Being an Inky Judge: Marlees
As judges for the 2019 Inky Awards, all eight of us were expected to each read 20 books (10 International and 10 Australian) in two and a half months, and then narrow the 20 books down to 10 including the Gold Shortlist – Australian authors and the Silver Shortlist – International authors.
The first stage of reading all the books was easy as it became clear which novels were worthy of being on the shortlist and which weren’t. Although, it was difficult when books I loved didn’t meet the Inky criteria, and I couldn’t choose them to be included in my personal shortlist. I thoroughly enjoyed nearly every book, and yet, when it came time to narrow 10 Australian books and 10 International books down to five Australian and five International books for my preferred shortlist, it was a huge struggle. I found culling 10 Australian novels to five novels easy, yet the International books really stumped me. I originally had 7 books on my shortlist, but only five were allowed and deciding which five was nearly impossible and, quite honestly, brutal!
The real challenge, however, came when selecting the official Gold and Silver shortlists as a group of judges. We all had differing opinions and it was a fierce battle, filled with (well-meaning) messy, heated and passionate bickering. Interestingly, there were a few titles that were unanimously chosen to be shortlisted by all judges and this agreement was a rare occurrence. Other books, forced us to go back and forth about why they should or shouldn’t be included in the shortlist. We left the borderline books to discuss others, as we weren’t getting anywhere, and then we had to return to them. We put books on the shortlist, only to come back to them later, annoyed and having to replace them with another book. The more we pondered, the more we had to change our original shortlist. One could’ve heard an ‘I’m selling this book after’ or ‘it’s a terrible book, it can’t be on the shortlist’ or ‘I loved it! It needs to be on the shortlist’.
It was a battle, albeit one without blades and casualties …almost! We quarreled for three hours, yet at the end of that, we had finally created our hard-won, fabulous and diverse shortlist that was composed of five interesting Gold Australian novels and five intriguing Silver International novels. This process highlighted that although we may all be nerds and book lovers, we most definitely had conflicting views on certain topics. I hope you enjoy voting on the shortlist, as much as we enjoyed reading and narrowing down the shortlist.