Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Little Known Award

There are a lot of well-known awards for writing, like the Agatha or The Pulitzer Prize. Any writer would love to win those awards, but there are quite a few that are less well-known, but also prestigious. Later this month, The Blood-Red Pencil will have a week about writing awards. Since I don’t usually post during that week, I thought I’d tell you about a friend and great writer, Sylvia Dickey Smith, and the award she won. Or to be more accurate, I’ll let her tell you.

Sylvia, in 2011, your book, A War of Her Own, won the Texas Press Women Award, then you went on to Nationals. What was that like?

Helen, so glad you asked! And to clarify—I not only went on to nationals but I placed 2nd there—to a Fulbright Scholar and head of the Fulbright Scholar program at her university, and who wrote her book while on a Fulbright-Scholarship-funded sabbatical—that made second place a little sweeter.

These were my first state and national awards so I wear them proudly! When I received word that I’d won the Texas Press Women Award, I thought, oh well, not a big pool for them to draw from. But national certainly eradicated that notion. Bells, whistles, firecrackers, bottle rockets, grenades, air to ground missiles? Nothing holds a candle to what I felt.

Did you submit your book for consideration by TPW? Did someone else? What was it about your book that caught the eye of TPW?

Interesting story to that process. I had been advised by a fan to seek out a journalist who might be interested in writing a feature article about WW2 and the homefront, and in the process, mention A War of Her Own in the article as a historically accurate recounting of what life was like. It took me a while, but one person led to another and I met Ginger Mynatt, a journalist from Sherman, Texas. She and I traveled to Orange where she conducted research on Orange and the shipyards during the war, wrote her article, and sold it to Texas Co-Op Magazine, a publication of Pedernales Electric. Indeed they published her article, but cut any reference to me or A War of Her Own, supposedly due to word count. Talk about disappointed! I always enjoyed that magazine, but now, when it comes in the mail, I smile and dump it in the trash unread! (only half-joking!)

Anyway, Ginger suggested I submit the novel to the annual Communications Contest for Press Women of Texas, and the rest is history. (A first place state win leads to the state submitting it to the national contest.)

Do you know if every state in the U.S. has a Press Women’s Association? How could other writers get recognized by their state’s PWA?

NFPW was founded on May 6, 1937. The national organization is the hub for the state affiliates. Join the national and you automatically become a member of the state organization. If there is a state that does not have a branch, then you join as a member-at-large and may still compete in the national competition. The National Federation of Press Women at is the place to start. (And if you join, tell them Sylvia sent you.)

Nothing could keep me from attending the national conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa last year. Although I was a stranger amidst hundreds of women, some who have known each other through the organization for fifty/sixty plus years, I have never felt more among friends. They INTENTIONALLY create an attitude of inclusiveness. Next year the conference is in Arizona, and I plan to be there—with a win, hopefully. They have over 80 something categories all available on the web site under Competitions. I hope to win in 2012 with my upcoming book, The Swamp Whisperer!

Here’s a brief synopsis of Sylvia’s award-winning book:
A War of Her Own: In the summer of 1943, Orange, Texas, is a sleepy little town overrun with tens of thousands of new workers. With jobs galore at the wartime shipyards, the workers are rich with cash and looking for a good time. Bea Meade, mother of an infant son, finds her life shattered when her philandering husband announces he is leaving her for another woman. To make ends meet, Bea takes a job at a shipyard as a riveter. Bea has to fight her own battles against a no-good husband, the prejudice facing women in the workplace, and the mysteries of her own past. Bea's journey to discover who she really is, a vibrant woman of her times, serves up an entertaining story of the World War II homefront you'll remember long after the final pages.

Note from Helen: There are awards out there that you may never have heard of. You’ve heard about this one now and later this month you’ll learn about more awards. Leave a comment if you know of an award you or other writers have won or could win.
Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, freelance editor and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its twelfth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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  1. Congratulations Sylvia! Bea sounds like an amazing character. I know there were a lot of women like her at the time.

