2009 Whitney Awards Announced!

CONTACT: Robison Wells, President, Whitney Awards

(Click Here to see the list with covers.)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT: The Whitney Awards committee today announced the finalists for the 2009 Whitney Awards, a program which honors the best novels by Latter-day Saint writers.

To be eligible for consideration, a book must have received at least five nominations from its fans. More than one hundred works by new and established authors in both the LDS and national markets met the preliminary criteria. Once a book is nominated, juries of authors and critics narrow the nominees down to five finalists per category.

This year’s nominees are listed below in alphabetical order by author:







This ballot now goes out to members of the voting academy, a select group of LDS publishers; bookstore owners, managers, and employees; LDS authors; print and online magazine publishers; reviewers; and others working in the field of LDS literature.

Unlike previous voting, this year the academy can choose from any of the thirty finalists for the overall award, Best Novel of the Year. Similarly, any of the finalists who meet the eligibility requirements can be chosen for Best Novel by a New Author. (Those eligible this year: John Brown, Jamie Ford, Jonathon Langford, Riley Noehren, Aprilynne Pike, Dan Wells, and Becca Wilhite.)

Winners will be announced at a gala banquet on Saturday, April 24 at the Marriott Hotel in Provo, Utah. Tickets are now on sale at www.WhitneyAwards.com.

Special awards will also be presented that night to two persons whose bodies of works and tireless efforts have made a significant impact on the field of LDS popular fiction. Gerald Lund will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Dave Wolverton will receive an Outstanding Achievement Award.

For more information on the Whitney Awards, visit www.whitneyawards.com.


Angie said...

Congrats to all the nominees. That is a great list of books!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

A fabulous list of nominees - and I'm especially excited to be signed up for the LDStorymakers conference and get to attend my first Whitney Awards gala. Hopefully my novel will be considered for 2011! (THE HEALING SPELL comes out July 1, 2010 with Scholastic!) :-)

Th. said...


How can Americans read I Am Not A Serial Killer?

LDS_Publisher said...

Th., if you click on the title of Serial Killer, it will take you to the post on LDS Fiction. There are several links on that page. One where you can order the current version, free shipping anywhere in the world.

There are also links to the US Kindle file and a pre-order page for the US release, due March 2010.

Anonymous said...

What's the criteria for determining if a novel is a romance or a historical. Seems like Alma, The Last Waltz, and Tribunal are all romances. It also seems like there are a lot of romances out there so it may have allowed for more romances to be considered by placing romances set in the past into the historical cateroy.

I have not clue what the criteria is. Can you tell me LDS publisher?

To me, if the major story is about a romance, then it should be in the romance category. If the major story is about a historical event or events then it should be placed in the historical category. All three of these, Alma, The Last Waltz, and Tribunal are all definitely romances set in some time period that is not the present. Where as the main story in the Undaunted is telling of the settlement of Southern Utah and the Hole in the Rock trail. And the main story in Company of Angels is the re-telling of one portion of the early Mormon Pioneer trek.

Help me figure this out.

Jennie said...

I disagree with the placement of a lot of novels in the Whitneys and suspect the books were placed in the categories they wound up in because of the blurbs on the backs of the books or because of DB's placement on their website rather than because those with this responsibility had had a chance to actually read the books. Many are excellent stories but they're in the wrong categories. I disagree somewhat with Anonymous concerning the Last Waltz. That story is as much about a historical period as it is a love story and though there is a love story, it really doesn't fit the criteria that would make it a Romance. All of the finalists except The Route in General Fiction are really YA novels. Counting the Cost isn't a romance either and should be in General Fiction. My biggest complaint is that too many of the books are obscure and not readily available for judges to read without a great deal of expense. I'd love to see an additional criteria added to the nominating process that would specify that a book would have to have a minimum number of sales as well as be nominated by five people who are not relatives or associated with the book's publisher.

Annette Lyon said...

I think you misunderstand what the YA genre is--just because a book has a younger character in it doesn't mean it's a YA book.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is definitely NOT a YA novel. It clearly has an adult audience in mind, even though parts of the book have children as main characters. No way would my teenagers want to read that, and you'd NEVER find that book shelved in the YA section of a bookstore--it's clearly an adult novel with grown-up themes and references to music and culture and history that kids just won't (and can't) get.

No Going Back is similar--it has a teen protagonist, but the subject matter and tone aren't ones aimed at teens. I wouldn't hand it over to my 14-year-old son, because even though he's close to the age of the main character, it's not written for him.

Gravity vs the Girl is aimed at an audience late 20s through mid-30s, which is pretty much TWICE the age of a YA novel.

