A View from the Top: Past YALSA Winners Reflect the Printz and Edwards Awards

Article excerpt

As we commemorate YALSA's fiftieth anniversary, it's hard to ignore one of the association's most significant achievements: the establishment of the Printz and Edwards awards. At the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., in June, YALSA hosted a casual breakfast for past Printz and Edwards awards winners. At the breakfast, authors circulated from table to table, mingling with YALSA members and other young adult literature enthusiasts. This afforded a few YALSA members the opportunity to ask a variety of authors about their work and teen literature as well as the impact the Printz and Edwards awards has had on both. Not surprisingly, the authors graciously answered these questions, exuding enthusiasm for the Printz and Edwards awards and modesty about winning them.

YALSA: Do you think the Printz Award has had an impact on what teens read?

Terry Trueman: Yes, the Printz absolutely has a huge impact on what teens read ... this award brings books to the attention of librarians. Great books rise to the surface. The Printz also considers all types of books, which makes this award much more meaningful.

Jack Gantos: With Hole in My Life, the Printz did have an impact because it brought my book, which was a "juicy book," to the attention of boys, who really gravitated towards it.

Kenneth Oppel: The Printz is a "must" to authors because it is such a prominent award. The award raises awareness among librarians and teachers as to worthwhile books for teens. That award sticker really draws attention to the books.

M. T. Anderson: I think that authors may be less aware of the Printz Award than librarians. Librarians probably see more of the impact of this award than the authors do.

Chris Crutcher: The Printz Award helps to legitimize young adult literature and gives it form. YA literature has often been the "redheaded stepsister" of adult fiction. Prior to the establishment of the Printz, the Newbery recognized children's literature, but there was no award to acknowledge quality young adult literature written for teens. The Printz Award took up the slack.

YALSA: How did winning the Printz affect your career as a writer?

Virginia Euwer Woolf: [The Printz] didn't have an enormous effect on my life because where I live Printz is not spoken. No one where I live has noticed, but I am grateful to win. I bought a new dress for it, and I was delighted.

Trueman: Completely. It gives you a leg up, especially if you publish your first book at the age of fifty-two.

Gantos: In a smarmy way it covered up a mug shot on the book cover. Teenage boys go to that book, and I don't think teenagers get a book because it is an award winner. Teens want a book to knock their socks off, and they will find a book like this whether it wins awards or not.

Oppel: Before I won [the Printz], I was bald, and the next day I had a full head of hair. My marriage was bad and my sex life awful, but the Printz really turned my life around.

YALSA: Do you think young adult literature has changed over the years? If so, how?

John Green: In the last ten years, it's become possible to write and publish books for teenagers, which wasn't really possible before the advent of the Printz Award. There were great books for teens published earlier, but there wasn't the systematic support for teen literature that exists now at publishing houses, public and school libraries, and bookstores.

Laurie Halse Anderson: The biggest change is that there's more of it! I don't read lots of YA literature because I'm writing it, and I don't want other authors' voices in my head. I can see that the field has broadened dramatically, though--there are many popular subgenres, like horror, beachy books, and literary fiction--which to me is a sign of a very healthy field of literature.

Lois Lowry: It's hard for me to answer, because I'm not really so much a YA author. …