American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards $600,000 to Authors, Writers Pay Tribute to Beverly Cleary, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the recipients of its 2021 awards in literature. Salvatore Scibona and Laura van den Berg were awarded the Mildred & Harold Strauss Livings awards, which recognize literary excellence and come with a purse of $200,000 each. The Academy awarded a total of $600,000 to writers.

Writers and artists pay tribute to author Beverly Cleary, who died on March 25 at age 104. At the New York Times, David Levithan writes in praise of Cleary’s character Ralph S. Mouse, the mouse with the motorcycle, and how Cleary spoke directly to her readers. Vulture, meanwhile, rounds up some of the best Twitter tributes to the children’s author from figures such as First Lady Jill Biden, Viola Davis, and Reese Witherspoon. And at the Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert considers how Cleary understood and wrote about childhood shame and mortification. “In the more than forty books Cleary published, what is most striking is how she balances empathy and connection with an ability to neutralize shame with gentle humor.”

Poet and editor Robert Hershon died on March 20 at age eighty-four. Hershon cofounded Hanging Loose Press in 1966 and was a “godfather of sorts to many younger poets.” (New York Times)

Ingram Content Group chairman John Ingram has launched the Survive to Thrive grant program, a new fund-raising initiative to support indie bookstores. Ingram Content Group and Ingram Charities have already jointly contributed $500,000 to the campaign, and and four Big Five publishers have also made contributions. The organizers hope to open for applications by mid-April and distribute the grants by June. (Publishers Weekly)

Hanif Abdurraqib talks with Hyperallergic about obsession and finding joy while writing his latest book, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, which came out yesterday.

“We need to talk more about the role women have played in historical struggles.” Novelist Imbolo Mbue discusses revolution, change, and her new novel, How Beautiful We Were. (Los Angeles Review of Books)

“The people with the most privilege are the most able to recover from a bad workshop. The people with the least privilege, they have the least kind of headspace to be able to even understand that they need to recover from the workshop at all. Even bad workshops are still easier for people who have the ability to process them.” Matthew Salesses on understanding and reimagining the dynamics of the writing workshop. (Creative Independent)

Melissa Febos, whose essay collection Girlhood came out yesterday, speaks with Interview about her view of writing as a spiritual practice, her reading habits, and her advice to other writers.