Congratulations to our CSU faculty and alumna nominated in two Colorado Book Awards categories! Winners for the awards will be announced at a celebration event June 26, 2021.

About the Awards

Each year the Colorado Book Awards celebrate some of the most outstanding authors, editors, illustrators, and photographers in Colorado. In 2021, there were a total of 190 entries in 17 different categories including anthology, biography, children’s literature, creative nonfiction, general nonfiction, general fiction, history, historical fiction, juvenile literature, literary fiction, mystery, pictorial, poetry, romance, science fiction/fantasy, thriller, and young adult literature. This year, Colorado State University has the honor of recognizing two faculty and one alumna who were nominated for awards in their categories.


Andrew Altschul

Andrew Altschul with his book The Gringa
Andrew Altschul with his book The Gringa

Andrew Altschul is currently the Director of Creative Writing in the Department of English. Prior to his time at CSU, Altschul lived in the Bay Area in California where he spent 13 years teaching and writing. He taught at Stanford, Mills College, and the University of San Francisco, as well as serving as the director of San José State University’s Center for Literary Arts. Among his numerous accomplishments are working as a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford and receiving fellowships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers Conferences, the Ucross Foundation, the Fundación Valparaíso, and the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.

Altschul’s most recent novel The Gringa: A Novel was nominated for the 2021 award in Literary Fiction. The work of fiction follows the story of Stanford grad Leonora Gelb as she leaves her life of privilege in the United States to fight inequities in Peru. Along the way, Leonora finds herself entangled in a web of revolution and government corruption that ultimately lands her a life sentence in prison. A decade later, expat Andres is tasked with writing a magazine profile of Leonora–now known as “La Leo.” As he works, Andres is confronted with the messy truth of the life and history of the revolutionaries and “La Leo.” The novel asks timely questions about power, privilege, and suffering while exploring the fascinating life of “La Leo” through Andres’ eyes.

Read more about Altschul’s experience publishing his novel during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Donna Cooner

Donna Cooner in a jean jacket over a red shirt in front of a wood background
Donna Cooner’s header image from her website

Donna Cooner was born and raised in Texas and is a three time graduate of Texas A&M University. Before coming to her current position as a professor of education at CSU, Dr. Cooner worked as a K-12 school teacher and administrator. Her research has focused primarily on teacher and administrator preparation in PK-12 schools. Dr. Cooner is also the author of over twenty picture books and has also written children’s television shows for PBS. Her debut novel, Skinny, won several awards including ALA’s Best Young Adult Fiction Award, BEA’s Young Adult Buzz Book, and a Bankstreet College’s Best Children’s Book of the Year. Her follow-up book, Can’t Look Away, was also critically-acclaimed as a Teen Choice Nominee and an ALA Top Pick for Reluctant Readers. Skinny was selected by The Texas Library Association in 2014 a Spirit of Texas High School Featured Author; Can’t Look Away earned her the same accolade in 2017.

Dr. Cooner’s e-book Offline was nominated for the 2021 award in Young Adult Literature. The story follows Annie Webb: a teenager who is constantly online. Most of her time is spent following influencer accounts, DM’ing with her two best friends, Luna and Caitlin, and posting selfies with her boyfriend, Jameson. This all comes crashing down when Jameson breaks up with Annie online. Annie suddenly finds herself in the midst of hostile, public attention from people all over the internet. As Annie’s world begins to implode under the weight of the cruel backlash, Luna and Caitlin step in to help Annie cope. The three pledge to stay off social media for an entire month–no posting, scrolling, or cheating. The novel explores the ways in which social media has influenced the life of America’s teenagers, particularly the lives of young girls.

Nancy McKinley

Nancy McKinley black and white head shot
Nancy McKinley black and white headshot

Nancy McKinley is an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction from Packanack Lake, Wayne, New Jersey. She was one of the first women to earn a degree from College of the Holy Cross, a previously all-male school. Dr. McKinley earned her M.A. in Creative Writing from Colorado State University in 1984 as well as earning her Ph.D. from SUNY-Binghamton (now Binghamton University). Early in her career, Nancy taught language arts, social studies, and outdoor education in underserved communities, and wrote freelance articles for a variety of publications. She is a founding faculty member for the Wilkes University Maslow Family Low-Residency Graduate Program in Creative Writing, teaching fiction and nonfiction, and supervises the writer-as-teacher internships. Dr. McKinley also received the John Gardner Newhouse Award from Binghamton University.

Dr. McKinley’s novel St. Christopher on Pluto was nominated for the 2021 award in Literary Fiction. The novel follows MK and Colleen–childhood friends who get reacquainted with one another while working at different stores in a bankrupt mall. The two women went to Catholic school together where they collaborated on racy letters to a soldier in Vietnam who thought they were much older than seventh graders. In the present, they travel together through the the farm debris, mine ruins, and fracking waste of the northern brow of Appalachia. All the while, they’re guided by a glow-in-the-dark St. Christopher statue that is glued to the dash of MK’s Buick nicknamed “Big Blue.” Through their travels, the two women explore themes of female friendship, race, war, getting older, and more all through the lenses of hope and survival.

Read more about Nancy McKinley’s novel and its appearance on NPR’s Fresh Air on the Department of English website.