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CAL Award Winners from Prior Years

2016 CAL Writing Award Winners

Poetry, Single Poem
When the Owl Came to Gunnamatta Park, by Dan Guenther

FROM THE JUDGES: This engaging poem makes us acquainted with a visiting owl, which is by turns a bird of prey, an eccentric old man laying claim to the neighborhood, a mysterious shape-shifter, or perhaps a lover calling to his beloved. Or even a conjurer seeking to communicate with “the great beyond.”

Poetry, Collection
Moon-Hung Midnights, by Lois Beebe Hayna

FROM THE JUDGES: A lyrical and luminous meditation on life, on what it means to have “hooked a brief ride on an almost infinitesimal carousel” called earth. Her gaze ranges widely, from flowers, birds, weather and the phases of the moon to the personal and historical. Poems beautifully crafted and a pleasure to read.

Between Urban and Wild, by Andrea M. Jones

FROM THE JUDGES: Delicious writing, gentle and deep. Enough detail to draw us in and enough gentleness to make it worth our while.

Feature Articles
And the AWARD WINNER is A New Breed of Therapy, by Jen Reeder

FROM THE JUDGES: Great subject that was well crafted. Like the best features, it tells a story. In this case, a powerful story of healing and giving back. It’s easy to slip into sentiment with this type of subject. Reeder keeps a steady hand and goes for the heart, not the sensational.

After Charleston, by Patricia Raybon

FROM THE JUDGES: Both powerful and gentle, the description of the outpouring love after Charleston is excellent.

Children’s Books
The Mermaid’s Gift, by Claudia Cangilla McAdam

FROM THE JUDGES: The rich language of the text combines with beautiful water color illustrations to present not only a moral tale, but also a feast for the eyes and ears of the picture book reader.

Young Adult Books
War Bonds – Remembering One Small Town in America During World War II, by Beverly Jones

FROM THE JUDGES: Well written coming of age story takes full advantage of the WWII time period and small town setting to explore a girl’s shattered view of life by prejudice and intolerance where she least expected to find it. Jones has created a confident and brave character who learns from all the “rocks” Jones throws her way. Betsy is a delight, and the period details ring true.

General Non-Fiction
Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bear, by Heather Hansen

FROM THE JUDGES: An important book for anyone who values our national park system and who wants to understand it’s sometimes turbulent history. Well-written and well researched, but more than just another dry history book. It’s a fascinating read about how we got here and its many anecdotes, interesting facts, and wonderful images. It was an ambitious undertaking that succeeds with its mission of educating the reader.

Creative Non-Fiction
Flying with El Condor, by Carolyn Evans Campbell

FROM THE JUDGES: A memoir composed of vignettes from the author’s experiences in Peru, and about the many wacky and interesting characters she met during a decade-long adventure. A great story that’s well written and amuses the reader with flashes of humor.

Short Fiction
Knife River Flint, from the collection, Tesserae: A Mosaic of Story, by Sharon Cairns Mann

FROM THE JUDGES: Excellent story of loss and the very beginnings of tentative healing. Well crafted, nicely told.

Mainstream Fiction
Contrition, by Maura Weiler

FROM THE JUDGES: Well-written, well-plotted, and engaging characters. The questions of what it means to create and what it means to destroy as well as what is the definition of art seem to be among the most fundamental questions of life and by far the most difficult to answer. Weiler’s characters ultimately answer this for themselves, but leave us to ponder our own interpretations, and that is what of work of art like Contrition should do.

Genre Fiction
Murder on the Tracks, by Bruce Most

FROM THE JUDGES: Set in 1949 in lower downtown Denver, a hard-boiled cop deals with the death of an Indian near the tracks and the intricate implications that follow. An easy read and a page-turner. The writing was transparent, which puts the reader inside the story. Good use of senses, a good voice, and good attention to details.

Click here to download a slide show of the winners, including the Lifetime Achievement Award winner and the Author Advocate Award winner.

2015 CAL Award Winners

Lois Beebe Hayna, Lagniappe (pub. Lois Beebe Hayna)

Feature Articles
Denny Dressman, Next on the Tee: Lewis & Clark (Colorado Avid Golfer magazine)

Ellen Nordberg, The Ambivalent Mother (Flatirons Literary review)

General Nonfiction
Mary Taylor Young, Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years (Farcountry Press)

Creative Nonfiction
Julene Bair, The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning (Viking/Penguin)

Lydia Gil, Letters From Heaven (Arte Publico Press)

Young Adult
Linda LeBlanc, No Summit Out of Sight (Simon & Schuster)

Short Fiction
Sharon Cairns Mann, Pockets (Progenitor Art & Literary Journal of Arapahoe Community College)

