Florida Lit News Roundup: Accolades and Passages Edition
Recent Florida literary news includes honors dispersed, lives well-lived, and a notable possibility for a bright future. Here’s your chance to get caught up.
Best of the (Literary) Bay: Sarah Gerard, Shane Hinton, and Tampa Review
Creative Loafing has announced its annual Best of the Bay awards, and the literary winners are worth highlighting. Hiaasen-esque mystery writer Tim Dorsey won the reader’s poll for best fiction, though we also have to tip our hat to runner up Lisa Unger. St. Leo instructor and Florida Book Award medal winner Gianna Russo got the nod for poetry, while UT’s Tampa Review won for best literary journal.
The critics picks are even more worthy of your attention. St. Pete expat Sarah Gerard was named Best New Literary Star, and in this case that’s an accurate description of the reception of her book Sunshine State, which we reviewed here. They also recognized UT prof Shane Hinton for his new edited collection We Can’t Help it if We’re From Florida, which features a very high caliber of regional talent, and Lee Irby’s new and all-too-relevant mystery about Confederate symbols, Unreliable.
Passages: Kit Reed
Former St. Pete Times reporter and perennial speculative fiction great Kit Reed passed away on Sept. 24 in Los Angeles at the age of 85, just weeks after the publication of her final novel, Mormoma. The Tampa Bay Times, fittingly, has published a fantastic obituary of Reed, who was something of a feminist paragon, without ever seeking that mantle out. She just did what she wanted, even in the face of staggering gender discrimination (the Times fired her just after she gave birth to her first child).
“Just what she wanted” included publishing more than 30 novels and collections, many of them boldly dealing with the more horrific and complicated aspects of parenthood, childhood, and, later, old age. In that, she bears at least a passing comparison to the Dark Mother of modern horror, Shirley Jackson, whose reputation has been resurgent over the last five years. Here’s hoping Reed gets a similar treatment.
Hemingway’s Cats Survived Irma Just Fine
Without a doubt Florida’s weirdest literary legacy is the colony of six-toed cats that swarm the Hemingway House museum in Key West. There are 54 of them right now, and the New York Times recounts their harrowing but ultimately happy weathering of Florida’s recent near miss with Hurricane Irma. Don’t underestimate the wisdom of animals — all of the cats reportedly swarmed into the safety of the building’s 18-inch limestone walls as the hurricane approached.
National Book Award Finalists
20 finalists have been announced for the National Book Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. The highlights include books by Jesmyn Ward and Frank Bidart, and David Grann’s sweeping Killers of the Flower Moon. We didn’t spot any obvious Florida connections, but let us know if we missed something!
KSPL Fellowship Applications Are Open
This last item is, full disclosure, slightly self-interested. Keep St. Pete Lit is now opening applications for the third year of its Writer’s Residency – which I founded and administer. KSPL offers a two week stay at the Craftsman House in St. Pete, and a healthy stipend for the selected writer. The residency is intended to bring gifted writers to the area to contribute to local literary culture, including by giving a reading and teaching a workshop, all during the SunLit literary festival. If you know any worthy writers who would like to spend two weeks in Pinellas honing their craft and passing on their wisdom, it’s a fantastic opportunity — if I do say so myself.