Oklahoma Dept. of
More than 160 people attended the tenth annual Oklahoma Book Awards on March 13, 1999, despite a late winter snow storm. The ceremony was held at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City.
The awards program is sponsored by the Oklahoma Center For the Book in the Department of Libraries. Books published during 1998 and written by Oklahomans or about Oklahoma were eligible to enter the 1999 competition.
Design and Illustration
The award in the design and illustration category was presented to David Fitzgerald for Bison: Monarch of the Plains. Fitzgerald is well known for documenting Oklahoma's beauty through his photographs. He was a finalist for the 1994 and the 1995 Oklahoma Book Awards in the design and illustration category.
Billie Letts was presented the award in the fiction category for The Honk and Holler Opening Soon. Letts won the 1996 Oklahoma Book Award for Where the Heart Is. That books recent selection for Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club has brought national fame to this Oklahoma native.
Letts has been in California working on the screenplays for both books. The elated writer said, "It is great to be back in Oklahoma. I love Oklahoma, I love the Oklahoma Book Award, and I love the Oklahoma Center for the Book."
Non-fiction winner was Bob Burke, Oklahoma City, for From Oklahoma to Eternity: The Life of Wiley Post and the Winnie Mae. Part of the Oklahoma Trackmaker Series, the book was published by the Oklahoma Heritage Association.
Children and Young Adult
Barbara Snow Gilbert, Oklahoma City, received her second Oklahoma Book Award in the children and young adult category for Broken Chords.
In receiving the award Gilbert commented on the importance of honoring authors. "Some people say an award is not important, it's the work thats important. But I would like to say, awards are very nice and are important for two reasons. First, the award helps bring attention to the book and gives the work a wider readership. And second, the award is important because it gives the author an encouragement to keep writing."
Winner of the poetry competition, Mark Cox was stranded midway between Kansas and Oklahoma City. Cox received the award for the book Thirty-Seven Years from the Stone. He is director of the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University.
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.
The 1999 recipient was Michael Wallis of Tulsa. Born in Missouri, Wallis considers himself "an adopted Okie." He is best known for his books on Oklahoma history and its people, including Route 66: The Mother Road; Mankiller: A Chief and Her People;, Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation; Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd; Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and The Birth of Phillips Petroleum; Beyond the Hills: The Journey of Waite Phillips, and Oklahoma Crossroads with photographer David Fitzgerald. With his wife Suzanne Fitzgerald Wallis, he has co-authored Songdog Diary: 66 Stories from the Road and Greetings from the Mother Road: Route 66 Postcards. Ten years in the making, Wallis considers his latest book to be his biggest and his bestThe Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West.
Wallis has presented Oklahoma history in a popular format that appeals to readers from all backgrounds. His works have been nominated for the National Book Award and on three occasions for the Pulitzer Prize. In 1981, he was selected as the number one feature writer by the Florida Magazine Association. He has won other prestigious awards and honors, including the 1994 Lynn Riggs Award from Rogers State University in Claremore. In 1996, Wallis was inducted into the Oklahoma Professional Writers Hall of Fame, and in 1994 he was named the first inductee into the Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame.
In receiving the award, Wallis quipped that it was appropriate that he receive the award on the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma Book Awards, since he has written ten books. He said that at the age of 52 it seemed strange to receive an award for his life’s achievements, but he found it very humbling. He said he does not consider this to be the end of his work, but rather a great honor and an incentive to keep writing.
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. There was no award given in 1999.
To see complete list of 1999 Oklahoma Book Award Finalists go here.
The Oklahoma Center for the Book, sponsor of the Oklahoma Book Award competition, is a non-profit, 501-c-3 organization 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. In attendance at the awards ceremony was special guest, Maurvene Williams, program director in the Library of Congress Center for the Book in Washington, D.C.
The mission of the Oklahoma Center for the Book is
For further information about the Oklahoma Center for the Book or the Oklahoma Book Award program, contact Connie Armstrong, 200 N.E. 18th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73105; or call 405-522-3383.
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