Mainstream Fiction
J.M. Mitchell, The Height of Secrecy (Prairie Plum Press)

Genre Fiction
Mark Stevens, Trapline (Midnight Ink)

(click here to download the slide show of the winners)

2014 CAL Award Winners

Book Adult Fiction Mainstream       
Not to be Forgiven by Nancy Mayborn Peterson

Book Adult Fiction Genre                 
Rope Burn by Bruce W. Most

Book Young Adult                             
Backwards by Todd Mitchell

Book Children                       
The First Rainbow by Phyllis J. Perry, illustrated by Jeff West

Short fiction: Adult/Children
“Footprints in Water” by Twist Phelan

Book Adult General Non-fiction       
Tasting Colorado by Michele Morris

Book Adult Creative Non-fiction      
 Sea Monsters by Joseph Nigg

Feature articles/Essay           
“Alive and Aloft in the Aeolian Zone” by Gary Raham

We Leave the Safety of the Sea by Art Elser

“Choose Happiness. Love all Life” by Susan J. Tweit

2013  CAL Award Winners

Book-length Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction.
Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle (Delacorte/Random House)
The judge wrote about the winning entry: Clever concept. Well-constructed and well-written. Rich details. What more can you ask for?

Adult Short Fiction
The Lover by JB Winsor (Amazon)
The judge’s comments were: You gotta love J. Torres, the narcissistic lover. This humorous story was an easy read and flowed along—a testimonial to the talent of the author. And it elicited a laugh from the judge.

Book-length General Nonfiction
Finding the Pearl: Unstoppable passion, unbridled success by Carol McAdoo Rehme  (Publishing Directions)
Wrote the judge: An amazing and inspirational subject. Once you start reading, you have to see what happens next. It lives up to the cliché of a page-turner.

Adult Feature Article
First Out of the Gate by Lou Dean (Track Magazine)
Commented the judge: A solid article and a solid read. Everything an informative article should be.

Adult Essays
Mysterious Fast Mumble by Bruce Berger (The Best Travel Writing, Volume 9)
The judge said: Fascinating and informative, this well-researched essay drew the reader into the world of the author’s questions and experiences. Flawless writing.

Individual Poems
The Lives of Cells by Kathryn Winograd (Chautauqua: The War and Peace #9)
The judge wrote: Kathryn Winograd’s “The Lives of Cells” is a searing memorial to a Kurdish teenager near Mosul who was stoned to death by her family to preserve their so-called honor. What Winograd has preserved so eloquently is a record of their profound ignorance and cruelty, still existing in the twenty-first century in a faltering world.

Poetry Collections
Glimpses: A Memoir in Poetry by Carol Grever (Outskirts Press)
The judge said: Grever explores the stages and events of her life in poems that are vivid and lyrical. In her poetry, she distills the lessons and insights gained from mundane experiences as well as crises.

All Things Literary. All Things Natural by Page Lambert
The judge’s comments: The author picks topics that would interest any serious reader or author and melds them with her own well-written analyses and thoughts. And it’s sprinkled with images that complement the writing.

2012  CAL Award Winners

Book-length Mainstream Fiction
River Stone by JB Winsor (BoulderDigital Publishing)

The judge comment: Sometimes we have to be whacked over the head before we realize just how narrow our thinking can be. Justin returns to a home he fled and finds the good people he left behind. His hateful relationship with his father will continue to impede his emotional growth until he can bury the relationship along with his father and see what treasure he now has.

Book-length Genre Fiction
Fox & Geese by Sandy Whelchel (National Writers Press)

The judge’s comments: This is a story of having our strength tested by fates that strip away what we think we need most. Tiffanie Lee’s husband is in a coma, and she must take over the ranch, the family, and the opposition to land developers while he lies between life and death. We’re inspired by her dedication and strength, including the ability to ask for help when she needs it most.

Book-length Children’s Fiction (Picture Books and Early Reader
Raj, the Bookstore Tiger by Kathleen T. Pelley (Charlesbridge)

The judge’s comment: Raj the Bookstore Tiger is an engrossing tale about how small things can change everything. Children need positive role models for times of change. Raj solves his own problem with a little help and inspiration from his owner. Children will love this tiger and this book.

Book-length General Nonfiction
Tea Leaf Reading for Beginners: Your Fortune in a Teacup by Caroline Dow (Llewellyn Publications Worldwide)

The judge comment: Informative, well-researched book that has something for everyone. Well-written and out-of-the-ordinary subject

Book-length Creative Nonfiction
The Long Road to Oklahoma: Images and Impressions of Our Trip Across America by Kathy and Ron Hendricks (Self-published)

The judge’s comment: This is an excellent travelogue. Kathy and Ron can take the simplest subject and deliver a whole new way of seeing it. The prose is both clear and intriguing. The photos are astonishing.

