Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award


The Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award was established in 1979 by AAUW-KC to honor Thorpe Menn (1912-1979), long-time book editor of the Kansas City Star, who supported all aspects of Kansas City’s cultural life, especially authors and artists.

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Congratulations to the 2022 Thorpe Menn Award nominees:

Beneath Missouri Skies: Pat Metheny in Kansas City 1964-1972 by Carolyn Glenn Brewer

The Words We Do Not Haveby by Steve Brisendine

Binding Us Together: A Civil Rights Activist Reflects on A Lifetime of Community and Public Service by  L. Brooks

The More We Know of Us by John Croft

Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman by Sharice Davids

Goodnight Gasoline: How To Win The Climate Change Challenge by Twyla Dell

A Tale as Tall as Jacob by Samantha Edwards

Kidney to Share by Martha Gershun and John D. Lantos, MD

A Line of Driftwood: The Ada Blackjack Story by Diane Glancy

The Sticky Note Alphabet by Beth Gulley

Golemsby Tina Hacker

Clocked! The misadventures of Nobbin Swill by Lisa Harkrader

The Gift Shop Bear by Phyllis Harris

Safe Thus Far: Searching for Truth in Civil War Oregon by Theresa Hupp

A Ride to Somewhere … and Other Stories by Mary-Lane Kamberg

The Greatest Thing: A Story About Buck O’Neil by Kristy Nerstheimer

Sidewalk Sale Across America: A Prescription for Small Business Recovery from Covid by Peg Nichols

Ted Sullivan, Barnacle of Baseball: The Life of the Prolific League Founder, Scout, Manager and Unrivaled Huckster by Pat O’Neill and Tom Coffman

Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell by Steve Paul

Walks with the Wind by Steve Physioc

Hugs from the Sky by Christle Reed and C. Reed

Poems in Glass by Hasna Sal

The Potter’s Wheel by Mark Scheel

Love, Loss and Endurance: a 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety by Bill Tammeus

Three A.M. at the Museum by Alarie Tennille

Oceans + Heavens: The beauty in hellos & goodbyes by Nikita Vonee

Recap: Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award 

2021 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Lisa D. Stewart

Lisa D. Stewart was awarded the 2021 Thorpe Menn Award on October 9, for her memoir The Big Quiet: One Women’s Horseback Ride Home at the award luncheon held in the Community Hall at the Midwest Genealogy Center, a Mid-Continent Library, in Independence. She was presented with $300 and a framed certificate.

Of note, Lisa’s husband Robert Stewart won the Thorpe Menn Award in 2004 for his book Outside Language: Essays.

Steve Liwer was first runner-up (pictured, right) for his book, The Music Between Us: Memoir of a Bedside Musician, and Barbara Loots (pictured, left) was second runner-up for her book of poetry, The Beekeeper and Other Love Poems. Both were presented with $100 and a framed certificate.

Andrea Warren, the 2020 winner for her young reader book, Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II was our keynote speaker. She recounted her journey as an author writing nine books for young readers.

Over 50 guests were welcomed by Steven V. Potter, Director of Libraries, Mid-Continent Library, who surprised the committee by offering to hold the 2022 luncheon at the new center at Woodneath Library.

2020 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Andrea Warren

The 2020 Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award event was held online on October 4th, due to the pandemic. This year’s award was presented to Andrea Warren for Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II. First and second runner-ups, respectively, Shawn Pavey for his book of poetry Survival Tips for the Pending Apocalypse and Gary DeRigne for Angie’s War. Congratulations to these winning authors and all of the local authors who were nominated in 2020.

Special thanks to our keynote speaker Robert F. Sommer, author and 2019 Thorpe Menn award winner, storyteller Anita K. Parran, president of KK Charles Communications and Thorpe Menn reading and event committee members.

2019 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Robert F. Sommer

KC Library Executive Director Crosby Kemper welcomed guests and authors to the 2019 Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award luncheon on October 5. Author Carey Gillam delivered a captivating keynote address with an informative question and answer session regarding her award-winning book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruptio of Science, which delves into the Monsanto and Roundup lawsuits linked to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and related cancers.

The 2019 Thorpe Menn award was presented to Robert F. Sommer for his book, Losing Francis: Essays on the Wars at Home. First and second runner-ups, respecitvely, Pat Daneman for her book of poetry, After All and Barbara Loots for Windshift.

Special thanks to presenter and storyteller Anita K. Parran, president of KK Charles Communications and Thorpe Menn Event Committee member; Reading and Event committees; the attentive staff of the Kansas City Public Library; and table hosts and volunteers.

