HARTFORD, Conn. -- The National Society of Newspaper Columnists announced the winners of its 2013-14 writing awards on June 29, at its annual four-day conference, held this year in Hartford, Conn.
Independent journalist (and longtime Advocate and Berkshire Eagle contributor) Telly Halkias brought home the Portland (Maine) Daily Sun's first national-level award for entries from his weekly offering, "From The Stacks," which appears in the weekend edition.
His second-place honor placed him among winning columnists from California to Connecticut.
Since 2006, Halkias, who now splits his time between homes in Bennington, Vt. and Portland, has contributed his column, feature stories and arts reviews, to The Advocate. In 2008, Halkias began writing articles for The Advocate's sister newspaper, the Berkshire Eagle, in its magazine insert, Berkshires Week.
"Earning any recognition is an honor, but being singled out by your peers - in this case other columnists who write nationally, and have done so for a long time - is humbling," Halkias said.
Halkias said he began writing the column almost a decade earlier for the Bennington Banner at the urging of its then-arts and features editor Hinda Mandell, now an assistant professor of communications at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Today, his work appears regularly in the Berkshires.
"I wince when looking back at those early pieces," Halkias said. "All my editors, past and present, have been great mentors and very supportive. It's difficult to break in anywhere as a freelance writer, let alone a self-syndicated columnist. So I greatly appreciate the chance to connect with Berkshires readers in both The Advocate and the Eagle."
Halkias' columns, which previously had earned three New England journalism association honors, were cited in the award category of general interest commentary in newspapers under 50,000 circulation.
Classified by circulation level, other column categories included humor and online, blog and multimedia.
Awards judge John Carlson, a veteran journalist recently retired from The Des Moines Register, contributed feedback on Halkias' work.
"His columns tell important stories about the community and the world," Carlson wrote in the award announcement. "His elegant writing style is evident His columns are powerful and sensitive."
Huffington Post contributor and two-time Emmy winner Rick Horowitz, who also founded the nationally-acclaimed communications consulting firm Prime Prose, presented a session at the conference and opened his talk with lines from one of Halkias' columns.
"I was struck by the combination of tools Telly Halkias brought to this story: a refined tone, and a sharp eye for the telling detail,"
Horowitz wrote in an e-mail from his Wisconsin office. "He brought me to that time and that place."
Among the columnists honored were the late film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Parker of The New York Times, Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times and formerly of Sports Illustrated, and John Avlon of Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
Humor columnist and best-selling author Dave Barry, who sparked the conference with a rousing speech at the awards banquet, received the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award. The NSNC presented its Humanitarian Award to veteran New Hampshire radio personality Mike Morin. The conference's keynote speaker was longtime syndicated columnist and author Heloise.
Halkias was the only journalist with Berkshires ties named, and one of only three from New England to earn a top-three spot.