We’ve revisited nearly all of our shortlisted titles, with STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY still to go, before our Mock Discussion on January 13th in Oakland. (If you’ve read all the titles and would like to come, email me for the Evite). Participants may be preparing notes, flipping through copies again to re-read an argued passage… while the actual committee is huddled in now for the final long-haul, reading books for the second, third, or fourth time, preparing pages of notes as well as considered pro and con arguments. They may even be strategizing about which of these arguments to present and when, in the event of the need to reballot. If the first ballot (anonymous, weighted 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices) does not produce a winner (with 4 points to a 1st place vote, 3 to a second, and 2 to a third, the winner has the highest total points with at least an 8 point lead over the next in total points, AND at least 8 first place votes); then the committee must discuss titles again before reballoting. From the manual:
Re-Balloting The committee may not proceed to another ballot without a second round of book discussion. At this point, certain choices present themselves, and certain procedures apply:
• By consensus the committee may choose to withdraw from the discussion list all titles that receive no votes on the first ballot.
• By consensus the committee may choose to withdraw additional titles that received minimal support on the first ballot.
• Once withdrawn from the discussion list, a book is permanently eliminated from consideration for the award.
• Once a second round is complete, the committee proceeds to a second ballot.
• On a second ballot (and, if necessary, all subsequent ballots), votes are tabulated by the tellers who use the same point system and formula as in the first round to determine a winner.
• If after a second ballot, there is still no winner, the committee is required to re-open discussion and then re-ballot, alternating between discussion and re-balloting until a winner is selected.
At one point in time there was language in the manual about not bringing into subsequent discussion any points that had been introduced in the original discussion. This appears to have been written out of the 2009 revision, unless I missed it; but that spirit is implied by the discussion guidelines of “trying not to repeat”…and would be more or less enforced by the chair keeping the discussion fluid and concise, for time’s sake.
That new discussion, and re-balloting, is where some of the most interesting mind-shifting can happen. It doesn’t always: the award can be decided from a first ballot. But it’s in re-balloting that sometimes a committee member can start to “make peace” with the fact that a book he or she did not care for might likely wind up with a medal. Note Jonathan’s feelings about SPLENDORS & GLOOMS after thorough consideration, or mine about BOMB. Each of us seem to have come far enough to admit that the fact that we are not the particular readers for these books gets in the way of seeing their strengths override their weaknesses, at least in estimation for our personal Newbery vote. Yet both of these are undeniably strong contenders (at least at Heavy Medal). If the discussion so far on this blog were the final discussion at the Newbery table, neither of us would likely cast a vote for the book. But if both titles stood strong on an inconclusive ballot…is it possible we’d reconsider our very considered positions, and take a leap of faith to follow others? It would likely take a pretty strong…and *new*…argument to do so.