Governor’s Writing Awards Celebrated Literary Leadership
Humanities Washington is celebrating our 40th anniversary with 40 Years of Washington Stories. Each week on Spark, we are sharing stories about the humanities in Washington state.
When the Governor’s Writing Awards event began in the late 1960’s, it took place in Olympia as a small, private dinner event. The early 1990’s resulted in a major transformation of the awards in terms of growth, visiblity and audience size.
Between 1992 and 1994 with support from Humanities Washington and local publishers, the event transformed to a large public celebration that recognized Washington’s best writers. The event also grew to a new location in 1994 — moving north to Seattle after 28 years in Olympia.
Pacific Northwest author Shawn Wong presided over the presentation of the 1994 awards in North Seattle, which featured Washington notables Sherman Alexie and Paul DeBarros. Local university presses and small publishing houses co-hosted a reception that allowed people attending the large, public literary event to meet the award-winners and purchase books.
One of the new recognition categories added to the Governor’s Writing Awards was the Nancy Blankenship Pryor Lifetime Achievement Award. The category was named in honor of Nancy Blankenship Pryor, who worked for many years at the Washington State Library. Rick Simonson won the award in 1994 for building Elliot Bay Book Company’s author readings program into a nationally recognized institution.
Today, the Governor’s Writing Awards are now known as the Washington State Book Awards. They continue to provide governmental recognition and encourage public support for people who contribute to Washington’s vibrant literary scene.