1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Transylvania Judy Gaines Young Book Award winners to give readings March 5

photos of two people, one with a guitar
headshots of two people, one with a guitar

The winners of Transylvania University’s 2024 Judy Gaines Young Book Award — which recognizes outstanding works by writers in the Appalachian region — will give readings of their works March 5 at 5 p.m. in Strickland Auditorium.

This year’s honorees are Kentucky author George Ella Lyon and student winner Lily Callahan ’24.

Lyon, who was the state poet laureate from 2015-16, has written dozens of books for all ages in a variety of genres including “Catalpa,” named an Appalachian Book of the Year. Callahan is a writing, rhetoric and communication major and creative writing minor who draws inspiration from her life experiences and passion for horses.

Maurice Manning, a Transylvania English professor and writer in residence, praised both writers for their works.

“George Ella Lyon is a national treasure,” he said. “While her books of poetry and fiction have their individual value, George Ella’s body of work holds together as a piece.”

Her writings are “richly connected in theme, language and spirit,” nourishing connections “to our heritage, to our families and communities, to our geography, to work and art, and to nature,” Manning added.

“In a time when we’ve become dangerously attached to our alleged ‘differences,’ George Ella’s books tell another story, that we are connected to each other regardless,” he said. “Her poem ‘Where I’m From’ seems humble at first glance and perhaps local, but then we realize each of us is from somewhere, a place that has made us, a place that has taught us how to be. That is some powerful common ground.”

The student award winner hails from the small town of Harrisburg, Missouri. In addition to her academic achievements, Callahan is an accomplished pianist and a leader on the eventing team

“In her years at Transy, I’ve been so pleased to see Lily blossom,” Manning said. “She was in a section of FYS I taught when she was a first-year, and I’m pretty sure she’s been in one of my classes every semester since. She has learned that poetry is not merely an artistic endeavor — it’s also a means of inquiry, a way to know the world and belong to it.”

Transylvania’s Judy Gaines Young Book Award was established by Byron Young ’61 nine years ago to honor his late wife, a 1962 graduate who was active in the local literary and arts community.

A book signing and reception will follow the March 5 readings.