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  • John M Donovan

Fluffball! Receives Participation Trophy

The 2021 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Award winners were announced last month and Fluffball! was not among the finalists.

I thought it had a chance. I’m not sure why I thought it had a chance. Maybe because I’ve never read any of the books that have won previous competitions and don’t know exactly what appeals to the judges.


Not that that would have changed how I wrote Fluffball! or any other novel, of course.


Anyway, the competition sends out judges’ comments to everyone who enters, and I’ve been waiting for these comments with no small amount of trepidation for a month now. Back in 2016, the judge who read Trombone Answers had some wonderful things to say about it; two years later, however, the judge who read The Rocheville Devil missed the point of it completely, getting bogged down in ridiculous minutiae about Tom Skolka’s visions being “more like a fugue state.”


Which explains my trepidation about the comments on Fluffball! How would a judge react to a satire about a professional foam basketball league?


My trepidation was for naught. The judge loved the book. Not enough to move it on to the next level, but the comments were gratifying and echoed everything I love about the novel I’ve been calling the funniest thing I’ve ever written.


Some of these comments follow in yellow italics:


This book is exemplary in its structure, organization, and pacing.


The book is well organized. It does not flow chronologically, but the different chapters all work together to provide a coherent history of a fictional professional basketball league. The pace moves like a fast-break.


This book is exemplary in production quality and cover design. The physical materials, printing, and binding are of professional quality and traditional industry standards. The typesetting and page layout (including illustrations, images, or figures) are easy to follow, thoughtfully designed, and error free. The cover appears to be professionally designed and is compellingly related to the content/genre of the book. (Thanks, Dave Stuck!)


The cover and back cover copy are well done.


The amount of thought that went into developing a long history of a fictional professional basketball league must have been immense. It truly reads like a detailed history of a real sports league. Well done.


This book is exemplary in character appeal (or interest) and development. All main characters (including antagonists) are unique and fully fleshed out with compelling, layered motivations and traits. Secondary characters are unique and have a meaningful purpose.


The book includes detailed sketches of many significant characters in the league's history. Many are based on actual figures from professional sports leagues. While the book will probably not appeal to non-sports fans, any fan of a professional sports league, especially fans who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, will enjoy this tall tale.


This book is exemplary in its voice and writing style. It has a unique voice, and the writing style is consistent throughout. The style and tone are also consistent with or will appeal to readers of the intended genre.


The book is written with the verve of a professional sportswriter, the passion of a sports fan and the creativity of a fiction writer.


The many characters he creates are probably the strength of the narrative. The details he creates are also outstanding. He writes with humor and doesn't take himself too seriously. This book was given serious consideration to move to the next level.


The book is a comprehensive history of the fictional basketball league, and that may be the only criticism. It requires a time commitment that many readers may not be willing to make.


Ah, the time commitment. But hey, with the holidays coming up, some of you might have time to curl up by the fire with a good book that’ll make you laugh and make you think. That book might as well be Fluffball!




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