Three debut authors and a veteran author with 15 non-fiction titles under his belt are the winners of the Chicago Writers Association’s 2nd Annual Book of the Year Awards.
The awards will be presented at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 Lincoln Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. The event is free and open to the public.
The winning books are “The Temple of Air” by Patricia Ann McNair, “Coming Out Can Be Murder” by Renee James, “Whiskey Breakfast: My Swedish Family, My American Life” by Richard C. Lindberg, and “Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back” by Kelly Farley.
The finalist judges were last year’s winning authors – Christine Sneed (“Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry”), James Finn Garner (“Honk Honk, My Darling”), Pamela Ferdinand (“Three Wishes”) and Krista August (“Giants in the Park”).
“These are all outstanding, truly deserving works,” said Randy Richardson, CWA President. “I commend all of the winners, and, indeed all of the nine finalists. These awards show what amazing writing talent we have here in Chicago. The judges did not have an easy job at all. They had to make some very tough choices between an extremely competitive field of finalists. I am so thankful for the work that the judges put into this.”
Garner, author of the New York Times Best-Selling “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories,” who judged the traditionally published fiction category, which featured McNair’s short story collection and two novels, Libby Fischer Hellman’s “A Bitter Veil” and Karen Doornebos’ “Definitely Not Mr. Darcy,” said all three books were “satisfying reads in different ways.” Comparing McNair’s collection of 10 stories about one town with Sherwood Anderson’s classic “Winesburg, Ohio,” Garner said the book won him over with its “blunt, unsentimental, touching stories.”
Similarly, Sneed found it to be a tough call. Last year’s winner in the traditionally published fiction category, Sneed said that both finalists in the non-traditionally published fiction category, James’ “Coming Out Can Be Murder” and Linda Lamberson’s “Borrowed Heart”, are “works of impressive imagination and ambition.” But it was the voice of transsexual Bobbi Logan that she couldn’t get out of her head. “’Coming Out Can Be Murder’ is a memorable and strong debut novel,” Sneed said. “In addition to being a thriller set in a vibrant contemporary setting, it is a moving story about sexual identity, loss, and friendship.”
In the traditionally published non-fiction category, last year’s winner, Ferdinand, chose Lindberg’s “Whiskey Breakfast” over Robert Rodi’s travel memoir, “Seven Seasons in Siena,” for its “unusual personal candidness, its historical depth, and its important contribution to the compendium of Chicago literature.”
The non-traditionally published non-fiction category pitted two books that couldn’t be more different against each other, said finalist judge August. Reading Farley’s “Grieving Dads” and Sandi Adams’ “Belly Button Bible Study” together was “highly ironic,” August noted. “To go from one, to the other, and then back again was a bit eerie.” While she enjoyed both, she selected Farley’s book “for transforming his own personal tragedies into something positive and larger than his own world.”
The awards, divided into four categories (traditionally and non-traditionally published fiction and non-fiction), were open to books published between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 and authored by Chicago area authors or CWA members. (Non-traditional is defined as self- and print-on-demand published.)