Three Southwest-area writers took the top prizes in the Tucson Festival of Books first Literary Awards Competition, festival officials announced.

Tucsonan Parke Cooper finished first among fiction with "How to Not Regret It: A Step-by-Step Guide in Six Routines."

Beth Surdut of Santa Fe, N.M., won the nonfiction competition, and Jia Oak Baker of Peoria, Ariz., placed first in the poetry category.

The competition received 310 entries in three categories - fiction, nonfiction and poetry - from throughout the United States.

The contest expands the festival's focus to include writing as well as reading, said Bill Viner, one of the festival's founders.

Judge Bill Roorbach, who lives in Maine, said the contest seems to engage a broad swath of writers.

The creative nonfiction entries included a variety of voices, styles and genres, and it was "as good as anything I've read anywhere," Roorbach said.

Likewise, judge Larry Watson said he was "knocked out by the high quality of the work."

A novelist who lives in Milwaukee, Watson said he was surprised by the number of submissions and that he saw innovative story structure, deep characters and engaging dialogue.

"The three winning entries were of very high quality - in the top 10 percent of contests I have judged over the years," said Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, a poet, author and writing professor at the University of Houston. "The writers were original, thoughtful, careful with language and imagery, and challenged themselves by writing about important, weighty themes and memorable human experiences."

The winners get cash - a $1,000 top prize in each category. Second- and third-place winners get $500 and $250, respectively.

The three top winners have been invited to speak in a panel discussion in the Arizona Daily Star Pavilion at the book festival on March 9. The winners and the top 41 entrants also are invited to participate in the festival's first masters workshop, March 11-12 at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Ann Hood, Thomas Cobb, Divakaruni, Watson and Roorbach will be the workshop faculty.

Tucson authors Karen Brennan, Leila Halaby, Rebecca Seiferle and Alison Deming did the preliminary judging, and the final judging was by workshop faculty.

Meg Files, chairwoman of the English and journalism department at Pima Community College West, coordinated the competition. The UA College of Humanities is a partner in the competition and the workshop.

Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards winners

Writers are from Tucson unless noted.


1. Parke Cooper, "Now to Not Regret It: A Step-by-Step Guide in Six Routines."

2. David Munro, "Canis Major."

3. Linda Brewer, "Careless Love."


1. Beth Surdut, Santa Fe, "Listening to Raven."

2. Craig Reinbold, "The Girl in the Photograph."

3. Adam Hostetter, "White Horse Days."


1. Jia Oak Baker, Peoria, "Coyote."

2. Linda Girardi, Washington, D.C., "What I Love About Miami."

3. Shelly Taylor, "Lions, Remonstrance."

If you go

• What: Fifth annual Tucson Festival of Books.

• When: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. March 9-10.

• Where: University of Arizona campus. Attendance and parking are free.

• What: About 450 authors, book discussions, workshops and literary activities for the entire family.

• More information:

Contact Ann Brown at