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The four winners of the Chicago Writers Association’s 5th Annual Book of the Year Awards represent a wide range on the literary spectrum – from the comic to the tragic – but come together to show that great storytelling begins with great writing.

The winning books are:

  • Traditional Fiction: “Old Heart” by Peter Ferry
  • Non-Traditional Fiction: “The Wet Nose of Danger” by James Finn Garner
  • Traditional Non-Fiction: “Empire of Deception” by Dean Jobb
  • Non-Traditional Non-Fiction: “a different kind of same” by Kelley Clink

The awards will be presented at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 Lincoln Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. At the event, which is free and open to the public, the authors will be invited to read from their award-winning books and have copies available for purchase and signing.

This year’s ceremony will also feature the inaugural presentation of CWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Karen Thomson, founder/director of Literature for All of Us,an Evanston-based nonprofit program that for nearly 20 years has used an innovative book group model to build communities of readers, writers and critical thinkers in under-served communities in Chicago and Evanston.

The finalist judges were two of last year’s winning authors – Kristin Oakley (“Carpe Diem, Illinois”) and Scott Jacobs “Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin”) – and representatives from the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, Donald G. Evans and Richard Reeder.

“The number and quality of the entries rises with each year that we hold this contest,” said Randy Richardson, president of the Chicago Writers Association. “The competition level was incredibly close this year. Our finalist judges were tasked with the unenviable job of choosing just one winner for each individual category. I applaud their work in selecting these shining examples of the wealth of literary talent we have in Chicagoland. I also congratulate each of the four authors whose books have been given this well-deserved spotlight. They clearly show that our city’s literary talent is second to none.”

The awards, divided into four categories (traditionally and non-traditionally published fiction and non-fiction), were open to books published between July 1, 2014and June 30, 2015 and authored by Chicago area authors or CWA members. (Non-traditional is defined as self- and print-on-demand published.)

In selecting Ferry’s “Old Heart,” Evans described it as “an art novel with a mesmerizing plot, skillful in its use of place and history, poignant in its representation of young, middle-aged and old characters, and wonderful in its examination of lives within lives.”

With the selection of his book, “The Wet Nose of Danger,” Garner becomes the first two-time winner of the CWA’s Book of the Year Award. Garner previously won in the same category in 2011 for his first book in the Rex Koko, Private Clown series, “Honk Honk, My Darling.” In choosing Garner’s latest Rex Koko book, Oakley wrote that the author “takes the reader on a hilarious ride of irreverent antics as Koko uses his comedic powers to handle an incredibly memorable cast of characters.”

Reeder picked Jobb’s “Empire of Deception,” stating that that the author tells “a fascinating, little known story” that is “one of the best pieces of non-fiction that I have encountered recently.”

In support of his choice of “a different kind of same,” Jacobs stated that Clink’s book is a “brave and moving memoir” that sparkles with the author’s “deft writing, keen attention to detail, and lyrical passages that take us on a journey into her past through the mirror of her brother’s suicide.”

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