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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

May 4, 2004

CSUS Bazzanella Literary Awards
slated for May 12 at campus

A ceremony honoring winners in the 24th annual Dominic J. Bazzanella Literary Awards will be held the evening of May 12 at California State University, Sacramento, CSUS professor Robert T. Olmstead announced today.

Winners of the 2004 competition in critical analysis, expository prose, poetry and short fiction were announced last week (see April 28 press release). They will receive their awards at the May 12 ceremony, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in the University Union Foothill Suite.

The Dominic J. Bazzanella Literary Awards program, created as a namesake tribute to a young CSUS professor who died in 1980, is one of the only permanently endowed literary awards program in the Sacramento region, and has gained national recognition.

“Previous winners have gone on to do wonderful things in the fields of education and writing,” said Olmstead, a professor of American literature and composition at CSUS who serves as director of the awards program. “Several are successful published writers.”

The program features both undergraduate and graduate division competition, and provides cash awards for both first and second-place finishers, $200 and $100 respectively, as well as publication in the program’s annual literary magazine. Entrants must be students enrolled at CSUS, but may come from any department.

“While the student winners appreciate the cash awards, what they value most is the recognition of their writing skills,” said Olmstead. “Winners cherish the distinction long after they leave CSUS, no matter what field they may enter.”

Angelo Tsakopoulos, founder of Sacramento’s AKT Development Corporation and a major supporter of the arts and education in the region, provided an endowment pledge of $20,000 in 1984, which enabled the awards program to become permanent.

While the endowment fund has more than doubled in the years since, more private donations are still sought. In the meantime, Tsakopoulos and his family have provided annual donations that support the cash awards, as well as the annual awards ceremony reception.

“Communication is so important in our society today, whether it be between neighbors down the street or neighboring countries around the globe,” said Tsakopoulos, an alumnus of CSUS. “Anything we can do to foster better writing and communication skills surely will make this world a better place in the future.”

Many of the winners have been the first members of their families to attend college, Olmstead said.

Previous winners of the awards have gone on to publish novels, books of poetry, anthologies and numerous articles. Several have written plays. Five eventually became professors at CSUS, and several more at other universities around the country. Eighteen former winners went on to doctorate programs.

Stephen Cook, who won the award several times, went on to write dozens of short stories in literary magazines – and become a lecturer at CSUS.

“Winning the Bazzanella in 1989 made a huge difference then, and the experience has continued to reverberate in my life,” he said. “Winning was a badly-needed affirmation of talent at the time, and the $500 check allowed me to abandon my old Underwood Noiseless and to purchase my first computer.

“I have had some writing successes in the past 15 years, and the Bazzanella was the foundation of those because without the encouragement the award provided, I might have stopped writing,” he said.

Susan Kelly-DeWitt, who won a Dominic J. Bazzanella Literary Awards in 1986, later was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship for poetry, and then won the Chicago Literary Award in 1998. She has published three books of poetry – A Camellia for Judy, Feather’s Hand, and To a Small Moth – besides being featured in many journals and several anthologies.

Jane Blue, a well-known Sacramento-area poet, wrote of Kelly-DeWitt’s work, “The Sacramento Valley is popularly viewed as a literary desert, where people have poured in from other places and are rushing along freeways to get to somewhere else. But Susan Kelly-DeWitt was born in Northern California and has lived in the Sacramento Valley since high school. She chronicles what is lost and what abides.”

Other past winners include Constance Warloe (1982), who published the novel, Legend of Olivia Cosmos Montevideo, and three anthologies; Laura Reese (1992), who has published two novels, Topping from Below and Pacific Snap; Gary Short (1984), who has published two collections of poetry, Flying Over Sonny Liston and 10 Moons and 13 Horses.

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu