Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling


 A Gathering of Words   


The View from Appeal.

By Nicki Leone


One of the many hats I wear at my job as manager of Bristol Books in Wilmington, NC is the store representative to the Southeastern Booksellers Association (SEBA).  This summer, I attended a meeting of SEBA stores to discuss, among other things, the future of the SEBA Book Award.  This award is given each year to southern books that demonstrate excellence in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Children's and Poetry.

It is a wonderful award to be a part of.  Southern writers, more than any other region, tend to "go national".  Our Charles Fraziers and Jan Karons and Rebecca Wells and Lee Smiths and Silas Houses are quickly recognized in the South for the caliber of their writing.  And writers who are popular here, are a step away from national acclaim. 

Why this is I'm not sure.  I have a theory that the oral, storytelling tradition of the south is a major factor- Southerners tend to talk to each other much more, and that leads to conversations about stories, about writers, and about books.  Which is why that all-important tool for making books a success, "word of mouth" buzz, seems to work so quickly and effectively in the South. 

The purpose of our meeting was to make sure that the SEBA Book Award continued to be "ahead of the curve" so to speak, by recognizing writers who ought to be appreciated as much nationally as they are in the Southeast.  To that end, we made a few minor policy changes to how we nominated books for the award- the author had to be living, and a writer can only win once in a given category.  But I was a little shocked to find that SEBA was considering dropping the award for best poetry book of the year, in favor of a new "lifestyle" category that would include cookbooks and garden manuals. The reason?  All nominations for books in any category have to come from bookstores that are members of SEBA, and last year the nominations for poetry were so few that the award could not be given. 

This fact made me feel both incredulous and slightly guilty.  The guilt came from knowing that
I was one of those bookstores who did not nominate a poetry book for the 2002 award.  The incredulity comes from knowing how active and productive the poetry community is in the South.  I'm afraid I spoke a little hotly in defense of the poetry award at the meeting, with the gratifying result that they voted to keep it.  But this leads me to ask for help from all the members of Southern Scribe;  While it is true that only bookstores can nominate books for the award, anyone can suggest titles to the bookstores.  I know that I, personally, would love to hear from readers about their favorite southern books of the year, especially in categories I know little about (like poetry) or from smaller presses I may not have heard of.

I encourage all the readers of Southern Scribe to make sure that their local bookstores know about the deserving writers in their area. The basic requirements for nomination are:  a book must have been published within the current calendar year (that is, 2002).  The author must be living at the time the book is nominated, and the author can not have already won in the category they are being nominated.  Naturally, it goes without saying that the book must be by a Southern writer or about the South. A glance at the award winners from previous years

<  > shows the high quality of the writers who have been chosen in the past.  Be one of the reasons that equally great writers chosen in the future. 

How SEBA book nominations work.

Books need to be nominated by SEBA bookstores, a list of which can be found on SEBA's website.  All those stores are interested in input from their customers though, so people should just introduce themselves to their neighborhood store!

The basic requirements are that is must be published within the nominating year (i.e., 2002).  The author must be alive at the time of the nomination. The author can not have already won in the category they are being nominated in, and the book must be either by a Southern writer, or about the South.

2002, Nicki Leone, All Rights Reserved