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Florida Best Books Awards program announced



Contest unites FSU, sponsors statewide in celebration of year’s best
books by Florida authors

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Kick-off is Sept. 25 for the First Annual Florida
Book Awards, the most comprehensive competition of its kind ever
launched in the state and an all-around celebration of the year’s best
books by Sunshine State authors.

Spearheaded by the Florida State University Program in American and
Florida Studies, the first-of-its-kind contest is co-sponsored by more
than a dozen high-profile humanities organizations from around the
state. It seeks submissions penned by new and established authors alike
in seven categories ranging from poetry to popular fiction to young
adult literature. The distinguished judges are scholars and literary
luminaries from FSU and other Florida universities and from co-sponsors
such as the Florida Center for the Book, State Library and Archives of
Florida and Florida Humanities Council.

John Cole, director of the Center for the Book at the U.S. Library of
Congress, calls the Florida Book Awards the most comprehensive
initiative of its kind in the country.

“With an early review like that, we hope this project serves as a model
nationwide,” said FSU’s Wayne Wiegand, a professor of library and
information studies and of American studies, who serves as director of
the Florida Book Awards.

“Models matter,” Wiegand said, particularly in the nation’s
fourth-largest state. After all, he resolved to help create the Florida
competition after visiting the Commonwealth Club of California, home to
that state’s annual book awards program for 75 years. In the club’s
permanent display of winning books was John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of

“Proof positive of the treasure that such initiatives may uncover,”
Wiegand said.

Coordinating the competition with Wiegand is John Fenstermaker,
director of the Program in American and Florida studies at FSU —
through which all entries must pass — and chair of the Book Awards
executive committee. He declares the project “an extraordinary example
of cooperation between our program and the principal organizations in
the humanities in Florida.”

The First Annual Florida Book Awards is calling for entries with an
original publication date between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2006.
Florida authors, co-authors — all must be full-time residents except
in the non-fiction category — literary agents, publishers or any
member of the public may submit an unlimited number of titles into
competition. Required forms, fees ($50 per title, capped at $250) and
review copies must arrive no later than 5 p.m., Jan. 5, 2007.

FSU and other co-sponsors will showcase the books throughout the year
in various ways: permanent, autographed library displays of “Gold
Award” and “Silver Award” recipients, profiles of the winning authors
and books in the prestigious Florida Humanities Council “Forum,” and
readings, book fairs, posters and more. The competition phase concludes
in early March with the announcement of up to five finalists in each
category: general fiction, children’s literature, young adult
literature, Florida non-fiction, poetry, popular fiction and Spanish
language works.

On March 28, 2007, the first annual competition will culminate in
Tallahassee with a ceremony at the State Library and Archives to
recognize formally the works judged tops by jurors (such as acclaimed
poet David Kirby of FSU) drawn from several universities and other
co-sponsoring bodies across Florida.

In addition to FSU’s Program in American and Florida Studies, a
complete list of First Annual Florida Book Awards co-sponsors includes
the Florida Center for the Book; the State Library and Archives of
Florida; Florida Historical Society; Florida Humanities Council;
Florida Library Association; Governor’s Family Literacy Initiative;
Florida Literary Arts Coalition; Florida Association for Media in
Education; Florida Center for the Literary Arts; Friends of the FSU
Libraries; Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America; and “Just
Read, Florida!” The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs will sponsor
the March 28 awards ceremony.

Contest guidelines, entry forms, and lists of sponsors, jury members
and key contacts on the Florida Book Awards, are available through the
FSU Program in American & Florida Studies website,>.

Down the road, Wiegand and Fenstermaker envision winning entries
serving as subjects in academic courses and helping in other ways to
call attention to contemporary Florida book culture and to broader
issues in Florida studies.

“Much hinges on spreading the word about the Awards, especially in
2006, the first year,” Fenstermaker said. “We hope to set a high bar
for winners in each category. Frankly, we are genuinely optimistic. We
don’t expect to be disappointed.”

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