Times' Craig Pittman among Tampa Bay authors to win Florida Book Awards

How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.' By Craig Pittman, Tampa Bay Times staff writer.
How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.' By Craig Pittman, Tampa Bay Times staff writer.
Published Feb. 20, 2017

Tampa Bay authors were awarded handsomely in the 2016 Florida Book Awards, the winners of which were announced Saturday.

Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman won the gold medal for Florida nonfiction for his book Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.

Pittman's book, a look at some of the state's most unusual events, has received international attention.

"I greatly appreciate any recognition for a book that was turned down by several publishers who didn't think the rest of the country wanted to know much about Florida," he said. "This recognition means so much more because it's coming from my fellow Floridians."

His 2013 book, The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid, won a silver medal in the same category.

Other Tampa Bay area winners include two University of South Florida creative writing professors. Jay Hopler won the gold medal for poetry for The Abridged History of Rainfall, which was also a finalist for the National Book Award. Ira Sukrungruang took the bronze medal for general fiction for his story collection The Melting Season. Ward Larsen of Sarasota won the silver for popular fiction for Passenger 19.

The awards, coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries, are given annually in 10 categories. More than 200 books were submitted for 2016. Authors must be full-time Florida residents, except in Florida nonfiction and visual arts categories, where subject matter must focus on Florida.

The winners will be honored at an awards banquet on April 12 in Tallahassee.

Young children's literature Gold/Reichert Award

Big Cat, Ethan Long

Older children's literature

Gold: The First Last Day, Dorian Cirrone

Silver: Return Fire, Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Bronze: Framed! A T.O.A.S.T Mystery, James Ponti

Florida nonfiction

Gold: Oh Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, Craig Pittman

Silver: White Sand, Black Beach: Civil Rights, Public Space and Miami's Virginia Key, Gregory W. Bush

Bronze: Music Everywhere: The Rock and Roll Roots of a Southern Town, Marty Jourard

General fiction

Gold: The Other Traitor, Sharon Potts

Silver: Sparrow in the Wind, S. Rose

Bronze: The Melting Season, Ira Sukrungruang

General nonfiction

Gold: Lassoing the Sun, Mark Woods

Silver: Beyond Integration, J. Michael Butler

Bronze: Kingdoms in the Air, Bob Shacochis


Gold: The Abridged History of Rainfall, Jay Hopler

Silver: Latest Volcano, Tana Jean Welch

Bronze: Hour of the Ox, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

Popular fiction

Gold: Storm Crashers, Richard Wickliffe

Silver: Passenger 19, Ward Larsen

Bronze: A Murder of Crows, Tom Lowe

Spanish language

Gold: La Casa Viejo y Ortros Relatos (The Old House and Other Stories), Isabel Garcia Cintas

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Visual arts

Gold: Tropical Light: The Art of A.E. Backus, Natasha Kuzmanovic

Silver: Saints of Old Florida, Melissa Farrell, Christina McDermott, Emily Raffield

Bronze: E.G. Barnhill: Florida Photographer, Adventurer, Entrepreneur, Gary Monroe

Young adult

Gold: All We Have Left, Wendy Mills

Silver: Autofocus, Lauren Gibaldi

Bronze: The Homecoming, Stacie Ramey