April 3, 2006 -- London and Raleigh, NC -- An American cook has outclassed a British prostitute to make literary history by winning the inaugural Blooker Prize, the first literary prize for "blooks," or books based on blogs.
"Julie and Julia," a chronicle of "extreme cooking" in a New York apartment kitchen, has beaten "Belle De Jour: The Intimate Adventures of A London Call-Girl," the leading British contender, and 14 other short-listed "blooks" to win the Lulu Blooker Prize (www.lulublookerprize.com) -- sponsored by Lulu (www.lulu.com), a self-publishing web site.
"Blooks are the new books -- a hybrid literary form at the cutting edge of both literature and technology," says Bob Young, Lulu's CEO.
"Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen," by Julie Powell, began life as an online diary, or blog, chronicling Powell's bid to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's classic 1961 cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Powell's blog (currently found at juliepowell.blogspot.com) first built a a cult readership, then attracted notice from publisher Little, Brown. The resulting blook, published last year, has sold almost 100,000 copies.
Powell, 32, is a Texan-raised New Yorker. She calls the news of her Blooker win "a little humbling." She thanks the medium of blogging itself for empowering her to write the winning blook. "The community aspect of blogging and the interaction with others kept me honest, kept me writing and kept me from sinking into my habitual black hole of self-loathing. The writer Annie Lamott said that writing a book is like driving cross-country in the dark -- you can only see ten feet in front of you, but you can get the whole way there that way. That was what blogging did for me."
Plans are underway to make Powell's blook into film. Indeed, it is again competing against "Belle De Jour" to become the first "flook."
A total of 89 blooks were submitted for the Blooker by bloggers ("blauthors") from over a dozen countries, including America, Canada, Britain, India, Australia, Mexico, France, Spain and Holland.
Cory Doctorow, editor of Boingboing (www.boingboing.net), the world's most linked-to blog, and chair of the Blooker judges, calls Powell's blook a "heartfelt, funny and occasionally obscene tell-all about her journey of self-discovery and cholesterol. It does the thing that all great non-fiction needs to do: makes a subject interesting because of how it's covered, not because of the subject itself. I don't care about French food but I loved this book."
The Blooker -- whose name is a nod to another important literary prize -- is open to any blook published in English anywhere by anyone, making it both the largest -- geographically at least -- and most eclectic literary prize in the world. The prize honors blooks in three categories: Fiction, Nonfiction and Comic-Blooks, with the winner of one category -- this year, Nonfiction -- also crowned the grand winner.
The prize money is modest -- some $4,000 in all, of which $2,000 goes to the overall winner. But the judges are all prominent Internet figures and the real prize is the glory, both literary and blog-borne, that goes to the winners of the inaugural contest.
While a blog or web-log is narrowly defined as an online diary, blogs increasingly take diverse forms. With an estimated 70 million blogs already online and a reported 75,000 new ones launching every day, blogs are the fastest-growing kind of new media. Meanwhile, a growing number of bloggers are now publishing traditional, printed books or "blooks" based on their blogs.
The announcement of the Blooker winners follows hard on the news that "Baghdad Burning," a blook based on the blog of an anonymous Iraqi woman, has been nominated for the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize -- reflecting the growing mainstream recognition of what is being called "trickle-up writing" or "bliterature"-- writing that starts online.
The Blooker is the first "bliterary" prize. The winners of all three categories of the inaugural prize are American. The Fiction winner is "Four and Twenty Blackbirds," by another female blauthor, Cherie Priest, who calls it "a southern gothic ghost story," set in Tennessee, where she has lived for the past dozen years. The judges called it "a haunting gothic novel" and the "perfect blook novel."
The winner of the Comic-Blooks category was "Totally Boned" by Zach Miller, from Rochester, Minnesota. When not writing comics, Miller, 24, works in a local coffee shop. In the tradition of many comic artists, Miller self-published his blook.
Lulu launched the Blooker in October to mark the 450th anniversary of Gutenberg's invention of movable type and to honor the fastest-growing new kind of book. "Blooks are the latest landmark in the history of books," says Bob Young, Lulu's CEO.
"A great blook is not a blog shoveled onto paper," stresses Paul Jones, Blooker judge, director of the digital library iBiblio (www.ibiblio.org), and an internationally noted speaker. "Julie and Julia successfully makes the transition from one medium to another and grows as it goes, having learnt from the blog readers."
Powell's achievement, says Jones, is to transform a "deeply personal story--the story of an obsession, that could seem both trivial and indulgent--into a piece of "communal art, an art of conquest (of egg dishes and of self-doubt)."
Doctorow agrees: "Those who dismiss blogging as 'mere' confessional writing and complaining about one's day job fail to appreciate just how engrossing those genres can be when handled by a talented writer like Julie Powell. The story of how blogging -- writing in public -- changed Powell's life is both memorable and inspirational."
"Biodiesel Power" by Lyle Estill
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Source blog/site: Piedmont Biofuels Energy Blog -- www.biofuels.coop/blog
Judges: "Tells the true story of a blog-enabled community that is a real force
for good in the world, using the Internet to coordinate their efforts to generate viable,
plausible alternatives to petrochemicals."
"Four and Twenty Blackbirds" by Cherie Priest
Publisher: Tor Books (October, 2005)
Source blog: http://wicked.wish.livejournal.com
Judges: "A haunting gothic novel that was written as a labor of love and
serialized on a LiveJournal blog … -- this is the perfect blook novel."
"Hackoff.Com: An Historic Murder Mystery Set In The Internet Bubble And Rubble"
By Tom Evslin
Publisher: dotHill Press
Source blog/site: www.hackoff.com
Judges: "Vividly captures the spirit of online chatter and was well suited to serialization
on a blog -- the form combined with the geeky subject matter and a cracking whodunnit
make this book an excellent read for blook-fans."
"Totally Boned: A Joe and Monkey Collection" by Zach Miller
Source blog/site: www.joeandmonkey.com
Publisher: Boxcar Comics (self-published through Lulu.com)
Judges: "Laugh-milk-through-your-nose funny comics aimed at an audience that could only
be commercially viable through the Internet. Geeks are distributed in a thin Gaussian layer
across the world, and while it might not make sense to put one copy of this in
every bookstore in America, putting it online where all geeks can find it
makes it into a smash success."
"Dinosaur Comics: Huge Eyes, Beaks, Intelligence, and Ambition" by Ryan North
Publisher: self-published through CatPrint
Source blog/site: Dinosaur Comics - www.qwantz.com
Judges: "Funny as hell and thrifty in its use of recycled paste-up imagery from strip to strip.
There are genius comic moments in this little book of big lizards."
ABOUT LULU.COM: Lulu, the world's fastest-growing source of print-on- demand books, lets you publish your own blooks, books, ebooks, calendars, images, music and videos at no advance cost. Lulu was founded by Bob Young, who previously co-founded Red Hat, the open source software company.
ABOUT THE BLOOKER PRIZE AND THE SHORT-LIST IN FULL: www.lulublookerprize.com