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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

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By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

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By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

Grassroots Kid-Lit Award Faces New Challenges

By Lynda Waddington | 02.27.08 | 12:32 pm

When Grinnell College Russian language and literature Professor Kelly Herold began blogging about children’s literature three years ago, she had no idea that she was about to help create a grassroots literary sensation.

File Photo: Kelly Herold“I was interested in blogging and I read blogs in many different areas,” Herold said. “I’m a big fan of academic blogs and I considered starting one of those, but realized it would be a complaining blog instead of something more targeted. So, I thought, ‘Oh! I’ll start a children’s book blog.’ There were only a couple of us out there at that time.”

One of the posts on her blog, Big A little a, lamented the fact that there was no awards program for children’s books that combined book/author popularity and literary value. The idea of having an award contest that wasn’t as lofty as the existing Newbery Award and a step above the recently defunct Quills caught the attention of many. Another children’s literature blogger, Anne Boles Levy, read the post and left a comment indicating that she thought the two women could develop such an award. Herold and Levy, having never met face-to-face, began planning what would eventually become the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (Cybils).

Now in its second year, the Cybils unveiled its 2007 winners on Feb. 14. There were eight categories in 2007: picture books, non-fiction picture books, middle-grade fiction, poetry, young adult fiction, non-fiction (young adult and middle-grade), fantasy/science fiction and graphic novels. The award recognizes both literary merit and “kid appeal.”

Books considered for Cybils are nominated by the public at large. Works are not limited to large publishing houses and the group even accepts books that have been self-published. Once the nomination deadline has come, roughly 90 literature bloggers, divided into the eight genres, set to work reading all the nominated books. Following their review, the Cybils posts short lists on Jan. 1. Books on the short list are then reviewed a second time to determine the award winner. The reviewers are children’s literature bloggers who represent parents, home-schoolers, authors, illustrators, librarians and even teens.

“We’ve noticed a big surge in both participation and attention in conjunction with this year’s awards,” Herold said. “There are more people following the awards. Publishers are starting to list the awards when their books have won them. Because this is a grassroots movement and a newly established award, we’ve been surprised by how quickly they’ve been accepted by the industry.”

During the Cybils’ first nomination process in 2006, more than 480 books were nominated and reviewed. When nominations ended last fall for the 2007 contest, the total number of nominated books had grown by 25 percent. Herold admits that the logistical aspects alone have, at times, been a little overwhelming.

“We’re going to have to — unfortunately — probably have to professionalize things a little bit. We’re going to have to probably incorporate and become a nonprofit entity,” she said. “In the end, Anne and I are just two people, and we had an incident this year where there was a possibility there could be legal action against one of our panelists. We don’t want that to happen to anyone just because they blogged about something an author didn’t agree with. It looks like we’re going to have to take some steps to protect ourselves.”

Because the Cybils have limited financial resources, incorporating could pose a threat to the awards.

“We are the only awards process I know of that doesn’t require any sort of entry fee,” Herold said. “So, we really run on a shoestring budget. We send a small gift to the actual authors and illustrators who win the awards — those are paid for by the small commissions and ad sales on the site. We definitely run on recognition more than money.”

When it comes to the Cybils, recognition is definitely a two-way street. Not only are publishers reaping the rewards of having their books reviewed and discussed in passionate online communities, but the awards themselves are gaining notoriety.

“We’ve found that parents, teachers and librarians use our lists,” Herold said. “Even though we name a winner, the short lists seem to be most popular. On those, there is a range of five to eight books per category. People like to chose several of the books on those lists or all of the books on those lists for their kids, their grandkids or their library and classroom. Those lists are often used as purchasing lists.”

One of the award panelists has followed sales on Amazon to determine if the awards were having any impact on the marketplace.

“There definitely are related sales jumps associated with the winning titles,” Herold said. “But, beyond the marketplace, I find the Cybils to be really indicative of what blogging can be. Anne and I started this after never having met each other, because of our similar tastes — something we found out about online. We have since met and she turned out to be the same in person as she is in text. That’s something I find interesting about the blogging community: Anytime I travel now for conferences or for work-related reasons, I always get to meet one of these people from all over the country. I haven’t yet once been surprised by their real-life person.”

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Comments

  • Kelly

    Thanks, Lynda! Thanks for the interview, Lynda.  It was nice talking to you and learning about blogs in Iowa.

    I just want to mention there is one more (big) category not listed here: Fantasy/SciFi.  A very popular category!

  • desmoinesdem

    thanks for this diary As a mother of two boys, ages 2 and 5, I am glad to know of a blog about children’s literature.

    I want to put in a plug for the American Library Association’s magazine, Book Links:

    http://www.ala.org/a…

    It’s full of good book reviews and useful resources for parents, teachers and librarians. Homeschoolers find it particularly helpful, but we don’t homeschool and we love the magazine.

  • Little Willow

    Cybils Support Congratulations, Kelly, and everyone involved!

  • Kelly

    Thanks, Lynda! Thanks for the interview, Lynda.  It was nice talking to you and learning about blogs in Iowa.

    I just want to mention there is one more (big) category not listed here: Fantasy/SciFi.  A very popular category!

  • Anonymous

    No, thank you! I must have read that section 10 times, knowing that I left something out but unable to determine what it was. Thanks for catching my mistake — it's even my favorite YA genre!

  • desmoinesdem

    thanks for this diary As a mother of two boys, ages 2 and 5, I am glad to know of a blog about children's literature.

    I want to put in a plug for the American Library Association's magazine, Book Links:

    http://www.ala.org/a…

    It's full of good book reviews and useful resources for parents, teachers and librarians. Homeschoolers find it particularly helpful, but we don't homeschool and we love the magazine.

  • Little Willow

    Cybils Support Congratulations, Kelly, and everyone involved!

  • Anonymous

    No, thank you! I must have read that section 10 times, knowing that I left something out but unable to determine what it was. Thanks for catching my mistake — it’s even my favorite YA genre!

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