The Georgia Writers Association along with Kennesaw State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences hosted the 52nd annual Georgia Author of the Year Awards on Saturday, June 4 to honor authors in several categories.
The Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists initiated the GAYA ceremony in 1964, and the Georgia Writers Association took over in 1990. In 2006, KSU’s CHSS began working with the association to host the ceremony on campus.
In categories such as poetry, literary fiction, and romance, the Georgia Writers Association nominates both authors who were published independently as well as those who utilized a publishing house.
In 2015, the 51st annual GAYA recorded over 100 nominations in 17 different categories within the traditional fictional and nonfiction genres. This year’s ceremony featured 154 nominations across 14 different categories.
“[Authors] can self nominate or a publisher nominates them,” said Margaret Walters, the executive director of the Georgia Writers Association. “They just have to have either lived in Georgia the year they wrote their book or they have to currently be a resident of Georgia.”
Each category is assigned a single judge to select the winners and finalists, as well as any honorable mentions.
Jeanie Loiacono, a literacy agent, attended the awards ceremony to support three of her authors, including Linda L. Case, a nominee in the memoir/autobiography category. As a member of the Atlanta Writers Club, Case takes part in several creative writing programs.
Beth Gylys, a finalist and a professor at Georgia State, explained that her path to becoming an author began with only her passion to write. She eventually became a published author as she continued to explore her talent later in life. Gylys’ book, “Sky Blue Enough to Drink,” won in the poetry category.
Another author, David Ryback, won in the inspirational-secular category with his book, “Secrets of a Zen Millionaire: 8 Steps to Personal Wealth with Real Estate.”
“My book is on Zen and practicing Zen while getting rich at the same time,” said Ryback. “I love writing, and I have always found it to be easy and actually enjoyable.”
Ryback also shared his perspective on what it takes to be successful and mindful at the same time.
“[It’s about] being mindful of the moment and allowing things to emerge fully within the moment so you don’t lose what’s happening and forsake the opportunities and possibilities that can happen,” Ryback explained.
Gautam Narula, a winner in the memoir/autobiography category, recognized his mother for the support she gave him as he wrote his book, “Remain Free: A Memoir.”
“If it wasn’t for her, the events that I got to participate in that made up the book wouldn’t have taken place,” Narula said.
Two other awards were also presented during the ceremony to honor two remarkable authors. First, the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Phillip DePoy, an author and poet with 19 published books.
The second recognition, the GAYA Posthumous Award, was presented in memory of the late Joseph E. Dabney, an author and reporter for the Atlanta Journal. Family members accepted the award on Dabney’s behalf. His work has received several awards in the past, including the Jack Daniel Life Time Achievement Award in 2005.
The Georgia Writers Association plans to keep next year’s GAYA on the KSU campus in Kennesaw.