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2012 Oklahoma Book Award Winners


Poet Ben Myers presented the Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement to his mother Anna Myers.

Threatening weather didn’t prevent almost 200 people from turning out for the 23rd Annual Oklahoma Book Awards on Saturday, April 14, at Oklahoma City’s Jim Thorpe Museum and Sports Hall of Fame.

The event is sponsored each year by the Oklahoma Center for the Book in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, a state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, and the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book. The awards recognize books written the previous year by Oklahomans or about Oklahoma. Of the 121 books entered in the competition, 35 were selected as finalists. Twenty-five of the finalists were by authors, poets, designers or illustrators who reside in Oklahoma.

At the ceremony, awards were presented to books and authors in five literary categories: Children/Young Adult, Poetry, Design/Illustration or Photography, Fiction, and Non-Fiction

In addition to the literary awards, Chandler writer Anna Myers, author of 19 books for children and young adults, was presented with the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Oklahoma's literary heritage. The award is named for the Norman historian who served as the first president of the Oklahoma Center for the Book.

In her acceptance, Myers thanked her family, friends and fellow writers. “Story is the second most powerful thing in the world, second only to love.” She told of meeting a young girl at a visit to the Oakdale School after her book Assassin was published. The book deals with President Lincoln’s assassination. She said the student told her, “‘I knew Lincoln had to die, but I kept hoping for a way out.' That's the power of story,” Myers said.

photograph of bookChildren/Young Adult

Children Winner Chikasha Stories, Volume One: Shared SpiritGlenda GalvanChickasaw Press, Sulpher, OK

In this first in a series of Chickasaw storytelling books, Galvan utilizes both the Chickasaw and English languages to relate traditional stories drawn from the tribe’s oral traditions. In these stories, children learn about the interaction between animals and humans. The animals have much to teach us. Young readers are introduced to such animals as the crayfish, red-headed woodpecker, ducks, skunks, bees, and snakes. Galvan is a member of the Chickasaw Fox Clan. She is currently manager and curator of the Chickasaw White House museum and historical site at Emet, Oklahoma.

photograph of bookYoung Adult Winner The RevenantSonia GenslerAlfred A. Knopf, New York, NY

In the late 1800s, seventeen-year-old Willie assumes a false identity and flees to Indian Territory, where she gets a teaching position at the Cherokee Female Seminary. She soon finds the school is cloaked in mystery. The apparent drowning death of a young girl, the year before, is questioned by some students who believe she was murdered by a jealous lover. Although Willie does not believe in ghosts, strange, unexplainable things begin to happen at the school. Is the dead girl’s spirit haunting the school? While attempting to maintain her secret identity, Willie sets out to unravel the mystery. This is Gensler’s first novel. She and her husband live in Norman, Oklahoma.

photograph of bookPoetry

Leaving Holes & Selected New WritingsJoe Dale Tate NevaquayaMongrel Empire Press, Norman, OK

Twenty years have passed since Nevaquaya won a First Book Award in Poetry from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Only now has the winning manuscript, written during a difficult time in the young artist’s life, found its way to print under the title Leaving Holes. His poems reflect a fearless risk-taking with the language, dispensing stunning imagery and unusual metaphors. Nevaquaya is a poet and visual artist residing in Norman. His written and visual art has been anthologized and collected nationally and internationally. He is tribally affiliated with the Yuchi and Comanche tribes of Oklahoma.

photograph of bookDesign and Illustration

Design Winner The Eugene B. Adkins Collection designed by Eric AndersonUniversity of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK

Good design is said to reside in the details. With meticulous attention to detail Anderson exhibits a mastery of the art of book design. The careful layout and use of white space showcase the art from an important collection. The typeface choices are clean and crisp without sacrificing warmth; they invite the reader into the text. Anderson is associate professor of art in visual communications at the University of Oklahoma. He received the 2009 Oklahoma Book Award (along with co-designer Karen Hayes-Thuman and photographer Todd Stewart) for Placing Memory: A Photographic Exploration of Japanese American Internment.

photograph of bookIllustration WinnerIlimpa'chi' (Let's Eat!): A Chickasaw Cookbook photography by Sanford Mauldin, design by Skip McKinstryChickasaw Press, Sulpher, OK

Food photography is a specialized art and Mauldin knows how to do it. Readers can’t look at these photographs of ingredients and prepared dishes without wishing they could cook—and eat—the beautiful food. Designers McKinstry and Long incorporate historical photos, family snapshots, and handwritten recipes to beautifully illustrate the connection of food and cooking to family, tradition, and community. Mauldin has spent twenty-five years as a commercial photographer; he lives in Norman. Oklahoma City’s McKinstry has now been honored five times as an Oklahoma Book Award finalist. Long is manager of the Chickasaw Press.

