Yale Awards $1.2 Million in Literary Prizes

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New Haven » Yale University awarded $1.2 million in literary prizes Friday, including honors to a playwright who illuminates poverty and an investigative journalist who highlights the environment.

Yale handed out Windham Campbell Prizes to eight writers, each who will receive $150,000: three dramatists, three fiction writers and two nonfiction writers. All will come to New Haven this fall for an awards ceremony and a campus literary festival.

"The Windham Campbell Prizes call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns," said Michael Kelleher, program director for the prizes. The awards go to English- language writers who have had one book published or one professionally produced play.

This year's winners are fiction writers Aminatta Forna, Nadeem Aslam and Jim Crace; nonfiction writers Pankaj Mishra and John Vaillant; and playwrights Kia Corthron, Sam Holcroft and Noelle Janaczewska. They represent seven countries, including the United States.

Kelleher had the task of contacting all eight recently to tell them they'd won. He said the reactions ranged from tears to one winner who had thought Kelleher's messages were an Internet scam.

"People's emotions were very powerful," Kelleher said.

Yale President Peter Salovey, who announced the winners and provided a brief biography of each, recalled the excitement on campus last year during the first Windham Campbell literary festival.

"By establishing the prizes at Yale, Donald Windham knew that he was placing them in the care of a friend who shared his concerns that writers be supported and that their achievements not go unrecognized," Salovey said. …