Adult Feature Article
Who Do They Call? byJoy Overbeck (Vail Valley Magazine)

The judge’s comment: An exciting, informative read. Good storytelling.

Adult Essay
A Shape-Shifting Land by Page Lambert (West of 98, University of Texas Press)

The judge’s commented that the essay “…has a seductive, languid rhythm that draws the reader into a realm of beautiful imagery.”

dance 101 by Constance E. Boyle (La Forza di Vita: Caffeinated Poems)

The judge’s comment: This is an exceptionally well-written poem. It has a confident rhythm and rich vowel sounds. There is a gentle, thoughtful intensity throughout.

2011 CAL Awards Winners

Book-length Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction

Warriors in the Crossfire by Nancy Bo Flood (Boyds Mills Press: Front Street)

The judge wrote:

I don’t know of any other book that focuses on individual islands torn between the Japanese and Americans that looks at the story from the view of the natives of that island, the innocents caught up in an epic war. Young Joseph wants to be a warrior, but also wants to live within the traditions of his people. His father is beaten, but before he dies, he takes Joseph to a distant cave where he has stored provisions for the family. Joseph must save his family by taking them to this cave when the warring nations begin to battle for this island. This is a mighty task for one so young, one caught in the crossfire. Fascinating and deeply moving story.

Book-length Children’s Fiction (Picture Books and Early Readers)

Cats’ Night Out by Caroline Stutson (A Paula Wiseman Book: Simon & Schuster)

The rhythm of the language and the rhyming words are evocative  and precise. The repeated refrain reminds us these are city cats, and though their dancing isn’t appreciated by the city’s humans, the music continues to call them, and their feet just won’t stay still. Young children know all about how hard it is to stay still. Great book!

Book-length General Nonfiction

Only in Boulder: The County’s Colorful Characters by Silvia Pettem (The History Press)

A well-written and fun-to-read look at Boulder County’s colorful characters. It’s interesting enough that even readers from outside Colorado would pick it up. And, on a useful side, it helps preserve the past, which can be useful to historians and genealogists.

Book-length Young Adult/Children Nonfiction

Joseph Stalin by Sean McCollum (Franklin Watts/Scholastic)

The judge wrote: This Wicked History book presents the life of Joseph Stalin against the backdrop of tumultuous Russia in the first half of the 20th century. His unbridled ambition and ruthlessness is not glossed over for middle grade readers. What could be more fun than learning history through the life story of a really wicked boy?

Adult Feature Article

Country Outposts by Sean McCollum (Fall 2010 issue of Teaching Tolerance)

Outstanding article about a controversial issue—bullying of LGBT students. Dramatic and sensitive. Wonderful, top-notch service journalism.

Adult Essay

Lighting the Darkness by Susan J. Tweit (Terraphilia Productions)

A well-written and gently melodic essay that draws in the listener and evokes delightful images while exploring a facet of the world around us. Magic.

Poetry (Individual Poems)

Agitato by Bruce Berger (Autumn 2010 issue of The Dark Horse)

This is a delightful poem flowing with strong images. Each stanza takes the reader in a new direction, each one a new world.

Poetry (books)

The Crooked Truth by Dan Guenther (Redburn Press)

The judge wrote:

Strong, concrete images in this book. The author knows how to tell a story in crisp, precise language. The terrain is almost like a character in these poems.

2010 CAL Awards Winners

Book-length Genre Fiction

Glossy Black Cockatoos, by Dan Guenther

Book-length Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction

The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau

Book-length Children’s Fiction

Grandmother, Have the Angels Come? By Denise Vega

Book-length General Nonfiction

Heroes, Villains, Dames & Disasters: 150 Years of Front-Page Stories from the Rocky Mountain News by Michael Madigan

Book-length Creative Nonfiction

Power in the Blood: A Family Narrative by Linda Tate

Book-length Young Adult/Children Nonfiction

General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer by Joyce B. Lohse

Adult Feature Article

A Dog’s Life: The Hard Working Canines of the Vail Valley by Joy Overbeck

Adult Essay

Discalced by Bruce Berger


“Expulsion” by Bruce Berger

2009 CAL Awards Winners

Mainstream Fiction

A Thousand Veils by D. J. Murphy

“Mr. Murphy has written a magnificient book that is a testament to the human spirit.” Jo Anne Pulcino, Koelbel librarian.

“A beautiful, fascinating story that grips at your heart and soul.” Randy Levin, CAL member, author, publisher and High Altitude Food Specialist.

