Whitney Awards honor best in Mormon fiction

By Heather Justesen

For Mormon Times

Published: Thursday, May 12 2011 7:00 a.m. MDT

Rick Walton and Susan Evans McCloud were among several authors and writers honored at the fourth-annual Whitney Awards banquet at the Salt Lake Sheraton on Saturday, May 7.

Walton received the outstanding achievement award, and McCloud was given the lifetime achievement award.

The Whitney Awards, which started in 2007, offer recognition to writers in seven categories: romance, mystery/suspense, general fiction, historical, speculative, general youth fiction and speculative youth fiction.

In addition to these categories, two more awards are given to the best book by a new author and the best novel of the year. On top of that, the committee selected two authors who have made big contributions to the fiction community over the years.

Walton was introduced for his award by friend and fellow author Carol Lynch Williams. Walton has authored more than 80 books, including fiction and nonfiction for LDS and national audiences. He's best known for his children's picture books and has mentored hundreds of writers over the years.

McCloud was introduced by two-time romance Whitney winner Michele Paige Holmes. McCloud has been a docent in the Beehive House for 35 years and has published poetry, 45 books, screen plays, stage productions and the much-beloved lyrics for the LDS hymn “Lord I Would Follow Thee.” McCloud did all of this while raising six children.

In accepting the award, McCloud encouraged others to look for the beauty in life.

"We need to be in the forefront of preserving what is beautiful," she said.

Despite attempts to prevent a tie, two authors were chosen for the best book of the year. Dan Wells, author of the horror novel “Mr. Monster,” and Brandon Sanderson, for the fantasy bookThe Way of Kings,” collected the award this year. It was the third such honor for Sanderson. Wells also tied for best book by a new author in 2009.

Sanderson said he wrote two stories before he wrote “The Way of Kings.”

"This book came from me ignoring everything and writing from my heart," he said.

The Whitney program is named for Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle in the LDS Church, who prophesied, “We will yet have millions and Shakespeares of our own.” The program is designed to recognize authors who strive for excellence.

Josh Perkey, a member of this year’s committee, said the Whitney Awards signify an effort to inspire readers to live righteously.

"The standards put forth by Orson F. Whitney foster that which inspires, uplifts and promotes the Spirit," he said. "I don’t mean to suggest that this limits our works to gospel stories … but in acknowledging superior works we will build the LDS community."

2010 Whitney Winners

Romance: "Cross My Heart," by Julie Wright Mystery/suspense: "Cold as Ice," by Stephanie Black General Fiction: "Band of Sisters," by Annette Lyon Historical: "Trespass," by Sandra Grey General youth fiction: "The Healing Spell," by Kimberley Griffiths Little Youth speculative: "Matched," by Ally Condie Adult speculative: "The Way of Kings," by Brandon Sanderson Best novel by a new author: "Paranormalcy," by Kiersten White Novel of the year: Tie: "Mr. Monster," by Dan Wells; "The Way of Kings," by Brandon Sanderson

Heather Justesen is the award-winning author of "The Ball's In Her Court" and "Rebound." Visit her websites at www.HeatherJustesen.com and www.heatherJustesen.blogspot.com.

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