YALSA Election 2012: An Interview with Michael L. Printz Award Candidate Patti Tjomsland

In February we are posting interviews with each of the 2012 Candidates for YALSA Award Committees. This week we are focusing on Michael L. Printz Award Committee. ‘ Each day this week we’ll post an interview with one of the candidates for that committee. We are posting alphabetically by candidate’s last names.

The YALSA Nominating Committee for 2012 has been working hard to select candidates for this year’s election.’  The Printz Committee is charged with selecting from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book (“best” being defined solely in terms of literary merit) and, if the Committee so decides, as many as four Honor Books. The Committee will also have the opportunity for input into the oversight and planning of the Printz Awards Program. Committee size: 9, four to be elected, plus a consultant from the staff of Booklist, and an administrative assistant if requested.

This is your chance to get to know this year’s candidates that have been nominated to serve on the Printz Committee.’  Polls are open from March 19 to April 27.

Today we have an interview with Patti Tjomsland.

What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate for the award position for which you are running?
I’ve always read numerous YA books, however I’ve been reading over 350 teen books a year since 2006 for a seminar, What’s New in Young Adult Literature that I present for the Bureau of Education and Research. I present this six hour seminar in about 40 places around the country annually, discussing about 100 of the best teen books from the current copyright year. One of the great things about working for BER is the opportunity to talk with teachers and librarians around the country. I hear about new books other people have found, and get a broad range of opinions from those who work with teens in all parts of the United States.

I just finished two years on Best Fiction for Young Adults, with year two as Chair. I have extended experience reviewing, writing, reading and working with groups of people. For the past three years, I’ve had over 30 students participating in a lunch-time review group. They have ignited an interest in reading and discussing books in our school. I’ve been a high school librarian for over 25 years and before that I taught high school English. Most of the English classes I taught focused on writing. I’m still in the trenches, working with teens and talking to them about books on a daily basis.

Why do you want to be a member of this awards committee?
I think it will be a demanding and unique experience to select a book based on the quality of the writing without worrying about the title’s popularity.

What are you most looking forward to in being a part of this award decision process?
The whole process is exciting! I am most looking forward to the discussions with committee members. It is energizing to talk with other people who are passionate and enthusiastic about books and reading and committee works provides this opportunity. I think the fact that the award is secretive will be delightful! I must admit coming home and finding a box or envelope with brand new books inside is incredibly smile inducing.

What do you feel are the key factors for decision-making for this award?
I think being ready for anything is important. Over the past few years, we’ve seen authors experimenting with format, presentation, voice and more. It is important to be non-biased. Of course there are all of the suggested items listed in the award criteria and I do like books with strong characters and a great voice. I think those books where you have the “Wow!” reaction are the ones I’m hoping the committee finds.

The reading load for awards committees is very high, how do you plan on managing the work load of award committee life?
I’ve just completed two years on Best Fiction for Young Adults which demands extensive reading. In addition, I’m used to reading about 350 books a year for my Bureau of Education and Research [BER] seminar on current young adult literature. I’m accustomed to reading anywhere and everywhere. I’ve learned procrastinating doesn’t work and that reading frequently has to trump other activities. I have a supportive family who make sure I have the time to read. I am comfortable with technology and use it to help organize both my notes and books read information. I have a Kindle and an iPad to use for galley copies so I always have a book with me.

What have you learned from past experiences on awards, juries, or other YALSA committees that you will bring with you to this committee?
After being on Best Fiction for Young Adults, I’ve learned to keep detailed, concrete-specific notes including page numbers with passages and quotes either written down or marked in an organized and easy to reference manner that make sense months later. I’ve learned to put aside any preconceptions of what I might like because of format or genre. After working with 14 other committee members on Best Fiction for Young Adults, I’ve learned that listening carefully while keeping your own ideas in mind helps make strong choices. I’ve learned I can change my mind and it is okay.

In your experience how has the YALSA Awards and Selected Lists helped you as a librarian or made your work better or easier or different than expected?
The lists and awards from YALSA are invaluable as they provide suggested titles for teens from experts in the field. The books are selected after a lengthy process and have input from a variety of people giving the lists authenticity, authority and reliability for selecting great books for teens. The YALSA label gives the lists weight with teachers and administration. The lists never fail to bring books to my attention that I may have missed otherwise. Best Fiction for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers are tools I use frequently to find books for both teachers and students. It is difficult to stay up-to-date with the enormous number of books being published and these lists help find the best to order for my collection.