Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oregon Book Awards Were Rockin'!

Last night's Oregon Book Awards kicked off with a performance by novelist and singer/songwriter Willy Vlautin, an especially appropriate way to launch an evening in which Willy took home two awards: The Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and the first-ever Readers' Choice Award, sponsored by The Oregonian, in which more than 4000 Oregonians voted for their favorite of the books across all categories.

The event was hosted by Kurt Andersen, host of NPR's Studio 360 and the author of the novels Heyday and Turn of the Century, as well as the nonfiction book Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore our Values and Renew America. He is also one of the founders of Spy magazine and the co-founder of the "Portland Brooklyn Project," which nurtures connections, partnerships, and new opportunities for the arts, education, and private businesses between Portland and Brooklyn.

You can read about all of the finalists at our previous blog posting or at the Literary Arts site, sponsors of the Oregon Book Awards. Here are last night's winners:

As previously mentioned, Willy Vlautin took home the prize for fiction (presented by our very own Roberta Dyer!)  for his novel Lean on Pete (Harper Perennial), about fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson and a failing racehorse from Portland Meadows named Pete. Willy, who lives in Scappoose, is the author of two previous novels: The Motel Life (which has just been made into a movie starring Emile Hirsch and Dakota Fanning) and Northline (which comes with its own CD soundtrack). Willy is the lead singer/songwriter for the band Richmond Fontaine, which has a new CD coming out this summer.

The Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry went to David Biespiel for his collection The Book of Men and Women, published by the University of Washington Press. David is the founding director of the Attic Institute ("a haven for writers") and was the editor of Poetry Northwest from 2005 to 2010. His most recent book, Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces, published by Kelson Books, cracks open the creative process and takes a fresh look at the mysterious pathways of the imagination.

Paul VanDevelder from Corvallis won the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction for his book Savages and Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire through Indian Territory (Yale University Press), a "profound dismantling of the whole mythical edifice surrounding the westward expansion that shaped the republic." Paul's previous book, Coyote Warrior: One Man, Three Tribes, and the Trial that Forged a Nation, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award.

John Daniel, who lives in the foothills of the Coast Range outside of Eugene, won his third Oregon Book Award by winning the Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction for his book of essays, The Far Corner:  Northwestern Views on Land, Life, and Literature. He previously won for The Trail Home and Looking After (the "momoir" accompaniment to his "popoir," Rogue River Journal -- two of my favorite books).

The Angus L. Bowmer Award for Drama went to Susan Mach of Portland for her play, The Lost Boy. Susan teaches writing and literature at Clackamas Community College and has had plays produced by Theatre for the New City in Manhattan, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Portland Repertory Theatre, and Icarus Theatre Ensemble.

The awards for books for younger readers went to a debut novelist and a five-time Oregon Book Award winner. Scott William Carter received the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature for his debut novel, The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys. His second novel, a fantasy called Wooden Bones chronicling the untold story of Pinocchio, is scheduled to be published in 2012. Scott lives in Salem.

Winning his fifth Oregon Book Award -- a record for individuals -- was Graham Salisbury for his book Calvin Coconut: The Zippy Fix. Before he started his Calvin Coconut series, which targets middle readers, Graham's previous books were written for young adults. Graham grew up in Hawaii, where the Calvin Coconut books are set, but now lives in Portland.

George Hitchcock was a poet, teacher, playwright, and painter who was born in Hood River and who died last September in Eugene at age 96. George was the founder of Kayak magazine and served as its editor for twenty years, publishing the early work of Raymond Carver, James Tate, and Philip Levine. He received the C.E.S. Wood Distinguished Writer Award from Literary Arts in 2003. Last night Joseph Bednarik of Copper Canyon Press read a tribute to George, who lived quite the life (I'm linking to his NY Times obit here so you can see for yourself) . His long-time companion Marjorie Simon was also in attendance.

The Walt Morey Young Readers Literary Legacy Award went given to The Children's Book Bank of Portland, a nonprofit that strives to  improve the literacy skills of low-income children by giving them books of their own before they reach kindergarten. The Book Bank also administers the Leading for Reading program, an internship program for high school students.

The Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award, which is presented to a person or persons in recognition of outstanding long-term support of Oregon's literary community, was awarded to John Laursen of Portland, with John Daniel doing the presenting. Most recently John is probably best known for the book he produced with the late Terry Toedtemeier, Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge: 1867-1957, one of the most gorgeous books I have ever seen. John is a designer, typographer, writer, editor, and publisher. For four decades he has run Press-22, a studio specializing in the design and production of high-quality books and text-based public art projects. His design imprint can be found throughout the Portland area.

Also acknowledged at last night's gala were the recipients of Literary Arts' most recent fellowships: the writers Jennifer Richter, Crystal Williams, Michelle Penaloza, Brenden Willey, Gretchen Icenogle, Michael McGregor, Claire Willett, and Barbara Liles and the publishers The Grove Review and Octopus Books, both of Portland.

A big round of applause for Literary Arts for another great awards show but especially for all of the wonderful and important work they do in our state. Since 1987, Literary Arts has distributed $680,000 and honored more than 574 writers -- and counting! Keep up the good work. Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists. We've got copies of most of the books -- some of them signed -- at the store, in case you weren't able to make it to last night's event.

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