Stanford Libraries Create Saroyan Prize for Writers


saroyan_releaseAs the leader of the A-Team liked to say: “I love it when a good plan comes together.” Or words to that effect. So I am happy to report that an institution where I enjoyed a too-brief, but most memorable learning experience will cosponsor an award bearing the name of one of my all-time favorite American authors.

The new literary prize, officially titled the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, will be sponsored by the Stanford University Libraries in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation. Aimed at encouraging new or emerging writers rather than established authors, it will recognize a newly published work of fiction or memoir with a purse of $12,300.

The Saroyan Writing Prize (the monicker which I suspect it will be most commonly used) will be awarded every other year, with January 31, 2003 set as deadline for entries in the first competition. Entries are limited to works published in English in book form during calendar 2002 and available for purchase by the general public. Complete information, including entry forms and rules, are available at this website: http://saroyanprize.stanford.edu

“As a newcomer to the publishing world, the Saroyan Writing Prize has no track record,”says Michael A. Keller, Stanford Librarian and Stanford University Press publisher. “But our hope is that over time it will join the ranks of notable literary awards and prizes. It was established both to fulfill William Saroyan’s expressed desire to encourage other writers and to fulfill the Foundation’s mission to draw attention to Saroyan’s works and legacy.”

Stanford was the logical choice to cosponsor the award since it holds the Saroyan Archive, and Keller adds that the university sees the Writing Prize as a means “to participate in the book arts, to focus on writing in general and Saroyan’s writing in particular and to place Stanford’s archival collections in the public eye.”

Perhaps it will also draw some attention to Standford’s Professional Publishing Course, a unique and outstanding program held every summer at The Farm in Palo Alto.

“We are currently making plans to hold the award ceremony for the Prize in conjunction with next summer’s Professional Publishing Course,” reports Holly Brady, executive director of that program.

I can attest to the high quality and value of this course, thanks to a $5000 education grant I received upon taking early retirement from my “day job” in 1989. I blew the windfall on the Stanford course, a 15-day concentrated “boot camp” with notable, often distinguished, instructors from the “real worlds” of book and magazine publishing. It was probably the most interesting and valuable educational experience of my life. My only regret is that I didn’t attend it years earlier!

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