And so on. YA is a very defined genre--it's not defined by the age of the protagonist.

The only one I agree on is that Counting the Cost should have been in either General or (more likely) Historical. But it's an absolutely terrific book, so by the time the judges figured out that it wasn't technically a romance by the typical formula, it was too late to re-categorize. And it deserves to be honored, because it is so good.

RobisonWells said...

I'll see if I can answer the questions from Anon and Jennie. Let me know if I miss anything:

1) How do we determine genre?

I admit that it's not perfect. Our general goal is to categorize books as they would be in a bookstore. In the LDS fiction world, where very little is categorized that way, it's tough to make the call. When a book is romantic suspense or an historical romance, it's often next to impossible to decide which genre it deserves to be in.

That said, we try very hard. Our first step is to check how it's categorized elsewhere. (We'll usually check several places, including Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and even here at LDS Publisher.) If we don't feel that we have a good idea, then we'll talk to readers. (With well over a hundred nominees, the Committee can't read all of them by this early point in the process.) If we still can't come to a consensus, we'll talk to the publisher and/or the author. Finally, when we send out the book lists to the judges, we ask them to let us know when a book is wrongly categorized. This year, five books were changed from one genre to another. (No judge made any complaints about any of the books you mentioned. Counting the Cost was mentioned by one judge, but only to say that the category could go either way. In fact, I believe the judge said something to the effect of "I'm not sure if this should be moved, but you should probably brace yourself for complaints either way.")

Again, it's not perfect. I don't think there is a perfect solution, but we do the best we can.

2) Why don't we have a minimum requirement for sales?

This is for two reasons:
First, because it's next to impossible to get verfiable sales numbers. Second, and much more importantly, because we're trying to honor the very best fiction by LDS writers, and sales shouldn't come into play. Every year we've had finalists that were self-published with presumably very small sales, but the books were great and deserving of being finalists.

I realize that this puts a burden on the voting academy as they try to vote. In the past, several of these hard-to-find finalists have offered free PDFs of their books to the voters, and many have already volunteered to do that again this year. It's inconvenient, but it's a good alternative solution.

3) Why don't we restrict relatives from nominating books?

The answer is (1) we already do, (2) it's impossible to enforce, and (3) that won't stop any books from being nominated. The rules already state that members of your immediate family can't nominate your book, as well as anyone with a financial interest in the book (publisher, distributor, etc). I imagine that most nominators follow this rule, but there's no way to track them all down to be sure. We received nearly a thousand nominations this year. But even if we did have such a rule that restricted all blood relations, and we could enforce it, authors could still ask their friends to nominate the book.

Personally, I don't see what the concern is here. If the book isn't worthy of being nominated, then the judges will weed it out and it won't be a finalist. If the book is worthy of being nominated, then I'm glad it was nominated.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for answering my questions. I get it. And I think you've done a good job with so many things to consider. It seems you've studied it out, made some really good criteria and that you feel really good about how you determine genre.

Thanks again for answering my questions. I feel really good about how you've come to your decisions.

I also love Jennie's hard look at everything. She makes some really good points. Maybe you should put together a Genre Board and make Jennie the Captain. Seriously. She would be great. She likely has read most, if not all the books under consideration. She has loads of experience in critical analysis. She's an author, for crying out loud, with what? 18 something books to her credit. What a great resource for determining genre. Maybe you could make her a consultant rather than name a committee. If she were involved, it would add A LOT of credibility to the decision.

And finally, Annette. Great points. You know your stuff. Good to have your eye on things. Are the titles you mentioned LDS fiction, or were you just drawing from books in general? Is there a difference when looking at LDS fiction vs non-LDS fiction.

Good luck with your whtineying.

Annette Lyon said...

Anon, The titles I mentioned were specifically some of finalists in the General category that Jennie said were YA, with my explanations for why they weren't YA.

Jennie said...

Annette, I know as well as you do what a YA novel is and it has little to do with the age of the characters though they are usually teens. My college Young Adult literature classes defined YA as books that relate to the maturing process or "coming of age" and appeal primarily to readers between twelve and sixteen. The copy of Hotel on the Corner I checked out of the library had a big red YA sticker on the spine and it is a coming-of-age book though it has other themes as well such as the centuries old antagonism between the Chinese and Japanese and the injustice many Japense Americans suffered during World War II. I liked it except for a few inaccuracies concerning Idaho and I wouldn't hesitate to give it to a fourteen year old. In fact my fourteen-year-old grandson read it before I did.

