Authors with OWU ties vying for award

Special to The Gazette - [email protected]

It’s like a hot sauce competition for your brain. And this year’s choices include “Good,” “Savage,” and oh, “Hell,” do we have to pick just one?

Of the 30 books competing for the prestigious Ohioana Readers’ Choice Award, three were written by authors with Ohio Wesleyan University ties:

• Robert Olmstead, author of “Savage Country: A Novel,” is a professor of English and director of creative writing. Set in 1873, “Savage Country” is an epic western that follows a widow and her brother-in-law during the last great buffalo hunt. In reviewing the book author Tom Franklin writes: “Robert Olmstead gets better with every book. If you know all of his previous books, you know how startling this fact is, and how startlingly good this writer is.”

• Maggie Smith, author of “The Good Bones,” is a 1999 Ohio Wesleyan graduate and author of three books of poetry. “It’s Smith’s dynamically precise and vivid images, and her uncanny ability to find just the right word or action to crack open our known experience, that make ‘Good Bones’ an extraordinary book,” critic Erin Belieu says. “Maggie Smith demonstrates what happens when an abundance of heart and intelligence meets the hands of a master craftsperson.”

• Jeffrey Ford, author of “A Natural History of Hell,” is a part-time instructor in English and the author of nine novels and five short-story collections, earning him World Fantasy, Nebula, Edgar Allan Poe, and Shirley Jackson awards. This book of short stories includes praise from iconic author Joyce Carol Oates, who proclaims on its jacket that “Jeffrey Ford is a beautifully disorienting writer, a poet in an unclassifiable genre – his own.”

Olmstead, who joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 2002, says he is excited to be among the Ohioana Readers’ Choice Award nominees.

“I’m always amazed when these things happen,” says Olmstead, whose previous honors include winning the Ohioana Award for Fiction for two of his books: “Coal Black Horse” and “The Coldest Night.”

“I’m just happy to be at a place like OWU where I can teach and write and feel such huge support,” Olmstead adds. “Ohioana has always been so good to me and I really appreciate it.”

Voting for the third annual Ohioana Readers’ Choice Award is underway and continues online through 3 p.m. June 29. To vote, visit The book receiving the most votes will be named the winner and honored Oct. 18 at the Ohioana Awards ceremony.

Special to The Gazette

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