Farmington-area writers come up big in NM-AZ Book Awards
Competition featured 48 categories, 800 entries
FARMINGTON — Several local authors came away winners in the 64th annual New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards announced Sept. 25.
Farmington's Roberta Summers won in the category of historical fiction for her book "Fatal Winds," while Aztec's Vicky Ramakka won for her mystery "The Cactus Plot." Rhenna St. Clair won the cover design category for her book "Getting New Mexico," and a group of local authors collectively known as the San Juan Writers earned first place for their anthology "Into the West," which was edited by Gloria O'Shields.
The competition featured 48 categories, and approximately 800 entries were submitted.
The victory was especially sweet for Summers, who labored 13 years on her book about Downwinders — people who lived downwind of nuclear testing sites in the Nevada desert who got cancer from the radioactive fallout of the tests. Summers has said the book was inspired by her cousin Jimmy, who became one of the victims of that testing.
"It certainly is great affirmation," Summers said of her win. " … The book was filled with a lot of anger because it affected me personally. I had to set it aside for some periods of time to regain my perspective. I was so upset about losing family members and friends to the callous indifference of people."
Summers said she was hopeful the book would be well received when she entered it in the competition, but she wasn't expecting to win.
"And to have four of us win was really wonderful," she said, noting that "Into the West" actually includes the writing of several local authors.
Summers is hopeful her win in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards brings more attention to the issues she highlights in "Fatal Winds."
"Wouldn't that be wonderful?" she asked.
The Farmington author said she already believes the book has had a substantial impact. It is sold on Amazon.com, and Summers said she regularly receives royalty checks from those sales, so she knows there is an audience for it. And she has heard from many of those readers personally.
"A lot of them are disturbed and could not read it straight through and had to put it aside because they were so distressed," she said. "A lot of them say they had no idea about this, and thank me for writing the book so they could be aware."
"Fatal Winds" is Summers' second novel. Her first, "Pele's Realm," is set in Hawaii and deals with a mob murder. She said she left the ending open ended so she could write a sequel to it, which she is working on now. Summers has completed a first draft of the book and hopes to have it finished later this year.
Ramakka, who won for "The Cactus Plot," describes her book as an environmental novel. It is set in the Four Corners area and follows the adventures of a Bureau of Land Management employee who winds up investigating a series of seemingly unrelated deaths that all involve local plants.
St. Clair, a Farmington acupuncturist, said her novel "Getting New Mexico" features a transplanted New Yorker who winds up in Santa Fe. She describes her protagonist as a master of dirty tricks, but says he soon adjusts to life in the Land of Enchantment through his associations with a cast of quirky characters.
"Into the West" features submissions from Summers, Ramakka, O'Shields, Anthony Bartley, E. Cluff Elliott, Linda Fredericks, Traci HalesVass and Lee Pierce. The collection of short stories covers various genres, including historical and modern Westerns, horror, humor and the paranormal.
"I'm so happy for all of us because I know the work that everyone puts into writing a book, and I know how we all work to get it published," Summers said. "It's so rewarding to be recognized."
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.