Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards: Camelia

Today, I received the scores for Camelia from the 

2014 Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards

which I did not win.
 However, I am pleased to share the scores and commentary with you.

Spoiler Alert! The review does mention the end of the book.

My comments below...

From the email:
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding.” This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Entry Title: Camelia
Author: Dianna Dann
Judge Number: [redacted]

Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 5
Character Appeal and Development: 5
Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary*:

Beautiful cover image--conveys an innocent girl carefully walking a line. The placement of the side foot conveys an "about to fall" sense of movement and peril. Very well done. The back cover can be improved by allowing for more contrast between the background pattern and the wording. It's a little bit hard to read. A bolder font would let that description stand out.

Excellent opener with 'madness dances in the light, solace sleeps in shadow.' What a terrific glimpse into her mindset; sets the stage for an exploration in her inner word. [sic] The light and shadow contrast is fantastic, since that's the battle for addicts.

Excellent opener with her poised to plummet, a very dramatic moment, and in that moment her mind is spinning to different topics, especially on the issue of her name. Reader gets a sense of that rollercoaster of mental illness, how thoughts fly unrestrained. When she talks about the hair on her arms, we get a good sense of that self-focus/self-absorption that is a hallmark of her mental issues. Very well done.

We're seeing so many layers of her, without cliche. Very nuanced, and she's been given a terrific voice, good wit, sarcasm, and some terrific wisdom. Author has built a fabulous main character.

We enter the world of the hospital and the characters within, and unlike other successful novels that take place in a ward for the unwell, we get a sense of the cliques and how they think. It's almost a prison society, and the beliefs and actions of each group, as well as their positioning--exceptionally well done--allow the reader to be present in that space, on guard, observing. Beautiful experientials here.

Her therapy sessions are engaging, as is the introduction to Camelia, and when she moves through her world, interacting with people the reader might prefer her not to talk to, it creates an engagement for the reader, a lot of emotion.

There's a bit of a lull at the 2/3 mark, where sh's still exploring her world and resisting 12-step meetings, and the reader wonders if her character is going to evolve as we wish. While it's realistic that an addict hangs on to impulses and practices, and a dramatic change isn't likely to happen, a few glimmers of improvement are very much wished-for by the reader. But on page 307, we still see that she's self-destructive. Reader gets a touch of fatigue at this point. It's at 351 when she admits to Camelia that she tried to bury her pain but it didn't go away that we get a sense of sadness for her. 

She's expressing positive realizations, which is an improvement, but when she says she needs a buffer between herself and a book, we know she is likely to go the way of sad statistics. So, the author has painted a realistic portrait--that even if you want someone you care about to improve, it is truly a tough process and a happy ending isn't always guaranteed. Well done.

So brilliant when she opines on why people talk all the time, that it keeps them disconnected from the hole within them. This is fantastic, and shows her deep wisdom. We like this character and want her to keep using those gems to improve herself. But in the end, when she's saved from getting hit by a truck, her question of "Did you?"is once again a sad exhale for the reader.

Author has taken the reader on a ride through that inner world, a richly detailed one that stays with the reader long after the book is done.

--Judge, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

*As they pointed out in the email, apostrophes and other marks came through as wacky symbols. I did my very best to decipher those replacements that weren't obvious.


I have to say I am very pleased by the commentary. I feel like the judge understood exactly what I was going for with the novel. And of course, anytime someone says you've done well, you like it. 

Camelia was just awarded First Place in the women's fiction category in the Royal Palm Literary Awards, so clearly I am feeling validated. I'm afraid I've been saying that Camelia is a difficult read--that it's a bit crazy, not everyone's cup of tea. I think was afraid that a novel like that, narrated by someone who is suicidal and self-destructive--a brutally honest story--might not be understood. I might not be understood.

I feel understood. I feel like I've connected with some people. This judge. The judges of the RPLA. The few readers and reviewers I've had so far, and The Literary Connoisseur. I am touched by their understanding. And I am very grateful.

The second book under the Dianna Dann pen name is Always Magnolia.

Thanks for reading!

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