Tuesday, July 20, 2010


by Holly Jahangiri

You would think anyone would be pleased to receive an award, regardless of its prestige or professional importance. And yet many people, including writers and bloggers, have taken to shunning and disparaging awards given to them and to others.

Until recently, I was one of them.

There are four categories of awards:

  • Prestigious and meaningful professional awards, the recipients of which are determined by a qualified judge or judges having expert knowledge in the field;
  • Awards given by one’s peers, as an acknowledgment of talent, ability, kindness, or some other trait the award giver values;
  • Awards given based on the outcome of a popular vote;
  • Awards one gives oneself (often at a price).

Though these awards are listed here in relative order of importance, none of these awards are without value.

Well-known examples of prestigious awards include the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the Randolph Caldecott Medal, and The John Newbery Medal, or the Oklahoma Book Award.

Awards given by one’s peers may be relatively important within a particular profession, but most people have never even heard of these awards. They include such things as the Society for Technical Communications (STC) awards, The Cybils, and the Heartland New Day Book Fest prizes. These awards may be as simple as a cute graphic bestowed by one blogger on another for being insightful, funny, versatile, honest – in short, for offering something the reader values. It doesn’t take much to win one of these awards, and there’s very little prestige conferred upon the recipient. In fact, such awards usually involve all kinds of soul-baring lists and reciprocal nominations and come under the heading of “feel good awards.”

Awards given based on the outcome of a popular vote include such well-known awards as The People’s Choice Awards and others that are as obscure as The Blogger’s Choice awards. (Trust me; if you’re not a blogger, they’re obscure. There’s a whole world of people out there who still don’t know what a blog is or why anyone in his right mind would bother keeping one. Keep it in perspective, fellow bloggers – the rest of the world still doesn’t care.)

Awards one gives oneself range from expensive vacations or sports cars (“I’m worth it!”) to a smile and a nod of acknowledgement (free!) as you pass by the mirror.

Recently, I remarked that authors need recognition. A fellow author replied, “As to recognition, sales are recognition. Awards I think are just icing on the cake. Any author who feels they need awards to feel recognized probably is in the wrong profession.” I understand this attitude; I share it, to some degree. But in fact, people need recognition, and authors are people, too.

Employers recognize the importance of recognition in addition to salary and other monetary compensation. Most people I know will work harder for appreciation and recognition than they will for money, and money alone doesn’t equal job satisfaction, let alone passion for the work. Whether it’s a friendly pat on the back and a few supportive or encouraging words, or a prestigious award that is recognized around the world, recognition is good for the soul. I was thrilled to fly to Oklahoma to accept awards for Trockle and A Puppy, Not a Guppy at the Heartland New Day Book Fest.

I still think there’s a time to say, “Don’t quit the day job just yet.” I still think constructive criticism has more value than lukewarm praise. And there is greater cachet in winning a widely recognized and respected award; there’s no question that winning the Nobel Prize is a coup, and winning a blogging award that’s meant to be passed on to fifteen fellow bloggers amounts to five minutes of warm fuzzies. But the world is brutal enough without us sneering at a kindness, an honor, a gesture of respect in the form of an award – any award.


Heather Kephart said...

Congratulations on your awards, Holly! Well-deserved.

Awards (and rewards) are basic to human conditioning. We don't continue behavior that isn't rewarded in one way or another - either via a payoff of humiliating ourselves and proving that we are not worthy, by recognition of achievement or impact, or by self-award/rewarding.

Thanks for the food for thought!

Holly Jahangiri said...

Hahahahah...so "humiliating ourselves and proving that we're not worthy" is a motivator to CONTINUE?

You know, for some, it may be. I hadn't exactly thought of it that way, but for the tough-minded and determined, it could certainly be!

Vivian Zabel said...

Awards are icing on the cake, but I prefer cake with icing.

RHFay said...

Some people have told me that the annual Preditors and Editors Readers Poll is pretty much meaningless. I think this belief comes from the fact that the P&E Poll is not a poll of qualified judges or peers, but simply a popular vote. However, I don't see it as having no value whatsoever. I see the P&E Poll as another way to promote one's work. Every little bit of recognition helps. Sales are only one type of recognition writers might strive for.

Dragonblogger said...

I think awards, particularly in the Entertainment industry can be way overdone and abused. However, I think people who take the time to nominate and recognize someone else for an award or reward shows considering and caring. I used to get lots of peer blog awards but didn't have time to participate and pass on as I should have

Holly Jahangiri said...

First, let me apologize to Viv, Justin, and RHFay - I didn't realize comments moderation was enabled, or that I should be moderating them! ;)

Thank you for your thoughtful additions to the discussion.

Justin, when I pass along one of those peer blogger awards, I know that some recipients won't have the time or inclination to do anything with it - they can be fun, but they can create a sense of obligation to reciprocate that leaves you feeling a bit awkward at times. And they seem to come in waves - just how many times in a month can one dream up 7 new little known tidbits about oneself that anyone might find all that interesting? You're absolutely right to take them as a sign that someone was thinking kindly of you, and do with them as you please.

RHFay, you're right. Promotion and popularity have their place. These contests and prizes should NOT be held up for comparison to juried competitions - and their meaning is rightfully different. That doesn't mean they're to be dismissed or sneered at.

Oooh, Viv - now I'm just HUNGRY. That sounds good. And I've been so good on the diet (today) until now!