Emma Sepulveda, Doug Unger, Richard Moreno, and Willy Vlautin have been selected as the 2007 recipients of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame and Silver Pen awards by the Friends of the Library at the University of Nevada, Reno. They will be honored at a special reception on Thursday, Nov. 8, at the ArrowCreek Country Club in Reno. The program will include the authors reading from their works, a book signing, silent auction, and cocktail hour. For information and reservations, call (775) 682-5690.
The Hall of Fame honors established writers with a long-term commitment to the craft, while Silver Pen awards are intended to recognize emerging or mid-career writers. To be considered for either award, the writers must demonstrate a Nevada "connection" either in their subject matter or by living in Nevada.
Hall of Fame – Emma Sepulveda
Emma Sepulveda, Foundation Professor of Spanish at the University of Nevada, Reno, is one of two named to the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame this year. She is the author or co-author of 17 books, including several books of poetry: "Tiempo Complice del Tiempo" and "Death to Silence." Her non-fiction works include "From Border Crossing to Campaign Trail," "We, Chile: The Testimony of the Chilean Arpilleristas," and "Amigas: Letters of Friendship and Exile." Other works include books of photography, literacy criticism, and textbooks for the teaching of Spanish.
The Hall of Fame selection committee found her writing to be "remarkable" and "significant." They described her as "a true artist in the Renaissance sense." She also received the Friends' Silver Pen Award in 2000.
Sepulveda, who was born in Argentina and raised in Chile, emigrated to the U.S. in 1974 after the coup of Chilean President Salvador Allende. She learned English, became a U.S. citizen, and eventually earned a Ph.D. in Spanish language and literature. Besides her teaching and writing, she has been extremely involved in community activism to improve the lot of Latinos in her adopted city of Reno, Nevada.
"We, Chile," edited by Sepulveda in 1996, contains the personal testimonies of Las Arpilleristas, the mothers and wives of those who disappeared under the Gen. Pinochet reign of terror. Sepulveda traveled back to Chile and interviewed these women, who were trying to locate the whereabouts (or remains) of their loved ones. Sepulveda also helped make a documentary film about these women, which won a Peabody Award.
"From Border Crossing to the Campaign Trail" is her first-person account of running for the Nevada State Senate. Reno journalist Mike Sion calls it "a captivating chronicle of present American society and our democratic election process. It also spins a compelling tale of an immigrant's journey ... and paints a portrait of the slowly emerging clout of Latinos in our country."
Hall of Fame – Douglas Unger
The second recipient of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame award is Douglas Unger, Interim Chair of the Department of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
Unger is the author of four novels, including "Leaving the Land," a finalist for the Pulitzer and Robert F. Kennedy awards, and "Voices from Silence," a year's end selection of "The Washington Post Book World," which will be published next March in French translation.
His most recent book is "Looking for War and Other Stories," and new short fiction is coming out this year in "Boulevard," "Southwest Review," and in various anthologies.
The selection committee called his work "sophisticated," "powerful," and "compelling." "Doug's contributions to literary arts in Nevada are outstanding and noteworthy,"
Unger is the co-founder of the M.F.A. in Creative Writing International program and the Schaeffer Fellowship Ph.D. with Creative Dissertation at UNLV—both selected as among the top five creative writing programs in the country by the "The Atlantic" (July, 2007 issue).
Unger also serves on the executive boards of "Words Without Borders," "Point of Contact/Punto de Contacto," and worked for five years as the Grants and Acquisitions Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters until its absorption by the Black Mountain Institute. In addition to teaching and writing, he travels extensively in support of literary activism around the world.
Silver Pen – Richard Moreno
Richard Moreno, Director of Student Publications and an instructor in the English and Journalism Departments at Western Illinois University, served as publisher of "Nevada Magazine" for 14 years. He is the author of seven Nevada-related books, including: "Endless Nevada," "The Roadside History of Nevada," "The Nevada Trivia Book," "Nevada: Mountain Highs and Desert Lows," "The Backyard Traveler," "The Backyard Traveler Returns," and "Backyard Travels in Northern Nevada."
The selection committee cited his "significant work in regards to the state of Nevada," his "obvious interest in writing about Nevada issues/places over the past 25 years" and the "evidence of a commitment to and love for the state of Nevada."
For the past two decades, Moreno has written an award-winning weekly history/travel column about Nevada. He is a former journalism instructor at the UNR Reynolds School of Journalism and former Director of Advertising and Public Relations for the Nevada Commission on Tourism, where he created the successful "Highway 50: The Loneliest Road in America" promotion.
Moreno is currently completing his eighth book, "Nevada Curiosities," and maintains a travel blog, "The Backyard Traveler," which spotlights his many travel stories about Nevada. He resides in Macomb, Illinois, with his wife and two children, but still makes frequent trips to the Silver State.
Silver Pen – Willy Vlautin
Willy Vlautin, member of the internationally acclaimed band, Richmond Fontaine, was born and raised in Reno. His first book, "The Motel Life," explores the frustrations and failed dreams of two Nevada brothers. It has received critical acclaim from all types of media.
John Wray in "The New York Times Book Review" (June 24, 2007) called it "an unapologetic ode to self defeat, a loose collection of deadpan cataclysms in which the most heartening episode revolves around the rescue of an undernourished dog. Its charm is unassuming... but Vlautin's novel rewards the patient. At times, its appeal is irresistible."
In their fiction reviews for the week of 2/26/2007, "Publishers Weekly" called "The Motel Life" "a gritty debut" and said "Vlautin's coiled, poetically matter-of-fact prose calls to mind S.E. Hinton — a writer well-acquainted with male misfit protagonists seeking redemption, no matter how destructive. Despite the bleak story and its inevitably tragic ending, Vlautin, who plays in the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, transmits a quiet sense of resilience and hopefulness."
Richard Fontaine, in the online "Amplifier Magazine," calls him "a teller of tales, a writer who spins stories about dark, despondent characters who are down on their luck and ready to gamble their last dollar at a shot of somehow getting their lives back on track" and called his band's music " pure Americana, a firsthand, dust blown vision of what it's like forever navigating the forgotten roads of the heartland, with its seedy motels and a two bit towns dotting every stretch of the endless highway. But the prose is pure Steinbeck in its description of hapless individuals who attempt to rise above desperation and turn the struggle to survive into something that's noble and worthwhile."
The Hall of Fame selection committee said Vlautin is "hands-down, the best new' writer from Nevada" and found his work "richly textured and significantly moving. "We couldn't put it down," they added.