|Front row: Non-fiction award recipient, Eric R. Pianka; Carolyn Hart, recipient of the Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement; fiction award recipient M.K. Preston; Doris Eaton Travis, recipient of the Director's Award for Special Merit; Una Belle Townsend, recipient of children's award. Back row: Sharon Darrow, recipient of young adult award; Kandy Radzinski, recipient of illustration award; Scott Horton and Jim Argo, recipient of book design award. (Not pictured: Laurie J. Vitt, non-fiction award recipient, and Laura Apol, poetry award recipient.)|
Windows to the Evolution of Diversity—Eric
R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt
“The biology of lizards is a window through which we can peek at the evolutionary history of life,” Vitt writes in his introductory copy. Lizards is considered the first comprehensive reference book on lizards around the world. Pianka is Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor of Zoology at the University of Texas. Vitt is Professor of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma and Curator of Reptiles at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
Winner: Grady’s in the Silo—Una
How would someone squeeze a 1,200-pound cow out of a silo? That’s the problem Townsend solves in this book, which is based on a true story that happened in her hometown of Yukon, Oklahoma in 1949. Sick and upset, Grady the cow tries to escape after the vet gives her a shot, only to end up stuck in her farm family’s silo. People from across the country and around the world are all too happy to give their advice on how to rescue Grady. Townsend has been an elementary school teacher for nearly 20 years.
Adult Winner: The
Painters of Lexieville—Sharon Darrow
For this harrowing coming-of-age story, Oklahoma native Darrow drew on her experience of working in an Arkansas county welfare department. The tale of determination and empowerment is told from the point of view of the heroine, Pert, as well as that of her brother, Jobe, and mother, Truly. This is Darrow’s first novel for young adults. She has written several books for children. She lives in Chicago with her three daughters.
the Ladder of Sun—Laura Apol
Apol’s poetry explores the ordinary, mundane moments of life, transforming them into the extraordinary. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals, including a full-length collection, Falling into Grace. She is currently Associate Professor of Education at Michigan State University. Although she now lives in East Lansing, she still considers Oklahoma her spirit’s home.
Winner: Family Album: A Centennial Pictorial of the Oklahoma
by Scott Horton; Chief Photographer, Jim Argo
This book is one of two finalists that commemorate OPUBCO’s centennial. Family Album is already a collector’s item since the company printed only enough copies for distribution to employees, families, and friends. Horton employs an intimate photo scrapbook design to pay tribute to the many Oklahomans who have worked for OPUBCO, highlighting pictures from the vaults as well as modern photographs.
Winner: S is for Sooner—Illustrated by Kandy Radzinski
Radzinski’s art has been described as “quirky realism.” She has taught art at Central Washington State College and the University of Tulsa, and has illustrated children’s books, posters, greeting cards, and even a six-foot penguin. She won the Oklahoma Book Award in 1993 for The Twelve Cats of Christmas. She lives in Tulsa with her husband, son, and two Scottie dogs.
of the Bones—M.K. Preston
Preston’s first novel, Perhaps She’ll Die, was also an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, as well as a finalist for the Redmond Barry, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards. This engaging second novel is also set in the fictional town of Tetumka, Oklahoma, where protagonist and amateur sleuth Chantalene Morrell becomes embroiled in a decades-old mystery. Preston lives in Edmond, where she edits and publishes ByLine, a nationally distributed trade magazine for writers.
|Carolyn Hart (right) with presenter Eve Sandstrom|
In addition to the five categories listed, the board of directors of the Oklahoma Center for the Book selects one person each year to be honored for a body of work. This award, the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, was named for the Norman, Oklahoma, historian who served as the first president of the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
Carolyn Hart is an acknowledged master of mystery and suspense. Hailed as America’s Agatha Christie, she is the author of 35 novels with more than 2.5 million copies of her books in print. Hart is the first author to win all three major mystery awards for her novels—the Agatha, the Anthony, and the Macavity awards. She has won each award twice, and is the only author to be nominated seven times for the coveted Agatha Award. She was one of ten authors appearing in the Mystery and Thriller Pavilion at the 2003 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
Born in Oklahoma City, Hart began her love affair with mystery by reading Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Beverly Gray. She received a BA in journalism with honors from the University of Oklahoma in 1958. She was a newspaper reporter and worked in public relations before her first book, a children’s mystery, was published in 1964. She wrote four more young adult novels before moving into the mainstream.
