Sarton Memoir Award: Rubric

  1. Characters
    0-3 Points
    • Characters not well developed, without complexity, stereotyped
    • Characters' actions not well motivated, not very believable
    • Characters' speech and/or dialogue stilted, awkward, not very interesting

    4-7 Points
    • Characters fairly well developed; fair complexity, minimal stereotyping
    • Characters' actions fairly well motivated, generally believable
    • Characters' speech and/or dialogue fairly natural, interesting

    8-10 Points
    • Characters richly developed; striking complexity; no stereotyping
    • Characters' actions well motivated and believable
    • Characters' speech and/or dialogue natural, engaging

  2. Story
    0-3 Points
    • Beginning slow, doesn't pull the reader in; unsatisfactory conclusion
    • Storyline poorly developed or confusing (unmotivated jumps in time, unclear sequence of events)
    • Story unfolds slowly, inadequately, or with too many distracting side-stories, making it difficult for the reader to stay engaged

    4-7 Points
    • Beginning adequate; conclusion fairly satisfying
    • Storyline fairly easy to follow, even if complex (flashbacks, etc)
    • Story is developed in a way that moderately engages and holds the reader's attention most of the way through the book

    8-10 Points
    • Beginning engages the reader; conclusion very satisfying
    • Storyline clear, even if complex or otherwise challenging
    • Story is developed in a clear, compelling way that fully engages the reader's attention from beginning to end ("I couldn't put it down!")

  3. Memoirist's Relationship to Her Story
    Emotional impact and Significance of Story
    0-3 Points
    • Memoirist tells her story with little or no attempt at authorial introspection ("what/when/where/who" without the "why")
    • Story has little emotional impact on the reader
    • Story has little significance beyond its events and characters

    4-7 Points
    • Memoirist occasionally reflects on the "why" of her story
    • Story has some emotional impact on the reader
    • Story has some significance beyond events and characters

    8-15 Points
    • Memoirist engages in relevant, meaningful introspection
    • Story makes a deep emotional impact on the reader and/or opens the reader's mind to new ideas
    • Story has strong, universal significance beyond its events and characters

  4. Narrative Voice (The "I" of the Story), Tone
    0-3 Points
    • Narrative voice shifting, uncontrolled
    • Voice dull, featureless, or timid
    • Tone insensitive, disrespectful, preachy, or lecture-like
    • Tone inconsistent with seriousness or lightness of the story

    4-7 Points
    • Narrative voice fairly consistent
    • Voice rather interesting and somewhat engaging
    • Tone generally consistent with the storyline

    8-10 Points
    • Narrative voice highly consistent
    • Narrative voice fresh, engaging, and distinct
    • Tone always consistent with the mood of the story

  5. Settings, Sense of Place
    0-3 Points
    • Settings are uninteresting
    • Settings described inaccurately, insufficiently, or in clichés
    • Story establishes little sense of place

    4-7 Points
    • Settings are fairly interesting
    • Settings described with some clichés, with fair accuracy
    • Story establishes an adequate sense of place

    8-10 Points
    • Settings fully and vividly described, accurately and without clichés
    • Story establishes a strong, compelling sense of place

  6. Language, Imagery*, Style
    *Words that evoke sensory experience and emotional response

    0-3 Points
    • Word choices often seem wrong, inappropriate, or out of synch with the story
    • Profanity (if any) is not well motivated or is inappropriate to the character using it
    • Imagery is clichéd or confused
    • Writing style is bland, undistinguished
    • Word choices often seem wrong, inappropriate, or out of synch with the story

    4-7 Points
    • Word choices generally seem right, appropriate
    • Profanity (if any) is fairly well motivated and generally appropriate to the character using it
    • Imagery is sometimes clichéd but generally effective
    • Writing style is occasionally engaging, interesting

    8-10 Points
    • Word choices are appropriate and often striking
    • Profanity (if any) is well motivated and entirely appropriate to the character using it
    • Imagery is vivid, fresh, striking
    • Writing style is frequently engaging, compelling

  7. Language Conventions, Structure
    0-3 Points
    • Distracting errors in grammar, spelling, and/or punctuation
    • Sentence, paragraph, and/or chapter structure overly simple or overly complex

    4-7 Points
    • Some distracting errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation
    • Sentence, paragraph, and/or chapter structure generally acceptable

    8-10 points
    • Almost no errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation
    • Sentence, paragraph, and/or chapter structure artful

  8. Presentation
    0-3 Points
    • Unattractive cover art and book design
    • Interior layout design features (if any) distracting, unattractive, inadequate, unhelpful
    • Font and typesetting difficult to read or distracting
    • Illustrations and/or photographs (if any) of poor quality, not identified, or irrelevant to text
    • Citations (if used) confusing, unconventional, incomplete; or missing and needed*

    4-7 Points
    • Adequate cover art and book design
    • Interior layout design features (if any) fairly adequate, usually helpful
    • Font and typesetting adequate
    • Illustrations and/or photographs (if any) of moderate clarity, generally identified, and usually relevant to text
    • Citations (if used) generally adequate*

    8-10 Points
    • Attractive, appropriate, compelling cover art and design
    • Interior layout design features (if any) striking, unusually helpful
    • Font and typesetting clear, well-chosen
    • Illustrations (if any) appropriate, clear, fully identified
    • Citations (if used) clear, effective*
    *Citations might include endnotes, an author's note, glossary, research sources, bibliography, or other supplemental information.

  9. Bonus Points (1-4)
    • Does this memoir stand out in a way you have not been able to acknowledge using the standards above? Is there something exceptional or original that was not accommodated in our categories? If so, please tell us about it in one or two sentences and add 1-4 bonus points. Please use this option sparingly. We invited you to judge because we trust you, and we know this is subjective.

  10. For First-Round Judges Only
    • Should this book be considered for the final round of judging? Yes/No