Contest Honoring Elaine Kaufman Open for Submissions

The Table 4 Writers Foundation, established in honor of New York City restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, is currently accepting submissions to its second annual writing competition, which offers five grants of $2,500 each to fiction and nonfiction writers.

Kaufman, who ran the celebrated Elaine’s restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for more than forty-seven years, was known for nurturing writers and other creative people inside her restaurant—and in particular at Table 4, where, according to the foundation’s website, she “offered writers just what they needed: sometimes a kick in the pants, an introduction to a fellow writer or agent, but always a directive to order something to eat.” She died in December 2010.

To apply for the grants, writers may submit four copies of a short story, an essay, or a novel excerpt of up to ten pages (or between 1,000 and 2,500 words), along with the required entry form and a $10 entry fee, by October 20. Submissions are accepted by postal mail only. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Works by the inaugural winners, who were announced and honored at a ceremony in New York City this past March, were chosen by a panel of publishing professionals and members of the Table 4 Foundation board. Each writer received $2,000.

“I’m pleased that in our second year we’re able to increase the amounts that we award our winners,” said Jenine Lepera Izzi, the foundation’s chair. “We hope that the prizes will help them focus on their work and also bring attention to their writing.”

The Table 4 Writers Foundation was founded on February 10, 2012—a date that would have been Kaufman’s eighty-third birthday—in order “to help struggling and promising writers, just as Elaine had for nearly fifty years.”

Erdrich, Fountain Among Peace Prize Finalists

After announcing earlier this month that Wendell Berry would receive the annual Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation announced yesterday the finalists for the 2013 Peace Prizes in fiction and nonfiction, given annually for books published in the previous year.

The fiction finalists are:

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Random House)
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
by Ben Fountain (HarperCollins)
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Random House)
The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore (Random House)
The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead (Algonquin)
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Little, Brown)
Ben Fountain's debut novel won a National Book Critics Circle Award.

The nonfiction finalists are:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (Random House)
Pax Ethnica by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac (Public Affairs Books)
Burying the Typewriter by Carmen Bugan (Graywolf Press)
Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Viking)
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (HarperCollins)
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (Scribner)


Louise Erdrich's The Round House won a National Book Award.

"This year’s finalists examine conflict and the need for tolerance across the spectrum of relationships, from family members to diverse groups within communities to citizens of a country at war," said Sharon Rab, chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. “Each work reminds us that our lives are filled with moral dilemmas every day, and each work offers an inspiring model to look to as we strive to resolve the conflicts such dilemmas bring.”


Katherine Boo's debut won a National Book Award for nonfiction.

A winner and runner-up in fiction and nonfiction will be announced on September 24. Winners receive $10,000 each and runners-up receive $1,000. They will be honored at a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, on Sunday, November 3rd.

Inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize was established in 2006 to honor writers “whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding.” The awards are given for books published in the previous year.

Wendell Berry Receives Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Wendell Berry, the Kentucky–based poet, novelist, essayist, farmer, and activist, will receive the 2013 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.

The award, announced yesterday, was given to Berry “in recognition of a lifetime of letters exploring how humans can live more harmoniously with both the land and each other.” Presented annually to an author for a complete body of work, the award is named in honor of the celebrated U.S. diplomat who played an instrumental role in negotiating the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia. The award will be presented to Berry at a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, on November 3. Tim O’Brien, who won in 2012, will present the award.

berryBorn in Kentucky in 1934, Berry is a full-time farmer who has written more than fifty works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction “that explore themes of community, conservation, and the quiet power of living a simple and slower life.” His most recent works include New Collected Poems, the story collection A Place in Time, and the essay collection It All Turns on Affection, all published by Counterpoint Press in 2012. Berry was named the 2012 Jefferson Lecturer and received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2011.

“In a career spanning more than half a century, Wendell Berry has used poetry, fiction, and essays to offer a consistent, timely, and timeless reminder that we must live in harmony with the earth in order to live in harmony with each other,” said Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. “His writing has inspired readers to imagine the lives of people and things other than themselves—enemies, neighbors, plants, and animals—in order to advance the survival of humankind and Earth itself.”

“In a time that spends so many words and dollars upon conflict," Berry said, "it is encouraging to be noticed for having said a few words in favor of peace.”

Explore Sentimental Value

8.22.13

A threadbare T-shirt. A stained cookbook. A folded 1989 Yankees ticket. We all refuse to part with items that hold sentimental value. Write about something you own that would be trash to another person. Delve beyond mere memories and explore what—the time, the people, the circumstances—that item represents. Write five hundred words.  

PEN Announces Literary Award Winners

PEN American Center, the New York City–based branch of the world’s leading literary and human rights organization, has announced the winners of the 2013 PEN literary awards. 

First-time novelist Sergio De La Pava received the organization’s most lucrative award, the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, given annually for a debut work of fiction. A Naked Singularity, De La Pava’s novel about the son of Columbian immigrants, was originally self-published in 2008 before being picked up by the University of Chicago Press.

Katherine Boo won the $10,000 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction for Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House), which won the National Book Award in nonfiction last year. Robert Hass received the $10,000 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for his collection What Light Can Do (Ecco). The awards are given to writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, as well as translators, playwrights, young adult authors, and editors.

“Every year PEN’s literary awards recognize the brightest lights in literary fiction and nonfiction and honor the sustained careers of writers who are distinguished in their fields, raising awareness for a diverse array of outstanding books,” said PEN President Peter Godwin. “These awards represent the best of PEN’s work in defense of free expression throughout the world—fighting censorship, promoting translations into English, and honoring both the new and well-known authors who make up the core of PEN as an organization. Their voices amplify our advocacy work.”

The winners and finalists will be honored at a ceremony at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City on October 21. Visit the PEN American website for more information on the annual awards program.

Money as Literary Currency

8.15.13

“There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor.” This observation by Oscar Wilde reminds us that no one is unaffected by money. Money heats our stoves, stitches our wounds, and clothes our children. Yet, people can perceive money—like art and religion—very differently. Think of a moment in your family history when money created tension. Focus on how individuals spoke, listened, and acted. Write objectively.

Fate vs. Free-Will

Mankind has often wrestled with the relationship between fate and self-determination. Write about a time in your life when your inner strength and perseverance changed the outcome. Next write about a time in your life when you believe fate played a role. Then write an essay about how this complex dynamic is manifested in your characters and creative nonfiction.  

Living On

Sit quietly at your writing desk and look at an old photograph of a relative who has passed on. Examine the person's face. Study the person's expression. Analyze the person's posture. What about this person still lives on through your family? What about this person still lives on through you? Write without editing your thoughts.

The Wind and You

7.25.13

The wind can toss a greasy napkin down a city street, stir dead leaves in the corner of an abandoned tool shed, or propel an ancient sailboat across an ocean. Every wind has unique and varied sounds, smells, and textures. Think of a moment in your life when the wind was particularly prevalent. Describe the wind as if it were a character with a distinct personality—strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. How did that wind influence your thoughts and feelings, and why was it so memorable? Write 500 words.

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