Hart is renowned for her two bestselling mystery series—the Henrie O mysteries and the Death on Demand series. She was the recipient of the Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction in 2001 for Sugarplum Dead. Hart’s newest novel Letter From Home—a finalist for tonight’s fiction award—has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Hart lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Phil.
From time to time the Ralph Ellison Award, posthumously honoring an Oklahoma writer, is also presented. The award is named for Ellison, the first recipient, who was honored in 1995. A plaque is displayed at the Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City bearing the names of each recipient.
Rollie Lynn Riggs is probably best known as the author of Green Grow the Lilacs, the play that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II used as the basis for their groundbreaking musical Oklahoma! While Lilacs opened on Broadway in 1931, and had a limited eight-week engagement (before going on the road), its 1943 musical adaptation was the first Broadway show to run for over 2,000 performances, and was later translated into a motion picture.
During the first half of the twentieth century, Lynn Riggs was the only active American Indian playwright , and by the end of his life, he had written thirty plays. Once an aspiring Hollywood actor, Riggs also worked on scripts for fourteen films produced between 1930 and 1955. His best known work includes co-writing Cecil B. DeMille’s Gary Cooper Western, The Plainsman, and two installments of the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes series.
Riggs was born on August 31, 1899, in the Cherokee Nation, a few miles southwest of Claremore, Oklahoma. His mother Rosie was one-eighth Cherokee, and had registered herself and her children on the Cherokee rolls. His father William was a prominent cattleman and banker.
As a youth, Riggs held a variety of jobs, including cowhand and singer in local movie houses. He later moved to New York, where he worked as a proofreader at the Wall Street Journal, and clerked for Macy’s department store. Beginning in 1920, Riggs attended the University of Oklahoma, where he was poetry editor for the University of Oklahoma Magazine, and taught freshman English. In 1923, Riggs first play, Cuckoo, was produced at the university.
Riggs’s first play to be produced in New York was The Big Lake in 1927, which the American Laboratory Theatre presented to mixed reviews (despite a cast that boasted Stella Adler and Harold Hecht). In 1928, Riggs received a Guggenheim Fellowship. While in France on that fellowship, he began writing his two most important plays, Green Grow the Lilacs and The Cherokee Night. Both plays were set in Indian Territory, in the last decades of the nineteenth and first decades of the twentieth centuries, depicting ordinary people struggling in a hard and unyielding land during a time of rapid, unsettling change.
Riggs also wrote such plays as The Lonesome West, The Cream in the Well, Laughter from a Cloud, Russet Mantle, and Borned in Texas. Lynn Riggs died of stomach cancer on June 30, 1954.
Doris Eaton Travis of Norman received the first Directors' Award. The award is given by the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book Board of Directors to honor a book of special merit. Travis published her first book in 2003 at the age of 99. The Days We Danced: The Story of My Theatrical Family was a finalist in the non-fiction category. Travis celebrated her 100th birthday on March 14, the day after the Book Award dinner.
The Oklahoma Center for the Book, sponsor of the Oklahoma Book Award competition, is located in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Established in 1986 as an outreach program of the Library of Congress, the Oklahoma Center was the fourth such state center formed. Additional sponsorship of the awards program is through the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, a nonprofit 501-c-3 organization.
The mission of the Oklahoma Center for the Book is
to promote the work of Oklahoma authors,
to promote the literary heritage of the state, and
to encourage reading for pleasure by Oklahomans of all ages.
For further information about the Oklahoma Center for the Book or the Oklahoma Book Award program, contact Connie Armstrong, 200 NE 18th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73105; or call 405-522-3383.