5 local authors in running for Yerby fiction prize

In almost every novel, there’s a protagonist who must journey to find his or her true self and ultimate purpose. Local fiction authors say their journey is much the same.


On Saturday, March 1, a group of those writers will be celebrated at the third annual Augusta Literary Festival – hosted by the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library and Paine College. One will win the first-place Yerby Award for Fiction, named in honor of Frank Yerby, an Augusta native whose novel The Foxes of Harrow was the first by an African-American author to sell a million copies. Second- and third-place finishers will be awarded as well.

“Any time you nurture the arts, you serve the whole community. The goal is to inspire others to create,” said Jessica Hawke, one of five finalists for this year’s Yerby Award.

In Hawke’s novel, Phantom Touch, a high school girl must use her ability to communicate with the dead to stop a killer. This is Hawke’s first time attending the local festival, and she says her objective is simply to motivate other artists.

Before the next great American novel can be written, however, today’s writers must be lured from their television sets and computer screens, says another Yerby finalist, Tyora Moody.

Moody describes her book When Rain Falls as the romantic and suspenseful journey for truth and faith of a woman who has lost botwh her best friend and her husband.

The search for truth is also a central element in Regina Jeffers’ novel, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy. This is Jeffers’ ninth Jane Austen-based work.

As a seasoned author who frequents literary festivals, Jeffers says she looks forward to Augusta’s event most because of the festival’s unique multicultural elements.

“It was wonderful last year to walk around and find yourself in the mix of everything,” said Jeffers.

Like Jeffers, this year’s festival is not the first for Yerby finalist Charmain Zimmerman Brackett, who is also a correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

A reviewer describes Brackett’s novel, The Key of Elyon, as “The Chronicles of Narnia meets Harry Potter.” In it, a 12-year-old boy discovers an ancient book that transports him to another realm.

Another character traveling between reality and fantasy is Jocylene Sanders, the protagonist of Alicia Michaels’ Child of the Sacred Earth, a retelling of Rose Red from the Brothers Grim.

This is Michaels’ second round at the Augusta Literary Festival.

“I had such a great time last year. I was able to talk to so many people – my voice was gone by the end of the day,” she said.

This year, Michaels and fellow Yerby finalist Hawke are participating in a panel discussion, “The Mind of the Fantasy Writer,” one of five discussions taking place that day.

There are 50 authors scheduled to contribute to this year’s Augusta Literary Festival which is from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library, 823 Telfair St.. It is a free event and open to the public to “promote the literary scene in Augusta and to promote reading for fun,” said Aspasia Luster, an event coordinator.

Further event details can by found at augustaliteraryfestival.org.