MONTPELIER, Ver. – After a two-year hiatus, the Vermont Book Award is back and bigger than ever.
In recent years, an award has been given to the author of the best book of the year with novels, non-fiction and poetry competing for the same prize. Three prizes will be awarded for 2021 by a coalition, including the Vermont Department of Libraries, the Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) in Montpellier and the Vermont Humanities Council.
VCFA had organized the competition in previous years.
The award, founded by VCFA in 2014, will be hosted at the Vermont Department of Libraries, and the three organizations will work together to support and administer the award celebrating Vermont literature.
“In the past, the college administered the award on its own, but now we have this exciting partnership that revitalizes the award and extends its reach. Now, the Vermont Book Award is hosted at the Vermont Department of Libraries. Vermont Humanities will host the spring event at which the winners of the Vermont Book Award will be announced. And then there’s me, an employee of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, who still coordinates the award. So you see it’s a team effort, and all three organizations contribute to the administrative decisions and the work of the award, ”said Miciah Bay Gault, awards coordinator.
Leslie Ward, president of VCFA, agrees. “Contacting the Vermont Department of Libraries and Humanities to explore a partnership seemed like the logical thing to do, as we have a common interest in supporting and recognizing outstanding Vermont writers. We are excited about the possibilities that the expanded leadership model will provide to advance the reach of the award, ”she said.
Three awards rather than one make sense, Gault said. “While I’ve always loved the excitement of having a high-stakes winner over the past few years, I think the new structure is an improvement. We will be able to recognize one winner in poetry, another in creative non-fiction (true stories told using literary crafts) and another in fiction. This means that we are able to celebrate more Vermont writers each year, and we will not be asking our judges to compare poetry to fiction to non-fiction.
Novels for young adults or YA will be considered in the same category as novels for adults.
“The target audience is different, and our judges will certainly take that into account, but the genre is the same. We didn’t want to compartmentalize children’s lighting into its own category, because great writing for kids can be just as brilliant, revolutionary, and necessary as great writing for adults, ”said Gault.
Vermont independent booksellers and librarians name the books. Applications will also be open to the public this winter. About 40 to 50 books are nominated each year.
“As a sponsor of the three Youth-Focused Vermont Readers’ Choice Awards, we see how selecting, voting and celebrating the winner brings to young Vermont readers,” said Jason Broughton, Librarian of the ‘State of Vermont. “It’s only natural for us to partner with VCFA and Vermont Humanities to bring the same level of enthusiasm to adult readers while uplifting Vermont authors. “
The winners will be announced at a spring celebration in Montpellier hosted by the Vermont Humanities Council, as well as the Vermont Reads and the Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award. Vermont Reads is a statewide community reading program in which more than 200 Vermont towns and villages have participated over the past two decades. The Swenson Prize honors a humanities professor who demonstrates an infectious enthusiasm for his subject and inspires lifelong learning in students.
To be eligible for an award, a book must be written by a writer from Vermont who lives here for at least half of the year and published in 2021. Self-published books are not eligible, nor are books written by the staff and administrators of VCFA, the Vermont Department of Libraries and the Vermont Humanities Council. Anthologies containing work written by multiple authors are also not eligible.
“In a state like Vermont with so many writers, it seemed important to have a state literary award. VPR’s “Brave Little State” podcast actually did an entire episode on why so many writers live in Vermont, and the episode begins by confirming, via the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, that Vermont actually has a very high concentration of writers. We’re actually in the top five states in terms of concentration of writers. With statistics like that, how can you not get a Vermont Book Award? Said Gault.
The winners of the Vermont Book Award receive a prize of $ 1,000.
“Vermont Humanities is delighted to work with VCFA and the Vermont State Library to advance the goals of the Vermont Book Awards to honor the many outstanding writers working in Vermont. From Lucy Terry Prince to Rajnii Eddins, from Howard Frank Mosher to Julia Alvarez, Vermont writers are some of the best in American tradition, and we look forward to relaunching the awards in 2022, ”said Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup, executive director of Vermont Humanities.
The 2019 award went to Jason Lutes for his graphic novel “Berlin”.
Poet Kerrin McCadden was the first recipient of the award in 2015. Other laureates include poet Major Jackson; fiction writer Jensen Beach; and the baker / memorial Martin Philip.
“Writers so often work endless hours in solitude, and often they like it. But the Vermont Book Award is a way to briefly put these writers in the spotlight and really celebrate what they’ve accomplished. For a writer to say he won the Vermont Book Award is a very beautiful thing; it’s affirmative and it helps to elevate the status of the book, ”Gault said. “Most importantly, the Vermont Book Award encourages the literary community. So many groups are involved in this award, booksellers and librarians, publishers, writers and, let’s not forget, readers. Vermont readers are so well read and engaged. I am always delighted to meet new writers living and working in Vermont, but it has also been a joy to observe through my work on the Vermont Book Award how passionate Vermont readers are.