Neptune’s Chariot by Irv Sternberg

“A very good read about a nautical adventure and a great love story.” Jo Anne Pulcino, Koebel librarian.

“A love story of various degrees, this novel keeps your heart pounding with each turn of the page.” Randy Levin, CAL member, author, publisher and High Altitude Food Specialist.

Genre Fiction

Dark Harvest by Lynda Hilburn

“This is a finely crafted novel which not only entertains—it leaves the reader hoping for more! [This] story is so original and is so full of fun, snappy dialogue, elegant and graphic sensuality, and fast-paced action that I found it difficult to put down.”  Susan Ciazza, Reader’s Advisor, Arapahoe Library District.

“Great book. The flow from one scene [to another] is outstanding.” Sandy Whelchel, Executive Director, National Writers Assocation.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction (tie)

The Trials of Katie Hope by Wick Downing

“Terrific premise. I didn’t know about the loophole in Colorado law. Terrific! The characters are complicated and interesting. It’s an excellent inside glimpse at a trial. I hope we see more of Katie Hope.” Claire Martin, Denver Post Staff Writer

“The Trials of Katie Hope” is an exceptional novel with great characters, beautiful prose and a plot that is both engaging and thrilling.  This is a wonderful book.”  Bonnie Ramthun, author of The White Gates.

Fact of Life #31 by Denise Vega

“Nuanced, informative, honest.  I really like the main character’s complex relationships and the frank portrayal of the complicated layers of high school’s caste system.”  Claire Martin, Denver Post Staff Writer.

“A terrific novel with great characters, fast-paced action, lots of information about the little-known subject of midwifery, and a protagonist who is sympathetic without ever being cloying.

Children’s Fiction

Clue School, The Ghost in the Music Room by Phyllis J. Perry

“This clever story allows readers to assemble clues to a mystery and figure it out for themselves, verifying the answer by assembling puzzle pieces provided with the book. Suspenseful and taut, told with lots of entertaining dialogue, this story is a winner.” Ann Nagda, children’s author.

“The mystery was intriguing, with enough clues to help yung readers feel successful in solving it along with the main characters.” Cheryl Fallstead, Editor, Southwest Senior monthly.

Adult Short Fiction

“The 405 is Locked Up” by Manuel Ramos

“It’s a classic story structure of protagonist with problem who makes a choice as a result of events in the story. In this case, the choice he makes is very satisfying, making this a great read!”  Rebecca Bates, author of novels and short fiction.

“Ramos gets the emotional content as well as narrative framework moving, writes a nicely complex story, puts together effective and convincing dialog, and also works with overarching conceptual metaphors. [A] fluid and balanced story.”  Deborah Robson

Specialty Nonfiction Writing

One Gay, One Straight (Film) by Carol Grever

“This is excellent on all levels…. Very sensitive handling of an important subject.” Constance Gotsh, Program Director, KSJE FM, Farmington, NM

“You address a very challenging topic with candor, and seem to cover all the bases…and doesn’t intrude on the power that comes across from letting the interviewers tell their stories in their own words.” Lee Hart, BrandAmp.

General Nonfiction

It Happened in RMNP by Phyllis J. Perry

“This is a delightful book.” Ann Brandt, writer.

Creative Nonfiction

Disappearing Destinations by Heather J. Hansen

“Disappearing Destinations is a well-written and beautifully organized “call to arms,” regarding the environmental degradation of several popular tourist locations around the world.” Robert L. Shoop, author of several non-fiction works.

“I think this book should be required reading for all high school students and legislators—state and federal! It’s beautifully written.”  Cheryl Shubert, librarian.

How-to Nonfiction

The Caregiver’s Choice by Elaine Long

“A compelling read at a time when many adults in their productive and empty-nest years start to face the possibility of having to care for an elderly parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.”  Art Elser, a non-fiction writer.

“The author’s voice and approach to the material and the reader are compassionate. The excellent use of personal story to illustrate the need for a given recommendation achieves a lovely and important balance throughout the book….”  Judy Fort Brenneman, a speaker, consultant, writing coach and award-winning writer, owner of Greenfire Creative.

Young Adult/Children Nonfiction

Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley

“A terrific book.  I just wish it had been around decades ago when I started writing.” Joe Nigg, CAL member who writes adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction books.

“You’ve done an exciting job cutting through the gobbilty gook that can inhabit writing books to talk about the process and craft in terms familiar to teens.” Connie Gotsch, Program Director, KSJE FM, Farmington, NM

Adult Feature Article

Final Roundup by Joy Overbeck

“Riveting, well reported, is perfectly written.” Niki Hayden, feature writer, editor and book author.

