Hilliard Northwest News

Publisher nominates Hilliard grad for Pulitzer Prize

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New York-based Ithaca Press has nominated "To The Valley," Kenneth Jewett's first historical fiction novel, for the Pulitzer Prize in Literature.

Jewett, a 1973 graduate of Hilliard High School, used his family, transported back to the 1750s, as the main characters for the novel, released by Ithaca Press in January.

A Hilliard native, Jewett is the son of the late Robert Wayne and Marie Jewett. His father, who was known as Wayne during his childhood in Worthington, graduated from Worthington High School. The family moved to Hilliard in 1958.

After graduating from Hilliard High School, Jewett continued his education at Otterbein College, where he graduated in 1976. He then entered the U.S. Air Force and served for 30 years.

Promoted to colonel in 1999, Jewett reached mandatory retirement in April 2007. Residing in Virginia's Rockbridge County in the Shenandoah Valley, Jewett began writing "To The Valley" the same month he retired.

The initial concept for the book was as a family piece, in which his two nephews, sons of his brothers, Greg (HHS class of '75) and Kirk, could learn about the grandfather they had never met in an interesting and entertaining way.

Ithaca Press CEO Joan Mayor told ThisWeek that her company was so impressed with Jewett's work that they decided to nominate it for the Pulitzer Prize.

"Four of us looked at the book and said it's uniquely American, which is what the Pulitzer Committee said they want," Mayor said. "The decision is a publisher's decision that we think the book is worthy of being submitted."

Mayor said multiple copies of "To The Valley" will be submitted to the Pulitzer Committee readers, who will read the book as part of the judging process. Winners will be announced in May 2009.

"It's very rare for us to say this book needs to be considered," Mayor said. "The book is so extraordinary that we felt it warranted consideration. This is not something we do all the time. The Pulitzer Committee gets a lot of books, so, as a courtesy to them, we do not want to send books to them that are not up to that quality."

Jewett's friend, Donald McCaig, author of the critically acclaimed "Jacob's Ladder" and most recently the best selling "Rhett Butler's People," and McCaig's wife, Anne, encouraged Jewett to write.

Jewett shared the book chapter by chapter with his brother, Greg, who realized they had something better than just a family book and began pushing to have it published. Jewett found the Ithaca Press Web site and, after sending the company an inquiry on the process, received a call from Mayor.

"After talking for an hour and a half, Joan asked to see the manuscript," Jewett recalled.

The Ithaca Press review of the manuscript resulted in it being accepted for publication and in a request for Jewett to turn the novel into a series.

"Ken Jewett ... has crafted the first in a series of brilliant historical fiction novels, To the Valley," an Ithaca Press announcement stated. "The first novel of a series details the travels of the Jewett family as they move from their comfortable homes on the outskirts of Boston to the wilds of the newly forming Virginia frontier ... Ken Jewett weaves a heart-warming, exciting and engrossing tale of the Jewett family's adventures in establishing themselves on the frontier of the future United States of America. Packed with exciting skirmishes with Native Americans, details of military battles of the time, and appearances by non-fictional characters like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, To the Valley has something for all readers, both young and old alike ... To the Valley is truly a well-written, interesting, and engrossing tale about the joys and disappointments of a family trying to forge out a new life."

Jewett has already written the second novel in the series, titled "Defend The Valley." It is in pre-publication at Ithaca Press. He is also working on a third novel in the series.

For more information about Jewett and "To the Valley," contact Ithaca Press or visit www.kennethjewett.com. The book is also available on Amazon.com.

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