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The Myracle Mistake: Did the National Book Award Do the Right Thing?

Today I was reading Publisher’s Lunch when I took a HUGE gasp. Lauren Myracle had been asked to withdraw her young adult novel, Shine, as a contender for the National Book Award. I remember just last week reading that Shine was one of the finalists, and now she’s got to pull it because it was a big, huge mistake. Ugh.

This is from Publisher’s Lunch today: “Myracle says in a release from publisher Amulet that she ‘was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work’ on Friday and agreed to do so. In recognition of the error and, we imagine, the sloppy process of dealing with that mistake, the NBF ‘has agreed to donate $5,000 to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.’ (The organization works to protect gay youth and “replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.’”

Okay, this is awkward. And I mean really. It’s like saying, “Hey, you’re invited to be a bridesmaid at my wedding. But no, it was a mistake. Sorry about that. But no worries, I’ll buy the bridesmaid dress for you.” NO, that analogy isn’t working. It’s more like inviting everyone to your wedding, the embossed invitations are printed and mailed out and then your groom says, “Sorry big mistake; I don’t want to marry you.” And this after everyone has reserved their plane ticket and after all of the engagement party gifts have been received. And actually, it’s worse because it’s the National Book Award and it was reported, like, everywhere. A garden variety wedding just involves 100-200 of your closest relatives and friends. We’re talking millions of people knowing. People like you and me who don’t know Myracle personally. Okay, I’m feeling for Lauren BIG time.

Right now I’m reading a YA novel, The Catastrophic History of You & Me, that I picked up about a dead teen who feels as if she has been severely, mortally wronged at the Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Association conference/convention in Portland (a great event–go if you ever have the chance). The novel is organized into sections reflecting the stages of grief: denial, anger, sadness and acceptance. I can only imagine that Lauren is somewhere between anger and sadness right now (at least that is where I am at when I think about it). But knowing about the stages doesn’t make it easier.

Of course, we all make mistakes. And forgiveness is really important.

But the question is when you make mistake what do you do? Do you live with it and move on? Do you confess the mistake and try to make it up to the person in some way?

Do you think the National Book Award did the right thing? Do you think they should have lived with their “mistake” and just invited Lauren to the National Book Award party and kept mum?

Obviously, someone messed up BIG time. But I certainly can’t judge the messing up part. I mean, I could write a big book of mistakes. Just today, I sent my six year-old to school without a booster seat for his field trip to the Pumpkin Patch when Governor Brown just changed the booster seat law on me and now kids need to strapped into booster seats until they are 8 (did I read the papers no? Did I know about it no? Not until a friend called me and I feel like a big dummy and bad mom).

When it comes to the National Book Award mistake can they claim ignorance? Probably not. And is ignorance ever a good defense. Nah. I mean it lessens the intentionality part of it but it doesn’t get you off the hook. Is there a moral high ground here? I’m not sure I know the answer. But certainly, the National Book Award made their answer known.


  1. Unless the book is so bad that it is embarrassing to have on the list (and I doubt that it is), then I think the NBA made an error in judgement. Their “mistake” itself tarnishes the integrity of the award. All I can hope is that this fiasco and the press attached to it helps the sales of Shine. Then at least Lauren might enjoy a good laugh on her way to cashing royalty checks.

    • Yes, I think that’s my instinct too. Live with your “mistake.” Lauren’s such a wonderful writer that it can hardly be called a mistake. And it did go through my mind, too, about the benefits of the press focused on her now. I hope that booksellers out there support Lauren and that in some way she can benefit (at least financially), but certainly not emotionally. What an ordeal.

  2. I guess the NBA made a mistake, asking her to withdraw, but it’s a tough call.

    What I do know is that Lauren has acted with a lot of class. I’m impressed, and I’ll be reading Shine, that’s for sure.

  3. Unless the book is so bad that it is embarrassing to have on the list (and I doubt that it is), then I think the NBA made an error in judgement. Their “mistake” itself tarnishes the integrity of the award. All I can hope is that this fiasco and the press attached to it helps the sales of Shine. Then at least Lauren might enjoy a good laugh on her way to cashing royalty checks.

    • Yeah, I do think the NBA really goofed on this one, too. But I can also see how it is awkward all around because I know Lauren has written about how she does want the other nominees to feel unrecognized because of this fiasco. After thinking about it, the NBA probably should have kept their mistake to themselves, and if needed be, they could have nominated five authors, instead of four, and claimed that there was a tie. I do hope that Lauren is seeing a huge speak in sales of SHINE. There is no getting around the suckiness of the situation.

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