Texas Institute of Letters honors Houston playwright Celeste Bedford Walker

Celeste Bedford-Walker, Houston playwright of play ‘Brothers and Sisters, Husbands and Wives,’ pictured in 2000. A Blackburn Prize finalist, Walker was honored in 2022 with a lifetime achievement award from the Texas Institute of Letters.

Photo: Richard Carson / houston chronicle

On April 23, the Texas Institute of Letters will disperse its annual awards for recently published books as well as honor a legendary figure among writers from the states. Playwright Celeste Bedford Walker, a Houston native, is the recipient of the latter. Walker, a Jack Yates High School and Texas Southern University alum who has written more than 40 plays, will receive the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement. She is the first Black writer to receive the honor from TIL. A Third Ward native, Bedford Walker grew up in Houston’s theater scene and has created work that drew praise from far afield, with bicoastal praise from the New York Times and the Los Angeles-based Dramalogue.

The Texas Institute of Letters hosts its annual ceremony in El Paso on April 23. There it will honor authors with 13 TIL Literary Awards that will distribute $26,000 to them for their work.

Among the winners is Babette Fraser Hale, whose “A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers: Stories” earned the Sergio Troncoso Award for best first book of fiction. Fraser Hale published the collection in spring 2021 after being told for years by publishers that her novels by her were “too quiet.” The short story form provided a wonderful platform for Fraser Hale, whose short story “Silences” was previously a finalist for a TIL award.

LEON AND BABETTE HALE DISCUSS NEW WORKS

Fort Worth resident Heath Dollar’s “Old Country Fiddle: Stories” won the Jesse H. Jones Award for best book of fiction.

And former Houston Chronicle journalist Lise Olsen was awarded the Carr P. Collins Award for best book of nonfiction for her “Code of Silence: Sexual Misconduct by Federal Judges, the Secret System That Protects Them, and the Women Who Blew the Whistle.”

LISE OLSEN TAKES ON THE ‘CODE OF SILENCE’

Other winners:

Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for best book of poetry: “Aresenal With Praise Song” by Rodney Gómez

John A. Robertson Award for best first book of poetry: “speaking with grackles by soapberry trees” by César L. de Leon

Ramirez Family Award for most significant scholarly book: “Violence in the Hill Country: The Texas Frontier in the Civil War Era” by Nicholas Keefauver Roland

Jean Flynn Award for best young adult book: “The Witch Owl Parliament (Clockwork Curandera)” by David Bowles and Raúl the Third

Dierdre Siobhan Flynn Bass Award for best middle grade book: “Playing the Cards Your’re Dealt” by Varian Johnson

Brigid Erin Flynn Award for best picture book: “What I Am” by Divya Srinivasan

Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for best translation of a book: “The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas” by Maria García Esperón, translated by David Bowles, Levine Querido

Kay Cattarulla Award for best short story: “Two Red Foxes,” Dagobert Gilb

Edwin “Bud” Shake Award for best short non-fiction: “The Norotrious Mrs. Mossler,” Skip Hollandsworth

andrew.dansby@chron.com | Twitter: @andrewdansby




  • Andrew Dansby

    Andrew Dansby covers culture and entertainment, both local and national, for the Houston Chronicle. He came to the Chronicle in 2004 from Rolling Stone, where he spent five years writing about music. He’d previously spent five years in book publishing, working with George RR Martin’s editor on the first two books in the series that would become TV’s “Game of Thrones. He missed a year in the film industry, involved in three “major” motion pictures you’ve never seen.He’s written for Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, Texas Music, Playboy and other publications.

    Andrew dislikes monkeys, dolphins and the outdoors.

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