Monday, November 28, 2011

Cybils! Australia! Other Things!

The 2011 Cybils awards are in full swing. I bought a boatload of e-books before I left on vacation, so I'm not too terribly far behind in reviewing YA SF/F titles, but I'm certainly far behind on blogging about them. When I knew I had the privilege of being a first-round judge for a second year, I set aside a dozen almost-finished titles and started in on the (something like) 180 nominated books for this year. I've hit about a third of them so far, but my personal judge-o-meter wants to see as many as possible before we have to narrow down to a finalist list. Last year, that was about 80% of the nominations in my category, which means I need to read about 80 more books in the next two weeks... I have about 50 stacked up and ready to go, though, so that shouldn't be too hard. Thank you to the publicists and publishers who've so thoughtfully provided copies. I know that only a few will be shortlisted and that there can only be one winner, so it's fantastic to see your support for your authors.

This is always an interesting task, because for most of the year, I'm not reading so comparatively. I mean, I AM; I'm always evaluating, thinking about how this book has appealed or might appeal in the future, and so on. But creating a short list of books that fit the award criteria--as a committee--is not quite the same as if I were creating a short list of books that hit all my buttons.

Because I won't be able to blog about everything I've read, no matter how hard I try, I'm planning to do some themed posts, grouping books into like reading experiences.

I was the very, very fortunate recipient of a trip to Australia this month. I had a fantastic time! I have about 1,000 unread e-mails! I have pictures to label, out of order, because I e-mailed some from my phone when I could find a wireless hotspot! I'll post some travelogues here, and please feel free to skip if you're only here for books.

Other Things!
While I was gone--well, the month before and after a conference are some of the busiest of the year. There are a lot of late nights and early mornings. There's a lot of figuring what can wait until later and what has to be done now. One right-now thing, that went up just as I left, was the 2012 update for Sirens, a small conference focused on women in fantasy. This means books and media, for all ages, written or created by or consumed by women. Next year's event will be held outside Portland, Oregon, on the Washington side of the Columbia River, and the theme is "tales retold," meaning fantasy connected to existing stories. Two of the guests of honor are Malinda Lo and Kate Bernheimer (I'll have to keep mum on the third for now, sorry).

Narrate Conferences has been working on a YA conference for a while, but the economy has been miserable, and in the meantime, I've found these retreat weekends to be really invigorating, smart, and thoughtful, and a great way to connect with fantasy that, being a YA-person, I wouldn't necessarily think to pick up on my own. And, what I meant to say from the get-go, is thank you to the staff who worked so tirelessly through October and November, and who made it possible for me to go on a vacation.

More Other Things!
Photobucket went to a commercialized photo service, so I had to wipe everything out of there.  I'm trying to figure out what to do with my photos now. I'm enjoying Windows Live Essentials as an on-computer editor, because it is one click to some interesting features, like straightening up photos and the like!

Tip: Check the expiration date on your sunscreen before you hike two hours to a deserted, shadeless beach with a very inviting swimming area.

Overland Equipment's Donner bag is handy for carrying just enough and it has handy side pockets for water bottles, tickets, and small electronics.

It's almost the end of the year! I'd like to write a big long post on giving to charity, but I'll just give you these tips: 1) Give because you want to give and because you support the charity's mission and admire their work; your personal income and expenses might not mean you actually get any tax credits, 2) Give as directly as possible; small, local charities can use your help, and some workplace giving programs take HUGE percentages off the top, 3) Give unrestricted money as often as you can; charities can direct it to areas of most need, and won't have to deal with things like disposing of unusable items (think about how many too-old or too-dirty for use sofas Goodwill probably gets every year), and 4) consider offering your time and/or services, either for a short-term program or a project. The last probably isn't tax deductible--the cost of your time or services isn't--and you may be turned down, because it's never a best practice for a charity to put people to work if they can't provide appropriate supervision/training, or when they just don't have anything they need help with, but there are lots of ways to help if you can't give $.

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