PITTSBURG, Kan. — Great news for a Pittsburg poet: Melissa Fite Johnson, an English teacher at Pittsburg High School, is the 2015 recipient of the Kansas Authors Club Nelson Poetry Book Award.

She earned it for her collection, “While the Kettle’s On,” published by Little Balkans Press. Published in many journals and anthologies, Johnson also is featured in “To the Stars through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices,” a Kansas Notable Book Award winner.

Judges proclaimed her poetry collection full of “gentle wit” and “concrete imagery.” They praised it as an “impressive first book” that is “easy to love,” and compared it to the style of Robert Frost and Louise Gluck.

I call her writing “impactful.” See for yourself at melissafitejohnson.com/poems; the three poems there — "The Dead,” “Good Housekeeping” and “Summer Wedding” — will paint an immediate picture and likely will leave a lump in your throat.

It’s a personal collection that Johnson calls a love letter to her late father, and the poems in it represent more than 10 years of work. Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg says it will remind readers how to recognize love when it shines through the moments that matter.

The book is available at Spellbound in Pittsburg, Inklings and Prospero’s in Kansas City, Reader’s World in Lee’s Summit and the Raven in Lawrence, as well as online through Amazon. Signed copies can be purchased through Johnson via her website, melissafitejohnson.com.

And lastly, something about another writer:

I’ll be leaving my full-time job with the Globe on Friday. For many years I’ve done freelance storytelling projects on the side in a range of formats, from magazines to websites, and I’ve decided to make that my focus. 

I also want the chance to be able to become fully immersed in the town I've called home for 45 years. For 25 of them, I haven't had the chance to join organizations or support causes out of a professional code that strives to avoid a conflict of interest. It will feel good to be able to get involved and to have more time for my active children and family.

It was a challenging decision to make, as I’ve had an incredible experience the past seven years — particularly when taking into account the stories we told in the aftermath of the May 2011 Joplin tornado and the May 2013 Moore, Oklahoma, tornado. I have covered visits by the president, the vice president and a former first lady, which I never could have dreamed as a high school journalism student from Pittsburg, Kansas.

But the very best stories I told were the ones about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and that includes many of you: The dentist who recovered from a horrific accident in which he lost a leg. The man who has amassed one of the largest private insect collections in the nation. The woman who survived breast cancer multiple times. Discoveries that have been made, buildings that have burned down, laws that have been enacted.

Thanks to the many sources who have agreed to share their stories with the world through me when I've called, emailed or knocked on their doors.

You will continue to see my byline on special features for the Globe. And you’ll see it here, in my weekly column about Pittsburg. Since 2008, I’ve written in this space every Monday, and it would be a hard habit to break. I have loved hearing from readers suggestions for what I might include in order to spread the word to the masses about what’s happening in my hometown. Please continue to keep sending me those tips so that I can continue to do so.


Address correspondence to Andra Bryan Stefanoni, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email astefanoni@joplinglobe.com.

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Andra Bryan Stefanoni is a staff writer for The Joplin Globe. She has been a reporter and editor at The Pittsburg Morning Sun and the former Girard Press, has written for state and national magazines, and has taught journalism.