Lifetime Achievement Award

Margaret Coel

On June 22, 2012, Margaret Coel was named the first Colorado Book Awards Lifetime Achievement Award recipient at the 21st Annual Colorado Book Awards ceremony in Aspen.

Coel is the New York Times best-selling author of the acclaimed Wind River mystery series set among the Arapahos on Wyoming's Wind River Reservation and featuring Jesuit priest Father John O'Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden. The novels have received wide recognition. They have been on the bestseller lists of numerous newspapers, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. Six novels have received the Colorado Book Award. The Spirit Woman received the Willa Cather Award for Best Novel of the West and was a finalist for the Western Writers of America's Spur Award for Best Novel.

Along with the Wind River mystery series, Margaret Coel is the author of five nonfiction books, including the award-winning Chief Left Hand, published by the University of Oklahoma Press. This biography of an Arapaho chief and history of the Arapahos in Colorado has never gone out of print. The Colorado Historical Society has included both Chief Left Hand and Margaret's memoir-history of railroading in Colorado, Goin' Railroading (which she wrote with her father, Samuel F. Speas) among the best 100 books on Colorado history. Her articles on the West have appeared in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Creativity! and many other publications.

A native Coloradan, Coel hails from a pioneer Colorado family. The West — the mountains, plains, and vast spaces — are in her bones, she says. She moved out of Colorado on two occasions — to attend Marquette University and to spend a couple of years in Alaska. Both times she couldn't wait to get back!

Reg Saner

On Friday, June 13, 2014, Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book awarded Reg Saner the Lifetime Achievement Award. A longtime Coloradan, Saner was born in a farm town on the Illinois prairie. He first saw mountains during military service when he was sent to Big Delta, Alaska, for alpine and arctic survival training, and was born again upon moving to Colorado. He led an infantry platoon in combat during the Korean War and was later dubbed a "soldier poet" of that war. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied Renaissance culture in Florence, Italy, at the Universitá degli Studi di Firenze.

Saner's nonfiction books include The Four-Cornered Falcon: Essays on the Interior West and the Natural Scene, Reaching Keet Seel: Ruin's Echo & the Anasazi, The Dawn Collector: On My Way to the Natural World, and Living Large in Nature: A Writer's Idea of Creationism. Saner's prose and poetry have appeared in some 150 literary magazines and 64 anthologies.

His publications, mostly set in the American West, have won several national prizes. His poetry collection, Climbing into the Roots, published by Harper & Row, received the first Walt Whitman Award as conferred by the Academy of American Poets and the Copernicus Society of America. His So This Is the Map was a National Poetry Series Open Competition winner selected by Derek Walcott, a Nobel laureate. Saner's poetry collection Red Letters received a Forty-fifth Anniversary Award from Princeton's Quarterly Review of Literature. He has won an NEA fellowship, the Creede Repertory Theater Award, and the State of Colorado Governor's Award, and he has been an invited Resident Scholar at the Rockefeller Fondazione Culturale in Bellagio, Italy, and received the Wallace Stegner Award conferred by the University of Colorado's Center of the American West, followed by that university's Hazel Barnes Award of $20,000.

Kent Haruf

On May 21, 2016, Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book awarded Kent Haruf the Lifetime Achievement Award. Haruf (February 24, 1943 - November 30, 2014) was born in Pueblo, Colorado, the son of a Methodist minister. He graduated with a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965, where he would later teach, and earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973. His first novel, The Tie That Binds (1984), received a Whiting Award and a special Hemingway Foundation/PEN citation. Where You Once Belonged was published in 1990 and Plainsong in 1999. The New York Times called Plainsong "a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt the reader." A U.S. bestseller, Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Eventide, a sequel to Plainsong, was published in 2004 and won the Colorado Book Award in Literary Fiction and was a finalist for the Book Sense Award. Benediction, published in 2013, was shortlisted for the Folio Prize. A number of Haruf's short stories have appeared in literary magazines. Of Our Souls at Night, Haruf's final novel, Joan Silber writes in The New York Times Book Review, "His great subject was the struggle of decency against small-mindedness, and his rare gift was to make sheer decency a moving subject. . . . [This] novel runs on the dogged insistence that simple elements carry depths, and readers will find much to be grateful for."

Haruf set Plainsong and all the novels that followed in Holt, Colorado, his imaginary Colorado Eastern Plains small town. Throughout his work, Haruf quietly tells interrelated stories of regular people trying to do the right thing in hard circumstances and with the usual mixed results.

His willingness to see ourselves and to help us see the most outcast among us as we truly are and still find something and some way to love inspires us all. The same might be said of his approach to other writers, first as a teacher and later as a mentor to former students and other writers.

Many of the Colorado writing community have spoken of the huge debt they owe to Haruf for his encouragement and advice. Readers continue to benefit from his literary genius now and will for generations to come, because that genius is infused with a tender mercy.