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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

SU faculty, alumni to be recognized at CNY Book Awards Nov. 29

Ruth J. Colvin, Bruce Smith, and Dana Spiotta among the nominees

Oct. 25, 2012, by Rob Enslin

Author Ruth J. Colvin '59, H'84 receiving the 2006 Presidential Medal of Freedom
Author Ruth J. Colvin '59, H'84 receiving the 2006 Presidential Medal of Freedom

More than a dozen Syracuse University professors and alumni are among the nominees for the first annual CNY Book Awards, sponsored by the Downtown Writers Center (DWC) of the Arts Branch of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse. Winners will be announced at a special ceremony hosted by the DWC on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Syracuse University Chancellor's Residence. The event is open to the public, but seating is limited.

Tickets are $85 each, and must be purchased by Friday, Nov. 16. Proceeds benefit the Arts Branch. For more information, call 315-474-6851, x. 328.

"Central New York has a long tradition of excellence in the literary arts," says Phil Memmer, executive director of the YMCA Arts Branch and founding director of the DWC. "That almost half of this year's nominees have ties to SU speaks to the importance of good writing on campus."

The awards will recognize published books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and will be judged by prominent authors from around the nation. A "People's Choice" category will also be decided by the audience at the ceremony, and will include all titles nominated for the genre awards.

The SU nominees are as follows:


• Jennifer Fortin (enrolled 2001): "Mined Muzzle Velocity" (Low Brow Press, 2011) 

• Patrick Lawler '81: "Underground (Notes Toward an Autobiography)" (Many Mountains Moving Press, 2011)

• Charles Martin, former part-time English instructor: "Signs and Wonders" (The John Hopkins University Press, 2011) and "The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation" (W. W. Norton and Company, 2012)

• Bruce Smith, professor of English: "Devotions" (The University of Chicago Press, 2011)

• Martin Willits Jr. '82: "Secrets No One Must Talk About" (Dos Madres Press, 2011)


• Dana Spiotta, assistant professor of English: "Stone Arabia" (Scribner, 2011)

• Christine Anne Wenger '77: "How to Lasso a Cowboy" (Harlequin, 2011)

• David R. Witanowksi '02: "Reynard the Fox" (Calliope Press, 2012)


• Ruth J. Colvin '59, H'84: "Off the Beaten Path: Stories of People Around the World" (SU Press, 2012)

• Ben Kuebrich, a graduate student in the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric (CCR) Doctoral Program of The Writing Program, nominated on behalf of Gifford Street Community Press for "I Witness: Perspectives on Policing in the Near Westside" (Gifford Street Community Press, 2012)

• Steve Parks, associate professor of writing and rhetoric and director of the CCR Program, nominated on behalf of the Gifford Street Community Press Editorial Board for "Home: Journeys to the Westside" (Gifford Street Community Press, 2011)

• Martin A. Sweeney G'81: “Lincoln's Gift from Homer, New York: A Painter, an Editor, and a Detective (MacFarland, 2011)

• Harvey Teres, associate professor of English and Judaic studies: "Word on the Street: Linking the Academy and the Common Reader" (University of Michigan Press, 2010)

• Virginia P. Tilden '62: "Footprints of Schulyer Fassett Smith: A Civil War Survivor" (Tilden Publishing, 2012)

Poet Bruce Smith at the 2011 National Book Awards
Poet Bruce Smith at the 2011 National Book Awards

For more than a decade, the Arts Branch has been a national leader in the YMCA Arts and Humanities Movement, providing high-quality, reasonably priced programs at locations throughout Onondaga County. The Arts Branch is home to the following:
• The DWC, the only community-based literary program in Central New York;

• The Arts Studio at the East Area Family YMCA, one of the busiest of its kind in the United States;

• The YMCA After-School Arts Program, which provides free arts education to more than 900 children a week;

• The Y-Arts Camp, a series of one-week summer programs for school-age children;

• GallerY, an art gallery at the Downtown YMCA; and

• A private music lesson program, serving more than 150 people.

"The University is proud of its association with the Arts Branch," says Mark Nerenhausen, founding director of the Janklow Arts Leadership Program and an Arts Branch board member. "Many of our faculty members have read or taught at the Downtown Writers Center. Also each fall, Syracuse Symposium [organized and presented by The SU Humanities Center] collaborates with the Arts Branch to bring nationally renowned authors to campus. I see this partnership growing stronger with time."

The YMCA of Greater Syracuse is a diverse organization of men, women, and children, joined by a shared commitment to strengthening the community by nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living, and fostering social responsibility. With more than 40,000 members in branches and outreach sites throughout Onondaga County, the Y has the presence and partnerships to deliver lasting personal and social change.