2018 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Carey Gillam

The 2018 Thorpe Menn award was presented to Carey Gillam for her book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of ScienceThe first runnerup was Maril Crabtree for her book of poetry, Fireflies in the Gathering Dark; and the second runnerup was Jen Mann for My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits.

Special thanks to award-winning author Loring Leifer who captivated the audience with her keynote address, “Confessions of a Collaborator: My Career as a Cold-Blooded Writer”; Crosby Kemper who welcomed everyone and spoke of the direction of the library and the true powers of women; and Genealogist and AAUW member Kathleen Brandt our presenter and storyteller for the day.

2017 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Loring Leifer

The 2017 Thorpe Menn award was presented to Loring Leifer for her book, Angels with Angles: The Rogue Nuns behind Operation Breakthrough. The finalists were A.J. Culey for her book series titled Tyrabbisaurus Rex and Erich Wurster for The Coaster.

Special thanks to our keynote speaker Patrick Dobson, honored writer, scholar and poet, the attentive staff at the Kansas City Library, our table hosts, and all who participated on our committees.

2016 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Patrick Dobson


The 2016 Literary Excellence Award was presented to Patrick Dobson for his bookCanoeing the Great Plains: A Missouri River Summer. The finalists were: Andrea Warren for The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas and James P. Muehlberger, The 116: The True Story of Abraham Lincoln’s Lost Guard.

Special thanks to our keynote speaker Barbara Stuber, award-winning author and museum docent, Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren of Rainy Day Books, and the Kansas City Public Library.

2015 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Barbara Stuber

thorpemenn2015The 2015 Literary Excellence Award was presented to Barbara Stuber for her book Girl In Reverse. The two finalists included Arlin Buyert for “Oh Say Can You See” and Alarie Tennille, Running Counterclockwise. Congratulations to all of the 26 nominated authors!

AAUW-KC honored Vivien Jennings, founder and president of Rainy Day Books, for over a decade of generous support of the Thorpe Menn Award.Special thanks to keynote speaker Maija Rhee Devine, noted Korean-born author and 2014 Thorpe Menn winner, and all of our table hostesses and volunteers.

2014 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Maija Rhee Devine

tm2014authorsOn October 4, 2014, the 36th annual Literary Excellence Award was presented to Maija Rhee Devine for her book The Voices of Heaven. The finalists were: Suzanne Kelly for Stolen Child and Deborah Shouse, Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregivers Journey. Congratulations to all of the 26 nominated authors!

AAUW-KC honored Crosby Kemper III for a decade of generous support of the Thorpe Menn Award – with his help we have been able to honor and recognize over 150 local authors.

Special thanks to keynote speaker Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star Editorial Columnist; Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren of Rainy Day Books; and all of our table hostesses and volunteers.

2013 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Samuel Arbesman

TMAWARDS2013photoAuthors, members and guests gathered at the KC Central Library for the 35th Annual Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award on Saturday, October 5, 2013.

The award was presented to Samuel Arbesman for his book The Half-Life of Facts. The finalists were: Hughes Keenan, The Harvest Is Past; and Debra McArthur, A Voice for Kanzas. Congratulations to all 17 nominated local authors!

“35 Authors: Where Are They Now?”, a special tribute to the past winners, was presented by guest speaker Vivien Jennings, president of Rainy Day Books. The tribute was a compilation of author interviews, research, and a video produced by event and reading committee members.

2012 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Candice Millard

Over 100 authors, members and guests gathered at the Central Library for the 34th Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award on October 6, 2012. The award was presented to Candice Millard for her book Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.

The finalists for this year’s award were Carolyn Glenn Brewer for Caught Ever After – Children of the Ruskin Heights Tornado; and Andrea Warren, Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London.

Congratulations to all of the 2012 nominated local authors!

“Who Was Thorpe Menn?”, a theatrical performance, was presented as an homage to Thorpe Menn (1912–1979), longtime book editor of The Kansas City Star. We were honored to have his daughters, Gretchen Menn and Becky Menn-Hamblin in attendance, traveling from Virginia and Tennessee!

Watch the tribute performance at

2011 Thorpe Menn Award goes to Christie Hodgen

On Saturday, October 1, 2012, nearly 100 guests gathered in support of local Kansas City authors for lunch at the 33rd Annual Thorpe Menn Award event, sponsored by AAUW-KC and the KC Public Library.

The 2011 award went to Christie Hodgen for Elegies for the Brokenhearted. The finalists were Tasha Haas for Certain Dawn, Inevitable Dawn, and Barbara Stuber, Crossing the Tracks.

Candice Millard, distinguished local author, delivered the keynote address, and captivated the audience with details about her new book, The Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine & the Murder of a President.

2010 – 32nd
Linda Rodriguez
Heart’s Migration

2009 – 31st
Donna Trussell
What’s Right About What’s Wrong: Poems

2008 – 30th
Martha McCarty
Five Island Diaries: Stories of Love, Lost and Found

2007 – 29th
Ann Pai
My Other Body: A Memoir of Love, Fat, Life and Death

2006 – 28th
Joel Goldman
Deadlocked: A Novel

2005 – 27th
Max J. Skidmore
After the White House: Former Presidents as Private Citizens

2004 – 26th
Robert Stewart
Outside Language: Essays

2003 – 25th
Rod Townley
Into the Labyrinth: A Novel

2002 – 24th
Jacqueline Guidry
The Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town

2001 – 23rd
Nancy Pickard
The Whole Truth

2000 – 22nd
Maryfrances Wagner
Red Silk: Poems

1999 – 21st
Michael Farrell
Papabile: The Man Who Would Be Pope
Cecile M. Franking
From Ink and Sandalwood

1998 – 20th
Debra Di Blasi
Drought & Say What You Like

1997 – 19th
Gordon MacKenzie
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

1996 – 18th
Thomas C. Fox
Sexuality and Catholicism

1995 – 17th
G. P. Schultz
Incident at Simms Center

1994 – 16th
Gloria Vando
Promesas: Geography of the Impossible

1993 – 15th
J. J. Maloney
The Pariah’s Handbook: A Literary Guide to the Underworld

1992 – 14th
Cathy Johnson
A Naturalist’s Cabin: Constructing a Dream

1991 – 13th
Conger Beasley, Jr.
Sundancers and River Demons: Essays on Landscape and Ritual

1990 – 12th
C. W. Gusewelle
Far From Any Coast: Pieces of America’s Heartland

1989 – 11th
David Perkins
Wrapped Minds and Other Essays, Reviews and Commentaries of Art, Politics and Real Life

1988 – 10th
John M. Swomley
Religious Liberty and the Secular State: The Constitutional Context

1987 – 9th
Richard L. Miller
Truman: The Rise to Power

1986 – 8th
Janet Bruce
The Kansas City Monarchs: Champions of Black Baseball

1985 – 7th
Robert M. Farnsworth
Melvin B. Tolson, 1898-1996: Plain Talk and Poetic Prophecy

1984 – 6th
Victor Papanek
Design for Human Scale

1983 – 5th
David Ray
The Touched Life: Poems, Selected and New

1982 – 4th
Janice Young Brooks

1981 – 3rd
W. R. “Doc” Wilson
Fur, Feathers, and Scalps: A Collection of Short Stories

1980 – 2nd
Richard Rhodes
Looking for America: A Writer’s Odyssey

1979 – 1st
David Melton
Theodore: A Novel


Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award nominations will be accepted until May 1, 2023. The award, presented by the American Association of University Women-Kansas City Branch, is awarded to a local author in recognition for their excellence in writing. The 45th awards will be presented at an event in October 2023. Awards include $300 first prize, $100 each for the 2nd and 3rd place authors, a framed certificate of recognition, and recognition on the AAUW-KC website.


• Nominated materials must be received no later than May 1, 2023.

• Nominations may be published works of fiction, non-fiction, children’s books or poetry. Text books, guide books, and how-to manuals are not eligible. Blogs and compilations of blogs are considered prepublished and are not eligible to be considered for the Thorpe Menn Award. Previous first-place winners are not eligible.

• Nominated authors must reside in the greater Kansas City area – Jackson, Cass, Clay, Lafayette and Platte counties in Missouri, and Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties in Kansas.

• All nominations must be initially published in 2021.

• Two (2) copies of the nominated book must be submitted to the address below or an eBook must be submitted to the email below.

• Only Ebooks that are exclusively published in electronic form may be submitted electronically and they must be in PDF (Portable Document Format).

• All submissions must include a contact name, mailing address, email, and telephone number.

Two copies of the nominated printed book should be mailed to:

Thorpe Menn Nominations

Attn: Jane McClain

P.O. Box 8831

Kansas City, MO 64114

EBook nominated files should be emailed to:

For more information, call Jane McClain at (816) 444-2152 or email