(PNS) When a worldwide pandemic upended plans for an in-person General Assembly, the Presbyterian Writers Guild had to postpone its biennial awards luncheon until 2022. But the two award-winners, Jane and Caroline Kurtz, were able to receive their awards this year, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service.
The sisters, who grew up in Ethiopia and are spending the COVID-19 lockdown together in Portland, Oregon, took a picture of themselves proudly holding their award plaques.
Jane Kurtz is winner of the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s David Steele Distinguished Writer Award for her cumulative body of work. She has published more than 35 children’s books, many of them about Ethiopian folklore and culture.
Caroline Kurtz is winner of the Guild’s Best First Book Award for the best first book by a Presbyterian author written during 2018-2019. The biennial honor is sponsored by the Guild and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Her book is a memoir titled “A Road Called Down on Both Sides: Growing Up in Ethiopia and America.”
The Kurtz sisters are daughters of former Presbyterian mission workers Harold and Polly Kurtz, who served in Ethiopia from 1955 to 1977. This is the first time the Writers Guild’s two biennial awards have been given to siblings.
“We could not let this special moment shared by two sisters go unacknowledged in the year in which they received their awards,” said the Rev. Emily Enders Odom, president of the Presbyterian Writers Guild. “Certain that the present circumstances will not dampen their enthusiasm, the Writers Guild looks forward to celebrating and hearing from these two extraordinary writers when we next gather.”
Caroline and Jane Kurtz’s awards will be presented formally and in person at a luncheon in their honor at the 2022 General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio. But the two did not want to wait two years to express their gratitude for the awards.
“My books have won a lot of awards over the years, but this one is extra special to me because I don’t know that I would ever have become an author if it weren’t for my Presbyterian heritage,” Jane Kurtz wrote in a statement. “When my mom and dad made the decision to serve the Presbyterian Church in Ethiopia, I was only two years old, but their response to the call meant I grew up surrounded by stories, experiences that have made great story material, and rich language diversity. Thank you for celebrating this amazing artistic and global life I’ve been lucky enough to have.”
On this unique occasion, Caroline Kurtz acknowledged the extra honor of being recognized in the same year as her sister.
“I kept my writing dream secret for many years, and Jane was a generous mentor, encouraging me to dare,” she wrote. “I do not expect to find fame or fortune in my writing life, but the rewards of the writing come first in the act itself, and then in finding warm readers like you, who resonate with the stories I tell.”
by Eva Stimson, special to Presbyterian News Service; Emily Enders Odom provided additional reporting.