Still thinking about that Chinooker idea…

A few other awards with which to compare my/our “Chinooker” idea for a Pacific Northwest regional award, or an Alaska-specific book award:

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Assocation presented six awards in January (none of them to an Alaskan, unfortunately). There were 200 nominees. A quick scroll through past winners reveals that Seth Kantner won one of the awards for Ordinary Wolves, as did Velma Wallis back in the 1990s. So I can’t complain that Alaskans NEVER win.

It looks like the PNBA does a fair amount of promo work, and yet I don’t recall reading much about the PNBA in Alaska over the last few years. Are our independent bookstores not participating? Or, as with the National Book Award and the now-defunct, consumer-oriented Quill Award (see David Marusek’s worthy comment in the last post) do local news sources simply fail to bite?

Perhaps what’s missing is the marketing angle — “Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association” doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue or lend itself to easy Googling, while the Quill was so general it ended up rewarding books (like Harry Potter) that were already over-rewarded. I mentioned using a shellacked salmon as the trophy/prop because I thought it alone would grab attention and work for display purposes. I think we need something funky, something with attitude rather than pomp.

Or maybe not. An award only works if people pay attention to it. As David Marusek pointed out, he was nominated for an impressive regional award but as far as I can tell, word about that didn’t spread very far.

In writing this post, I did a search on awards and discovered that my 2007 novel, The Spanish Bow, was a semi-finalist for an award I’d never even heard of: the VCU Cabell First Novelist’s Award. Now that’s really strange.

And one more comment: Sherry Simpson received the inaugural Chinook Prize award in 1998 for her book, The Way Winter Comes. But as far as I can tell, Sasquatch Books stopped offering that award the very next year. (My suggestion for “Chinooker” had nothing do with the Sasquatch Books award, by the way. I was just looking for a playful name that would rhyme with Booker.)

I’m still thinking that the Booker folks manage this awards business the best by turning it into a longlasting news story. (The longlist, the shortlist, the suspense, the betting…) It has to be fun, for everyone involved. A press release alone doesn’t do it. Where is our next generation of brilliant, literary-loving marketing minds?

Is anyone from the Alaska Center for the Book reading this blog? If so, what do you think about all this? Write us a comment or better yet, write us a guest-post.

By the way, the PNBA winners for 2008 were:

Sherman Alexie, of Seattle, for “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” his young-adult novel which also won the National Book Award.

Jim Harrison, for his novel “Returning to Earth” (Harrison lives part-time in Montana).

Denis Johnson, of Idaho, for his novel “Tree of Smoke,” which also won the National Book Award.

Lauren Kessler, of Oregon, for her nonfiction book “Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer’s.”

Aryn Kyle, of Montana, for her debut novel, “The God of Animals.”

Matt Ruff, of Seattle, for his novel “Bad Monkeys.”

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