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Chicago Writers Association’s 10th Annual Book of the Year Awards

Sunday, January 10, 2021

By Randy Richardson

On January 16th the Chicago Writers Association will host its 10th annual Book of the Year Awards. This year the celebration will be virtual.

For the past nine years CWA’s book awards were held at The Book Cellar, the charming little bookstore in the heart of Lincoln Square. It has always been a joyous and warm celebration, with standing-room-only crowds in spite of subzero temperatures and the occasional blizzard. 

Suzy Takacs, owner of The Book Cellar and passionate supporter of the writing community, surprised everyone one year with a cake designed especially for the awards.

We may not have a cake this year but we plan to capture that same spirit as we gather in front of our laptops and PCs. Becky Sarwate, whose service as a CWA board member will end shortly, will again lead the festivities with her usual charm and humor. We’ll miss our friends and supporters and traditional hosts at The Book Cellar but we look forward to sharing a room with you all again next year. Meanwhile, we’re grateful for the technology that allows us to connect to celebrate some of the best literature of the last year.

In previous years CWA has honored books by some of Chicagoland’s best authors, including Samantha Irby, Rebecca Makkai, Christine Sneed, James Finn Garner, Patricia Ann McNair, Ethan Michaeli and Mary Wisniewski, among many others. 

This year, we will honor these four wonderful books/authors:

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore for Traditional Fiction

From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Girl in Revolutionary Iran by Jacqueline Saper for Traditional Nonfiction 

Still Come Home by Katey Schultz for Indie Fiction

From Inspiration to Activism by Mary Lang Sollinger for Indie Nonfiction 

Each of the winning authors will read a brief excerpt from their book during the presentation. 

The evening’s celebration will end with the presentation of the 6th Annual Spirit Award to Jennifer Brown Banks for her many years of dedicated service to CWA and to Chicago’s writing community. 

Books are more important than ever during this time of isolation, and a pandemic will not stop us from recognizing and honoring some of the great ones. One thing that never changes is our joy of reading stories that take us to other places and times, that offer a little escape from the stresses of daily life, and that provide an alternate reality for a little while. 

This free event will take place on January 16, 2021 at 7 p.m. Central Time. 



Randy Richardson is an attorney and award-winning journalist, as well as the longtime president of the Chicago Writers Association, author of the novels Cheeseland and Lost in the Ivy, and co-editor of Cubsessions

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