    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

  2. Thanks Sylvia for sharing your experience and information about the award.

  3. Thanks, Elle and Helen and others. I highly recommend this organization to writers of any kind. AND the annual conference. They have terrific breakout sessions, fantastic speakers, and everyone is so friendly and helpful. I have made fast friends. So many women have been members for OVER fifty years and have never missed a conference. Talk about a sisterhood!

    Another thing I like about NFPW is they hold to the highest of ethical standards in everything they do. Membership cost is reasonable, too.

    It is the "best kept secret" around for novelists of any genre, and offer so much to any writer of anything!

  4. Congratulations Sylvia, what an honour indeed. The book sounds fascinating and best of luck this year.

  5. Living just a few miles away from an old, well, newly "repurposed" WWII shipyard, this book really piques my interest! Congratulations Sylvia and thank you for sharing such neat, and helpful information.

    Liza@Middle Passages

  6. Sylvia, how wonderful- congratulations. You should be so proud.

  7. When I attended orientation at Westminster Choir College with my son I wondered if he could cut it there. I knew he was one of the best singers in his high school, and had ranked first or second in PA state choir competitions for a few years, but was he just a big fish because of his small pond?

    Then the dean addressed the incoming freshman. "You're all here because you are the best young singers in the nation." A thrill ran up my spine and I thought wow, perspective.

    I can only imagine that's how you felt at nationals, Sylvia. How wonderful to have the affirmation that such an award can bring. Congratulations!

    But since this is an editing site, I'm compelled to add: Don't go getting such a big head that you start submitting your first drafts, lol!

  8. Congrats to Sylvia - what an honor and an interesting trek to get there. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Well, I was happy for Ms. Smith ... but she totally ruined my PWA bracket.

  10. Congrats Sylvia. I hope both you and Helen will be doing your double act at Weatherford College again this year.

  11. I'll be talking about all the children's book awards later this month. I know we're tackling the Willa, the Sarton, and the Agatha awards. I know several Colorado Book Award winners, too. Those state awards are not to be sneezed at - in some ways, they are more meaningful than the big ones. Sci-fi has awards, too. The Hugo? The Cybils. So many awards, so little time, and we should also mention which ones require fees and reading copies to enter. Most do, and it can be cost-prohibitive.

  12. Congratulations, Sylvia! What a great acknowledgement of your hard work.

    Morgan Mandel

  13. They aren't prestigous, and they certainly won't launch your writing career, but the Meager Puddle of Limelight Awards ( are lots of fun :)

  14. Huge congrats to Sylvia. I have read the book and am not surprised it has been honored so.

    To answer the questions. My nonfiction books have been recognized as a "Best Book for Teens" by the NY Library system. I have also won the Page Edwards short story award, as well as awards from writers' conferences and screenwriting competitions. It is always a thrill to have work recognized like that. Still holding out for a Pulitzer. LOL

  15. Thanks to all for the congratulations. @Kathryn, enjoyed reading about your son and his marvelous voice! Liza, shipyards always fascinate me! Love to visit them and feel the power. My late aunt-in-law who worked at the navy base there said the ships seemed to have their own personality. She swore she could hear voices of those who had lived and worked on them. And thanks to all for your kind words! We keep plugging away, eh?

  16. It's plugging away that gives you something worthy of a reward, Sylvia. I add my congrats to the stack, too. I know how hard you work. Thanks for visiting us today and sharing.

  17. Thank you Jon. I've never heard of the Meager Puddle of Limelight Awards! I shall follow the link.

  18. Sylvia,
    I am so happy for you. Well deserved for a wonderful person.

  19. Helen: 'I've never heard of the Meager Puddle of Limelight Awards!'

    Well I did say they were meager ;)

  20. I knew A WAR OF HER OWN was a great book when I first read it and was thrilled when it received this recognition. I promise you there will be more awards for Sylvia in the future.

  21. great) liked everything very much) keep it up and dont stop)

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.