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Vermont writers have a new incentive to hunker down and create their masterpiece. The Vermont College of Fine Arts
has just announced the creation of the Vermont Book Award
, a $5,000 prize intended to honor excellent writing that makes the most of its Vermont ties.
The prize is open to writing of several kinds — poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and children’s literature — and to works that take place in Vermont, is published by a Vermont press, or is written by a Vermont author. (Sorry, self-published authors: Your works are not eligible.) Any book published between January and December 2014 is eligible for the inaugural 2015 prize.
Nominations for the Vermont Book Award may be made either by local publishers or by a committee formed by members of the group Independent Booksellers of Vermont
Though the judges for the award committee have not yet been named, VCFA asserts that the prize, awarded to a single book, will be given this summer. VCFA president Thomas Christopher Greene
, the author of several novels
, is confident that the school “will have no trouble identifying really good people from the very big Vermont literary community.”
Greene, in a phone conversation with Seven Days
, says that the idea for the award came to him when he thought about the awards season represented by the Oscars and Golden Globes. It got him thinking that, while other states have literary awards, Vermont did not. “Vermont has such a storied literary culture that it seemed like an oversight,” he says. “We decided to explore it to see if it was something that VCFA could take the lead and deliver on, and we decided that we could.”
Greene says an acquaintance recently asked him if he saw VCFA as having a role in the culture of the state, or if he viewed it as a school that happens to be located in Vermont. “That got me thinking about what we could do … to give something back,” he says.
The participation of the state’s independent bookstores, which Greene calls “the hallmark of a healthy community,” makes the prize somewhat unusual. The nominating committee consists of representatives from 13 indie bookstores from all over the state, from Bartleby’s Books and Music
in Wilmington to Village Square Booksellers
in Bellows Falls to Phoenix Books
’ two stores in Burlington and Essex.
Lin Stone, managing editor of Shelburne’s Wind Ridge Books of Vermont
, says that, upon learning of the award, she and her colleagues “are just jumping up and down. We think it’s an affirmation of the talent and the value of writers in Vermont,” she says. “We’re all just gleeful.”
Stone reports that Wind Ridge has already begun compiling a list of nominees from its catalogue; most of the publisher’s books are written by Vermonters, are about Vermont or both.
“This initiative gives all the more power to us, the writers of Vermont,” Stone says. “This prize is just heavenly.”