“A grab-your-attention, thorough look at something many don’t want to think about: what happens to horses who don’t die of old age in this country. Joy give us a thorough examination of a complicated issue.”  Bruce Goldberg, associate editor of the Denver Business Journal.

Adult Essay Nonfiction

Out in the Cold by Julene Bair

“Lovely narrative, a compassionate look at an American family’s way of life that could not be sustained. It’s a tale that is being repeated elsewhere across the country in these dire economic times, but Bair engages the reader with her gorgeous imagery….”  Barbara Ellis, Guest Commentaries Editor, The Denver Post.

“The story tugged at my heartstrings.” Janet Reese, freelance writer.


Omniscient Eye by Bruce Berger

“A well-crafted poem that mines a rich, modern metaphor.” – Phyllis Perry, writer.

2008 CAL Awards Winners

Book Length Fiction


No Laughing Matter by Irv Sternberg

“Irv Sternberg’s No Laughing Matter is a surprisingly serious novel, considering that it features a comic, Izzy Brand, an appealing lead… told through a compelling first-person narrative…a moving tale, full of lush descriptions of Denver…well-plotted at a good pace… believable motivations…genuine and touching.” – Hailey Lind, president of the Northern California Chapter of  Sisters of Crime, and author of the Art Lover’s Mystery Series, including the Agatha-nominated Feint of Heartand IMBA bestsellers Shooting Gallery and Brush With Death.

Middle Grade/YA

Red Glass by Laura Resau

“Spectacular writing— Resau’s imagery and her sheer master of prose is breathtaking. Her characters will stay with me forever. I feel as though I have taken a personal journey…” – Alane Feguson, Mystery Writers of America Edgar winner, and internationally published author of more than 30 books for children and young adults.

Children’s Picture Books/Early Readers.

Tarantula Power by Ann Whitehead Nagda

“Wonderful book! The dialogue sparkles and at times made me laugh out loud. Very believable characters and good tension throughout. Book delivers an important message without being didactic. I learned a lot about tarantulas, too! Many children will enjoy this book—it’s well-written, lively and engaging.” – Leslea Newman, author of middle-grade novels, Hachiko Waits and Fat Chance, and many picture books, including The Best Cat in the World.

Book Length Nonfiction

Service and Informational

Curveball: When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor by Liz Holzemer

“…the author maintains reader interest from episode to the next with clear stule and easily grasped concepts. The user’s manual at the end might be useful for those seeking help with similar medical problems. Light, quirky reading.” – Dr. Juan Bruce-Novoa, Professor of Literature; Director of the University of California Irvine Chicano Literary Prize Contest; novelist, short story writer, poet.


Field Guide to Ocean Animals by Phyllis Perry

“Text flows and is very readable. The diary style also adds extra appeal that will catch reader interest…photos and drawings make facts about the creatures very clear, and the 3-D models are a wonderful way to make the information ‘real.’  All in all, an extremely enjoyable and informative read for people of all ages!” – Richelle Mead, New York Times bestselling author of Frostbite, and also the author of Vampire Academy and Succubus Blues.

Adult Feature

Creating Buzz by Susan Tweit

“This story was a delight to read. The writing was clear and alive, a great challenge considering the complex behavior of bees and the technical aspects of caring for them and encouraging their well-being. The details were well-chosen and their crisp delivery was instructive, yet always entertaining. Susan Tweit wrote with a strong authoritative voice, but never took on the tone of a lecturer. I appreciated the way the small scenes in the story were connected to global issues surrounding bees. The story—about insects—drew me in and actually made me want to do my part to set eco-system right. I’m guessing this article will inspire many beautiful gardens to be planted.” – Dan Rinaldi, Arts and Entertainment Editor The Denver Post, and 2004-2005 chairman of the criticism panel for the Pulitzer Prizes.


Adult essay

Of Trifles and Truffles by Carol McAdoo Rehme

“I fall into Carol McAdoo Rehme’s imagery. I can see the sun climbing through the slats, my nose tickles from dust now disturbed, and I can feel the pump of adrenaline that overtakes an inspired writer. Rehme nails the writer experience—the cataloguing of daily flotsam that someday, maybe, will become a sum of it parts.” – Amanda Faison, Senior Editor, 5280 Magazine


Two Sides: Haiku and Other Words by Tom Kumpf

“At times funny, angry, morbid—but always evocative and sensual, Two Sides is a fine exploration of meaning and connection through the structure of the haiku form. The poems and images coalesce into a gathering of emotion, and from that gathering there emerges a sense of solace and peace, and a wonder of the world.” – Michael J. Henry, MFA, Executive Director , Lighthouse Writers Workshop

Specialty writing.

