Literary Awards Are a Night to Remember

One day my book will be finished and it will be archived at the Library of Virginia. Until that day, I live vicariously through my author friends (author, as in published book; not writer, as in still working on one).

Literary Awards 2011

Adriana Trigiani, Earl Hamner and Richard Thomas celebrate Hamner's Literary LIfetime Achievement Award. (photo by Cynthia Price)

The best way for me to do that is at the annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards. As in years past, Adriana Trigiani hosted the evening. Herself a gifted and prolific writer, she always provides plenty of laughter and nuggets throughout the evening. This year was no exception. She related a story about writers.

“You’re a very dangerous person,” she said of writers. “Nothing is sacred.”

She talked about eavesdropping on some women on her flight to Richmond. All of us writers, scribbled the story down thinking, “This could work in my book.”

What did they say? They were talking about attending a wedding, and one of the women, in her best Southern drawl said, “First we’re going to socialize, then we’re going to scrutinize.”

Seriously, I couldn’t write it better than that.

While I try to be professional – after all, it is a black tie evening – I couldn’t help but introduce myself to Jan Karon, whose books I devoured during a few weeks after discovering them. Her Mitford Series, Adriana said, changed lives. And as Jan told me, “I try to give you a bit of peace from today’s crazy world.”

I can’t wait to read In the Company of Others, which won the People Choice Award for Fiction this year. She said of her win,” I am shaken, thrilled and delighted.” And she shared what almost everyone in the audience thinks about libraries, “It makes my heart beat faster to be in a library.”

And the evening is about being seen. Even Adriana admits to falling prey to it, describing David Baldacci, who presented the Emyl Jenkins Sexton Fiction Award, as “eye candy.” In talking with him about it later, he just laughed and rolled his eyes. I’ve always enjoyed his books, but as an aspiring author, I appreciate the time he has always given to writers.

The award he presented is always bittersweet as I remember my dear friend Emyl Jenkins. She continues to sprinkle fairy dust on me from afar, and for that I always will be grateful.

The highlight this year for me was watching my friend Julie Campbell win the People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction for her book The Horse in Virginia.

For many in the audience, the highlight was watching Earl Hamner receive the Literary Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by John-Boy Walton himself, Richard Thomas. As Hamner spoke, I was taken back to my childhood days, watching The Waltons with my family. At the beginning and ending of each episode, we heard Hamner speak and wrap up the episode, usually with a philosophical thought.

Thomas described each episode as “an American short story” and said of Hamner, “He wrote these wonderful words for us to say.”

Hamner told the audience, “Virginia has given me fine gifts,” including “the wellspring of everything I have written.”

Until next year’s Library of Virginia event, good night John-Boy.

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Library of Virginia Announces Winners

Adriana Trigiani hosted last night’s 12th annual Literary Awards at the Library of Virginia. As always she was engaging and humorous, connecting everyone. It’s always great fun to see her. She’s  a wonderful author who gives back so much to the book world. By the end of the evening, everyone would be conversing via Facebook. And only she could get by with calling Roger Mudd “eye candy.”

He was the winner of the People’s Choice Award in nonfiction for his “The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News.” The fiction winner was Martin Clark’s “The Legal Limit.”

The gala event was great fun and many Virginia Press Women members attended, including Nancy Beasley, who was a nominee in 2006 for “Izzy’s Fire.” I hope to see Julie Campbell, who is writing a book about the horse in Virginia as a future nominee. Her book is slated to publish this spring.

VPW member Emyl Jenkins, whose latest book is “The Big Steal,” presented the fiction award to Domnica Radulescu for “Train to Trieste,” which tells the story of a young woman’s quest for freedom and shelter in Soviet-dominated Russia during the late 1970s.” Domnica is a professor at Washington & Lee, where Julie also works. The world of authors is small.

Other winners included Annette Gordon-Reed who won the nonfiction prize for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.” Lisa Russ Spaar won the poetry prize for “Satin Cash.” The Weinstein Poetry Prize went to Eleanor Ross Taylor and Charles Wright. The Whitney and Scott Cardozo Award for Children’s Literature was awarded to Doreen Rappaport for “Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln.”

Other VPW members attending included Mary Martin, George and Frances Crutchfield, Sharon Baldacci

Literary Awards

Julie Campbell, Cynthia Price, Adriana Trigiani, Nancy Beasley attend the Library of Virginia Literary Awards.

 and Jann Malone, who also served as a judge.

The Literary Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to John Grisham. He writes a novel a year and all of them have become international best sellers. There are currently more than 235 million of his books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. His first book, however, he sold from the trunk of his car going to libraries statewide.

Libraries were an underlying theme throughout the evening. Most everyone shared their experiences of when they received their first library card. Grisham, whose family moved frequently, considered a town small time if you were only allowed to check out two books at a time. A good library would allow five.

Books, of course, were the focus, but what of their future? Grisham asked what would happen if the Kindle gained in popularity. Would holding a book, cracking it open and turning the pages go the way of the Internet? It was a weighty question and one that no one in this crowd truly wanted to contemplate.

After all, is there anything greater than opening the cover of a new book eagerly anticipating the discoveries within the pages? It’s magical and that’s what makes the Library of Virginia’s Literary Awards magical.