Maine’s celebrated writers and emerging stars will gather in Portland this week for the 2014 Maine Literary Awards.

Hosted by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, the award ceremony begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Glickman Family Library on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine.

Awards will be presented in 17 categories, including fiction, crime fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry and children’s books.

“These are not regional awards,” said Joshua Bodwell, the alliance’s executive director. “These are books that could compete on the national level. These are impressive books by any standard.”

This year’s awards are the largest in the decade-long history of the event, Bodwell said. Nearly 125 books were submitted across the genres for consideration. More than 70 manuscripts were entered in the Short Works Competition in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. And nearly 70 Maine students submitted work in the same categories in the youth competition.

Nearly two dozen writers, readers and booksellers judged the awards. The Maine Literary Awards are a great affirmation from peers, said past winner Paul Doiron of Camden. His book “Massacre Pond” is nominated in the category of crime fiction. He won a Maine Literary Award in 2012 for “Trespasser” and has been nominated several times.

In an email, Doiron said the awards carry weight because of the quality of Maine writers. He noted that among the nominees is Christina Baker Kline in the fiction category for the novel “Orphan Train,” which was atop The New York Times best-seller list for several weeks.

“What has impressed me about the evolution of the Maine Literary Awards is that the quality of the nominees keeps on getting better and better,” he wrote. “These days, you go down the list of finalists, and it includes just about every book people have been talking about obsessively over the past year. It’s such a privilege for an author to be included in that discussion. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win again.”

Among the newcomers is Peter Korn, director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport. He wrote a memoir about his passion for making things by hand, called “Why We Make Things and Why it Matters.”

Korn is accustomed to hearing compliments for his skills as a furniture maker. Being named a finalist for his writing was unexpected.

“As a person who has been involved with craft and making things with my hands most of my life, I am really honored that something I wrote would even remotely qualify for a literary prize. It’s really nice to have the book considered in that way,” Korn said.

Last year’s winner for best fiction, Bill Roorbach of Farmington, will not attend Thursday’s awards because he is committed to Book Expo America in New York City. He won last year’s best fiction prize for the novel “Life Among Giants.”

But there will be a Roorbach present in Portland. His daughter, Elysia, is a finalist in youth fiction for her story “Pretty, Smart, Deadly.” It’s her third year as a finalist for youth writing. As disappointed as he is that he can’t attend, Bill Roorbach is thrilled that his daughter is a finalist.

“I’m so impressed with her many talents, and I think there’s room for two writers in the house,” he said. “She’s 13, home-schooled, and never shows me a word of her writing till it’s done. She’s got a gift for storytelling, that much I can tell you.”

The awards are open to the public, with a $5 suggested donation. 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes