Are you a good storyteller? Do you like to write about history? Do you have anecdotes about family members that you think others might enjoy? On Saturday, March 1 at 1 a.m., the gates open for the start of the Third Annual Dan’s Papers $6,000 Literary Prize for Nonfiction, and you can submit entries to try to win.
The Prize began in 2012, when Dan’s Papers decided to honor our local writers in the same way as, for years, we have honored our local artists. Just take a look at the front of Dan’s Papers. For the past 25 years, Dan’s has honored our artists by printing their work in glossy full color on the cover every week. We have put on our covers works by Larry Rivers, Fairfield Porter, Peter Max, Bill de Kooning and more than 1000 other painters, both famous and not, who have worked on the eastern end of Long Island.
Why not do the same for writers? We felt this competition would be the best way to do it. From March 1 through July 21, we will welcome any and all submissions of nonfiction between 600 and 1500 words that in a meaningful way reference Montauk, the Hamptons, the North Fork or other places on the East End.
We offer three prizes. There are two runner-up prizes of $500 each, and there is the first prize of $5,000, all presented at an exciting awards ceremony at the John Drew Theater late on Saturday afternoon of August 16 this year. In addition to the monetary prize, a trophy is awarded to the winner. There is also a keynote speaker—for our first awards event it was two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Caro, at our second it was National Book Award winner E. L. Doctorow.
The first-prize winner in the inaugural event was James K. Phillips, a resident of the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton, who wrote an essay called “Magic Shirts” about the making of the costumes used in native dancing at powwows. Last year’s winner was Susan Duff of Springs, whose essay “Moving Through Water” described the healing effects of two of our bodies of water. Both pieces, a year apart, were read by Emmy-winning broadcaster Pia Lindstrom, to a capacity crowd at Guild Hall. This year, at the awards ceremony, we are pleased to announce, the winning entry will be read by Academy Award winning actor Mercedes Ruehl.
A full description of the rules to enter can be found at literaryprize.danspapers.com, but here they are in a nutshell: All entries must be original works of nonfiction between 600 and 1500 words, and they must include references to the East End in a meaningful way. They can be reminiscences, memoirs, biographies, humor, history, family legends or anything else that fits the category of nonfiction (but no poetry).
We have seven judges who independently read and judge all the entries. They include the owner of a large bookstore chain, the cofounder of a book publishing firm, the president of an ad agency, a book reviewer, a celebrated mystery writer, a college English professor and a radio commentator.
And we have many organizations that sponsor this literary prize. They include Barnes & Noble, which provides major funding for the event. Last year’s sponsors also included Hampton Jitney, Southampton Inn, Bridgehampton National Bank, the Destination America cable channel, BK Builders, Mini of Southampton, Audi Southampton, BMW of Southampton and Porsche of Southampton.
More information is to come about the contest, but for now, we encourage you to start writing your entries—it could help you find a way into a literary career. Many entries, even those that do not win, are showcased with publication in Dan’s Papers and on DansPapers.com during the year, and some are selected to be read by their authors at the monthly Literary Prize Essay Reading Salon at the Southampton Inn during the winter and early spring.
We wish you all success.
The 2014 contest begins on Friday, March 1. Visit literaryprize.danspapers.com.