Aspen Words Literary Prize moved online |

Aspen Words Literary Prize moved online

Staff report
Aspen Words literary prize.
Courtesy image


7:30 am-2pm MT: Video interviews with AWLP finalists Brian Allen Carr, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Christy Lefteri, Valeria Luiselli and Bryan Washington

2 pm: Video conversation with Aspen Institute President Dan Porterfield and Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur about the importance of literature during the global pandemic

4-4:30 pm: Winner announcement and acceptance speech

Aspen Words will host a virtual winner announcement and celebration of the Aspen Words Literary Prize on April 16, the nonprofit announced Monday.

The $35,000 annual award goes to a work of fiction that illuminates vital contemporary issues. The celebration will include video content premiering across Aspen Words’ and the Aspen Institute’s social platforms and websites.

Some of the Aspen Words Literary Prize judges, including Esmeralda Santiago and Alexander Chee, will interview the finalist authors about their books and writing careers (7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Aspen Institute President Dan Porterfield and Aspen Words executive director Adrienne Brodeur will discuss the role of literature during this time of global pandemic (2 p.m.).

The celebration will culminate with the naming of the prize winner at 4 p.m..

In the weeks leading up to the announcement, Aspen Words has partnered with the Instagram account @fictionmatters to launch a reading challenge centered around the finalist titles. Aspen Words also will encourage readers to participate in the celebration on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using #AspenLitPrize.

Four novels and one short story collection are in the running for the 2020 award, to be presented in collaboration with media partner NPR Books: “Opioid, Indiana” by Brian Allen Carr (Soho Press); “Patsy” by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright); “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” by Christy Lefteri (Ballantine Books); “Lost Children Archive” by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf); and “Lot by Bryan Washington” (Riverhead Books).

This is the third year the Aspen Words Literary Prize will be conferred. For its first two years, the prize was awarded live at a ceremony at The Morgan Library in New York City. Mohsin Hamid received the inaugural award in April 2018 for “Exit West,” his novel about migration and refugees. Tayari Jones received the 2019 award for “An American Marriage,” her novel about wrongful incarceration.

Aspen Words decided to take the 2020 winner announcement online due to safety concerns about COVID-19.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to reimagine what a literary prize awards ceremony can look like and how we can engage with a wider audience,” Brodeur said in the announcement. “We believe even though everyone is social distancing, it’s still possible to have a collective moment of connection and celebration through great literature. Our team looks forward to sparking thought-provoking conversations about the finalist books.”