Readorama: 2015 Thorpe Menn awards honoring local writers are Oct. 3

Maija Rhee Devine, winner of last year’s Thorpe Menn award for her novel, “The Voices of Heaven,” will be this year’s keynote speaker.
Maija Rhee Devine, winner of last year’s Thorpe Menn award for her novel, “The Voices of Heaven,” will be this year’s keynote speaker.

The 37th annual Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award Luncheon is scheduled for Oct. 3.

The deadline for making reservations is Friday.

The annual Menn awards ceremony, held since 1979, has included the occasional dose of star power. In 1993, “Fear of Flying” author Erica Jong told an audience how, when her daughter asked her how much she was enjoying Kansas City, she told her she was ready to move here.

But the event always has been more about promoting and recognizing local authors. Among the writers who have been honored: historian and novelist Richard Rhodes, Star columnist C.W. Gusewelle, mystery author Nancy Pickard and poet Maryfrances Wagner.

Admirers of the late Thorpe Menn, the former Star books editor who died in 1979, organized the ceremony to recognize his support of local writers as well as his assistance with the annual American Association of University Women-Kansas City branch Book and Author Dinner, which began in 1964.

Next month’s luncheon, sponsored by the local AAUW and the Kansas City Public Library, will honor 25 area authors whose books have been considered. Three finalists will be recognized.

The luncheon’s keynote speaker will be Maija Rhee Devine, Lee’s Summit resident and Korea native whose novel, “The Voices of Heaven,” received the Menn award last year.

“It was a tremendous honor,” said Devine, whose book also received accolades from around the world. “The Menn award meant a lot to me, in part because of the university women’s organizations but also for Thorpe Menn himself.”

Devine’s novel was inspired by her childhood, when her father took a mistress just before the Korean War after her adoptive mother failed to bear children. The Menn award, Devine said, encouraged her to continue on with her next project.

That concerns Korean “comfort women” forced into servitude during World War II by Japanese troops.

That project started out as a novel, and Devine, during a recent workshop in Italy, consulted on her manuscript with novelist Jane Smiley. But more recently she has been writing nonfiction accounts of individual comfort women, some of which have appeared in The Korea Times, an English-language newspaper.

Also to be honored at next month’s luncheon at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., will be Vivien Jennings, president of Rainy Day Books.

Tickets are $35. For info call 816-931-5288 or email Checks can be mailed to AAUW-KC Thorpe Menn, 4505 Headwood Drive, No. 7, Kansas City, Mo. 64111.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to