A VPLA Judge Reports by Anna Ryan-Punch

And the books shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards YA Prize are:

  • Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

  • Swerve by Phillip Gwynne

  • Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams

Phew. I don’t have to keep my mouth shut any more! Except about the winner, of course, but that’s easier somehow. It’s just a cosy little one-book secret, rather than a big rambling three-book secret. I think my secret limit is two books.

Big congratulations to all the shortlisted authors - I’m extremely proud and excited about our shortlist. And also congrats to the authors we longlisted: Kirsty Murray for Vulture’s Gate, Richard Harland for Worldshaker and Bill Condon for Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God. You can also read the full judges' reports.

Judging this year was a completely different experience to the 2007 VPLA - which makes sense I suppose, given that you have a completely different set of entries for the year, and a completely different set of judges. (Except me. I am not completely different.) One important difference was that we didn’t have to write a judge bio for the website, or provide a photo. Which absolved me from the photo-choosing despair that I encountered last time! I was going to go with this one, in case you’re interested:

Myself and my fellow judges (Pam Macintyre from Viewpoint Magazine and Leesa Lambert from The Little Bookroom) used the same judging process as the last time I was a judge - once the entries were received we all squirrelled ourselves away and read like the blazes, and we each created our own personal longlists for our next meeting. We kept our longlists a secret from each other until the meeting, to see if there would be any overlap.

In 2008, when I judged the award with lovely authors Kirsty Murray and Simmone Howell, our initial personal longlists had very little overlap, which I found fascinating. So there was lots of re-reading and re-evaluating done after our initial read-through. Our final shortlist and winner were arrived at through a lot of analysis, a lot of brain-wracking, a few more meetings, and a bit of voting.

I expected pretty much the same turn of events this year - when you give three different people a pile of 75 different books and ask them to pick the best ones, you’d assume you’d get some different answers.

So Pam and I turned up at the Little Bookroom on Longlist Meeting Day with our little piles of novels hidden in our bags.

I produced my longlist first. Then Pam produced hers. Then Leesa pulled out hers.

Each of our 4-book longlists overlapped by at least 3 books. Wow.

“So,” Pam said, “Which one do we think is the winner?”

And we all held up the same book.

Then we kind of got the giggles, because it was so unexpected, and so exciting! We were unanimous before we’d even opened our mouths!

Narrowing down the rest of the shortlist took a bit longer - a bit of re-reading and discussing and voting, but given that we already had a three-book overlap in our longlists it didn’t take too long.

So: a different year, a different set of entries and judges, a completely different judging experience. Last time I was pregnant, this time I have an 18mth old. Both years it has been exciting, confusing, and brain-tearingly full on. So has the judging.

I can’t imagine what will happen if I judge this award again in the future. Probably I’ll just have given birth to triplets, we judges will have a shortlist of twenty books that we CANNOT cut down any further, our heads will explode and someone else will have to judge the award for us.

Oh, and did I forget to tell you this year’s winner? How terribly remiss of me.

This is a crosspost from Anna Ryan-Punch’s Reading Your Favourites. She is a YA/Children’s lit reviewer, poet, alpha-librarian and mother.

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