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New Literary Prizes Totalling $150,000 From Yale University


A Writer’s Estate to Yield $150,000 Literary PrizesBy CHARLES McGRATH

Yale University is announcing the establishment of some of the most lucrative literary prizes in America.

Enlarge This ImageDon Hogan Charles/The New York Times

The writer Donald Windham, who died last year, in 1991.


Called the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes, they will be given annually starting in late 2012 or early 2013, with seven to nine grants of $150,000 each awarded to playwrights and writers of fiction and nonfiction. Awards for poetry may be added later at the discretion of the awards committee.

The endowment for the prizes comes from the estate of the writer Donald Windham, who died in May 2010. Eugene V. Kokot, a co-executor of the estate, said that while Mr. Windham’s will was quite specific about his intention to establish a fund for literary prizes, the details of how such prizes should be awarded had been worked out by the executors and advisers at Yale.


“I don’t know for sure if these are the biggest prizes in America, but Donald would be happy to think that they were,” he added. 

By comparison, the Bollingen Prize, a biannual poetry award also administered by Yale, pays its winner $100,000, as  does the annual Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.  The Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Awards are each worth $10,000. Overseas, the Man Booker Prize in Britain comes with an award of roughly $80,000, while the Impac Dublin Literary Award is about $140,000.  


The judging for the new prizes will happen in two stages, Mr. Kokot explained: a steering committee will solicit recommendations from a group of nominators, and  the final selection will be made by a panel consisting of Mr. Kokot; Jeffrey Peabody, his co-executor; and two longtime friends of Mr. Windham, Robert A, Wilson, a rare-book dealer, and Bruce Kellner, a retired English professor. They will be aided by a group of additional judges.






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Do you think a person who

Do you think a person who does not write like an academic has a chance at something like this? I've been writing for years and although I graduated college, my work will never be like that of an academic. I've had no success with such contests. Under the degree and experience throbs the soul of a country girl, and I intend to remain that way.

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Short answer - yes. The odds

Short answer - yes.

The odds are against work which is genre-oriented, such as thrillers or horror or romance or children's. However, I believe a well-crafted and well-told work has a chance.

Between me and thee, academic writing must bore even academics by now.

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New Literary Prizes Totalling $150,000 From Yale University

Thank you so much for your reply, here and in the private message - I will be responding there as well. Did you ever find any way that one could apply for this prize or does one have to be nominated?

More in a private message.