2011 Alex Award Winners Announced

I just got back from San Diego, California, where the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting was held this year. 

I was there to meet with my eight colleagues on the Alex Award committee.  We had to determine this year’s winners in time for them to be announced at the annual Youth Media Awards press conference at the crack of dawn Monday morning, January 10, 2011.  We had met once before in person in Washington, DC at the ALA’s Annual Conference during the summer of 2010, but we had been reading and emailing each other about hundreds of possibilities all year.

If you have been reading Indy Theatre Habit from the beginning, you may remember my posts about the 2010 Alex Award winners and the 2009 Alex Award winners.  I also served on the committee that determined the 2008 Alex Award winners but they were announced right before I started this blog.

And yes, yes, I know that this is a theatre reviews blog, not a book reviews blog, but hey, it’s my blog, and this was my last year to serve on the Alex committee, and so I say that I’m going to give you one more list of books that you might enjoy reading on Monday nights when most theatres around here are dark.

The Alex Award is given to up to ten new books that were written for adults but which have potential appeal for teens, too.  Don’t worry if you are not a teenager or, for that matter, a literary snob.  I like to think of the Alex winners as books that hang together well enough for English teachers but which are enjoyable enough for the rest of us to read just for fun.

Here are the ten books that won the Alex Award this year, in order by author’s last name:

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2010 Alex Award Winners Announced

2010 Alex Award winners

1/28/10 update: For the first time, you may also see the list of nominations for this award.  Each book on the “nom list” was nominated by a member of the Alex committee, which meant that she (everyone was a “she” this year) believed it to be a “wow” read, worthy of consideration for the Alex award, which meant that all nine members had to read it.  We did not know until this week that our nom list would be made public, but hey, stuff happens.  I  feel shy, but then delighted, knowing that you, too, can see what we discussed most thoroughly this year.  Because man, it was hard to keep it a secret!


I am going to take my annual break from writing about Indianapolis-area live theatre and storytelling to tell you about the 2010 Alex Award winners.  (My last year’s Alex post is here.)

 The Alex is a relatively new award given by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), which is part of the American Library Association (ALA.)  It is given to up to 10 well-crafted, readable books published in the previous year for adults but which have potential appeal to teens as well.

Continue reading 2010 Alex Award Winners Announced

2009 Alex Award Winners Announced

At last, the Alex winners! - phone photo at the final committee meeting by Kaite Stover 

Nick Hornby calls the Alex Award the “not boring” book award.  It is given to ten good books that were published in the previous year for adults but which have special appeal to teen readers as well.  If you could take only ten new books with you for recreational reading on a deserted island, the Alex ten would make a satisfying bundle.

Here is the official press release from this morning.  I’d like to tell you just a quick, tiny bit about this year’s winners, too, because I am one of the nine committee members from around the country who selected them.  I am very proud of our list.  They are all “wow” reads.  They are all worth your time.

Continue reading 2009 Alex Award Winners Announced

Liz Warren’s List of Differences Between Storytelling and Theatre

Story Teller - photo by Nick Piggott

I’ve been updating my syllabus for the graduate-level class on storytelling that I will teach for the Indiana University School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) on the Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus next semester. 

I am excited because five students have already signed up.  I’m sure the university would like there to be more than five students in order to pay the bills, but from a teaching point of view, five is not bad.  Students get to hear four other telling styles besides mine, yet they still get a lot of chances to tell themselves. 

The smallest group I ever taught had three students in it.  I liked all three of those students just as people, so the challenge that year was making sure that we continued to explore storytelling in a scholarly way rather than spend each class just gabbing. 

The largest group I ever taught had twenty-four students in it. I thought I was going to die on the last day of class, trying to evaluate twenty-four tellers sharing twenty-four different stories.  It was too many “worlds” to take in at once.  I went home after that story listening marathon and just lay on my bed and quivered for a day or two.  If I ever have that many students again, I will structure the course differently.  

Five-ten students is ideal for me, but in any case I will tweak my syllabus according to the number of students I have when the semester begins.

I have decided to use Liz Warren’s new book, The Oral Tradition Today: An Introduction to the Art of Storytelling, as our textbook.  Even though she wrote it to use with the more general, undergraduate class on “The Art of Storytelling” that she teaches at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, I think it will work well for my graduate-level workshop on storytelling in libraries, especially when supplemented with library-related articles.  I like the way each chapter in Warren’s book includes a few teaching stories as well as instruction and theory.

Early on in the book (page 6), Warren addresses the question, “What is the difference between storytelling and theatre?”  I love her answer:

Although many modern storytellers have a background in theatre, there are some fundamental differences between being a storyteller and an actor, and between a storytelling event and a play.

  • First, most storytellers do not memorize a script as actors do. They prefer to learn (but not memorize) a story – thoroughly and deeply – so that when they are telling it, they can respond freely to the particular audience in attendance. This provides dynamism, unpredictability, and freshness to storytelling that is very satisfying for both the teller and the listener.
  • A storyteller does not maintain the persona of a single character. The teller portrays all the characters in the story while remaining herself.
  • Actors generally relate to other actors on the stage rather than directly to the audience. In the theatre, there is the concept of the fourth wall, an invisible wall through which the audience witnesses the events on stage. In storytelling there is no fourth wall, or if there is, it is behind the audience. Storytellers seek to establish a relationship with the audience, at least for the duration of the story, and believe that the stronger the connection between them and the audience, the stronger the impact of the story. In some storytelling events, a high degree of participation from the audience is expected and encouraged.
  • Storytellers do not use directors. In theatre, the director is responsible for interpreting the text and directing the actors in fulfilling the vision. In a storytelling event, the teller is responsible for the interpretation of the story, its development and delivery. Storytellers do, however, often use coaches who help them interpret and actualize their vision of the story.
  • Storytellers do not use sets, props, or costumes. A storyteller seeks to create a world inside the listener’s mind. It is her job to communicate this with words and her body rather than with objects. In this sense, the story is co-created by the teller and the listener in the moment of the telling. Many storytellers believe that props, sets, and costumes can interfere with this process.

Of course, there are exceptions to every single one of the above points.  Some storytellers use directors, some use props and costumes, some portray a character while telling, and some memorize.  Nonetheless, the distinctions above would apply to most tellers.

Thank you, thank you, Liz, for articulating this!  And thanks for taking a sabbatical to write the whole book.  I am looking forward to teaching with it.

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com