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2018 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award in Literary Nonfiction (2019 in Poetry, 2020 in Fiction)

The Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award "in Poetry" "in Fiction" and "in Literary Nonfiction" alternates yearly for each genre. The 2018 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award is for Best Work of Literary Nonfiction, and will be judged by Mary Swander. The prize, of $1,000, will be awarded to a book that meets the guidelines below, and the winner will be invited to Washburn University's Mabee Library in the Spring of 2018 for a reading and presentation ceremony.

Behind the name: Learn more about the Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award.

This award is sponsored by the Center for Kansas Studies, the Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection at Mabee Library and the Friends of Mabee Library.

Please see the award schedule and entry guidelines below.

Award Schedule

2018 Best Literary Nonfiction (memoir, essays, journalistic writing)
2019 Best Poetry (collection of poems of at least 60 pages)
2020 Best Fiction (novel or collection of short stories)
2021 Best Literary Nonfiction
2022 Best Poetry
2023 Best Fiction
continuing to alternate every three years


Nominations can come from publishers, authors, or anyone interested in seeing a book considered.

Books must be original work by a single author (no anthologies).

Author must establish a connection to Kansas by birth, education, employment, residence or other significant claim.

Please submit two copies of each book nominated. Those books become the property of the Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection.

Books must have an original publication date (copyright notice) within three calendar years immediately preceding the year of the competition deadline
. For example, to be eligible for the 2018 Literary Nonfiction deadline, the nominee's book must have a publication date of 2015, 2016 or 2017.

Previous awardees are eligible to submit a new book.

Nominations for this year's award must be postmarked or presented by December 31, 2017.

Please submit books for consideration to:

c/o Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection
Mabee Library
1700 College
Topeka, KS 66621

Mary Swander
A poet, playwright, memoirist, and radio commentator, Mary Swander received her M.F.A from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Before retiring, she was Professor of English and a Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University. In 2009 Governor Chet Culver appointed Mary Swander the Poet Laureate of the State of Iowa.

Currently, Swander is touring her plays Vang, a drama about recent immigrant farmers, and Map of my Kingdom, or Who’s Going to Get the Farm? Swander’s play Farmscape has been performed throughout the U.S. with a special performance for Secretary Vilsack at the U.S.D.A. Ice Cube Press published the play with a collection of essays in 2012. Swander is the co-founder of AgArts, a national group designed to imagine and promote healthy food systems through the arts.

Swander’s memoir, The Desert Pilgrim (Viking, 2003, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.) has just been re-issued by Ice Cube Press, as has her memoir Out of this World (Viking, 1995) by the U. of Iowa Press. Swander is the author of three additional books of poetry: Heaven-and-Earth House (Alfred Knopf, 1994); Driving the Body Back (Alfred Knopf, 1986); Succession (University of Georgia Press, 1979), as well as a book of literary interviews, Parsnips in the Snow (with Jane Staw, University of Iowa Press, 1990).

Swander has edited three books: The Healing Circle: Authors on Recovery from Illness (Plume, 1998, with Patricia Foster); Bloom and Blossom, a collection of garden literature from Ecco Press (1997); and Land of the Fragile Giants, an edited collection of non-fiction and art work on the Loess Hills (with Cornelia Mutel, University of Iowa Press, 1994).

Ms. Swander was a regular commentator on WOI radio in Ames, IA, as well as National Public Radio’s Sunday Week-end Edition.

Ms. Swander has won numerous awards including an Iowa Author’s Award (2006), a Whiting Award (The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, 1994), a National Endowment for the Arts grant for the Literary Arts (1986), two Ingram Merrill Awards (1980, 1986) , the Carl Sandburg Literary Award (The Chicago Public Library, 1981), and the Nation-Discovery Award (The Nation magazine, 1976) . Publisher’s Weekly named Parsnips in the Snow one of the best books of 1990, and the Garden Writers Association of America awarded Swander their Quill and Trowel Award for best magazine writing of 1993.

She lives in an old Amish schoolhouse, raises geese, goats and a large organic garden.

The Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection is an eclectic, inclusive set of materials dedicated to the study of Kansas literature through the state’s folklore, history, geography, flora, fauna, social fabric and culture. The holdings include novels, plays, collections of poetry and fiction, histories, biographies, memoirs, letters, scholarly articles, collected folklore, manuscripts and ephemera gathered over 40+ years. The collection is building an inclusive and exhaustive body of work dedicated to encouraging the reading and writing of Kansas Literature, as well as being a home for researching and writing about Kansas Literature and Culture.