PEN American Center has announced a new award for fledgling writers.The PEN Emerging Writers Award--funded by an anonymous donor--will go to three new writers: a fiction writer, a nonfiction writer, and a poet. Each will receive $1,660 and be honored at a ceremony in New York in October.
Candidates cannot apply but must be nominated by the editors of literary journals where they have been published.
As mystery writer Wendy Webb said, as she accepted the Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction (for "The Tale of Halcyon Crane"), It's good to have an event that forces writers to get out of their pajamas and to interact with the real world.
Saturday night's gala event on the riverfront in downtown St. Paul was a glittery celebration of all things book: Writers, readers, book artists, librarians, English professors, poets and book reviewers all dressed up (mainly in black) and drank champagne; sought (and gave) autographs; bought books; ate berry-and-whipped cream desserts; drank more champagne.
Live-tweeted by folks from the Red Balloon Bookshop (who also sold books), filmed by multiple cameras (for broadcast at a later date on public access television), attended by Mayor Chris Coleman, former Mayor George Latimer and other dignitaries (730 other dignitaries; I'm thinking everyone at the event was a dignitary of some sort), the gala was four hours of literary happiness.
There were stories; there are always stories when writers are around. Memoir winner Bonnie J. Rough ("Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA") flew into Minneapolis just eight days after giving birth to her second child. Finalist Doug Grow ("We're Gonna Win, Twins") showed up with an arm in a sling, leaning on a cane; his dog had tripped him and he had fallen and broken some bones. (Dogs are nothing but trouble.) And poetry winner Lightsey Darst (" Find the Girl") told the crowd that had she expected to win, she wouldn't have worn such a short skirt.
Host for the evening was Jeff Kamin of the popular book club "Books and Bars," and presentation of the awards was interspersed by short, funny stories by the RockStar Storytellers, and lovely poetry by Irish poet (and this year's O'Shaughnessy award winner) Leanne O'Sullivan.
Previously announced awards were presented; St. Paul poet laureate Carol Connolly received the Kay Sexton Award (and a bouquet of roses), and Regula Russelle received the Minnesota Book Artist Award.
It was fun to see so many writers, a little stiff in their good clothes, a little serious in their acceptance speeches, but happy, celebrating the happy power of the written word.
Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction today for her much-lauded novel, "A Visit from the Goon Squad." Her book had previously won the National Book Critics Circle Award. You can read the Star Tribune review here.
Ron Chernow won in the biography category for his "Washington: A Life"; you can read our review here.
And Kay Ryan won for poetry. Siddhartha Mukherjee won in general nonfiction for "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer."
Read a list of all winners, and finalists, here.
Karen Tei Yamashita, author of "I Hotel," published by Coffee House Press of Minneapolis, is this year's winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in fiction.
And Margi Preus, the Duluth author of "Heart of a Samurai," is the winner in children's literature. Preus's book was also a Newbery Honor Book this year.
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