Aspiring writers of Texas, listen up! Literary prizes and awards abound in today’s society, but Texas has a precedent of making its own version. On November 9, 1936, The Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) was founded to exalt literature of the Lone Star State. The first meeting occurred in the Hall of State, on the grounds of the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. Inspired by the 100th anniversary of Texas’s independence from Mexico, TIL was the brainchild of English Professor William H. Vann and others. Their idea: form an organization to promote Texas literature, as well as literary and cultural achievements.
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50 Texans became the charter members, although two persons who were requested, declined acceptance. The Dallas Cokesbury Bookstore was an early supporter of TIL, and in 1938, began sponsoring annual meetings onsite. The first book award was bestowed in 1939 to J. Frank Dobie for his nonfiction work “Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver.” Seven years later, funding was established for an annual award of $1,000 for the best Texas subject book of the year, or by a Texas author. Now, awards exist for nonfiction, fiction, poetry, short stories, scholarly authorship, journalism (with emphasis on writing quality), children’s books, and book design.
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Today, this 501(c)(3) non-profit Honor Society is led by an elected membership of Texas writers who annually designate new members and distribute over $23,000 in literary awards for outstanding work in literary fields. Texas Institute of Letters also supports the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program for writers. Meetings are held each spring, and funds are generated by dues and outside contributions. Looking for recommendations, ranging from fiction, young adult, to picture books? Then bookmark TIL’s website for info on each year’s winners in thirteen categories. Want to mingle? The next annual meeting and banquet is planned in El Paso, April 16-17, 2021. The public is welcome to attend the banquet to be held at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing.