13 Valley writers longlisted for Massachusetts Book Awards

  • Northampton writer Ocean Vuong has been long-listed for a Massachusetts Book Award in fiction for his novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” Courtesy MacArthur Foundation

  • Jennifer Acker, editor in chief of the literary magazine The Common, based at Amherst College, has been long-listed for a Massachusetts Book Award in fiction for her novel “The Limits of the World.” FILE PHOTO

  • Children’s writer Mo Willems of Northampton has been long-listed for a Massachusetts Book Award in the Picture Books/Early Readers category for his book “Because.” GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/7/2020 8:01:30 AM

The COVID-19 outbreak aside, it’s been a good couple of weeks for writers with local connections. Novelists Andrea Lawlor and Genevieve Sly Crane won Whiting Awards in fiction (a $50,000 purse), and Marissa Perez, a Holyoke Community College student who lives in Florence, won the venerable collegiate Glascock Poetry Prize.

Now several other area writers have been recognized by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, which each year issues Massachusetts Book Awards in five categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, middle grade/young adult literature, and picture books/early readers.

The center’s “Must-Reads” (longlists) include novels by Valley authors Jennifer Acker (“The Limits of the World”), Christopher Boucher (“Big Giant Floating Head”), Andrew Lam (“Repentance”), and Ocean Vuong (“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”).

It’s just the latest award nomination for Vuong, a Northampton resident who teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and last year won a MacArthur Fellowship, the five-year, $625,000 “genius grant.”

Valley poets are also well represented this year: collections by Franny Choi (“Soft Science”), Patrick Donnelly (“Little-Known Operas”), and Karen Skolfield (“Battle Dress”) have all been nominated as must-reads. Skofield is Northampton’s current poet laureate, a position Donnelly previously held.

And several area writers have been recognized for their books for younger readers: Scott Brown, Patricia MacLachlan, Lesléa Newman, Mo Willems, and Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple (the mother-daughter team).

In August, the Center plans to announce the award winner and two honors titles in each of the five categories, with the hope of celebrating all titles in the program at a 20th anniversary reception sometime in the fall.

The Massachusetts Center for the Book, located in Concord, is a public-private partnership that helps develop and promote cultural programming aimed at advancing the cause of books and reading and enhancing the outreach of Massachusetts libraries.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

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