The Chicago Writers Association’s Book of the Year Awards has served, for nearly a decade, as a prestigious recognition platform for some of the city’s finest authors and their books. CWA is proud to play a role in supporting outstanding literature in today’s highly competitive publishing landscape. 

As Chairperson of the awards program for the last two cycles, I’ve been fortunate to find myself in direct contact with some of Chicago’s first-rate fiction and non-fiction, traditionally and independently produced. As I prepare to open for submissions once again on June 1, I am thinking about past winners, and what the award has meant to them. I know that Kathleen Rooney, 2017 Traditional Fiction Honorable Mention winner, went on to gain national acclaim for her book Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, but what of others?

I reached out to one of the most recent award winners, 2018 Indie Nonfiction winner, Linda Gartz, to ask how winning the award had affected her and her career. She told me via email that CWA’s acknowledgment validated a passion project years in the making. She said, “For me the award gives real cachet to Redlined and is a recognition of the years of work I spent researching and writing the book.”

The project, per Gartz’s website, is “…inspired by the trove of long-hidden family diaries, letters, photos, documents, (and so much more), which she discovered in her parents’ attic after their deaths. Once she began reading, she was instantly gripped by the power of her family’s words to take her into the minds and hearts of each family member. Every new detail she learned fueled her quest to discover what forces had undermined her parents’ marriage and fractured her community. The result is Redlined.”

Gartz’s book is an engrossing mix of history and personal memoir. It’s not only the story of a fractured family, but it brings to public consciousness the discriminatory and segregationist real estate lending practices in the1930s (known as “redlining”). 

The author is proud of the critical respect conferred by the Book of the Year Award and acknowledges that the prize insignia now displayed on her book’s cover draws coveted retail interest in her work. Gartz wrote, “Managers of bookstores, like Barnes & Noble, have said that readers are definitely drawn to Redlined because of the award (Gartz’s book is on the “Most Requested” table at the Old Orchard store).” She says, “Winning Book of the Year means that the heinous practice of redlining will become more widely known and positions me as [a] recognized subject for interviews, presentations, and further writing opportunities.”

What will a Book of the Year award offer our 2019 entrants? It’s time to find out. The contest opens on June 1 and entries must be postmarked by August 1. Click here for more information as it becomes available, including submission guidelines and fees. 

I’ll be back on this blog in July with another post-Book of the Year Award check-in with one of our esteemed authors.

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