Move over National Book Award. Take a seat, Pulitzer. You too, Nobel.
New Haven has a new prize for great writers. And it comes with beaucoup bucks.
They’re called the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes. Yale President-Elect Peter Salovey awarded the inaugural prizes of $150,000 each to nine writers in fiction, drama, and nonfiction.
The prize is for mid-stream or emerging writers or those who deserve more attention. You can be any age and live anywhere in the world, as long as you write in English and agree to come to New Haven for a festival/symposium in September.
Click here for a list of winners, who include New Haven-based creative nonfiction writer Adina Hoffman.
One of the drama winners was New York City-based Stephen Adly Guirgis, whose street-talk infused plays include Jesus Hopped the A Train.
Monday morning’s announcement drew two dozen people to that mecca of the rare and cathedral of research, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale, which administers the prize.
The prizes certainly are now among the richest in the world for writers.
“In the aggregate this year we’re giving more than the Nobel,” said Michael Kelleher, the prize program administrator.
National and international press were in attendance because the prize is global, with some 46 anonymous judges involved in the process. The 59 nominees hailed from around the world. Nominees are anonymously selected by what Kelleher called an elaborate and byzantine process that results in “an amazing group of prize winners.”
Adina Hoffman lives in Wooster Square when she is not in Jerusalem researching her work on the Cairo geniz or the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali for her My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century.
She said was surprised to learn of her award after Kelleher called on Thursday and asked: “Are you sitting down?”
Hoffman said the money will put wind, or as she quipped “the Windham,” in her sails to finish her current project, a book on three mid-20th century architects working in Jerusalem: Charles Ashbee, Austen St. Barbe Harrison, and Erich Mendelsohn. She said the book tries to answer the question: Can you have an aesthetic conversation in a place so torn by political strife?
After that she sails on to a biography of the newspaperman, screenwriter, and Zionist Ben Hecht.
Kelleher said that in years to come a poetry category may be added.