Valdosta author Craig Rikard’s award-winning memoir, Hidden Epidemic changed the “period” at the end of his sister’s life to a “comma.” Rikard, the recipient of the 47th Georgia Author of the Year Award for Memoir, writes in strong narrative about his mother’s destructive and secret addition to prescription drugs. In his first time out as a memoirist, Rikard describes his book as the “story of two children disconnected from the wonder of childhood by keeping the secret of private drug abuse." Rikard survived his childhood, but his sister did not. Jenny ended her young life.
In a ceremony on June 11, 2011 Craig Rikard accepted the Georgia Author of the Year Award (GAYA) at Kennesaw State University Center on Jenny's behalf, “Today I feel the period has been removed, and a comma stands in its place. Jenny's life and death speak powerfully to others in Hidden Epidemic, allowing them to identify with her pain, and hopefully seek the help that is now available.”
Dr. Craig Rikard, former pastor of Macon’s Mulberry Street United Methodist is a family therapist in the Valdosta area. Macon publisher, Tiger Iron Press, has had yearly GAYA nominations, but Hidden Epidemicis its first winner. Rikard’s publisher, A. Louise Staman comments on Rikard’s unique authority to speak about this issue in his book, Hidden Epidemic:
“Rikard is in an excellent position to know about hidden substance abuse. As a family therapist he has often treated children and young adults like himself. Prescription drug addition is epidemic and the children of the addict are expected to keep the secret –hidden from others.” Rikard became emotional when he realized that this was not only his award, but his sisters as well: “Jenny's voice still speaks through our story, calling victims to hope and recovery.”
The Georgia Author of the Year Awards
For books written in 2010 over 80 books were nominated for Georgia Author of the Year. The Georgia Author of the Year Award encompasses the traditional categories of Poetry and Fiction, while accommodating the growing Creative Nonfiction genre. The guidelines are revised each year to parallel the changing genres. Guidelines will be online November 11, 2011 for books written by Georgia Authors in 2011
The Georgia Writers Associationgives the GAYA each year recognizing Georgia's authors of excellence and has the distinction of being the oldest literary awards in the Southeastern United States. The GAYA recognizes books published by independent publishers, small presses, self-publishers and traditional publishers. The Awards have grown in prestige and participation since its inception in 1964 by the Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists. The GAYA changed hands in 1990 under the Georgia Writers Association and The Georgia Author of the Year Award in 2006 GWA began a strong affiliation with Kennesaw State University's Department of Englishin the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.