Dodge City Blues Instructor Guide with Modules and Simulation for Team Learning by Dan Guenther

“…would fit a lot of management training situations.  This is a unique way to teach management skills and team leadership…lesson plans thorough…gets the point across in the most original way.” – Constance M. Gotsch, Producer, Write On Four Corners, KSJE FM, Farmington, NM

2007 CAL Award Winners

Elizabeth Wrenn – Mainstream Fiction – “Around the Next Corner”
The judge for this category is Cheryl Klein

Director of the California Office and Readings/Workshops (West) for Poets & Writers, Inc. Her book, The Commuters: A Novel of Intersections, won City Works Press’ Ben Reitman Award. Her fiction has appeared in journals including otherCrossConnect, and The Absinthe Literary Review, and the anthology Jane’s Stories III (Jane’s Stories Press, 2006). She co-edits the online queer fiction magazine Blithe House Quarterly, and has taught creative writing to homeless youth, high school girls, and teen boys in the criminal justice system.

Cheryl says the thing she enjoyed most about this novel was its kindheartedness toward all its characters.

In depicting how a smart woman who marries a good man for the right reasons can nevertheless find herself feeling lost and alienated, the author demonstrates that feminism is not just for radicals or women trapped in terrible marriages.

Cheryl Klein:  “I imagine that many readers can relate to Deena Munger, and following her on her self-initiated journey is very satisfying. Her small triumphs-from getting Heloise to walk down the driveway to resisting the urge to baby her children-are realistic and, frankly, anything but small.”

Laura Resau – Middle Grade/YA Fiction – “What The Moon Saw”

Our finals judge is Shannon Penney

an Editor in the Trade Paperback department at Scholastic, where she first began working in 2002.  She edits books at a wide range of age levels, from early chapter book series to middle grade novels.  She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she majored in English and Creative Writing and served as a freelance editor for national YA literary magazine, Merlyn’s Pen.  Shannon currently lives in New York City.

Here’s what she said about the winning entry:  “This is a beautifully written, touching story.  I really enjoyed the setup of sending the main character to visit the grandparents in Mexico that she’s never met.

Her anxiety about the journey is a captivating introduction to her grandparents’ world – I loved seeing Mexico through her eyes …and was captivated by her friendship with Pedro. She makes her Mexican heritage a true part of herself, while coming to understand exactly what her father left behind.

I particularly enjoyed the passion for detail with which life is described in both the main character’s story and her grandmother’s in flashbacks, which add a great deal to the main character’s discovery and growth.

Told with captivating, lyrical language, this is a wonderful read, full of inspiring messages that readers can absorb and apply to their own lives.”

Debbie Dadey – Children/Picture Book Fiction  – “The Great Green Gator Graduation”

The Bloomsbury Review is a nationally distributed book magazine that has been in publication for more than 27 years.  Publisher & Editor Marilyn Auerserved as our finals judge in this category.

She says there are a number of strong points in the story line: conflict, courage, family interactions, curious characters (Aunt Freda), drama, community, and cooperation.

“It is fanciful and well written.”

Gail Waldstein – Short Fiction/Adult – “Garlic”

Our finals judge Dawn W. Petersen has an M.A. in English Literature and currently is an editorial assistant and book reviewer for The Bloomsbury Review. As a freelancer she has edited everything from technical manuals to poetry collections for more than 15 years.

“Excellent use of sensory images throughout! I can smell the garlic and hear the onions crackling in the pan. The imagery conveys the messages of nurturing, belonging, alienation, and oppression …

The author‘s use of parallelism is … strong and effective as she juxtaposes elements … she “shows” us so skillfully … The absence of dialogue in the story creates a hushed, pensive mood of interiority that works very well with the subject.

At the end of the story, the reader has hope that the protagonist will indeed “add real cream” from now on.  For that I am grateful! We are left with the sense that she is ready to begin healing her life on many levels.  Lovely, powerful story! Thank you.”

Eliza Cross Castaneda – Service & Informational/Nonfiction –
“Family Home of the New West”

Recently named the Director of Special Projects and editor for magazine’s books and the New Mexico Vacation Guide, Emily Drabanski has been the editor-in-chief of New Mexico magazine for 21 years. Her credits including authoring, contributing to and editing eleven of the magazine’s books, and  writing, “Santa Fe Impressions,” published by Far Country Press (which is scheduled for release in July). She also hosts the radio show, “Hello, New Mexico” broadcast on KSFR-FM in Santa Fe. She currently serves as president for New Mexico Press Women.

