Singing the Praises of the Debut Writer
As a reader and a librarian, it’s easy to just stick with what is comfortable; What you know is going to move off of your shelves. I know that my teens are waiting for the sequel to Delirium by Lauren Oliver, as am I. It’s a sure bet. We know that the next John Green or Sarah Dessen is also going to be a sure bet. They have proven themselves to us as authors and earned our trust and loyalty. But John Green and Sarah Dessen all had to start somewhere. Before we knew them, before they were that sure bet, they were someone that we took a gamble on.
Often, that gamble pays off. This year’s 2012 Printz Award Winner, Where Things Comes Back by John Corey Whaley, is a debut. That’s right, right out of the gate Whaley is an award winning author. He took a chance as a writer, a publisher took a chance, librarians took a chance, and teen readers took a chance. That chance has paid off.
School and public libraries everywhere are facing cuts: funding cuts, staffing cuts. This means we have less money to spend and less time to spend it in. Less time to search for the “next big thing”. And, let’s face it, it is easy to stick with what is comfortable and stay with that sure to circulate author that sits comfortably on our shelves. But we may be missing some real gems of a read.
The Apocalypsies are making it easier for you to follow the 2012 debuts. They have a blog that breaks down the releases. And every month – on the 12th – they have a Twitter chat discussing the debut releases and introducing you to some of the new authors. Their blog is a good source of information that you will definitely want to check out. And if you participate in the chats there are often some prize give aways. (To search the Twitter archives, look for the hashtag #2012debuts).
The Story Siren has put up a challenge to us all: to read 12 debut authors this year. I accepted that challenge and have so far read 4. Of those that I have read, my favorite is The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez (reviewed here). I felt it was emotionally evocative, edgy, and captured the portrait of a young man barely hanging on the edge with a style that reminded me of Chris Crutcher. Jenny has already been kind enough to work with TLT to tell us more about her author journey and give us a great prize package giveaway (look for that in late March). I hope I will be able to introduce you to more of these great debut authors throughout the year.
It is said time and time again that librarians are afraid of change. Let’s prove them wrong. Let’s take up the debut author challenge and keep trying, as we always do, to find great talent and voices to put in the hands of our teens. To go for the cheesy day before Valentine’s Day pun: You may just fall in love with a new author. ::wink wink::
Let me know in the comments what debut titles you have or will read this year.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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