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Some Good Came From The National Book Award Mix-Up


Now, a story about a literary honor bestowed then, oops, taken away. Last week, the National Book Foundation announced its finalists for the National Book Awards. And among the finalists for young people's literature was the young adult novel titled "Shine." But it turns out there was a communication mistake. The judges had actually meant to nominate the young adult novel "Chime." That's "Shine" versus "Chime." The judges had read the list of finalists over the phone, and apparently, the foundation heard "Shine" instead of "Chime." Well, joining us to help untangle the tale is the author of "Shine," Lauren Myracle. And, Lauren, the finalists were announced last Wednesday; your name was on that list. How long did your euphoria last?

LAUREN MYRACLE, AUTHOR: Well, I got a call on Monday, so the Monday before Wednesday, from the National Book Foundation in which I was told that I was a finalist. And I said, you're kidding me. And he said, that's not usually the response we get, but yes, I'm not kidding you. And I said, are you sure? You know, do you know who you're talking to? And he said, is this Lauren Myracle? Yes. Did you write "Shine?" Yes. Then congratulations, my dear. You are a finalist. And I was like, woo. So I had two days of complete exaltation, although I wasn't allowed to tell anybody about it. And then on a Wednesday, when they did the announcement live, oh, man, that was so awesome for all of two hours.

BLOCK: Two hours and then things turned around when you heard that, actually, you were included on that list by mistake.

LAUREN MYRACLE: Yeah. I didn't hear that at first. What I heard was a very sweet journalist who was interviewing me at the time, said, so what's up with this "Shine" "Chime" confusion? And my stomach fell, you know, out of my body and onto the floor and so I got onto the Internet and - yes - saw, at that time, a 6th finalist has been named. There was some miscommunication, but all books are worthy and the judges unanimously want to keep them all on the list and hurray.

BLOCK: So here's what happened. The National Book Foundation added the book that they originally intended to nominate. That's a book called "Chime" by Franny Billingsley. Kept your book, "Shine," on the list, too, but then changed their minds, said you shouldn't be a finalist and, in the end, essentially asked you to take yourself off the list. How did you decide that that was the right thing to do?

MYRACLE: Well, you know, I went from exaltation to devastation to weep, weep, weep and weep some more and then pulled myself up from my, you know, bootstraps and put on my big girl panties and say, you know what? It's time to get some resolution. And at that point, it did seem like the right thing to do was to say, they want me off? You got it. I'm off. Let's try to make something good come out of this.

BLOCK: And how did you make something good come out of it?

MYRACLE: Well, they had very graciously invited me to come to the party, anyway, and I felt like, no, thank you. I don't want to be the one sitting there saying, you know, hello, I'm the one who didn't get nominated. So I said, how about we do a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation instead? And they jumped on it and said, yes, ma'am. And the book, "Shine," deals with a gay teenager and a hate crime and so for resources to be given to a foundation that works on protecting the integrity of young people and works on promoting tolerance over hate, that's pretty cool, you know.

BLOCK: We should explain here that Matthew Shepard was the college student who died in 1998 as the victim of a notorious anti-gay hate crime.

MYRACLE: Yeah. And I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. I grew up in the South, but I live in Colorado now and Matthew Shepard was attacked about an hour away from where I lived, in Wyoming, and so this was a very big deal in my town and in my heart and in my soul. And Matthew Shepard was somebody that I was thinking about constantly when I wrote "Shine," so I thought that was a really beautiful way to at least honor that aspect of the situation.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Lauren Myracle. She's the author of the young adult novel "Shine," which was mistakenly put on the list of finalists for a National Book Award. Lauren, thanks very much.

MYRACLE: Thank you, Melissa. You rock.

BLOCK: And the National Book Foundation is promising to include new safeguards in its nominating process to avoid mix-ups in the future. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.