Photograph of bookFiction

Along the Watchtower Constance SquiresPenguin Group, New York, NY

Lucinda Collins is a headstrong army brat coping with the issues common to military children: frequent moves, the inherent disorganization in the shuffle, the loss of friendships, the perpetual school hopping, and loneliness. She gets by through the music she loves and the interesting people she meets along the way. But when Lucinda’s world is rocked by a shocking revelation regarding her father, she must find the strength to chart a new course. A former army brat, Squires lives in Edmond, with her husband and daughter.

photograph of bookNon-Fiction


An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of TearsDaniel Blake SmithHenry Holt & Company, New York, NY

Smith explores one of the most horrific events in American history: the removal of the Cherokees from their native homeland in the southeastern part of the United States to Indian Territory. The security and future of the Cherokee people were directly linked to the shifting American political landscape. In his book, Smith details the schism that arose among the Cherokees, between the Ross faction that resisted removal and the Boudinot and Ridge followers who believed removal served as the avenue to Cherokee survival. Smith lives in Saint Louis, Missouri, where he works as a screenwriter and filmmaker.

Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award

photograph of Rilla Askew's Mercy SeatAward-winning young adult author Anna Myers loves to tell stories, so it is only fitting that we should give her the first words:

“I was born in the west Texas town of White Face. My father was an oil field worker who had been transferred to Texas from Oklahoma. I had five older brothers and sisters, and when I was seven years old, my little brother was born. I was only a few months old when the family moved back to Oklahoma, but being born in Texas had a big impact on my life. Because I was the only one in the family born outside of Oklahoma, one of my uncles always called me ‘Tex.’ My oldest brother used to tell me that the family found me in a tumbleweed. I was fairly certain he was only teasing, but when I heard the song, ‘Tumbling Tumbleweed,’ I felt a little thrill.

“Stories were always important in our family. My grandmother, my mother, my father, and my aunts, and my uncles were all storytellers. I never tired of hearing the stories about what went on in the Oklahoma hills where my parents grew up as neighbors. My older brothers and sisters loved books. Going to the library on Saturdays was a big event at our house, and my older siblings frequently read aloud to me. It was that love of stories, I believe, that made me decide early on that I wanted to be a writer. “

Anna Myers is one of Oklahoma’s most beloved writers of youth literature. She has written nineteen books, is a perennial finalist in the Oklahoma Book Awards, and has received four Oklahoma Book Award medals during her writing career, for Red Dirt Jessie, Graveyard Girl, Assassin, and Spy. She has received many more awards and honors from across the country.

Myers brings her stories into schools, and even hosts writing workshops for young people. She also serves as a mentor for aspiring authors in the state by serving as the regional advisor to Oklahoma’s Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Let’s give Anna the final words, as well:

“All but two of my nineteen books are historical fiction. I had a Sunday school teacher when I was a girl who used to say, ‘If you don’t know where you have been, you can’t know where you are going.’ I like to think my books help kids know where we have been.”

Glenda Carlile Distinguished Service Award

Oklahoma Literary Landmarks Project

Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma board members Sharon Douthitt, Karen Neurohr, and Tom Terry accept the Oklahoma Center for the Book's Distinguished Service Award from Glenda Carlile [second from the right].

A prairie city in Logan County. A memorial museum in Claremore. A tribal museum in Pawhuska. An urban library in the capital city. A 183-year-old log cabin outside Sallisaw. Oklahoma’s Literary Landmarks are as diverse as the literary giants they honor.

Americans have often honored the nation’s writers and poets through historic landmark designations from Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts, to the Upton Sinclair House in Monrovia, California. However, it was not until the Literary Landmarks Association was founded in 1986 that a concerted effort was made to encourage the dedication of historic literary sites.

In 1989, the Literary Landmarks project became an official committee of the national friends of libraries organization, now part of the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations.

In 2001, to commemorate Oklahoma’s upcoming Centennial in 2007, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma (FOLIO) initiated a state effort to dedicate and place sites on the National Literary Landmarks Register.

Two Oklahomans were instrumental in starting the project in Oklahoma: Julia Brady Ratliff, a teacher and longtime library friend and advocate, and Michael Wallis, award-winning author and Route 66 authority. Ratliff and Wallis co-chaired FOLIO’s Literary Landmarks committee from 2001 to 2007. During that period, and beyond, many FOLIO members, and representatives from a variety of organizations and communities, have participated in the project.

