- Associated Press - Monday, October 17, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - This year’s National Book Awards have become a story of embarrassment a month before the winners are to be announced.

Within just a few days, children’s author Lauren Myracle has been a nominee, a non-nominee, a nominee again and, finally, a non-nominee, asked to withdraw over mistakes not her own.

Myracle’s “Shine” was on the original list of five finalists announced last Wednesday for the young people’s literature category. But the National Book Foundation, which sponsors the prizes, cited a “miscommunication” with the judges and quickly said that her book had been confused with Franny Billingsley’s “Chime.” (To avoid advanced word leaking on the Internet, judges inform the foundation by telephone of their choices).

So Myracle was out.

But within a couple of hours, the foundation changed its mind again and welcomed “Shine” back to make six nominees. Meanwhile, fans were posting congratulatory notes on Myracle’s Facebook page.

By Friday, the foundation had decided five nominees were best.

Myracle said Monday in a statement issued through her publisher, Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, that she was “over the moon last week after receiving the call telling me that `Shine’ was a finalist for the award.”

“I was later informed that `Shine’ had been included in error but would remain on the list based on its merits,” she said. “However, on Friday I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work, and I have agreed to do so.”

The National Book Awards, among the country’s most prestigious literary honors, also include categories for fiction, nonfiction and poetry, judged by separate panels of fellow authors. Winners will be announced Nov. 16.

In a statement released early Monday afternoon, the foundation said that it “regrets that an error was made in the original announcement of the finalists for the 2011 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature and apologizes for any confusion and hurt it may have caused Lauren Myracle.”

Speaking to The Associated Press earlier on Monday, foundation executive director Harold Augenbraum would not comment directly on whether Myracle had been asked to pull out but said, “We agree with her that the integrity of the judging process means the five selections by the judges need to be the National Book Award finalists.”

Myracle, known for her candid and explicit takes on teen and tween life, tells of a hate crime against a teenage boy in “Shine.” In her statement Monday, she noted that the book foundation would be donating $5,000 to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, named for the Wyoming youth, who was murdered in 1998.

Myracle, 42, is a highly praised and controversial author. She is the winner of several awards and often is on lists of books most frequently challenged by parents and educators. Her other books include “TTYL,” based on transcripts of instant messages among high school girls, and “Thirteen,” about the life of a 13-year-old girl.

By Monday afternoon, a (hash)isupportshine hash tag had been set up on Twitter. Messages of sympathy were filling Myracle’s Facebook page, and sales for “Shine” picked up enough that its ranking on Amazon.com jumped from No. 1,976 early Monday to No. 263.

Myracle’s publisher, Susan Van Metre, said this week was one of “of extraordinary highs and lows.”

“Throughout, all of us at Amulet and Abrams have remained in complete support of our amazing author, who has published great, groundbreaking books with our house for almost a decade,” Van Metre said in a statement. “We are so proud of `Shine,’ a beautiful and important book, and of Lauren, not least for her grace in such a difficult week.”

Van Metre encouraged the National Book Foundation to review its procedures for transmitting award information between the judges and the staff and to authors and the public so “a painful error like this doesn’t happen again.”

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