Zia Award Recognizes Five Outstanding Nonfiction Authors

Five outstanding New Mexico women writers will be honored for their work in nonfiction on Saturday, May 5, at 12:15-1:45 p.m. at Marriott Courtyard Santa Fe, 3347 Cerrillos Rd. The 2012 Zia Book Award recognizes top winners in five categories: “Always Messin’ With Them Boys” by Jessica Helen Lopez (nonfiction poetry), “Weekends with O’Keeffe” by C.S. Merrill (history/biography), “Through a Narrow Window” by Linney Wix (coffee table), “Code Talker” by Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila (memoir) and “The Hybrid House” by Catherine Wanek (how to/reference).

Additionally, three books were selected to receive honorable mentions: “Love & Death: Greatest Hits” by Renee Gregorio, Joan Logghe and Miram Sagan (nonfiction poetry), “Gila Country Legend: the Life and Times of Quentin Hulse” by Nancy Coggeshall (history/biography) and “Across the Great Divide: A Photo Chronicle of the Counterculture” by Roberta Price (coffee table). “With so many excellent books submitted, the judges had to make some really tough decisions,” write Zia Book Award judges Merimée Moffitt and Jennifer Simpson.

The award is presented by New Mexico Press Women. The winning writers will read and sign books at an award luncheon during NMPW’s annual conference, “Learning from the Past–Planning for the Future.”


“Through a Narrow Window: Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and Her Terezín Students” (UNM Press in cooperation with the UNM Art Museum)

“‘Through a Narrow Window'” is not only a heartbreakingly beautiful art book filled with stunning and compelling color plates of the artwork of the children of Terezin concentration camp and artist/teacher Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.  The book documents the will to create art and shines a bit of hope on one of the darkest times of the 20th Century,” write Moffitt and Simpson.

Author Linney Wix is associate professor in the art education program at the University of New Mexico.

This book and the accompanying exhibition, curated by Wix, offer a closer look at the methods and philosophy of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis’s teaching, the history behind her approach, and its possible psychological effects on the children she taught in Terezín, the so-called model ghetto designed by the Nazi propaganda machine to showcase creative endeavors. The book includes biographical and art historical information on Dicker-Brandeis and sheds light on her roles as an artist, teacher and heroine behind Nazi lines in World War II.

“Weekends with O’Keeffe” (UNM Press)

“So much has been written about iconic artist Georgia O’Keeffe, but in ‘Weekends with O’Keeffe’ author C.S. Merrill shows us O’Keeffe through the lens of her young poet self.  The book is rich with details of daily life culled from journals Merrill wrote during the ’70s working as O’Keeffe’s assistant and sprinkled throughout with her own poetry, which adds artistic depth to the work,” write Moffitt and Simpson.

C. S. Merrill is the author of a book of poetry, “O’Keeffe: Days in a Life” (La Alameda Press). She works as librarian at Kewa Pueblo School and Cochiti Pueblo School.

In 1973 O’Keeffe employed C. S. Merrill to catalog her library for her estate. Merrill, a poet who was a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, was 26 and O’Keeffe was 85, almost blind, but still painting. Over seven years, Merrill was called upon for secretarial assistance, cooking and personal care for the artist. Merrill’s journals reveal details of the daily life of a genius.

“The Hybrid House – Designing with Sun, Wind, Water, and Earth” (Gibbs Smith)

“‘The Hybrid House’ is a how-to hybrid itself, pretty enough for your coffee table, informative enough to make your head spin green. Catherine Wanek tucks stories, resources, and instructions onto pages of to-die-for architectural photos. Readers will want to live more efficiently after flipping through this beautiful and useful book,” write Moffitt and Simpson.

Catherine Wanek is an author, editor, filmmaker and owner of the Black Range Lodge, an historic bed and breakfast inn in the mountains of southwest New Mexico, where she hosts workshops and conferences, including the Natural Building Colloquium.

“The Hybrid House” showcases 12 contemporary homes in more than 200 color photographs, demonstrating ways to create a healthy, comfortable house with traditional natural materials in combination with the best of new technologies, such as super-efficient windows and radiant heat.

“Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII” (Berkley Hardcover)

“‘Code Talker,’ chronicling the life of Chester Nez, is historically important and not only depicts World War II history, but also depicts a part of the Native American experience as well—it is a tribute where tribute is long overdue.  Beyond the work’s importance because of its topic, author Judith Avila’s ability to write in the voice of Chester Nez and take a large amount of information and craft it into a story is impressive,” write Moffitt and Simpson.

Co-author Judith Schiess Avila worked as a social worker, an air traffic controller, and a computer consultant before discovering writing.

Of the original 29 Navajo code talkers who first devised the code and proved it indispensable in combat, Nez is the only one still alive. In this memoir, Nez, 90, chronicles both his war years and his life growing up on the Checkerboard Area of the Navajo Reservation—the hard life that gave him the strength, both physical and mental, to become a marine. His story puts a living face on the legendary men who developed what is still the only unbroken code in modern warfare.

“Always Messing with Them Boys” (West End Press)

“‘Always Messing with Them Boys’ echoes Harlem Renaissance jazz, gardenia-scented blues and attitude.  Jessica Helen Lopez’s first book of poems steps up on the stage and shouts out lyrics both breathtaking and defiant. There are no boundaries this poet won’t cross, no topics too small or too taboo. Jessica’s voice will set women free to be, from L.A. to Deming to Burque to New York City,” write Moffitt and Simpson.

Poet Jessica Helen Lopez is a member of the 2012 Albuquerque Slam Team and was on the 2008 national champion winning UNM Lobo Slam Team.

In this debut collection, Lopez ruminates on love and romance, motherhood, teaching and the trials and tribulations of adulthood. This collection in the New Series was voted a Southwest Book of the Year by the Tucson-Pima County Public Library.


Merimée Moffitt arrived in the land of enchantment in 1970. She co-edits the Rag, a monthly broadsheet and co-hosts Duke City DimeStories, a prose open mic. She recently has work in Mas Tequila, Sunday Poem on Duke City Fix, Adobe Walls, Malpais Review, and the Harwood Art Center anthologies. Her third chapbook is forthcoming.

Jennifer Simpson is in the final stretch of her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, writing her dissertation, “Reconstructing My Mother,” a memoir. She co-hosts Duke City DimeStories, Albuquerque’s only open mic for prose. Her work has been published in Bartelby Snopes literary journal, Creative Human magazine, StyleSubstanceSoul.com, and several trade magazines. She has a poem forthcoming in “A Year in Ink, Vol. V,” an anthology of San Diego writers.


The Zia Book Award was started in 1953 to honor an outstanding woman in New Mexico media. Each year the award rotates to one of three categories: nonfiction, fiction and children’s literature.

The 2013 Zia Book Award will be given to the author of an outstanding fiction book published in 2010, 2011 or 2012. The contest is open to all sub-genres of fiction. Details will will be posted on NMPW’s website in the fall.


NMPW is New Mexico’s largest inclusive media organization. It is an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women, providing professional development, networking and First Amendment rights protection to professional journalists and communicators.

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About nmpw

New Mexico Press Women (NMPW), organized in 1950, is an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women. It is an organization of professional journalists and communicators that promotes the highest ethical standards while looking to the future in professional development, networking and protecting First Amendment rights.

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