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High Plains Book Awards finalists named
Courtesy photo “The Big Quiet: One Woman’s Horseback Ride Home,” by Prairie Village author Lisa D. Stewart, is a finalist for the 2021 High Plains Book Awards.

Finalists for the 2021 High Plains Book Awards were released on Monday, June 7, with winners scheduled to be announced at an awards banquet on Sept. 26 in Billings, Mont.

This year’s list of finalists includes 16 Canadians from five provinces, and 18 authors from seven U.S. states. Notably, the list also includes six previous High Plains Book Award winners.

All nominated works — a record 236 of them this year — were read and evaluated by community readers, who read 872 individual books. Winners in each category will be determined by a judging panel of published writers with connections to the High Plains region.   

The finalists for 12 categories are listed below. Finalists for the Big Sky Award, given to the best overall book by a Montana author, will be announced separately.

Nominated books must have been published for the first time in 2020. Winners will receive a $500 cash prize. The winners will be announced at the awards banquet held in conjunction with the High Plains BookFest. 

Here are the finalists, and where they live, in all 12 categories:

Art & Photography

• “Borderlands” — Mark Vitaris, Alberta

• “Corner of Space and Time: Lee Nye’s Eddie’s Club Portraits” — Jean Belangie-Nye, Montana

• “The Indian’s Pony: From Bones to Bronze” — Gerald Anthony Shippen, Wyoming

Children’s Book

• “Harvey Holds His Own” — Colleen Nelson, Manitoba

• “The Nighthawk’s Harmonica: A Montana Roundup Story” — Marcia Melton, Montana

• “On A Good Horse” — Darby Karchut, Colorado

Creative Nonfiction

• “The 10 Greatest Gifts We Give Each Other: A Memoir on the Magic of Marriage Vows” — Barbara Lynn-Vannoy, Colorado

• “Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory” — David A. Robertson, Manitoba

• “Cheatgrass Dreams” — Theodore Waddell, Montana


• “August” — Callan Wink, Montana

• “In the Shadow of Dora: A Novel of the Holocaust and the Apollo Program” — Patrick Hicks, South Dakota

• “Ruthie Fear: A Novel” — Maxim Loskutoff, Montana

First Book

• “The Big Quiet: One Woman’s Horseback Ride Home” — Lisa D. Stewart (, Prairie Village, Kansas

• “The Response of Weeds” — Bertrand Bickersteth, Alberta

• “Winter Counts” — David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Colorado

Indigenous Writer

• “Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory” — David A. Robertson, Manitoba

• “Field Notes for the Self” — Randy Lundy, Saskatchewan

• “Winter Counts” — David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Colorado

Medicine & Science

• “Roadside Geology of Montana” — Donald W. Hyndman & Robert C. Thomas, Montana


• The Grizzly in the Driveway” — Rob Chaney, Montana

• “Shakespeare in Montana: Big Sky Country’s Love Affair with the World’s Most Famous Writer” — Gretchen E. Minton, Montana

• “Taken by the Muse” — Anne Wheeler, British Columbia


• “The Bestiary” — Dennis Cooley, Manitoba

• “Ghosts Still Linger” — Kat Cameron, Alberta

• “The Response of Weeds” — Bertrand Bickersteth, Alberta

Short Stories

• “Dear Hearts” — Barbara Miller Biles, Alberta

• “If Sylvie Had Nine Lives” — Leona Theis, Saskatchewan

• “Vermin: Stories” — Lori Hahnel, Alberta

Woman Writer

• “The Historians” — Cecilia Ekbäck, Alberta

• “Revery: A Year of Bees” — Jenna Butler, Alberta

• “Second Wind” — Patricia Frolander, Wyoming

Young Adult

• “Dilly” — Matthew P. Mayo, Maine

• “Journeyman: The Story of NHL Right Winger Jamie Leach” — Anna Rosner, Ontario

• “Opulence, Kansas” — Julie Stielstra, Illinois

The High Plains Book Awards recognize regional authors and/or literary works that examine and reflect life on the High Plains, including the states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The Billings Public Library Board of Directors first established the High Plains Book Awards in 2006. The awards are now an independent nonprofit organization. For more information, visit or email