It might be a Monday, but I’m dancing my touchdown dance anyway. Not just for surviving another Thanksgiving/Black Friday double shift in retail, mind you (I already celebrated that…with alcohol and a few levels of Ratchet and Clank).
No, the reason I’m rejoicing is because this year, I volunteered to help judge for the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and I sent in my final review a few hours ago!
What are the Rainbow Awards, you ask? It’s a celebration of LGBT+ literature, full of diverse relationships and genres. Participants can enter their novels into the contest by donating to one of many LGBT+ charities, and then judges volunteer to read as many books as they’d like (in whatever genres they’d like, so they can avoid reading genres they prefer to avoid), rating each book in terms of Plot Development, Setting Development, Character Development, and Writing Style. There’s also a cover contest as well! There’s more information here if you’re interested in the details, either as a participant or judge for next year.
I ended up reading and reviewing fifteen books this year, which ended up being a lot of fun. I’d been in a reading funk for the past couple years, so being pushed to finish a bunch of books spanning different genres really helped overcome that. Especially since I’m usually not the sort to read anything too far outside of the sci-fi/fantasy genres, but I ended up with a lot of contemporary romances, mysteries, and thrillers that I really enjoyed.
One thing that really impressed me about the entries I read was the sheer diversity of it all. Most of the relationships presented were M/M, but I also got to read some lovely F/F anthologies, relationships with trans* and asexual characters, and even a polyamorous triad. Plus, a lot of the characters came from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, and even positive portrayals of protagonists with mental illnesses, HIV+, and more. Healthy relationship practices like consent and boundaries were also explored in nearly every story, often so naturally that it didn’t even waylay the plot. It was so wonderful to read such inclusive fiction!
Also, since I’m a craft-analyzing nerd (thank you, copious college lit classes), I have to say, I had so much fun analyzing the techniques of all these authors. How did two authors manage to perfectly balance romance and danger, especially when one wrote a city-based thriller while the other presented a countryside recovery tale? Why did one book’s discussions of mental illness or magic feel dry and forced, while another by the same author was fresh and invigorating? What were the pros and cons of this book being split into five novella-esque sections, and how the hell did the author manage to make me flip my opinion on a sadistic prison leader? Did one author really manage to write two different short stories about heartbroken lesbians traveling Alaska without them being at all repetitive?! Why was nearly every story in the lesbian ghost story anthology so PERFECT?
I’m still basking in the glow of review-finishing achievement, especially since I left on a high note of a damn good book. I’m already looking forward to judging next year’s round of books—and seeing my own in the running, because “Bones and Bourbon” will be ready to rumble by the time the Rainbow Awards 2018 is open for business. Until then, I’ll wait and see which books manage to win this year, and resume posting my own reviews on Goodreads.
In the meantime, many thanks are in order. Most of all to Elisa Rolle, for all her hard work in managing these awards, from finding the books to herding all the judges and rounding up the reviews. To the judges who helped review all those entries, and to all the teams and publishing houses behind each book. And especially thank you to all the authors who participated and gave us readers all this wonderful rainbow of books to read from.
In this contest, everyone’s a winner.