1. Read and discuss good books. Hopefully you don’t need an excuse to read, but it doesn’t hurt to be able to say, “Sorry, I can’t do the dishes, I have to finish this Cybils book.” Cybils judges engage in intense reading – and for Round 1, a LOT of reading – and intense discussions with a small group of people who share your book passion.
In YA Spec Fic, we’ve sometimes had upwards of 200 nominated books in Round 1, and while you don’t have to read them all, Round 1 judges in YA SF can expect to have to read at least 40 books over a 3 month period. (Presumably, you’ll already have read some of the category nominations). It’s crazy intense, but so much fun! Round 2 judges have to read 5 to 7 books in a little under 6 weeks, but they get to read “the best of the best” and choose a winner.
2. Make lifelong friends. Those intense discussions with like-minded people? Turns out they’re a great basis for a friendship. I’ve made lifelong friends from serving together on a Cybils panel. (And KidLitCon is a great place to meet up with them in person!)
3. Influence the books available for children/teen reading. Yup, awards do have an influence. And while the Cybils don’t get as much media as, say, the ALA awards, we have a pretty big and dedicated following that includes teachers, librarians, and booksellers. The books you choose may end up on reading lists, getting purchased by a library, or in bookstore displays. Books that win awards and get that attention may be more likely to be reprinted or have a sequel or other books by the author published.
4. Get your blog better known. Did I mention we have a following? Round 1 judges are encouraged to blog about the books you read, and while Round 2 judges can’t blog the finalists during the round, they can post reviews after the winners are announced. Throughout the Cybils season, we post review excerpts with links to reviews by both Round 1 and Round 2 judges to the Cybils blog, thus further aiding discovery of judges’ blogs. During the summer, you can contribute themed book lists for posting on the Cybils blog. Being a Cybils judge can bring greater visibility to your blog, increase your traffic, and give you greater credibility with publishers.
5. Learn a lot. I mean, a lot. I sometimes think I know a lot about YA SF, but every year I’m blown away by the knowledge and expertise of my fellow judges, and every year I learn more from them.
What I’m looking for
As Category Chair for YA Speculative Fiction, I have the responsibility to choose the judges for my category. It’s my least favorite part of the Cybils: I hate having to choose one person over another, but unfortunately we usually don’t have room for everyone.
Here are some of the things that I look for:
1. A passion for speculative fiction. If your “about” on your blog says that you don’t really like most spec fic, then I’ll most likely pass. If you don’t post about SF much, I’ll think long and hard before choosing you.
2. Knowledge of spec fiction and its subgenres. Speculative Fiction is a very diverse genre. One day you might be reading a scary ghost story, and the next a futuristic dystopian. I look for people who have read broadly within the genre and can discuss the various aspects, literary elements, and tropes of the genre.
3. Critical thinking skills. I have to know that you can think critically about books and analyze the literary elements and readability of a book. Reviews are a great way to demonstrate this, but if you don’t review books, hopefully you can submit other blog posts that demonstrate your critical thinking skills.
4. Open to diverse perspectives. I want to see that you have a demonstrated interest in diversity, and a tolerance for worldviews different from your own.
5. Diverse backgrounds. I mean this in two ways. First, I look for people who can bring expertise or experience with one or more under-represented groups, in what we usually mean when we say diversity. For example, do you blog about people of color, LGBTQA+ characters, differently-abled characters, different religious or worldviews, etc.? Second, I look for a variety of personal and work experience, so that the panel is hopefully made up of a good mix of librarians, teachers, parents, booksellers, authors, etc.
So I have I scared you off yet? Oops, I was supposed to be convincing you why you should apply! Please do apply, and if YA Speculative Fiction isn’t your thing, we have plenty of other categories ranging from Easy Readers to Young Adult. We even have a book apps category!
Also, see the following posts for more reasons to apply!
- Five reasons to apply to be a Cybils Judge (with particular referrence to middle grade spec fic) – from Elementary/Middle-grade Speculative Fiction Chair Charlotte Taylor
- 5 Things I Love About Judging the Cybils – from Easy Reader/Early Chapter Books Chair Katie Fitzgerald
- Cybils Awards v. The Walking Dead – a No Brainer – by new Fiction Picture Books Chair Terry Doherty
- The Cybils: Why I Keep Coming Back – by Blog Editor Melissa Fox
- Cybils 2015 – from Random Musings of a Bibliophile
- It’s Cybils Season!! – from Elementary/Middle-Grade Nonfiction Chair Jennifer Wharton
- For Bloggers: Why You Should Consider Judging #Cybils + Attending #KidLitCon – from Cybils Social Media Guru Jen Robinson