Honoring Literary Excellence: The Kirkwood Luncheon at UCLA’s Luskin Conference Center 2023

In an exquisite gathering of literary minds, the Kirkwood Luncheon at the Plateia in the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA unfolded as a celebration of talent and dedication. The event, which honored the recipients of the prestigious Kirkwood Award, bore witness to an illustrious assembly, including benefactor and award founder Andrew Morse, UCLA Exchange Writers’ Program luminaries like Professor Paul Mandelbaum and veteran instructor Lou Matthews, along with notable personalities such as Stephan Mucher, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, and former Kirkwood Recipient Darri Farr.

The Essence of Kirkwood Award

Named in memory of the multifaceted James Kirkwood, the Kirkwood Award stands as a beacon for fiction writers who embody the spirit of literary excellence. James Kirkwood, a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, author, and actor, left an indelible mark on the world of literature. His legacy lives on through this award, which was established by friends and admirers to honor new generations of fiction writers.

Andrew Morse, the award’s founder and benefactor, shared insights into Kirkwood’s challenging life, stating, “He lived a hard life, his parents were silent film actors, and he didn’t have it easy.” This acknowledgment underscores the profound impact that Kirkwood’s life experiences had on his artistic endeavors.

The Culmination of Excellence: Award Recipients

The highlight of the luncheon was the recognition of the award recipients. Nadine Perez Fox claimed the coveted First Place, receiving a $10,000 prize for her piece “Dangerous Things,” a film noir tale of a woman’s first acting gig in an unsolved murder case, nominated by Professor Instructor Paul Mandelbaum. Stephan Lee secured Second Place and a $5,000 prize for his work “Must Be Nice,” a love poem to his Halmuhnee (“grandmother” in Korean) from the Master Class in Novel Writing. Katie Knight clinched Third Place, earning $2,500 for her piece “Rules for Video Games,” a story revolving around a family spending time at their summer house at risk of falling into the ocean due to erosion, nominated by Wendy Oleson.

Notable Mention

Semifinalists included Kerri Brady Long, nominated by Ron Darian; Claudia Dibbs, nominated by Wendy Oleson; Ozge Gunday, nominated by Ben Loory; Ken Luer, Master Class in Novel Writing.

Other nominees included Angela Acuna, nominated by Ploi Pirapokin; Tom Albanese, nominated by Jessica Barksdale Inclan; Kayla Al-Shamma-Jones, Master Class in Novel Writing; Victoria Ballesteros, nominated by Wally Rudolph; Divya Grace Benjamin, nominated by Wally Rudolph; Jessica Boone, nominated by Caroline Leavitt; Gabino Cabanilla, nominated by Ploi Pirapokin; Julz Cloutier, nominated by Tempany Deckert; Taylor Cook, nominated by Lou Mathews

Amanda Eberhardt, nominated by Sehba Sarwar; Michael Fisher, nominated by Merrill Feitell; Nadine Perez Fox, nominated by Lou Mathews; Matt Garabedian, nominated by Kris Neri; Sheila; García Mazari, nominated by Malia Marquez; Danielle Goudeau, nominated by Henry Lien; Stephanie Harmon, nominated by Tempany Deckert; Pepe Hernandez, nominated by Paul Mandelbaum; Mark Hünken, nominated by Robert Eversz; Jackson Carwile, nominated by Caroline Leavitt; Jungin Angie Lee, nominated by Colette Sartor; Sondra Mayer, nominated by Radhika Sharma; Alexandra Moreno, nominated by Mark Sarvas; Julia Morris, nominated by Mark Sarvas; Peter Nowalk, Master Class in Novel Writing; Karen Perkins, nominated by Robert Eversz; Victoria Pynchon, Master Class in Novel Writing; Caitlin Quinn, nominated by Ben Loory; Iraj Isaac Rahmim, Master Class in Novel Writing; Lisanne Sartor, nominated by Colette Sartor; Phylise Smith, nominated by Mark Sarvas; Stacy Suaya, nominated by Henry Lien; RJ Szuba, nominated by Merrill Feitell; David Wengertsman, nominated by Malia Marquez; C. Denney Wiegand, nominated by Robert Eversz; and Katie York, nominated by Kris Neri.

A Gourmet Affair: Luncheon Delicacies

Amidst the celebration of literary achievements, attendees were treated to a gastronomic delight. The luncheon menu featured a delectable gem salad, Atlantic cod, lentil soup, and Margherita pizza, providing a feast for the senses that complemented the intellectual feast of the event.

A Legacy Continues: The Kirkwood Prize’s Enduring Impact

As the luncheon unfolded, the resonance of James Kirkwood’s legacy was palpable. His contributions to literature, coupled with the continued success of the Kirkwood Award, exemplify the enduring impact of his life and work. The spirit of camaraderie and celebration that permeated the event echoed Morse’s sentiments, affirming that Kirkwood would be pleased to be remembered in such a manner.

In closing, the Kirkwood Luncheon stands as a testament to the power of storytelling and the importance of recognizing and celebrating the literary voices that shape our world. As the legacy of James Kirkwood lives on through the award and its recipients, it becomes clear that the journey of a writer is not solitary but a collective endeavor marked by support, recognition, and the shared passion for the written word.

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