Kitty and I have been crazed by all of the activity at work, and we are so behind in our Okie Reads postings. We beg your patience as we try to return to some state of normality. (Although our colleague Rebecca reminds us that “normal” is just a setting on the dryer.)
The 23rd Annual Oklahoma Book Awards were held on April 14 in OKC, and the meteorologists’ dire predictions didn’t keep some 200 or so folks from gathering to celebrate Oklahoma authors and the best of Oklahoma books. During the evening, a theme for the night developed as presenters and medalists ascended to the podium.
“Storytellers” at the Oklahoma Book Awards: Wilkinson, Gensler, Galvan, Squires and Myers
It started when Master of Ceremonies Jay Wilkinson told stories about his father, Bud Wilkinson. (Jay’s new book revolves around 47 letters that his father sent him while the young Wilkinson was away at college and graduate school.) This prompted presenters Glenda Carlile and Revere Young to tell their own stories about the legendary OU football coach. (Carlile’s funny story was about accidentally disconnecting a call between Wilkinson and President Kennedy when she was a switchboard operator at OU.)
Sonia Gensler, Book Award Medalist in the Young Adult Category for The Revenant, talked about the culture and history of Oklahoma being a fertile ground for storytelling. Children’s Medalist Glenda Galvan was honored for her book on traditional Chickasaw stories. Constance Squires, Fiction Medalist for Along the Watchtower, told a story about the first time she attended an Oklahoma Book Award dinner—as a worker for the catering company servicing the event. And now, here she was at the same event, in very different circumstances.
Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” — Robert McKee
When 2011 Poetry medalist Ben Myers introduced 2012 Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award winner Anna Myers (his mom), the theme of story was front and center. Anna is an award-winning author of historical fiction for children and young adults, and she excels at making history relatable to young readers by telling her tales through the eyes of young protagonists. Anna knows that history is really made up of the stories of people who were alive to experience and play a part in the monumental events of our nation and our world.
In her acceptance speech, Anna cemented the theme of the evening by telling a story. When the author was discussing her book Assassin (about the conspiracy to kill President Abraham Lincoln) during a school visit, she noticed a girl who seemed to want to ask a question, but who held back. When the girl found a moment to speak to Anna one-on-one, she said, “I knew Lincoln had to die, but I kept hoping for a way out.” That, said Anna, is the power of story.
It’s easy to believe writer Robert McKee’s assertion that stories “are the currency of human contact.” Think of the stories we tell each other in day to day conversation, the family stories we each own that tell a history of events both odd and grand about our particular little tribe.
We are all storytellers; but when art meets storytelling, either through performance or the written word, whether fictional or historical, it has the power to transform us and our vision of the world. It can even make a little girl wonder if there is any way for Mr. Lincoln to survive.
The Book Awards inspire the Journal Record’s Ted Streuli to create an impromptu book week