English professor strikes gold at book awards

Congratulations go out to Lynne Barrett on winning the Gold for General Fiction at the Florida Book Awards, which every year honors the best work produced by Sunshine State writers.

The English professor will collect her award – which celebrates Magpies, her latest collection of short stories – at the Florida Heritage Month 2012 awards ceremony sponsored by the State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs.

Now in its sixth year, the competition honors 17 scribes for their “clearly demonstrate[d] quality and depth.” Among the authors who will be feted at the awards presentation is Sen. Bob Graham, who won the bronze in the Popular Fiction category for his Keys to the Kingdom.

“I am delighted and honored that Magpies has been recognized in this way,” Barrett said. “It’s especially gratifying since I know that the Florida Book Awards have done so much to bring attention to Florida writing and writers both within the state and nationally. This shows Florida’s deep commitment to writing and literacy, to celebrating our cultural heritage and to encouraging the continued development of an ongoing rich cultural environment in our state.”

The Florida Book Award will be a new point of pride for Barrett (previous awards include Best Short Story at the Moondance International Film Festival, for a story that appeared in her second collection, The Secret Names of Women), and potentially help bring in a new crop of fans.

“I’m thrilled to imagine the many people who will now encounter my book through Florida libraries,” she said. “Many of the stories in Magpies are set in Florida. Though my tales are about people encountering – and sometimes making – trouble, I wanted to convey their resilience and complexity as well as the power and beauty of the setting.”

And the good times won’t stop there for Barrett. She also will be among those honored at an awards banquet as part of the annual Florida Library Association Conference in Orlando in April.

Meanwhile, Magpies will be recognized in the summer issue of FORUM, the award-winning magazine of the Florida Humanities Council. Signed copies of the book will be placed in the Governor’s Mansion Library and in the permanent collection maintained in the Lobby of Florida Library Association Conference (the home of the Florida Book Awards).

Barrett says the months that have followed the release of Magpies last September have been a balancing act.

“I’m halfway through a yearlong sabbatical from FIU, but I’ve been busy with publicity for the book and hiding out to work on my next project,” she said. “But it’s been exciting.”

Alas, we will have to wait the fall when Barrett resumes teaching to try to get a preview of her new work – all she would say when we asked was, “No comment.”