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New Salute to Florida Writers
New Salute to Florida Writers

Artwork from the cover of The Somebodies, the newest installment of The Anybodies trilogy, by Julianna Baggott.

Early spring in Florida is azalea time; it's legislature time; and as of now, it's book competition awards-time.

The Florida Book Awards slipped quietly into existence in late 2006, the brainchild of director Wayne Wiegand, professor of Library and Information Studies and professor of American Studies at FSU, who modeled the program after similar successful competitions in California and other states.

Now, at just over a year old, the competition "brings FSU's name to the far corners of the state," Wiegand says, and with seven different competition categories, is by far the nation's most comprehensive contest of its kind in the nation.

The competition awards Florida authors in general fiction, young adult literature, children's literature, Florida nonfiction, poetry, popular nonfiction and Spanish language books. With the exception of books in the Florida nonfiction category, all books must have been written by full-time Florida residents.

For 2006, its first year, the competition had 71 submissions, at least one for each of its seven categories. The next year submissions were up to 85, and Wiegand said he was confident that submissions for 2008 would easily top 100.

Competition for books published during 2007 closed January 7, 2008. Judges are working now to declare the winners, who will be announced at a Florida Library Association banquet in St. Petersburg and a special ceremony held at the Department of State's offices in Tallahassee in conjunction with Florida Heritage month, both in April. Authors published from January 1 to December 31, 2008 will be able to submit their works for the competition's third year.

Last year, during the awards' first full competition, Florida State writers took several top honors. Assistant Professor of English Julianna Baggott won first place for her children's book The Somebodies (HarperCollins, 2006) under the pen name N.E. Bode, and Associate Professor of English her colleague, James Kimbrell, associate professor of English, won for My Psychic, (Sarabande Books, 2006) his book of poetry; they are just two of several FSU faculty award winners.

The program is a venture of the FSU Program in American & Florida Studies. It's co-sponsored by a host of organizations including the Florida Historical Society, the Florida Humanities Council, the Florida Literary Arts Coalition, the Florida Library Association, and "Just Read, Florida!," the Governor's Family Literacy Initiative. All judging is done by three-person juries drawn from the membership of the co-sponsors.

"It's really our partners who make us so successful," Wiegand said. "We march in lockstep with a lot of things that they do, and we end up working as true Democratic partners, to the benefit of all of us."

For more information on the Florida Book Awards, visit www.fsu.edu/~ams/bookawards/index.html. —K.M.