By Liesa Malik
Okay, friends, here’s the low down, the scoop, the real deal – the WOTY is fixed! That’s right. Fixed! And you know why? Because each year three distinguished authors willing to represent our organization with their work end up on a ballot that is under-supported.
It’s rather like local elections. According to Governing Magazine, during a study by the University of Wisconsin, researchers found a steady decline in voter turn out. Not great at 26.6% in 2001, by 2011, that turnout declined to 20.9%. That’s roughly one in five people who took advantage of the American electoral process. These minorities of voters influence how we’re being governed today.
What has this to do with the Writer of the Year? Plenty. I don’t have any exact figures, but in checking with people involved in the voting process last year, most of our group did not vote for the WOTY. Shame on us all!
WHY THE WOTY MATTERS
The Writer of the Year is someone who represents the highest standards of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization and represents our organization throughout the publishing industry. I spoke with Shannon Baker, the 2014 Writer of the year and she said that winning this distinction was life changing.
“Right before the nominations last year, I was ready to quit writing,” said Shannon. “I felt defeated. But the nominating process boosted my confidence, and the vote validated that newfound interest in continuing to write. Not only that, but being able to put the Writer of the Year title behind my name has opened a lot of doors for me.”
She mentioned that she was recently requested to speak at the CU Friends of the Library annual district event. It was a dream come true, yet Shannon said she didn’t approach this group, they contacted her.
Also, at every event, speaking engagement, and book sale (and more of these opportunities come up for the WOTY), Shannon says she does her best to put in a promotion of RMFW.
“I think it’s very important for the Writer of the Year to speak well and knowledgeably about this great organization we’re all a part of. If the Writer of the Year cannot or will not do this, why should they be voted to that honor?”
We hope that at some point, winning the WOTY would be similar to winning a Pulitzer Prize, but until that happens, everyone who is part of RMFW still has a certain celebrity, albeit a tad smaller, for people who love to read.
WHO IS THIS WRITER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE?
To make finalist, a person must fulfill these hefty qualifications:
- Be a traditionally published author with a book released in the previous year (in this case, the 2015 WOTY has had a book release in 2014)
- The WOTY winner is a member in good standing with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers—while the WOTY is NOT an award recognizing volunteerism (that’s what the Jasmine is for), being active in our community is important too. After all, the Writer of the Year is representing us all in the larger publishing industry.
- Have a high quality of writing. This may seem like a duh point, but the vetting committee read samplings of each author and had to distinguish candidates based on critical reviews of their work. Talk about hard work! So many great pieces of commercial fiction writing, so few slots we could fill. Whew!
- Offer proof of significant achievements with their writing work—regional or national reviews or, awards, guest blogs and more.
Every time someone meets the WOTY, they’re being introduced to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers as a whole. This makes your writing platform even stronger when you mention that you’re part of our organization. Free publicity. How cool is that?
OLD WRITERS’ TALES
In years past, I felt much like you might be feeling today. That is, I didn’t know the writers personally, hadn’t read their works for the most part, and felt that some secret inner circle of friends put together the nomination list in a smoke-filled back room of political dealings.
Sorry to burst your literary dreaming, but this isn’t how things work. The same people are not nominated year after year. In fact, we haven’t had a WOTY become part of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Hall of Fame. The one qualification for that distinction is to win the WOTY three times. While there have been a number of two-time winners, no one has made the top selection three times.
How things really work is that an author can either be nominated or apply to the WOTY committee for consideration. After all nominations are closed, the WOTY committee of at least five members spends approximately two hours per candidate, reading the application form, checking out websites, and most importantly, reading and evaluating a piece of the writer’s work. This year, with as many candidates as we had, this means that about 135 volunteer hours went into narrowing the distinguished field to just three names.
WHO ARE THE 2015 NOMINEES?
Please watch for the April newsletter when the finalists will be announced. Then, beginning April 20th be sure to vote.
HOW TO VOTE
This year we’re going to try something new. Although you will still have two months to make your decision, we’re hoping to implement voting online via the RMFW website. Please keep an eye on your emails for more information.
And what if you haven’t read the nominees’ work? Try visiting your local library, or you could go onto the major bookseller sites to at least read a sampling of the work. I think you’ll be pleased if you do.
Be sure to read the author profiles that will be a part of the newsletter announcement. I think you’ll agree that we’re lucky to have such high quality writers in our community.
Still think the WOTY is a sham or a fix? The only way you’ll know for sure is to sign in and vote. Personally, I’m excited for all of the nominees and only wish we could select from everyone who sent author information.
Think I’ll go try to up my own level of writing. Someday I'd like to qualify . . . for a WOTY .