Aspen Words held its Literary Prize Ceremony at the Morgan Library, one of New York's historic sites on April 10, 2018. The Morgan Library was a perfect venue for this lovely evening of celebration welcoming it members, writers, literary agents, editors, publishers, etc., supporting the mission of the organization. At the reception, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with one of the notable judges, Phil Klay, 2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER, FICTION, for his New York Times-bestselling short story collection.
Aspen Words is Colorado's oldest literary organization, dedicated to encouraging writers, inspiring readers, and connecting people through the power of stories.
Elliot Gerson, Executive Vice President of the Aspen Institute, gave a gracious speech on how this program was founded and developed over the years. The institute was founded by Walter Paepcke, a U.S. industrialist and philanthropist who wanted to create an organization with its founding spirit firmly rooted in humanities- to illuminate critical social issues through literature. The newly-elected President & CEO, Dan Porterfield, also gave a speech thanking its team including Adrienne Brodeur, Jamie Kravitz, the doners, the judges, the authors and their brilliant works.
The Aspen Words Literary Prize (AWLP), a $35,000 annual award, is given to an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.
The power of storytelling through a book can engage readers with a societal problem that directly or indirectly affects them in life. The issues can vary from socioeconomic inequality, environmental degradation, immigration, racial inequality, violence and war, gender inequality, mental illness, and political identity but not limited to.
A small book can transform the life of an individual as it did for me. And sometimes, its very existence can change the world or bring about progress and changes in human history.
This year's award went to "Exit West", a fiction written by Moshin Hamid. It is a fiction about two young people in a country teetering on the brink of civil war. It is a story of unforgettable love, loyalty and courage. Mohsin Hamid is the internationally bestselling author of “Exit West,” “Moth Smoke,” “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,“ “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” and “Discontent and its Civilizations.” His award-winning novels have been adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into more than thirty languages.
Bringing books like "Exit West" into the world takes a village—literary agents, editors, publicists, marketing teams, booksellers and readers. And Aspen Words definitely plays a key role in encouraging writers and shining light on current critical issues in our society.
More info on the organization can be found at: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/
Editor in chief: Christine Lee Photo credit: Aspen Words