Award Winning Reading
I just completed my last year as a member of the Wisconsin Library Association’s Literary Awards Committee. It has been a fun, though at times overwhelming, assignment. The group reviews anywhere between 200 and 250 titles each year to select the recipient of the WLA Literary Award, ten Outstanding Achievement Awards, up to 5 Outstanding Achievement in Poetry awards and a few Notable Wisconsin Authors. These books are published by individuals considered to be Wisconsin authors.
This year’s Literary Award winner is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. In his debut novel Chad Harbach examines the lives of 5 people and the ways in which their paths intersect at the fictional Westish College in Wisconsin. Henry Skrimshander is recruited to play baseball by sophomore Mike Schwartz. Through Schwartz’s intervention, Henry is admitted late and finds housing with Owen, another star on the team. Schwartz and Owen take Henry under their wing to help him adjust to the world of academia.
Guert Affenlight, the college president, finds himself falling helplessly in love after what seems a lifetime alone as a single parent to his daughter Pella. Pella, meanwhile, shows up at Westish to try to figure out her own future. When Henry commits an unlikely error during a game, it seems the lives of all of these characters begin to spin out of control. Not really about baseball, this story is more about perfection and failure, heartbreak and doubt, and how we find meaning in our lives. These characters will stay with the reader long after the last page.
The 2012 Outstanding Achievement awards for 2011 publications include the following 10 titles by Wisconsin authors.
- Dean Bakopoulos (Madison) My American Unhappiness
- Benjamin Buchholz (Waupun) One Hundred and One Nights
- Kathy Giorgio (Waukesha) The Home for Wayward Clocks
- Valerie Laken (Milwaukee) Separate Kingdoms
- Paula McLain (Madison) The Paris Wife
- Rae Meadows (Madison) Mothers and Daughters
- Rebecca Rasmussen (Spring Green) The Bird Sisters
- Nina Revoyr (Marshfield/Madison) Wingshooters
- Sam Savage (Madison) Glass: a novel
- Emma Straub (Madison) Other People We Married
The 2012 Outstanding Achievement in Poetry awards for 2011 titles include the following four titles by Wisconsin authors.
- Fabu (Madison) – Journey to Wisconsin: African American Life in Haiku
- Mark Kraushaar (Lake Mills) – The Uncertainty Principle
- Paul Terranova (Madison) – This Small Breathing Coincidence
- Jeanie Tomasko (Middleton) – Tricks of Light
Also recognized this year are two authors being honored as the 2012 Notable Wisconsin Authors. Ellen Hunnicutt was a graduate of UW-Milwaukee and a long-time resident of Big Bend, Wisconsin. She won the Banta Award from the Wisconsin Library Association in 1988 for her novel Suite for Calliope. In addition, she wrote the short stories In the Music Library, Carrot Man and The Clearing.
Anne Powers was a writer of historical fiction. Her list of novels includes The Delaware River Man, Eleanor: The Passionate Queen, No King But Caesar, Ride East, Ride West and The Thousand Fires. Ms. Powers lived in Milwaukee.