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The Bluebird Effect Wins 2013 Ohioana Nonfiction Award!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

On October 11, Bill and I drove to the State House in Columbus for an awards ceremony. The Ohioana Library Association had given The Bluebird Effect its 2013 Book Award for Nonfiction.

Why thank you!!

Michelle Gubola, member of Ohioana's Board of Trustees, awards the orb.
Photo by James J. Bishop

                                                           photo by James J. Bishop

Attending Ohioana functions has made me keenly aware of just how much writerly talent resides in this big, square state. Ohioana Library Association's main charter is to bring Ohio's deep, wide pool of writer talent to everyone's attention. They've got this huge library made up entirely of works written by Ohioans, about Ohioans, and the gems within would surprise you. It includes more than 45,000 books, 10,000 pieces of sheet music, and approximately 20,000 biographical files on Ohio writers, musicians, artists and others of note. I was really floored that my book floated to the top of their Nonfiction pile. Here are the honorees who were present that night:

from left: JZ (The Bluebird Effect, Nonfiction); Martha Collins (White Papers, Poetry); Bernard Matambo (Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant for Unpublished Author); Joy Kiser (America's Other Audubon, About an Ohioan); Louise Borden (His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue and Mystery During World War II, Juvenile) ; Robert Olmstead (The Coldest Night, Fiction). Also awarded was Tracy Chevalier (The Last Runaway, Fiction Set in Ohio).

We had a panel discussion wherein all the writers were asked a single question to answer in their own way. I tried to keep my answers short and to the point. Everyone did. It was neat to hear about each other's "process." Robert Olmstead said he hates to write. Which made everyone laugh. I said I save writing as dessert when I'm done with ordinary work because I enjoy it so much. Which might have made some of the writers hate me. That's OK. It's true.

 And I am ever so happy to put a beautiful hand-blown blue glass orb (by Ohio artist Robert Eickholt) on the kitchen windowsill, to join the one Ohioana had given me for Art, Writing and Commentary in 2008. A repeat offender! And there's a third, won by Bill for his many books, gracing his office at Bird Watcher's Digest. Ohioana been berry berry good to us. We're grateful. I'm grateful to Bill for these photos, and for being my date to the ceremony. It was sweet. Ohioana is made up of the nicest people. You can join, and in so doing directly support the arts in this great state. Check out 

Awards are nice, especially when they catch the sun the way these do. Awards make you feel like somebody noticed your work. You want to say thank you, and it's nice to say it in a satisfying way. Here's the text of my acceptance speech, which had to come in under two minutes. Smart, Ohioana, because I'd still be there blathering away. It's in what I call "commentary style." Some things that look right written don't survive in spoken word, and spoken word can look odd when written. So be it.

As someone who had always talked to animals and birds, I’m not sure it sank in on me that I was doing anything at all unusual until I got to college. I looked around, and no one else in the dorms had a baby squirrel in their dresser or a lab-rescued chicken in a pen in their common room. People brought me things in cardboard boxes with holes punched in their tops. They still do.

The Bluebird Effect is about uncommon bonds with common birds. It’s about forging those bonds with them when they’re injured or orphaned, the reward of getting to know individual birds personally. This strikes a common chord in anyone who’s looked at a bird and wondered if it might be the same one they saw yesterday, or last year. If the robin nesting over their porch light could have been the same one that’s been there for seven years.

I think of myself as an advocate for songbirds. So many people rehabilitate and work with raptors; so many fewer choose to work with songbirds. Mostly, that’s because you can lay a frozen rat in a hawk’s cage and be done with it for the day. But you have to feed orphaned baby songbirds every 30 minutes, dawn to dusk. Not many people are willing to do that, or to go through the arduous procedure of readying them for release into the wild. But it’s there that the magic happens. You can’t really know a bird until you’ve been its mama.

The trick in writing about such warm, downy things is not making the birds out to be tiny people. They’re not. They’re a whole lot cooler than people; they’re quivering bundles of instinct, avid curiosity, and flexible intelligence, making new neural connections every hour, fighting their way from an artificial upbringing with a human mother, back to being birds. Functioning wild things, ready to fly, search for food and find mates all by themselves. And I get to watch, and sketch, and write, and marvel at my luck in just being there for that. This book is a memoir of encounters with 26 different species, and yeah, it’s a little unusual. I’m deeply grateful that Ohioana Library Association has smiled upon it. In the words of Mary Oliver,

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

Thank you Mimi for that poem. Thank you Jeanne for your light. Thank you Dad for your storytelling. Thank you Mom for letting me fix robins and doves on the kitchen table. Thank you Phoebe and Liam for looking at the changing light with me. Thank you Bill for everything, for prodding me into writing Letters from Eden, my first book. And for wearing your bluebird tie.

photo by James J. Bishop

Working on the next book now. It's about baby bird development. Dessert after the wildest summer and fall on record. My total output yesterday was four titmice. Four mourning doves today. That's a pret-ty good day.

You can order a personalized copy of The Bluebird Effect on the right sidebar of this blog or by clicking here. I'll sign it to whomever you wish, box it up and send it. 

Sole employee at Indigo Hill Arts. Answers phone, email, works in mailroom, head of promotional department, staff blogger, social media director; head horticulturist and director of animal care; shrew, bat and dog videographer. Also writes and illustrates books when not being a scrubby-dubby housewife.

photo by James J. Bishop--thank you!!
And thanks to Rudine Sims Bishop, President of the Ohioana Board of Trustees, for help with this post. 


Well-deserved... but you're not just an Ohioana gem, you're an Americana gem!

Well deserved Julie! Congratulations! XO

Congratulations!!! We LOVED this book! :)

Well, gee, Julie. This post got me all choked up, seeing you and Bill looking so proud. You've heard this nearly a million times but I need to say you are the most passionate person I've been privileged to meet.

I know this is true:

"I said I save writing as dessert when I'm done with ordinary work because I enjoy it so much. Which might have made some of the writers hate me. That's OK. It's true."


Wow!! Big congratulations! Awards are indeed what help us artists validate what we do, knowing that there are those out there that appreciate our work and that we're not just whistling in the dark. Your book is on my Christmas wish list. :)

Posted by Stefanie Graves November 10, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Love your book Julie. A well deserved award. I have passed it on to several people to read. I should have made them buy their own. ;)

This makes me SMILE!

Wonderful? What did the Bacon think?

Congratulations Julie. It does my heart good to see a friend have their work recognized.

Congratulations!!! That's a lot of hats you wear, but when you work for yourself, that is the way it goes. All hats off to you.

Congratulations, Julie!
Well deserved honor for a deserving author.
I loved reading this particular book and savored it one chapter at a time.

Beyond delightful!!! So glad you got the award. My Tai Chi instructor gave me a copy and I devoured it immediately. Learned so much I didn't know--especially about vultures--of which 6 reside atop our old barn and give us endless days of fun. Congratulations!! Can't wait for the next book. Fan forever.

Julie, I've been following your blog for a year now and haven't written a comment yet, but I have to say how very happy I am to see The Bluebird Effect get its so well deserved award. You are a fantastic writer and artist, spreading joy and knowledge constantly. More, more!
Helen from Bow

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