The James Kirkwood Literary Prize is named for the late Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning author James Kirkwood, one of the Writers’ Program’s most illustrious students. Mr. Kirkwood recounted the moment his life turned around when his Writers’ Program instructor, the late Robert Kirsch, prefaced his critique by saying: “This week I suddenly realized why I teach: because once in a blue moon someone turns in something so original, so — I’m going to say it — brilliant, that it makes it all worthwhile. Now, who in this class is named Kirkwood?”
According to Andrew Morse, the award’s founder and benefactor, Mr. Kirkwood quickly abandoned his mediocre Hollywood acting career for a life devoted to writing, which was his “absolute joy.” In Kirkwood’s memory, his friends and admirers established the James Kirkwood Prize to honor new generations of Writers’ Program fiction writers for their literary achievements.
Each year, instructors who have taught intermediate and advanced-level courses are invited to nominate their outstanding students who are then asked to submit 10-20 pages for consideration. The semi-finalists and finalists are determined by selected Writers’ Program instructors, and the winner is determined by Andrew Morse, the prize’s benefactor. The three finalists, who are named in the fall, receive cash prizes ($1,000 First Place, $600 Second Place, and $400 Third Place) and are honored at a luncheon attended by Mr. Morse, the nominating instructors, judges, and Writers’ Program staff.
For a list of all of the 2015 Kirkwood nominees, click here.
For a list of all previous Kirkwood Award winners dating back to 1991, click here.