2019 Grant Awards
We were delighted to award our first grants at the 2019 Annual Writers Dinner.
Sylvia Rains Dennis, of El Prado (near Taos), is a poet, native plant ecologist, educator, and restoration specialist. Her writings and professional endeavors have focused on sustainability of our shared homelands and the unique land-based cultures of our region. She celebrates a love of language, community and homelands by engaging with the natural world and “all the company we keep, learning from every aspect of our native biodiversity.” Rains Dennis has collaborated with others—including mentors like the late authors and educators, Tony Mares and Estevan Arellano—to help communities restore and preserve Northern New Mexico's rich ecosystems. Her poetry is another way of engagement with the people and places she loves: “As an integral aspect of voice, music and listening, poetry represents a continuum of belonging to the places, people and stories that connect us.” Rains Dennis says that she learns from every aspect of her surroundings, interweaving language, creative arts, music and memory into “what restores and sustains the whole.” Her current project involves a collection of poetry focused on ecological and cultural sustainability, which she hopes will extend “the creative continuum to students, community members, and the land-based people whose voices carry the song of our world.” In addition to an MA in English from Middlebury College, and PhD research at the Shakespeare Institute (United Kingdom), Rains Dennis has an extensive academic and professional background in botany, ecology and biodiversity. She has taught at several universities, most recently as adjunct faculty at the University of New Mexico’s Taos Branch. A lifelong advocate of field-based education and interactive learning opportunities, Rains Dennis also created the Ecology Programs Division for Taos Pueblo. Rains Dennis's grant will help further her commitment “to restore links to our natural surroundings as well as to our extended community,” she says. “The rivers, mountains, meadows, shrub-steppe, and sustainable farmlands are inseparable from who we are.”
Laurie Goodluck, of Albuquerque, is close to publishing her first children's picture book, one that will represent Native American children and their lives and communities today—as told by a Native American author and illustrator. Goodluck, with a Master's degree in counseling and family studies, believes that she has “a great start, with storytelling in my family values and my DNA.” She describes growing up in a rich cultural background that was always explained to her by stories and rituals. Her family is Mandan and Hidatsa (North Dakota tribes), and Tsimshian (Alaska tribe), while her husband is Navajo. Goodluck believes that more representation of Native Americans in children's books is essential, not only to help Native American children appreciate their own cultures and self-worth, but also to increase the understanding of non-Native readers of how cultures may vary but also share many things in common. She cites 2016 statistics, showing that about 35, or 1 per cent, of the 3,400 children's books published that year had Native American representation, and only eight of those 35 books were authored by a Native American. Goodluck's book illustrator is her physician husband Kevin, and she says that they “love this new journey of making a difference in our community through storytelling.” They are already involved in local and regional meetings and networking with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Goodluck's grant will help her with travel and meeting expenses for one or more professional conferences in New York City in 2019. Meeting professionals in the publishing industry, especially Native Americans, to mentor her and to help her to navigate an industry dominated by non-Native agents, editors and publishers will help her gain confidence and increase writing skills, she says. “I am determined to continue improving my skills as a writer, and I look forward to being able to produce art where all children can see themselves in books!” #