Anyone listening to the radio in the 1970s certainly heard a song or two by the Red-Headed Stranger. Anyone reading the local Kansas City daily newspaper anytime from 1880 to the present is familiar with the name of its founder, William Rockhill Nelson .
It is Nelson the latter for whom the Kansas City Star  and The Writers Place  named their literary awards in 2003. Each year prizes are given to authors living in Kansas or Missouri in recognition of outstanding achievement in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.
This year’s winners were celebrated at Raglan Road in the Power & Light District. Kansas City Star Books Editor, John Mark Eberhart, hosted the awards ceremony and Senior Writer and Editor, Steve Paul, served as master of ceremonies for the writers. All were present to accept their awards and treat the audience to readings from their winning works.
Debut novelist, Matthew Eck, took the fiction prize for his novel The Farther Shore. He read a thought-provoking segment that also had a touch of humor as a soldier mused on the origins of the name of his hometown of Wichita, Kansas with a fellow comrade. Mr. Eck was recently named one of the “5 Under 35” writers to watch by the National Book Foundation .
Poet Diane Glancy , much admired for her storytelling poetry, took the podium next to weave a spell of words from her award winning collection, Asylum in the Grasslands.
Nonfiction award winner, Dr. Milton Katz, read an upbeat passage from his book, Breaking Through: John B. McLendon, Basketball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer.
The ceremony closed on a musical note with original contributions from singer-songwriters Robert Folsom and Robert Trussell.
The written and performing arts are alive and well thanks to the foresight of William R. Nelson. It’s a pity he had to miss today’s festivities.