Local writer a contender for Ken Kesey Award

Local author Mary Emerick with friend, Puffin. The Oregon Book Awards recently chose Emerick's book, “The Geography of Water,” as a top-five finalist for the 2017 Ken Kesey Award for Fiction.

Joseph resident Mary Emerick’s 2015 novel, “The Geography of Water,” a contender for the 2017 Ken Kesey Award, the fiction category of the Oregon Book Awards just took another step up the ladder for the award.

The book is one of only five books of 42 entries selected as a top-five finalist for the award.

The novel delves into the family life of a girl on a remote, southeastern Alaskan island.

“The award is open to people who publish their books within a certain time frame, and I just happened to fit into the 2017 time frame,” Emerick said of the disparity between the year of publication and the award.

The author said that she stumbled across the competition while looking to apply for awards to help raise interest in her book.

She submitted her book for consideration last summer and received confirmation of her finalist status less than two weeks ago.

Emerick has some time to wait before the actual awards, which are given out in April in Portland. There, she’ll have a chance to rub elbows with other authors and her book will be sold there as well.

“You go there without knowing if you won or not. It’s like the Miss America pageant in a way,” she said with a laugh. Emerick added that she is the only person from the east side of the state who is a finalist for the Kesey award.

To that end, the book is eligible for a “reader’s choice” award, where anyone can cast a vote for the work of their favorite author by visiting the Oregon Book Awards website.

“You don’t win anything, but it’s kind of nice,” she said.

As to the Kesey award, Emerick said it can give her book some needed exposure.

“Especially in Portland — a lot of people read there and there’s a lot of other authors, and the more people that read it, the better,” she said.

She added that finalists are also offered the opportunity participate in the Oregon Book Awards Author Tour that travels the state.

“You get to go to different schools and things, so if I can, I’m going to try to get in on that,” Emerick said,

Emerick plans on attending the awards ceremony, “If the roads are cleared by April.”

In the meantime, the author has plenty of other activities to keep her busy. Her new book “Fire in the Heart,” a memoir of her days as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, is set for publication from Skyhorse Publishing either this coming fall or next February.

The finalist nod still has Emerick on a high.

“There’s really a lot of great books, and it’s an honor to be selected – it’s pretty exciting,” she said.

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