by STEVE PAUL
One of the major missions of the Hemingway Foundation is our co-sponsorship of the PEN/Hemingway Award, a national literary honor given to an author of a first book of fiction. The Foundation financially supports the effort of PEN New England, a branch of the writers’ organization (the acronym stands for poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists). Our partnership with PEN New England goes back more than two decades. Mary Hemingway established the award in 1976, and in the early 1990s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis prompted a move of the proceedings from New York to Boston. Over the years we helped launch the careers of numerous high-profile writers, including Renata Adler, Louis Begley, Marilynne Robinson, Ha Jin, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jennifer Haigh, Ben Fountain and Yiyun Li. Since 2001, the program has announced a winner, two finalists and two runners-up, each of whom benefits from the attention.
The awards ceremony is held each year at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, home of the Hemingway Collection of manuscripts, documents, artifacts, multi-media and other resources important to scholars and the reading public. Hemingway family members, including Patrick and Carol Hemingway and Sean and Colette Hemingway, are frequent attendees.
A popular tradition of the afternoon awards program is Patrick’s reading of a usually obscure and often humorous bit of his father’s prose.
At the awards ceremony on March 24, 2013, Kevin Powers, author of the Iraq War novel The Yellow Birds, became the latest recipient of the PEN/Hemingway Award. Also named were two finalists: Jennifer duBois, author of A Partial History of Lost Causes; and Vaddey Ratner, for In the Shadow of the Banyan. Honorable mentions went to Catherine Chung (Forgotten Country) and Peter M. Wheelwright (As It Is On Earth).
Patrick Hemingway, center, is surrounded by a new generation of literary talent at the 2013 PEN/Hemingway Award ceremony at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. From left: Colm Toibin, the event’s keynote speaker, finalist Vaddey Ratner, Patrick Hemingway, finalist Jennifer duBois, winner Kevin Powers.
The PEN/Hemingway winner receives $10,000, and each of the finalists is offered residencies at the University of Idaho and the Ucross Foundation’s artists and writers retreat in Wyoming.
Judges for the 2013 award included Oscar Hijuelos, Amy Bloom and Craig Nova, prominent writers all.
At the same annual event, PEN New England also gives out awards for best fiction, nonfiction and poetry by a New England writer. In 2013, those went to Heidi Julavits, The Vanishers; Bernd Heinrich, Life Everlasting; and David Huddle, Blacksnake at the Family Reunion.
The Hemingway Foundation values our partnership with the Hemingway family, PEN New England and other program sponsors, including the Kennedy Library, the Friends of the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the library, Cerulli Associates, the University of Idaho and the Ucross Foundation.
Since the Hemingway Society’s international conference in Kansas City in 2008, the Foundation has been making extra efforts to raise money to enhance our support for the PEN/Hemingway Award and to help boost its presence on the literary map. Contributions are always welcome and can be made here on the website or by check (made out to Hemingway Foundation with a subject line of PEN Awards) and mailed to foundation treasurer Carl Eby at 46 Meridian Rd., Beaufort, SC 29907.
Jeffrey Brown of PBS Newshour interviewed Kevin Powers about his winning book at “Conversation: Kevin Powers, Author of ‘The Yellow Birds.’”
The New York Times reviewed The Yellow Birds in their Sunday Book Review
For a complete list of the PEN/Hemingway Winners since 1976, click here .
Guidelines and submission forms for The PEN/Hemingway Award are available for download here