The second annual Florida Book Awards were announced Tuesday, and several authors with Tampa Bay area connections were among the medalists.
Poet and fiction writer Enid Shomer, who lives in Tampa, won the gold medal for general fiction for her short story collection, Tourist Season.
Cynthia Barnett won the gold in Florida nonfiction for Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S. Barnett, a Gainesville resident, is a staff writer for Florida Trend magazine, a sister publication to the St. Petersburg Times.
The gold for young adult books went to Tracy A. Akers of Dade City, whose novel The Search for the Unnamed One is the second in a fantasy trilogy.
The awards, coordinated by the Florida State University American and Florida studies program, honors the best in Florida literature published during the previous year. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded in seven categories by three-person juries comprised of members of co-sponsoring organizations, experts from state university faculties and previous winners.
On Tuesday, just after she learned she had won a gold medal, Shomer said, "I'm thrilled.
"It's very gratifying to get this award, especially because I've had the support of the state before in terms of grants. I feel that Florida truly is my artistic home."
Shomer's Tourist Season gathers tales about women of many ages and circumstances: a tough young woman in the throes of first lust, a speech therapist who is amazed to find herself declared a Buddhist saint, an academic who gets uncomfortably close to her subject, a widow who mysteriously grows younger.
A St. Petersburg Times review of the book said, "Her poet's eye is everywhere in evidence in the telling details of the stories in Tourist Season, as is a wry sense of humor that can cut to the heart of a situation but is never unkind.
. . . That is the common thread of these stories: the shock and aftershock of the unexpected. Shomer's women are all tourists, exploring new territory, hoping they've brought what they need. And, like the luckiest tourists, the ones who step outside their quotidian existence and come back different, the reader will find surprises in all these stories."
Barnett's book deals with the timely issue of water shortages in a state with a history of explosive population growth.
"This is wonderful," Barnett said of the award. "I worked on this book while the rain was falling, when we had too much water, in 2004.
"I was going around talking to people about it, and I could tell they were thinking, 'Are you insane?' "
She says she is "honored to have my work in the debate.''
"The bottom line is I hope it makes a difference. I think we can learn from our mistakes and those of the arid West and make changes."
A Times review of Mirage said, "With dead-on analysis, Barnett traces the wrong-headed policies and public delusions that have converted one of the world's wettest locales into a place running low on fresh water. . . . This is one of the most important books to hit our state in a very long time."
Also among the gold medalists is FSU creative writing professor David Kirby. He won the gold medal for poetry for his collection The House on Boulevard St., which was also a finalist for this year's National Book Award for poetry.
Colette Bancroft can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8435.
2007 Florida Book Award winners
Gold: Cynthia Barnett, Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.
Silver: Bruce Hunt,
Florida Then & Now
Bronze: Sudye Cauthen,
Southern Comforts: Rooted
in a Florida Place
Elna Green, Looking for
the New Deal
Gold: Enid Shomer,
Silver: Leonard Nash,
You Can't Get There From Here
Bronze: Diane Abu-Jaber, Origin
Uthaya Kumar, Ticket to the Moon
Gold: Thomas B. Cavanagh, Head Games
Silver: James W. Hall,
Bronze: Mary Anna Evans, Effigies
Bob Morris, Bermuda Schwartz
Rhonda Pollero, Knock Off
Gold: Tracy A. Akers, The Search for the Unnamed One
Silver: Edward Bloor, Taken
Bronze: Crissa-Jean Chappell, Total Constant Order
Gold: Adrian Fogelin,
The Sorta Sisters
Silver: N.E. Bode,
The Slippery Map
Bronze: Ruth Vander Zee,
Gold: German Guerra,
Libro de Silencia
Silver: Ariel Gonzalez,
Samuel Maximo y Niketon
Gold: David Kirby,
The House on Boulevard St.
Silver: Reginald Shepherd, Fata Morgana
Bronze: Julianna Baggott, Compulsions of Silkworms