Yesterday ALA's Young Adult Library Services Association announced the finalists for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award for Women Writers.
The five female authors nominated for this prestigious honor are:
Eishes Chayil for HUSH
Karen Healey for GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD
Lish McBride for HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER
Barbara Stuber for CROSSING THE TRACKS
Blythe Woolston for THE FREAK OBSERVER
...Okay, I'm being facetious.
The prize isn't really called the "William C. Morris YA Debut Award for Women Writers."
It just feels that way.
Now in its third year, the Morris Award always publishes a list of five finalists.
Of the fifteen books thus far honored, FOURTEEN have been by female writers.
The only exception has been James Lecesne, nominated the first year for ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS -- and even that novel featured a female first-person narrator.
(But to be fair, several of the shortlisted books over the years, including last year's winner, FLASH BURNOUT by L.K. Madigan, have been stories with male protagonists, despite being written by female authors.)
Noting how "female-centric" the Morris shortlists have been has gotten me wondering whether it's because most of today's top YA writers really are women...or is it simply because more women are published in the field of young-adult fiction, which of course gives award committes a much wider "talent pool" from which to make their choices?
Has anyone ever kept statistics on the numbes of male vs. female authors in the YA field?
And has the field been trending toward women writers in recent years?
Since the Morris award honors first-time YA writers, I tracked down a list of 2010 Debut Writers in Young Adult and Middle-Grade Fiction on the Goodreads site. Although I'm sure this list is far from definitive, I found it troubling that out of 310 titles listed, only 28 appeared to be written or co-written by male authors.
That's less than ten per cent!
It should be noted that my observation about the Morris shortlists have nothing to do with the quality of 2011's nominated books. To be honest (taking a humbling deep breath here) I haven't yet read any of this year's finalists. Most of these books seem to have come out of left field, with neither the "buzz" nor the string of starred reviews that usually lead up to such awards. Maybe after reading all five books, I'll agree that every one of them is superb -- each a true hidden gem discovered by the committee. But till then I'm going to wonder why fourteen out of fifteen Morris finalists have been women...and wonder if it's really true that less than 10% of debuting YA authors these days are men....
If that actually is the trend, then I think that we need -- for the sake of diversity -- to ask Jon Scieszka to start a companion to his GUYS READ literacy program.
The new one should be called GUYS WRITE.