Ah, the perils of technology: The snarky e-mail sent to “Reply All,” the revealing Craigslist picture forwarded to reporters. But today’s lesson is a cautionary tale about low-tech miscommunication.
Last week, the National Book Award finalists were announced in a live radio broadcast. “Shine” by Lauren Myracle, a story about gay teens and hate crimes, was named as one of the five top books in the Young People Literature category.
Oops. What they meant to say was teen witch novel “Chime” by Franny Billingsley.
How on earth did a mistake like this happen? Because a staffer misheard “Chime” as “Shine” over the phone.
After the Pulitzer, this 61-year-old award is the biggest in publishing — just being a finalist is a huge career boost. The selection process is closely guarded: Judges secretly choose their favorite books, then call the titles into the National Book Foundation, which administers the prize.
“It’s a security measure: We do it on the phone, because it’s too easy for an e-mail to go astray,” Executive Director Harold Augenbraum told us Monday. “It never even occurred to me that this could happen.”
The names of finalists and winners are deliberately shrouded until the official announcement. “Nobody knows anything,” said Carolyn See, a fiction judge last year and a regular book reviewer for The Post. “It’s structured to be that way.”
No one realized the “Shine”/“Chime” mixup until the live announcement Wednesday on Oregon Public Radio.
Myracle was, of course, elated about the nomination. But the foundation quickly added “Chime” to the five previously announced young adult finalists.
For a day, that seemed the happy compromise. But on Friday, the foundation asked Myracle to withdraw her book from the list — “to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work,” she said in a statement through her publisher. She agreed — but asked the NBF to donate $5,000 to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
Seems the NBF had no backup verification system in place. “There is now,” a chagrined Augenbraum told us, calling Myracle “very gracious.” Last week. “Shine,” was below 5,000 on Amazon’s bestseller lists; late Monday, it was 263. The actual award winners will be announced Nov. 16 in New York City.