Cayuga professor wins award for novel about historic Adirondack family

A Cayuga Community College faculty member has received a prestigious award from the Adirondack Center for Writing for a historical novel about a prominent upstate New York family.

Associate Professor Sheila Myers received the 2017 Best Book of Fiction Literary Award from the Adirondack Center for Writing (ACW) for her novel “The Night is Done: A Durant Family Saga,” which was the third book in a trilogy Myers wrote about the historic Durant family, their business ventures, and their connection to the Adirondacks.

The trilogy traces the Durant family, known for their role in building the Transcontinental Railroad and pioneering the Adirondack wilderness, through the late 19th Century. The family once owned a substantial amount of property in the Adirondacks and established several prominent camps in the region, including Camp Pine Knot, now owned by SUNY Cortland as Camp Huntington.

Myers’ third book specifically addresses William West Durant as he grapples with his legacy late in life, featuring other prominent figures from the era, such as J.P. Morgan and Alfred Vanderbilt.

“They led interesting lives in their business dealings, personal scandals, divorces and lawsuits during the Gilded Age and the early 20th Century,” Myers said of the Durant family. “The Durants were one of the first families to open up the Adirondacks to development and tourism.”

Myers’ first work in the trilogy, “Imaginary Brightness,” was published in 2015, but “The Night is Done” was the first she submitted for awards from the ACW, which is a nonprofit organization supporting authors, reading, and the history of the Adirondacks. Myers said she appreciated the recognition from the ACW.

“It’s hard to know, except for people who contact you, whether your book is accepted in the industry. So, it was nice to see an organization that’s devoted to writing has awarded me this honor. I feel very grateful to have received it,” she said.

Myers first became interested in writing about the historic family after attending a retreat at Camp Huntington and staying in one of the cabins constructed by William West Durant.

Although there are already numerous biographies about the family, Myers decided to self-publish the story as a work of historical fiction.

“I was intrigued by the family’s history and decided to write one book, which turned into a trilogy. As I was doing my research, I discovered a lot of information that wasn’t known before. I kept delving and digging and it expanded into three books instead of one,” said Myers.

Though the trilogy is historical fiction and focused on the Durant family, the books also address the Adirondack Region as a whole, she said.

“The books also delve into land use policy in the Adirondacks and how it changed the cultural make-up of the region during the end of the 19th century. As the wealthy industrialists bought up land in the region, the natives lost access to their traditional hunting grounds,” she said.

For more information about Myers’ books, visit https://www.wwdurantstory.com.

About Cayuga Community College

Founded in 1953, Cayuga Community College is one of 64 accredited institutions that make up the State University of New York (SUNY) system.  Cayuga offers open access and an affordable gateway to higher education, with courses and degree programs offered at campuses in Auburn and Fulton, NY and online. Cayuga Community College provides a strong liberal arts foundation for further study and career preparation. The College also addresses identified community needs through targeted training and personal enrichment programs. By sustaining academic excellence within a supportive learning environment, the College, a careful steward of human and fiscal resources, serves as a valuable asset to the development of our local, regional, and global communities.

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