A Day With A Palm Tree: Florida Writers Triumph in the Royal Palm Literary Awards

A Day With A Palm Tree

It takes a village to raise good writers, and the Florida Writers Association’s annual flagship writing competition, the Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA), engages hundreds of “writers helping writers” annually. This year, 25 dedicated RPLA coordinators and nearly 200 judges reviewed an astounding 577 entries, providing in-depth critique geared toward helping each writer continue to improve in our craft. There are no RPLA losers.

However, there are winners, and this year’s were announced during a live Zoom event on October 16, beginning with the Grand Awards.

RPLA Published Book of the Year 2021

Barbara Rein’s Tales from the Eerie Canal won top honors as the RPLA Published Book of the Year. Barbara writes horror short stories with delightfully creepy twists, and quirky personal essays inspired by the oddities that bounce her way. She admits to being addicted to dachshunds.

RPLA Unpublished Book of the Year 2021

Dana J.Summer’s From Hell’s Heart was awarded the RPLA Unpublished Book of the Year. Dana is an editorial cartoonist and comic strip artist turned author. He has written five novels and lives with his wife in Orlando.

RPLA Children’s Book of the Year 2021

Arielle Houghee’s Pling’s Party won Children’s Book of the Year. Arielle, owner of Orange Blossom Books, is a five-time RPLA-winning author, editor, speaker, and executive vice president of the Florida Writers Association. Arielle’s expertise also helped me update this very blog last year!

The Candice Coghill Memorial Award for Youth

NM Collet’s Ode to Rain, submitted in the category of Unpublished Poetry, ages 12 to 15, won this year’s youth award. This award was established in memory of Candice Coghill, who was an active member of Florida Writers Association, a youth writing advocate, and a tireless contributor to the writing community.

RPLA Winners 2021

This year’s roster of winners includes Al Pessin, a five-time RPLA winner and fellow critique group member, whose thriller BLOWBACK — set in Syria, the second in the Task Force Epsilon series — won Silver. A well-deserved win! I wrote about SANDBLAST, the first in the series that takes place in Afghanistan, move over Homeland, here comes Sandblast. Order your books, check out the reviews and read this longtime journalist’s thoughtful piece on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan here.

And check out all these other remarkable RPLA 2021 winners: Doug Alderson, Marty Ambrose, L. Reynolds Andric, Sophie Bartow, Nancy Beaule, Kerry Blaisdell, Barbara Bond, Diana V. Braddom, Bonnie Hoover Braedlin, JC Bruce, Lisa Buei-Collard, Edward Burke, Nancy Buscher, Kip Cassino, Stephen Charles, Bette Lee Crosby, Shutta Crum, Arthur M. Doweyko, Kristin Durfee, Jessie Erwin, Linda Feist, Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick, MR Gallows, KE Garland, Juliette Godot, Lee Gramling, Elle E. Iré, Raymond Hall, Chris Hamilton, Robert Hart, Veronica H. Hart, Michael R.Howard, Donald Jay, Claire M. Johnson, Catherine Kean, Krista Keating-Joseph, Patrick Kendrick, Susan Kite, Linda Kraus, Coby Lee, Loren Leith, Joan Levy, Susan Lloyd-Davies, Lawrence Martin, Claire Matturro, Sharon L.Menear, Mark H. Newhouse, Vanna Nguyen, Virginia Nygard, Dakota Orlando, Elle Andrews Patt, Ken Pelham, Jack Pendray, Craig Pennington, Amarilys Rassler, Vicki Riley, Wendy L. Sanford, PhD, Kelly Sanford, Lynn Schiffhorst, Cliff Sharke, KL Small, Alison R. Solomon, DG Stern, Betsy K. Stoutmorrill, MR Street, Mary T. Wagner, Ryan Wakefield, Patty Walsh, Elizabeth Weiss Vollstadt.

[Whew! I’ve been singing the ABC song all week as I worked on this little project!]

How great to celebrate these authors and the Florida Writers Association, truly “writers helping writers.” Here’s to gathering in person next year to celebrate those who garner the 2022 RPLA wins. The process begins in February!


Together, Again!

I have recovered sufficiently since coming home from Amsterdam in August to have reconnected with many people and places in my community. In fact, I’ve never better understood the dearness this place holds for me.

Of course, I’d never lost the connection with our dear daughter: Victoria was bedside with me in the ICU and welcomed me back to the United States at her workplace, Shands Hospital. She was at my side when we returned to Shands earlier this month for a clean CT scan.

At the Butterfly Exhibit, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville FL

My South Florida neighborhood friends have gone out of their way to encourage and support me. My friend Maria Consuelo (Coni) and I do a pool workout every Sunday morning, catching up on each other’s lives and racking up a whole lot of strength-producing activity.

April, another neighbor, has driven me to Weight Watchers once a month. It’s a program I’ve been a part of for a decade now. I have gained about 30 of the 35 pounds I lost in Amsterdam using the healthy WW food and activity structure. Food for thought?

This week I closed the loop with two more critical parts of my pre-Amsterdam life: my car and writer friends.

My husband and I have spent more time sitting next to each other during the past six months than we have in many, many years. It’s is one of the multiple silver linings of my medical saga.

My ten year-old Prius sat in our driveway for the three months we were in Amsterdam, and it sat for another three months while I slowly recovered my body and my wits at home. My car and I are so simpatico that it actually died while I was away, leaving a ghostly, weed-filled outline on our driveway.

My ten year-old Prius
A sandy garden sprouted under my car while it waited for me to recover.

Since our return, my husband has been my dedicated chauffeur, ferrying me to doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, blood labs. A couple of weeks ago, we switched seats, with me driving his Highlander and he in the passenger seat: like a teenager on training wheels, I drove slowly around the neighborhood for a few days, and eventually pulled through the gates into the larger world.

This week, Ray put a new battery in my baby, and I sat myself down in the driver’s seat for a solo lap around the neighborhood. Felt like I was finally home. Off I went for a massage and a doctor’s appointment, aware of my surroundings and profoundly grateful. I I have not fired Ray as my go-to chauffeur. But now he has a go-to chauffeur in me, too.

Al Pessin’s hysterical murder mystery

And this weekend I spent a wonderful evening with writer friends. The occasion was the production of Al Pessin‘s new murder-mystery farce, Murder at the Butcher’s, winner of the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards Dahris Clair Award for Best Play of 2019.

Scroll in for a chuckle. Al swears he did not pose for this creepy creation.

It was silly: one character had the notion to open an Elvis Presley-themed garden center called Thank You Very Mulch. It was nerdy: the butcher delighted in identifying figures of speech mid-dialogue. It was a madcap evening in which murder, love, language, and cue cards played with a happy audience and everything turned out just right. I hope many more audiences, far and wide, will have the opportunity to enjoy this romp.

Al and friends onstage “at the butcher’s”

The production was in the Willow Theater at Sugar Sand Park where we must return during the daylight: what a great family complex with a community center, a science explorium, an athletic facility, and a carousel!


Yesterday’s Virgo horoscope describes the way my husband and I now approach life:

Wherever you go, arrive as a tourist: it’s the heightened awareness that helps you see everything as new, interesting, and delightful.”

Virgo horoscope, pbpost November 24, 2019

Wishing you such an outlook!