The University Libraries at the University of Nevada, Reno is pleased to announce Susan Palwick as the 36th Annual Nevada Writers Hall of Fame inductee. Megan Edwards will receive the Silver Pen award.
Both authors will be celebrated at the 36th Annual Nevada Writers Hall of Fame event which will take place Friday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., inside the University Libraries’ Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center Wells Fargo Auditorium on the University campus.
Single tickets can be purchased online for $25 via the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame webpage. Bulk tickets can be purchased by contacting Maggie Ressel via email, email@example.com, or by phone at 775-682-5653.
A celebration of the lives and contributions of James Hulse and Larry Struve will also be included in the event. Attendees will enjoy a special program, book signing and dessert reception.
Susan Palwick 2023 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee, 2006 Silver Pen Awardee
“Fiction is a vehicle for imaginative empathy. It allows us to explore other viewpoints, to imagine different lives.” – Susan Palwick
Susan Palwick has published four novels, one book of sonnets, several story collections and many works of short fiction appearing in venues such as Asimov’s, Lightspeed, and Tor.com. Her work has been reprinted in a number of Year’s Best anthologies, including several volumes of the prestigious Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series.
Her fiction has been honored with a Crawford Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts and an Alex Award from the American Library Association, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award. Prior to her induction into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, she received a Silver Pen Award in 2006.
Palwick was born in New York City and educated at Princeton (AB 1982) and Yale (Ph.D. 1996). She lived on the East Coast until 1997, when she accepted a teaching job at the University of Nevada, Reno. After 20 years as an English professor, and having also served as adjunct faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, teaching Narrative Medicine, Palwick retired in 2017 to earn a Master of Social Work degree – also from the University – and to move into healthcare.
“I worked as a healthcare chaplain for many years, first as an ER volunteer while I was still teaching, and later as a paid hospital and hospice chaplain,” Palwick said. “I’m currently a social worker in two dialysis clinics. I’ve watched a lot of people struggling to come to terms with pain, chronic illness and mortality, and many of those experiences indirectly inform my fiction.”
Palwick’s writing is primarily psychological fantasy and near-future science fiction.
“Almost everything I write begins with character, rather than plot or setting,” she said. “Because of family and personal history, I'm very interested in how people navigate loss and grief. I'm also fascinated by the endless varieties of faith -- belief in something larger than ourselves -- and how that sustains or challenges us in times of trouble.”
Palwick said it was a huge honor to be selected as the 2023 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame inductee.
“I was at work when I got the news, and I have to admit that it was hard to concentrate for the rest of the day,” she said. “I’m deeply moved to be recognized by the state I’ve come to love so much, and to be in such stellar company!”
Palwick said she never thought her name would be on a wall with the likes of Mark Twain and Sarah Winnemucca. Morris Brownell, Gailmarie Pahmeier, Ann Ronald and Bernard Schopen are all cherished University colleagues of hers, and she said she is humbled to be in their company.
“I’m forever grateful to the people who helped me keep writing,” she said. “My parents supported my desire to write, even though my mother worried about my economic security. My husband Gary reads everything I write and has unerring editorial judgment. My editors, agents, fellow writers, University colleagues and students have all, at various times, offered feedback that convinced me I was indeed connecting with my readers. And on the healthcare side, my patients remind me every day that each of us is a complex, fascinating universe.”
When asked what motivated her to write and teach, Palwick shared a story from her youth.
“I learned to read late -- the end of first grade, I think -- but once I started, I didn't stop,” she said. “My favorite books were science fiction and fantasy (SF/F), because they were about change, hope and possibility.”
Palwick said she started making up her own stories very early, borrowing characters she loved from work she’d read or seen.
“I spent a lot of time in a complicated imaginary world where Aslan from Narnia and Elsa from Born Free had cubs, and where three princes I’d invented evaded assassins while zipping around on jet-packs fastened to their shoes,” she said.
Palwick got sent to the guidance counselor because she wasn’t paying attention in class. She said the machinations of the three princes were much more interesting to her than memorizing times tables.
“The counselor asked me what I was doing instead of paying attention,” she said. “I told him I was imagining, and he asked me what I was imagining. Then, he wound up digging out an old typewriter, typing what I dictated to him, and having me illustrate it. He wasn’t angry at me. He seemed impressed. That was the first time I realized that telling stories was even slightly unusual. I’d thought everyone did it.
“At that point, I started writing my stories down. I wanted to do for other people what the writers I loved had done for me. About 20 years later, I realized that becoming an English professor was a way to be part of a community that cared about stories, a place where my job would be to talk about reading and writing with students and colleagues.”
On being published for the first time
Palwick began working on her first novel, Flying in Place, in 1988. It is a ghost story about child sexual abuse.
“I’d been making notes for what I thought would be a short story, and ultimately had ninety-seven pages of notes,” she said. “I’d worked too hard on the project not to submit it for publication, but to be publishable, it needed a plot. I revised, and revised again, and revised some more.
“It came in at 53,000 words: short for a novel, but too long for a short story. I sent it to a friend who was editing a novella series for Tor Books. He bought it, and I left town to start my Ph.D. program. That September, on my 30th birthday, he called and said, ‘Congratulations on publishing your first novel!’ The head of Tor had been looking for something short to read on a plane flight, saw my thin manuscript in a stack of thicker ones, and plucked it out of the pile. He loved it and decided to publish it as a standalone novel.
“That was a long time ago, but even now, whenever I have something accepted for publication, it feels like I've eaten way too much sugar.”
Flying in Place is not autobiographical. Palwick said she was terrified that readers would say she’d gotten everything wrong.
“I was worried about what survivors would say,” she said. “Instead, they told me, ‘That's exactly what it was like.’ And one day I got a letter that said, ‘I was going to kill myself, but then I read your book, and I didn't.’”
Palwick’s work has been impactful to survivors of abuse.
“People have told me that watching my characters cope with grief helped them cope with their own,” she said. “Nevada readers have responded warmly to my stories set in Reno. And sometimes, as a writer, you learn that you changed someone’s life.”
Palwick said stories save lives.
“They offer sanctuary, because page 73 of a given book will always say the same thing, no matter how much the world is falling apart,” she said. “They show readers that beauty and change are possible. They assure us that we aren't alone.”
What’s next for the newest member of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame?
Palwick is currently working on a fantasy trilogy. It is set in a future after our current ecological crisis, when surviving humans and other animals have taken on new forms and developed new abilities.
“A lot of it’s about oppression and persecution of difference, and how people respond when they learn that their cherished traditions depend on subjugating others. No contemporary relevance there, eh?” she said.
“It started as a standalone novel, and then it got too long and turned into two short books, and then a friend read it and said, ‘No, it needs to be three.’ I just hope I succeed in finishing it, and that it can find an audience. A lot of my work is really dark -- my husband says that making readers cry is my superpower -- and this project ratchets that up about 10 levels.”
Palwick also has a lot of story drafts she’d like to finish, as well as two partial novels. One of the novels is historical fantasy set in nineteenth-century Nevada, and the other’s a fantastical meditation on her family’s history with hospitals.
“I tend to write very slowly, and my process is usually non-linear,” she said. “I’ll start something, run into a wall and stop, and come back to it years later. Sometimes that sequence repeats two or three times before I actually finish a project. I’d be a much more prolific writer if I could outline, but I most often write to find out what’s going to happen. If I know the ending too far ahead of time, I lose interest.”
She added, “I’ve published two story collections. I hope to live long enough to produce a third. But I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done so far, and that’s a very good feeling.”
Megan Edwards 2023 Silver Pen Awardee
The Silver Pen award was established in 1996 as part of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame to recognize writers who have shown substantial achievement. The award is designed to honor their talent and encourage other emerging writers.
Megan Edwards is the author of A Coin for the Ferryman (Imbrifex, 2022). Her other books include the travel memoir Roads from the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier, the award-winning Copper Black mystery novels Getting off on Frank Sinatra and Full Service Blonde, and the award-winning novel Strings: A Love Story. Edwards holds a B.A. in classics from Scripps College and an M.A. from Claremont Graduate University.
Edwards spent nearly seven years “on the road” living and working in Central America, Europe and the United States in roles ranging from teacher and administrator to journalist and editor. She co-founded RoadTripAmerica.com, a site that provides planning advice for North American road trips, and she is founder and editor of Living-Las-Vegas.com, a site that focuses on “real life in the shadow of the Strip.” Her work has appeared in national newspapers and magazines as well as the Las Vegas Weekly, KNPR’s Desert Companion, and two volumes of the Las Vegas Writes anthologies commissioned by Nevada Humanities. Edwards lives in Las Vegas where she is working on her next book while enjoying both the natural splendor and the neon glow the area offers.
“My writing career brought me to Nevada, and Nevada beguiled me into staying with her enchanting landscapes, colorful inhabitants and fascinating history,” Edwards said. “It’s an especially sweet honor to be recognized in the state I’ve called home for more than two decades.”
Edwards is best known for her novels that often incorporate her real-life experiences and travels into fictional tales. Her books have won numerous awards, including three Benjamin Franklin Gold medals.
Edwards’ life took an unexpected turn in 1993 when a California wildfire destroyed her home and belongings. This event led her to embark on a six-year road trip across the United States and Canada with her husband and dog. Her travels became the inspiration for her highly praised memoir, Roads from the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier.
“Without that life-changing fire, I’d probably not be living in Las Vegas,” Edwards said. “It was delightful serendipity how it all happened. Twenty-three years later I am happy and proud to call Las Vegas home. It is the perfect community for me.”
