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By Cindy Downes contest. B


“When our children were growing up,” Wilhite said, “we took them to Disney- land, Knox Berry Farm, Branson, Hawaii, and Puerto Vallarta, but if you ask them today where they want to go on vacation, it’s Lake Tenkiller.” Its clear waters and abundance of bass, trout, catfi sh, crappie and carp, make Lake Tenkiller the 16th best fi shing destination in the nation, according to Field & Stream magazine. Ten marinas around the lake offer fuel, snacks, and repairs; and two of those offer heated docks for wintertime fi shing. Water sports abound. Besides pleasure boating, sailing, and jet skiing, there are swimming, wave running, canoeing, and kayaking. The unique scuba dive park features underwater attractions for divers to explore, including a sunken airplane fuselage and an old school bus.


For those who prefer land, there’s golf, duckpin bowling, bicycle rentals, play- grounds, volleyball, and basketball. Nearby Tahlequah offers shopping and mov- ies.


Toast your friends with a homemade root beer or crunch down on a Fried Ba- nana Split from Soda Steve’s. Savor the down-home cooking from the Cookson Cafe. These are just two of many unique dining experiences around the lake. Nature lovers enjoy walking along the limestone cliffs or hiking in the nearby wildlife refuges to catch a glimpse of raccoons dousing fi sh and wild turkeys forag- ing acorns. and the


Listen for the screech of bald eagles as they swoop across the lake grunts of white pelicans nesting in colonies.


Lake Tenkiller in northeast Oklahoma offers a unique scuba dive park and many other attractions. Photo by Bill Downes


When the day is done, visitors will fi nd Tenkiller State Park and Cherokee Land- ing State Park just around the corner for an overnight stay. Both parks offer bunk- houses, cabins, RV and tent campsites, rest rooms, showers, and a pool. There are also a variety of resorts, cabins, condos, bed and breakfasts, and hotels in the area. “Lake Tenkiller has something for everyone,” Wilhite said. OL


etty Wilhite, a Cookson Electric Cooperative member, is one of many who voted Lake Tenkiller as “Best Lake” in this year’s Best of Oklahoma Living


Best Lake: Tenkiller


Best Author: Billie Letts


By Cindy Downes


Billie Letts is author of the best seller, Where t he Heart is.


Courtesy photo


illie Letts, voted “Best Author” by Oklahoma Liv- ing readers, is proof positive that you don’t need up-to-date technology to be successful. Billie taps out her award-winning stories on an old, electric typewriter. Billie is best known for her book, Where the Heart Is, which was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club in December 1998. The book was published in 14 coun- tries and sold 3 million copies. In 2000, the fi lm version was released starring Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, and Stockard Channing.


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“I didn’t seriously intend to write a book,” Letts said. The original manuscript was a short story. However, not only has she written Where The Heart Is, she has also written four screenplays, numerous short stories, and three other novels: The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, Shoot the Moon, and her latest, Made in the U.S.A. The main characters in Letts’ books are mostly poor- ly educated, depressed, and non-traditional families.


18 OKLAHOMA LIVING


“My greatest hope is that my stories might lead read- ers to greater acceptance, tolerance, and compassion for one another,” she said.


She receives hundreds of letters each year from wom- en like Novalee, the heroine of Where the Heart Is. These women tell their tragic life stories and then share how Letts’ books inspired them to return to school. “I cry every time I read one of those letters,” Letts


said.


A native Tulsan, Letts is a retired instructor of Eng- lish and the mother of three sons: Dana, Shawn, and Tracy. Dennis, her husband of fi fty years, died in 2008. After Dennis passed away, her writing stopped. She had lost her muse. Her fans will be glad to know, how- ever, that Letts has fi nally begun a new novel set in con- temporary Oklahoma.


Letts has won several awards including the Walker Percy Literary Award in 1994, the Oklahoma Book Award for fi ction in both 1996 and 1999, and, most recently, the International Matrix Award in 2011. OL


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