Writing the blurbs

13 Feb

Nine people. Five books.A winner and four honor books.

The four Sibert Honor books were divided evenly among eight of us, assigned by our Chair. Our mission : a 50 word description of the book and a mere 20 words for authors and illustrators.

The struggle was real. How can you truly explain the merits of a book in  a mere 50 words?

The night before, before our final vote, our chair held the gold medal to each and we gave reasons why they deserved the gold medal. We should have recorded it.

My partner and I, assigned  Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix  started by brainstorming the words and ideas we had thrown out during the previous evening’s discussions. Form that we edited until we had word-smithed this:

Part biography, part culinary adventure, this vibrant and energetic book captures the essence of the LA street food scene. Graffiti-inspired art and hip-hop flavored text blend food, community and identity into a delicious feast for the eyes and ears that reflects the melting pot of America.

We were a little over 50 words, but hoped we’d be forgiven.

Summing up an author in 20 words was nearly impossible. We wrote and rewrote, trying to capture the facts without sounding boring. Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix had two authors and an illustrator. Here is how we described them:

Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of many award-winning children’s books. She lives in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and tries to eat kimchi every day.

June Jo Lee is a food ethnographer and co-founder of Readers to Eaters. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, she now lives near Seattle. This is her first children’s book.

Pioneering graffiti artist Man One grew up in Los Angeles, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount. He is a global leader in the movement to legitimize graffiti art.

While we were writing our honor book, our chair started to work on the blurb for the winner,Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner. My partner and I finished early so we were then tasked with the bio. The winner gets a 50-word bio, but even so it was difficult because the author of a very serious book has a really great sense of humor that we wanted to capture. Here is what we write:

Larry Dane Brimner is the author of 200 books and divides his time between Tucson and San Diego. He taught elementary, high school and university for 20 years. Despite the seriousness of his many award-winning books, his presentations to schools are a blend of stand-up comedy and storytelling. He believes everyone has a story to tell.

Once all the blurbs and bios were written our chair read them all aloud. And then we got to place the stickers. Each pair placed the sticker on the book they wrote up. I can’t begin to tell you how emotional this was.

9 Responses to “Writing the blurbs”

  1. arjeha February 13, 2018 at 7:38 am #

    When you are limited to the amount of words you can use it really makes you think about the ones you pick. Each word has to be just right. I think you and your partner did an amazing job choosing the right words.

  2. margaretsmn February 13, 2018 at 7:50 am #

    What a great thing to be involved in! Writing short has its challenges, but you did a wonderful job cutting to the core of what you wanted to say.

  3. Andrea Clark February 13, 2018 at 10:17 am #

    I really enjoyed your slice. What a cool exercise. I think I am going to try this with my students, to see if they can summarize a book in 50 words or fewer.

  4. macrush53 February 13, 2018 at 12:14 pm #

    How wonderful to be involved with this award. There were great titles listed.

  5. elsie February 13, 2018 at 1:07 pm #

    Love the behind the scenes glimpse! What a tough job! I will appreciate those blurbs more than ever now that I know you had such strict guidelines.

  6. Elaine Kaye February 13, 2018 at 1:35 pm #

    Writing a blurb in 50 words would be tough. That’s more like a tagline! haha

    P.S. I am a new Slicer. I posted my very first Slice of Life on my blog. 🙂

    A Turtle is a Boy’s Best Friend

  7. sallydonnelly11 February 13, 2018 at 3:18 pm #

    I’ve loved your day by day at the conference!! I’m posting them to my student’s site so they can read what you wrote. I am hooked. From now on I will run Mock award units! I’m hinking next year I’ll offer choice – Mock Caldecott, Newbery, Sibert, and maybe nominate an author for the Laura Wilder award!! We LOVED streaming it to find out the winners!!

  8. terierrol February 13, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

    Sounds like you had a fun time meeting the challenge of limited words. This would be a great exercise for students. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Brian Rozinsky February 13, 2018 at 4:01 pm #

    Writing is short is hard, and yet constraints can inspire clarity along with creativity. Thanks for illustrating this powerful dynamic!

Comments are closed.

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