Rising from the ashes
In 1993, Edwards was working her first paid job for a Los Angeles-area paper. Just as her first column was to publish, and her second was coming due, her home in the hills above Los Angeles burned down in a wildfire.
“I was in total shock,” she said. “I had the best excuse ever to ask my editor for a deadline extension, or to even miss the deadline altogether. I made the deadline and my husband and I decided to hit the road and use the loss of our home in the fire as an opportunity to start over.”
Edwards wrote for the Los Angeles-area paper from her motorhome during the emergence of the World Wide Web. She said she loved the idea of being able to work while she traveled.
“E-mail was relatively new at the time, but I did have a FAX machine in the motorhome, and we installed a car phone (with expensive roaming and service fees), but it worked,” she said. “I had the chance to do a job I loved, from the road, while traveling. It was thrilling to watch the Internet unfold during this revolutionary time. There was a transformative power to it all. History was being made and I was a part of it all.”
Settling in Las Vegas
After working and traveling on the road for several years doing a variety of different jobs, and after her first book came out, Edwards found herself in Las Vegas on Boulder Highway in an RV Park doing research for a protagonist character she had an idea for.
“My protagonist had to be from a place like this,” she said. “We came to Las Vegas and agreed to stay for six weeks. I rode every Las Vegas public bus to the end of the line, got to know many different people, fell in love with the natural surroundings, the creative community, scientists from the Test Site, the UNLV community and more. Many people dislike Las Vegas, but if you look closely, and spend time getting to know it … you may discover that you’ve fallen in love with it.”
Edwards moved to Las Vegas in 1999.
“That book I came to Las Vegas to do research for all those years ago, I had an agent, but it didn’t sell,” she said. “I had to shelve it and begin working on other things. My last novel IS that book! It took a long time to see the light of day! It is a full-circle moment for me, seeing it published.”
On receiving news of her Silver Pen award, Edwards said she was very surprised.
“This award means so much to me because I love Nevada and Las Vegas so much,” she said. “I love living in the ‘Wild West,’ appreciate the independent spirit of the people and enjoy finding places where conversation happens.
“There is something special about Nevada,” she said. “The essence of what it means to be ‘Battleborn,’ the attitude of we are all in this together and let’s make it good. I love this place.”
Imbrifex Books Publisher Mark Sedenquist said, “Megan’s prolific writing career spans more than 30 years and is a testament to diligence, effort and putting in the time to become a skilled wordsmith. I congratulate her on this wonderful achievement.”
James W. Hulse was professor of history at University of Nevada, Reno and lifelong expert on Nevada politics and history. He wrote for the Nevada State Journal, first as a student, later while in military service in Germany and France, and finally as a reporter before joining the University faculty in 1962. He authored many books on Nevada and European history, including the centennial history of the University of Nevada, six editions of The Nevada Adventure: A History, and Oases of Culture on the history of Nevada libraries. Jim was active in many causes, including civil rights and nuclear non-proliferation. He was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame in 1997 and continued to attend and support the Hall of Fame until his passing.
Larry D. Struve devoted more than 25 years to public service in support of the state of Nevada. He served as deputy district attorney in Washoe County, before becoming chief deputy for Nevada Attorney General Richard H. Bryan, and later, Governor Bryan's Director of the Department of Commerce. After retirement, Larry served as a legislative advocate for the Religious Alliance in Nevada, and supported numerous philanthropic causes including the University Libraries, the Reno Philharmonic and the Fletcher Foundation. A published author himself, Larry was a stalwart supporter of the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame, and instrumental in the establishment of the Silver Pen award in 1996. Before his passing, Larry helped to establish the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame Endowment.
About the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame
The Nevada Writers Hall of Fame was conceived by former Friends of the University Libraries President Marilyn Melton in 1988. She envisioned two purposes: an annual event honoring Nevada's finest writers, and a stimulus to encourage excellence among emerging writers in the Silver State.
The first selection committee met at Marilyn’s home and chose Robert Laxalt and Walter Van Tilburg Clark as the recipients. Since that time, the Hall of Fame has become an annual event.
The names of all the authors who have been inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame are now prominently displayed on a wall of honor in the Leslie Harvey and Robert George Whittemore Tower Entry and Reception Gallery of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center.
Honorees are selected based on their body of work, critical recognition, and a strong connection to Nevada through the themes of their writing or residence in the state.
The Silver Pen Award was established in 1996 as part of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame to recognize writers who work in or write about Nevada, are mid-career, and have already shown substantial achievement.
The award is designed to honor their talent and encourage other emerging and mid-career writers. It is hoped through their outstanding work they may one day be inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.
About the University Libraries
The University Libraries embrace intellectual inquiry and innovation, nurture the production of new knowledge, and foster excellence in learning, teaching and research. During each academic year, the Libraries welcomes more than 1.2 million visitors across its network of four libraries: the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library, the Savitt Medical Library and the Prim Library at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. Visitors checked-out more than 80,000 items and completed more than two million database searches.