One-Minute Book Reviews

February 25, 2009

Questions and Answers About the 2009 Delete Key Awards for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:33 am
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UPDATE: The finalists for Fourth Annual Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 25. Please nominate your candidates by Feb. 15, 2010.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for the Third Annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books tomorrow, Feb. 26. The first book to make the shortlist will be named at about 10 a.m. Eastern Time with other titles released throughout the day. The full list of finalists will be posted by 5 p.m.

Here are some questions and answers about the awards:

Why do we need the Delete Key Awards?
When you go bed with a book, you should be able to respect yourself in the morning. Unfortunately, too many publishers don’t realize this.

Who is eligible for a Delete Key Award?
Any book for children or adults published in hardcover or paperback in the U.S. in 2008, including reprints and books in translation.

Why are the awards for “the worst writing in books” instead of “the worst books”?
The overall quality of a book involves subjective issues such as taste and judgment. The Delete Key Awards recognize more clear-cut sins. They call attention to such things as clichés, bad grammar or writing at a statistically verifiable third-grade level. The listing for each finalist will give an example of the bad writing in the book and comment on what’s wrong with it.

What kind of bad writing qualifies for an award?
Anything that would make an intelligent reader cringe. The sins that may qualify a passage in a book for a Delete Key Award include clichés, bad grammar, dumbing down, psychobabble, stereotypes, mispunctuation, stilted dialogue, unintentionally comic sex scenes, and overall tastelessness (the “that’s just sick” factor).

This is the third year Delete Key Awards have been given. What’s new in 2009?

First, visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews are choosing one of the finalists through a poll posted on Feb. 21 oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/. The poll remains open until 5 p.m. Eastern Time Feb. 25. Second, for the first time a special posthumous Delete Key Award will be given out before the shortlist appears.

Who are some past winners of the Delete Key Awards? Where can I read the bad writing that won them their awars?
The 2007 winners were Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors, grand prize; Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, first runner-up; and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, second runner-up, all of whose winning passages were posted on March 15, 2007. The 2008 winners were Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, grand prize; Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon, first runner-up; and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, second runner-up, all of whose winning passages were posted on March 14, 2008.
How do you select the finalists?

At the end of each review on One-Minute Book Reviews, you’ll find the best and worst lines in the book. The finalists usually come from the “worst” lines. But all of the selected examples of bad writing are typical of what you’ll find in the book that made the shortlist. No author became a finalist because of one or two bad lines.

Why are you picking on struggling authors?
First, “struggling authors” is a cliché. Strike it from your vocabulary. Second, I’m not picking on those people. Most of the Delete Key Awards finalists are rich. Those who aren’t rich are generally influential or representative of a strong trend in publishing.

When will you announce the winners of the Delete Key Awards?
Visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews will be able to comment on the finalists for two weeks, and the winners will be named on March 16. The winners are usually named on the Ides of March because Julius Caesar was assassinated then, and at least in spots, these books assassinate the English language. But March 15 falls on Sunday this year, so the awards are being announced on March 16.

Why are you announcing the finalists one at a time instead of all at once?
It will provide more entertainment for people who are bored at work. And there are so many bad writers published in the U.S., my site might crash if they all rushed over at once to see if I’d recognized their contributions to literature.

Why are you qualified to pick the winner of the Delete Key Awards?
One-Minute Book Reviews doesn’t accept free books or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents or authors whose books may be reviewed on the site. So the reviews aren’t affected by the marketing considerations that sometimes affect the decisions of others.

I also received more than 400 books a week during my 11 years as the book editor of the Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper. These included Knitting With Dog Hair, which is still in print. Critics laughed when the book was published. But Knitting With Dog Hair looks like Madame Bovary compared with some Delete Key Awards fianlsits.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It was created by Janice Harayda, a novelist and award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor and critic for the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.

Thanks so much for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

2 Comments »

  1. I think you have missed the most important contribution to childish writing to appear in a decade, certainly deserving of a special award. To Congress for the CPSIA banning the sale or use of children’s books that haven’t been tested for lead. I suggest the award include not only a Certificate, but hanging from a fishhook in the certificate would be soft plastic fish line ending in a lead weight. Note that the Consumer Product Safety Commission Administration says that it will only look the other way with books that don’t contain metal (like a staple) or electronics (like an RFID).

    Comment by thedonofpages — March 8, 2009 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

    • Fortunately, the Delete Key Awards are for books only. If they recognized legislative follies, I’d have no time for anything else :).

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — March 8, 2009 @ 9:20 pm | Reply


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