The FSU libraries and the Florida Book Prize named the first recipient of the Gerald Ensley Developing Writer Award, which annually honors a Florida author who has demonstrated exceptional talent and potential for continued literary success and significance in the future.
Johnny Bell, an emerging author who has dedicated his life to public service through education, will receive a $1,000 prize and a copy of “We Found Paradise: Gerald Ensley on the History and Eccentricities of His Beloved Tallahassee” by Gerald Ensley .
“I hope the literature I have contributed to is an inspiration to minority children striving to achieve their dreams as they struggle against oppression and harsh living conditions,” said said Bell.
Bell began writing after years as an educator and basketball coach made him realize it was time to write novels featuring minority characters in lead roles. He has written and published two young adult/teen fiction novels: ‘Take the Shot’, which follows a college student trying to navigate college in the wake of his father’s death, and ‘The Dirt Court’, which follows a character as they navigate the ups and downs of life in the foster care system.
The Gerald Ensley Award for Developing Writer is honored in memory of Gerald Ensley, an accomplished writer who artfully wrote the stories of Tallahassee and its people – and spoke out fearlessly on the most controversial issues in the time. A veteran journalist and columnist from Tallahassee, his career in journalism spans more than 40 years, with more than 50 state and national awards for his work at the Tallahassee Democrat. His wife, Sally Karioth, is a longtime professor at FSU College of Nursing.
“Witty, self-deprecating and brilliant, Gerald has spent his life advocating for the vulnerable and disadvantaged,” Karioth said. “As a young writer, he was nurtured by many who believed in him. He paid for this by mentoring countless young writers who went on to flourish in their own careers. This award will allow her commitment to supporting the next generation of storytellers to continue for many years to come. »
The Florida Book Awards are the nation’s most comprehensive state book awards program, established in 2006 to celebrate the best in Florida literature. Bell and the other 2021 Florida Book Award winners will be honored at an annual banquet on April 7 at Cascades Park in Tallahassee.
For more information on the Gerald Ensley Developing Writer Award and the Florida Book Awards, visit floridabookawards.org/.
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