Emily says, “This beautifully written book is a fine example of literary non-fiction.  The words are selected with care and crafted into meaningful sentences that tell the stories of the homes featured.Useful tips, as well as captions chock-full of information make this a book that is as fun to read as it is to look at.  Even the captions incorporate strong, active verbs that bring life to the sentences.  Like the beautiful images showcased in the book, the author’s writing style invites us to linger and sit a spell as we immerse ourselves in the very readable text.

The imagery is bright, colorful and vibrant and the same can be said of the writing.  I loved the highlighted “Bright Idea” tips. They certainly offered inspiration and practical suggestions.”

Sureva Towler – Narrative – Nonfiction – “The Boys at the Bar”

Our finals judge in this category has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a bachelor’s degree in English from Knox College, Galesburg, Ill.

She has enjoyed a 30-year career in newspapers, including 12 years as managing editor, editor or vice president of The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., 10 years at Boulder’s Daily Camera, where she started as a reporter covering the University of Colorado, and local & state government; there she worked her way up to city editor, and asst. managing editor.

During the 5 years she was assistant managing editor at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver  she was involved in editing the paper’s Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Columbine shootings and Colorado wildfires.

Our judge, Susan C. Deans, is currently a senior editor and columnist at the Daily Camera in Boulder.

“The author has an unusual writing style, fast-paced, informative and quirky. She uses it to good effect in this collection of short essays on life in the New West.  Her take is that of a veteran and somewhat curmudgeonly Westerner and she does a great job of contrasting the Western “newbies” with the old-timers, the “Boys at the Bar” in her title piece. I read through this in one sitting but it would be even more effective to read the essays one or two at a time and savor them.”

Joe Nigg as “John Topsell” –  Young Adult/Children/Nonfiction –
“How To Raise and Keep A Dragon”

Adrienne Stolarz holds an MFA in Creative Writing; she writes and publishes personal essays, presents writers workshops, and teaches language and communication skills to ESL students.

As associate editor for Disney’s FamilyFun magazine, she’s been writing, editing, and producing all genre of content for more than seven years.

Adrienne comments, “I want to thank you for your invitation to be a part of this contest, especially because of the fun award-worthy reading …This unique distinctive work blurs the line between the real and the imaginary so well, one has to stop – often! – to remind herself that there is no such thing as giant, fire-breathing, jewel-eyed flying dragons …or are there?
This phenomenal book deserves an award for being a one-of-a-kind, well-crafted adventure that any child will love – especially those rearing their own fascination with the fantastical and surreal.

In fact, I’d even recommend this to adults who enjoy the Harry Potter-esque style of ageless with and wonder, and as a great gift for the child who wants a pet – from the parent who is reluctant to get one –  as it successfully parodies the responsibility of pet- ownership.

The beautiful paper quality supports the story by giving it a medieval-era papyrus effect.  The imaginative, detailed illustrations complete the package.”

Cameron Burns – Feature Article -Nonfiction -Adult –
“Walking on the (Mountains of the) Moon”

Since 1989, Lorenzo Benet has been a staff writer at PEOPLE and currently serves as the magazine’s associate bureau chief for news and features in the Los Angeles Bureau. He has covered a variety of assignments ranging from sports to celebrity news, and covering the Persian Gulf War and the Winter Olympics in1998, 2002  and 2006. He oversaw the court trials of Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, Phil Spector and Robert Blake and the O.J. Simpson trial.

Benet collaborated with Olympic champion ice skater Scott Hamilton for his New York Times bestselling autobiography, Landing It, which was published by Kensington Books.  His other book writing credits include a collaboration with conservative political activist Star Parker for her memoir Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats, published by Pocket Books. Benet’s first book, written with Vickie Bane, was The Lives of Danielle Steel, the unauthorized biography of the romance novelist that was published by St. Martin’s Press.

As a celebrity expert, he has made numerous television appearances on CNN, ET, EXTRA, E! Entertainment, Access Hollywood, MSNBC, Fox News, Biography and Inside Edition.  He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Lorenzo told me it was a very tough decision because the entries were so excellent … “Cameron really captured the essence of excellent travel writing — putting the reader in the spot and sparing him the trouble of actually going. I liked how he blended in the global warming issue and spiced the story with a little history of the region, the mountains and the tortuous regime of Idi Amin. Nice details of how he celebrated his daughter’s birthday so far away from home. Nice touch all around.”