Today, thanks to FOLIO’s efforts, Oklahoma has honored nine writers with ten literary landmarks. (Angie Debo, the state’s grand dame of history, has two sites dedicated in her honor.) Only Florida has more Literary Landmark designations.

The Oklahoma Center for the Book honors FOLIO with the Glenda Carlile Distinguished Service Award for this very special contribution to the state’s literary heritage.

Oklahoma’s Literary Landmarks
  • 2001—City of Okemah—honoring Woody Guthrie
    For his thousands of songs and poems, for his autobiographical novel Bound for Glory, and for his love of America, Guthrie was selected as the first honoree. Among his many songs, This Land is Your Land remains one of the most beloved in our nation. The landmark plaque resides in a pocket park in downtown Okemah.
  • 2002—Ralph Ellison Library, Oklahoma City—honoring Ralph Ellison
    Ellison’s Invisible Man is an American classic, winner of the 1953 National Book Award. The Ralph Ellison branch of the Metropolitan Library System was the logical and sentimental choice for the landmark designation. Ellison friend and literary executor John F. Callahan stated, “for there to be an integrated library named after him in Oklahoma City meant a great deal to him.”
  • 2003—City of Claremore—honoring Lynn Riggs
    Lynn Riggs’s play Green Grow the Lilacs was named one of the ten best plays on Broadway in 1931. More importantly, it would inspire the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! which would introduce our state to the world. His work was a gift to Oklahoma and to his hometown. Royalties continue to support the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. The plaque is located at the Will Rogers Library.
  • 2004—Town of Marshall and Oklahoma State University Library, Stillwater—honoring Angie Debo
    Two Oklahoma Literary Landmarks honor Oklahoma’s First Lady of History. Debo’s hometown of Marshall served as the model for Prairie City, a work of historical fiction. OSU’s library is the home of the Angie Debo Collection, which includes manuscripts, business and personal correspondence, diaries, articles, photos, awards, and memorabilia.
  • 2005—City of McAlester—honoring John Berryman
    Born John Allyn Smith, Jr. in McAlester, in 1914, Berryman spent his childhood in several Southeastern Oklahoma towns, which would later influence his writing. Poet, critic, scholar, and teacher, Berryman was a major voice in late twentieth-century poetry. The landmark plaque is on view at the McAlester Public Library.
  • 2006—Sequoyah’s Cabin—honoring Sequoyah
    Constructed by Sequoyah (George Gist) himself in 1829, this humble cabin was designated a Literary Landmark to honor the man who brought literacy to his tribe through the creation of the Cherokee syllabary. The cabin is located seven miles east of Sallisaw on Highway 101.
  • 2007—Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore—honoring Will Rogers
    Like Guthrie, Rogers was a renaissance man. Famous in vaudeville and wild west shows, he began his syndicated newspaper column in the 1920s. His creative output throughout that decade and the early 30s was remarkable. He wrote thousands of columns, penned his own radio broadcasts, starred in Hollywood films, and wrote six books. Americans read him, because Will Rogers wrote it.
  • 2009—Osage Tribal Museum, Pawhuska—honoring John Joseph Matthews
    Originally scheduled to conclude following Oklahoma’s 2007 Centennial, FOLIO’s Oklahoma Literary Landmarks project proved too popular to end. In 2009, the organization honored historian and novelist Matthews, who was dedicated to collecting, restoring, and preserving Osage culture.
  • 2011—City of Tahlequah—honoring Wilson Rawls
    The author of two beloved juvenile books, Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys, Rawls was honored at a ceremony in the Carnegie Room of the Tahlequah Public Library. During Rawls’s youth, the Carnegie Room was the Tahlequah library, and where he discovered his passion for books and reading.
Coming Up …

No date has been set, but Oklahoma’s next Literary Landmark will honor Creek County native Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel. An Okie migrant, she was dubbed the “Okie Poet” in California. Her poems celebrate family, agriculture, hard work, religion, music, nature, social class, migration, and assimilation.

For more information about FOLIO and the Oklahoma Literary Landmarks Project, visit okfriends.net. Current co-chairs of the Oklahoma Literary Landmarks committee are Michael Wallis and Karen Neurohr. You may also contact Karen for more info at karen.neurohr@okstate.edu.



To see complete list of 2012 Oklahoma Book Award Finalists go here.


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 1-800-522-8116 toll free, statewide. In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, call 522-3383.


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