without having to deal firsthand with the difficulties of airports, trains, boats, slow moving donkeys, hostile natives, and security restrictions. How can that not be glamorous? A good book makes you lose track of time which happens anytime you’re doing something you enjoy. Wordsmiths are rock stars to me.