Be a Cybils Judge!

It’s that time of year! Time to apply to be a Cybils judge!

What are the Cybils Awards? Well, the award started as Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards – it was a way of spreading the word about wonderful books of high literary quality but also strong kid appeal — exactly the kind of books bloggers love to rave about, in fact.

Lately, more people are spreading the word about books online in other ways — Instagram, Twitter/X, Substack, Goodreads, TikTok, or some other way. So the name has been changed to the Children’s and Young Adult Book Lovers’ Literary Awards. Anyone who posts about books online is welcome to apply to be a judge.

There are two rounds of judging. The first round, you get to read lots and lots of books from October to December. As a panel, you choose seven books to be the finalists for your category. The second round judges read the finalists in January to February and choose one winner for their category. So if you don’t have as much time to give to it, choose the second round.

Something distinctive about the Cybils is that they have fourteen categories, covering fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels for all age levels from birth to young adult. So you won’t have to read everything published, and you’ll get to focus on one category. Another nice thing is that, unlike ALA award committees, you are allowed and even encouraged to post online about the books you read (not giving away how you’ll vote, of course). The Cybils regularly posts reviews from the judges, all supporting each other’s online presence.

But let me talk about my experience with the Cybils.

I don’t know what it is about book awards, but I wanted to be involved from the moment I realized I was part of the group that awards the Newbery Medal. But soon after that, I heard about the Cybils Awards. They sounded perfect! I’d already been posting reviews on my website for ten years, and listing my Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and this was a limited, less intimidating way to try to judge for a book award. I applied to be a judge as soon as I got the chance after I found out about it in 2010 — but my application was not accepted.

Of course I applied again the next year — and was not accepted.

But third time’s the charm — and I was a Middle Grade Speculative Fiction panelist in 2012 and have been involved with the Cybils ever since. I think the third year they didn’t select me, to give someone else a chance — and then one person backed out, so they asked me to step in after all. I have done both first round and second round, and have done Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, Picture Books, Young Adult Speculative Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. My only break was two years when I was serving on the 2019 Newbery Medal Committee. This year, I’m serving on the Morris Award Committee, so I have to bow out from judging the Cybils, but I’m still serving as category chair for YA Speculative Fiction, so I still want to help round up panelists.

But all that is the what. Let me try to talk about the why.

It’s hard for me to explain why I love award committees so much. I’ve got the bug, and I really do. A big part of it is permission:

When I am on an award committee, I know that what I *should* be doing is sitting around and reading. I am not lazy when I do what I love to do. I am doing what I should do.

Now, if that doesn’t sound wonderful to you, then Award Committee Reading may not be your thing. For me, it’s a delight. And then later comes the joy of pointing others to wonderful books and giving those authors the attention and recognition they deserve.

All told, the Cybils is a fantastic way to dip your toe into the waters of book award committees. At most, you’re reading for three months, in a limited category. You can choose a category with shorter books, or do second round judging if time is going to be a problem. But you will still get to enjoy reading wonderful books and then discussing them with a fabulous group of people who give them the same thoughtful attention you have.

Applications are open until September 8th. Get yours in today and help us find this year’s stars!

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