I know we differ on Gravity vs. the Girl, but it too is a coming-of-age story no matter the age of the protagonist and much of the story hinges on childhood and teen experiences that led to the character's breakdown, though I'm not sure it would interest many teens.

As for No Going Back I received a letter from a woman who is an avid fan of the book who said she wished she'd had access to such a book to give her son when he first started showing an interest in the gay lifestyle. She said he might not have Aids now if he'd been able to read that book when he was fifteen or sixteen. (I don't know why she chose to write to me other than she reads my column on Meridian).

Anon: Thanks for your support, but I really don't have time to be any more involved with reading Whitneys than I already am. In fact I won't be even voting in several categories this year because I just don't have time to read all of the finalists in every category or try to figure out how to get copies of books I wouldn't ordinarily read; I did that the past two years and I swore never again.

Rob, I'm very aware of how difficult it is to place books in specific categories and I know you do all you can to get this right. I'm also well aware that there's no way to keep friends, relatives, and friends of publishers from nominating books. Writers and publishers don't always agree on which genre a particular book should be listed in, so you certainly can't guess right every time. Yours isn't an easy task and I think you should be commended for all you do. I'm just doing a little wistful wishing that more books would be nominated by readers, people who actually buy the books or check them out of libraries, and not so many by people who are somehow related to the writing and publishing industry. While I'm at it, I'll do a little useless wishing that books that espouse values and language Elder Whitney and the Church would never condone could be weeded out of the running.

Wm Morris said...

Elder Whitney read Byron. I think he could handle anything the Whitney's threw at him.

Which is not to defend the values of any specific work or use of language in the work(s) that Jennie is referring to -- I just want to remind everybody that invoking Orson F. Whitney comes with a lot of complications and context, which LDS authors and critics of all tastes and stripes tend to leave out.

Anonymous said...

Ah, heck, William Morris. You're always pushing the edge, aren't you. Come on. Can't we just wish a celestial wish without having to Plato ourselves to death? Just once in a while? Please? Pretty please. I know my whinning isn't scholarly or well-versed or educated or deep-thinking or progressive or liberal or whatever. But can't we wish what Jennie wished for and not get a Harvard pie in the face?

I love every intellectual God placed on the planet. But I'd never go a movie with one.

Annette Lyon said...

Great point, William. Anon, If you must, forget Byron--the very Shakespeare that Whitney himself hoped we'd aspire to wrote some rather raunchy stuff. :D

Jennie, I think your professor has a pretty broad view of YA, or maybe you interpreted it that way. The way you describe "coming of age" could apply to 90% of books out there--if a character undergoes some change, awakening, resolution to past issues, etc, that seems to be a coming of age story to you. Hotel and Gravity, for example, have changes and growth, sure, but I wouldn't call them "coming of age" stories.

And to clarify, there's no reason I'd hold back Hotel from my son. He's free to read it if he wants to. My point is that it's not TARGETED at his age group the same way something like Maze Runner or the Alex Rider books or Janette Rallison's books are. It's not something that would necessarily interest him, because he's not the audience it was written for.

And if your library put it in YA, your librarian needs an education. The cover alone is a pretty clear adult-driven cover.

Wm Morris said...

Intellectual? Dude, have you not been following my career closely? I'm a lapsed, backsliding intellectual (shallow but broad), a como-Mo-politan with a populist tongue and a provincial core (to plagiarize myself). A hilobrow observer and a middlebrow semi-sympathizer. A traverser of the LDS fiction/Mormon fiction divide. A cheerleader for DIY efforts of all stripes. And a defender of Mormon orthopraxis and not alienating oneself from the main body of the Ami-Saints and of not fretting too much over doctrinal particulars. And if we must use political terms, then I"m neither liberal nor progressive, but rather a vacillator between Christian Democrat communitarianism and softcore libertarianism with a strong bent in either case towards localism and state's rights.

Also: I already used the Harvard joke. Granted, it was in a Kafka translation. But you know who else already used the Harvard joke? Orson F. Whitney. And his was hilarious (although not exactly well-versed what with the use of tetrameter).

Wm Morris said...

Yeah, I'm more of a Blake and Wordsworth person myself, Annette. Byron is kinda creepy.

Lady Steed said...


Announcement: I'm totally writing the Mormon Titus Andronicus.

Anonymous said...



That was me.

Th. said...


Ah, crap. And so was that.

Th. said...


(This internet stuff is hard.)

Elizabeth Morgan said...

The Whitney awards are so exciting. They help to see some of the best books out there. I am so excited for April to see who will win. Good Luck!