Recognizing a state's book culture by honoring its writers is an important Center for the Book activity. Its affiliated centers for the book in all 50 states and the District of Columbia constantly search for new ways to bring authors and readers together. In the past five years, annual statewide book awards have become increasingly popular and effective ways of bringing public attention to a state's literary heritage and its individual authors, illustrators, poets and storytellers. Nineteen of the state centers sponsor author awards each year; further information is available through the Center for the Book's Web site: www.loc.gov/cfbook. Three of the state author award programs ceremonies are described below.
The first Connecticut Book Awards were presented on Dec. 8, 2002, by the Connecticut Center for the Book at the Hartford Public Library. The ceremony was held in the City Hall Atrium and followed by a reception and book signing. Master of Ceremonies Richard Sugarman, founding president of the Connecticut Forum, one of the sponsoring organizations, described the purpose of the awards: to recognize and honor those authors who represent the best writing in and about the state of Connecticut. Eligible books needed to have been published the previous year and had to have either a Connecticut setting or been written by an author who lives or has lived in the state. Approximately 100 books were nominated by publishers, book organizations and the public, and 35 volunteer judges representing different parts of the book community made the final selections.
The winning books were chosen in six categories: Biography: "Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism," by Char Miller; Children's Literature: "Carver: A Life in Poems," by Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut's poet laureate; Design: "Carver: A Life in Poems," designed by Helen Robinson; Fiction: "Gardens of Kyoto," by Kate Walbert; Nonfiction: "I Knew a Woman," by Cortney Davis, and "Botany of Desire," by Michael Pollan; Poetry: "Carver: A Life in Poems," by Marilyn Nelson.
Both Marilyn Nelson and novelist and writer Wally Lamb, the ceremony's keynoter, are participants in the 2003 National Book Festival. The second annual Connecticut Book Awards will be presented on Nov. 16. For further information, go to: www.hartfordpl.lib.ct.us/cfb.
The third annual Massachusetts Book Awards were presented in Amherst, Mass. on Sept. 14, 2003. The ceremony took place in the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and Carle himself was honored with the Massachusetts Center for the Book's 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award. The post-awards reception and book signing were held at the nearby Yiddish Book Center. Both the Eric Carle Museum and the Yiddish Book Center are housed on the campus of Hampshire College, which has its own Center for the Book and serves with Simmons College in Boston, as a host of the statewide Massachusetts Center for the Book.
John Y. Cole, director the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, was one of the speakers at the ceremony, which honored 12 Massachusetts writers, saluting winners and honorees in five different categories. To be eligible, books must have been written by authors who currently live and work in Massachusetts or must present topics of particular and specific importance to the state regardless of the authors' residency. The 2003 winners were: Fiction: "Sea Room," by Norman G. Gautreau,; Nonfiction: "Revere Beach Elegy: A Memoir of Home and Beyond," by Roland Merullo; Poetry: "Never," by Jorie Graham; and Children's/Young Adult Literature: "Hole in My Life," by Jack Gantos. For further information go to: www.massbook.org.
Eric Carle was a featured speaker at the 2002 National Book Festival. Three Massachusetts authors will participate in the 2003 National Book Festival: Jane Yolen, Anita Shreve, and X.J. Kennedy.
The oldest book awards program sponsored by a state center for the book, the 14th annual celebration of Oklahoma books and authors, was held on March 8. The criteria for eligibility are clear: books considered must have an Oklahoma-based theme, or the entrants must live or have lived in Oklahoma; secondly, the books must have been published between January 1 and December 31 of the previous calendar year.
The 2003 winners were: Children/Young Adult, "The Bobby Switch Story," by Darleen Bailey Beard; Design/Illustration: "The Great Ball Game of the Birds and Animals," drawings by Murv Jacob; Nonfiction: "A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape," by Michael A. Mares; and Poetry: "How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems," by Joy Harjo.
Joy Harjo also won the 2003 Oklahoma Center for the Book's "Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award." The first winner of the award, in 1990, was Librarian of Congress Emeritus Daniel J. Boorstin, who grew up in Tulsa. A quote from Boorstin, who founded the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in 1977, is on the cover of an Oklahoma Center for the Book descriptive brochure: "A book is magical. It transcends time and space."
Mystery writer Carolyn G. Hart, a participant in the 2003 National Book Festival, is the winner of the 2004 Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. It will be presented at the 2004 awards ceremony on March 13, 2004. For further information visit www.odl.state.ok.us/ocb.