Thursday, May 14, 2009

Writing awards for Mainers

In book news that has virtually gone unnoticed in her state of birth, former Maine resident, author Elizabeth Strout, won a coveted Pulitzer in fiction, for her latest novel, Olive Kitteridge.

Ironically, it was the LA Times where I learned of this. Back in 1999, Strout had scored the newspaper's Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, for her debut novel, Amy and Isabelle.

While much of the Pine Tree State seems to be oblivious to Strout's award, Carolyn Kellogg of the Times' Jacket Copy blog, wrote a nice post featuring Strout.

Strout's prior novel, Abide With Me, captured accurately, I think, life in a small Maine town, like few other books I've read. While Strout's lived away for several years, she's obviously still connected to her Maine roots.

In an interview done a few years ago, Strout, a Bates College grad, touched on the small town way of life that still characterizes some of the state's more remote areas, although it's disappearing rapidly.

"I come from Maine," Strout says, "and both my parents come from eight or nine generations of Maine people. Even though I've been in New York for so many years, there's something deeply familiar to me about that kind of small town. There is a way of life up there that's disappearing. I did not set out to do it. Not at all. But the pressure inside of me was asking me to write about these people, and it occurs to me that I am sort of documenting the end of an era."

Strout isn't the only native Mainer garnering a recent award for their writing.

Wilton resident Kathy Lynn Emerson was awarded the 2008 Agatha Award for Best Non-fiction Book at the Malice Domestic conference in Washington, D.C.

The Agatha Awards are named after noted mystery writer, Agatha Christie, and are awarded annually to writers working in the mystery genre.

Emerson is nothing, if not prolific, having penned 40 books over the past two decades, averaging two published books per year.

While Stephen King is the name most likely to crop up in conversations about Maine writers, both Strout and Emerson prove that there are other writers with Maine roots worth taking notice of.

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