The winner of the first Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project is a librarian! Joanne Zienty, a resident of Wheaton, Illinois and the library media specialist at the Forest School Library in Des Plaines, was awarded the honor for her book The Things We Save at an award ceremony held Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at the RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Libraries) headquarters in Burr Ridge, Illinois.
Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Zienty’s first success as a writer came in fifth grade, when she completed a 70-page novel—an “homage” to Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. Her first play, a Thanksgiving melodrama, was produced at her elementary school. She has been writing ever since. Her other passion is working as a librarian combining her favorite pastimes: reading, encouraging others to read, teaching information literacy, and playing with technology. Zienty shared, “As a writer, participating in the Soon to Be Famous Author project has been an incredibly validating experience!”
The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project is the brainchild of library marketing professionals who were inspired after listening to a presentation by brand expert and NYU professor David Vinjamuri, who spoke at the American Library Association’s 2013 annual conference about the importance of libraries in the era of e-books and self-publishing. He challenged libraries to wield their collective influence to lift a self-published author to success to create a measurable indicator of the power of libraries and librarians to affect books and reading.
One hundred three self-published adult fiction titles were nominated and more than 20 librarians across the state served as judges. After a series of eliminations, the top 3 authors were selected and were all present at the RAILS headquarters for the announcement. Vinjamuri flew in from New York to introduce the authors and present the award to the winner.
The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project is being coordinated in collaboration with the Illinois Library Association (ILA) and Reaching across Illinois Library System (RAILS) and is supported by the American Library Association Digital Content Working Group, the Public Library Association (PLA), and Illinois Heartland Library System.