"Every time I turn around, I find out something about Florida I didn't know," Enid Shomer says. "I'm lucky to live in such a fascinating place."
The Tampa writer's keen perceptions of the state have often found their way into her poetry and fiction. On Monday, the Florida Humanities Council awarded her its annual Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing.
"It's very exciting, and very humbling," Shomer says. "I know how many great writers there are in the state.
"And it's so wonderful to be acknowledged. Writing is kind of a black hole, such a solitary task. When you get feedback, it's very, very exciting: Wow, someone's actually reading what I'm writing."
Janine Farver, executive director of the Florida Humanities Council, called Shomer "one of the writers who have helped to define modern Florida."
A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Miami, Shomer has published four poetry collections, two short story collections and a novel. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Paris Review and many other publications, and she has received the Iowa Fiction Prize, the Washington Award and other accolades.
Shomer, who is in her 60s, was born in Washington, D.C., but has lived in Florida off and on since childhood. Her emotional connection to the state has often been expressed in her writing, from her first poetry collection, Stalking the Florida Panther, in 1987 to her 2007 short story collection, Tourist Season, which won the Florida Book Awards gold medal for general fiction.
Shomer's most recent book has a very different setting. The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, published in 2012, is her first novel, a lush work of historical fiction that imagines a meeting between novelist Gustave Flaubert and medical pioneer Florence Nightingale in Egypt in 1849. It has won rave reviews and was recently named one of the six best historical novels of 2012 by NPR, which called it "tender and marvelously imagined."
Shomer said that she is likely to return to her home state as a setting for some of her future work. "I have lots of ideas about Florida."
Shomer is the fourth writer to receive the award, which will be presented on March 20 in Tallahassee at a luncheon at the Governor's Mansion. Previous winners are historian Michael Gannon, novelist and journalist Carl Hiaasen, and historical novelist Patrick Smith.