Shari Caudron – Essay Nonfiction/Adult – “When in Jordan…”

Kenneth Budd has been with AARP since 1998, and became AARP The Magazine’s travel editor in late 2006. His work as editor of the magazine’s Navigator section was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2005, and helped the magazine earn a Lowell Thomas Award for General Excellence that same year. Since 2003, he has been the editor of an annual health report that appears in USA Weekend. Before coming to AARP, he was the editor of Common Ground, an award-winning magazine on condominium and homeowner associations, and he is the author of the popular condo legal guide, Be Reasonable!. His writing credits include pieces in Smithsonian, the Maxim-produced magazine Stuff, The Washington Post, and The Washington Post Magazine; he has also written for such alternative magazines and web sites as McSweeney’s, Might, Opium, and Modern Humorist. Ken is a contributing editor to the Mason Spirit, the George Mason University alumni magazine.

In his opinion, “…the writer takes us on a lively trek inside a country and culture that Americans rarely see. The unique Middle East moments and vivid anecdotes make this an enjoyable, insightful read. The scene in the Turkish bath is gripping and entertaining – totally hooks the reader.

The writer has a strong voice and an eye for telling details. I’ve never been to Jordan, but I feel like I have.”

Chris Ransick  –  Poetry –  “Lost Songs and Last Chances”

Our finals judge in this category has taught writing at Arizona State University in Tempe, where she received her master of fine arts degree in poetry. Her reviews of poetry collections have appeared in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Chelsea Magazine, and Poetry International. Her poems have been published in the Paris Review, Antioch Review, Washington Square, and SHADE, among other literary journals. Mary Gannon is the editor ofPoets & Writers Magazine.  She was delighted to participate as a judge for us!

Mary Gannon comments on the winning entry, “There is a lovely balance between form and subject matter in this collection. While the poems are quiet at times, their power is released through an excellent execution of poetic qualities: subtle and unexpected music, nice line breaks, and impressive handle on a range of forms. Overall, very impressive collection.”

Bruce Berger – Specialty Writing – “Oasis of Stone”

Dr. Connie Gotsch has won numerous awards for her own full length fiction, short stories, plays, documentaries, and radio programming.  She hosts the morning classical music show, “Roving with the Arts,” and is both  producer and host of a segment for authors called “Write On Four Corners.”

She is currently Program Director at KSJE Farmington NM  Public Radio for the 4 Corners.

In addition, Dr. Gotsch publishes a monthly arts column in The Four Corners Free Press and has herself has been the recipient of  New Mexico Press Women Awards for Special Programming Radio,  Special Articles Reviews, Prepared Report Radio;  Feature Story Non-daily Newspaper;  and Radio Interviews. The Colorado Society of Professional Journalists awarded her the 2006 First Place for Arts and Entertainment Reporting.  She has served the New Mexico Press Women as Awards Chair for 8 years.

Of course, she mentions the photos, which are beyond magnificent; here she address the text. “The writing sparked my interest immediately – from the jacket flap I knew precisely what kind of book this was – a more serious exploration of the baja beyond what the cruise ships see.
The writing sings –  the best way to know the desert remains what it has always been – to walk.  What a grabber – I could picture doing it .  Those kind of zingers go through all the rest of the text.  I loved the image of the plants in the open and the animals in shadow.

The best way to know the desert remains what it has always been – to walk.  What a grabber –  I could picture doing it .  This kind of zinger goes through all the rest of the text.  I loved the image of the plants in the open and the animals in shadow.  And the environmental impact of people  – just enough to remind us that if we’re not careful we won’t have this magnificence forever.  Great job.”

2006 CAL Award Winners 

BOOK-LENGTH FICTION Genre – In Stone’s Clasp by Christie Golden

Middle Grade/Young Adult – Makeovers by Marcia, by Claudia Mills

Children/Picture Books – I Could Do That! Esther Morris Gets Women The Vote, by Linda Arms White

SHORT FICTION Adult – Progress Toward a Proof, by Lee Patton

Young Adult/Children – A Hundred Coconuts and a Top Hat, by Nancy Bo Flood

BOOK-LENGTH NONFICTION Service and Informational – Food Lovers’ Guide to Colorado: Best Local Specialties, Markets, Recipes, Restaurants, Events and More, by Eliza Cross Castaneda

Narrative – The Complete Half-Aspenite, by Bruce Berger

Young Adult/Children – Panda Math: Learning About Subtraction from Hua Mei and Mei Sheng, by Ann Whitehead Nagda

NONFICTION ARTICLES Adult Feature – “For the Least Among Us,” by Cameron M. Burns

Adult Essay – “Singing in the Ear Canal,” by Gail Waldstein, M.D.

Young Adult/Children – “Puppets Without Strings,” by Nancy Bo Flood

POETRY Keeping Still, by Lois Beebe Hayna

SPECIALTY WRITING Neighborhoods In Nature, by Mary Taylor Young

Click here to see award winners from prior years.


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