Cathy Park

Eight writers on the Windham Campbell Prize

Eight (8) writers from diverse backgrounds have been announced as winners of this year’s Windham-Campbell prizes.

Recipients of this year’s award include: Lorna Goodison (Jamaica) and Cathy Park Hong (US), in the poetry category; Olivia Laing (UK) and Sarah Bakewell (UK), in the nonfiction category; Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda/UK) and John Keene (US), in the fiction category; and, Suzan-Lori Parks (US) and Lucas Hnath (US), in the drama category.

Each winner will receive the prize money of $165,000 which will be awarded at an international literary festival at Yale University September 12-14 this year.

The Windham-Campbell Literature Prize was established by Donald Windham in memory of his lifelong partner, Sandy Campbell, with whom they both shared an interest in writing, publishing and the promotion of literature. The first prizes were announced in 2013 at Yale University where the award is seated.

Among past winners of the Windham-Campbell award are: Jonny Steinberg (2013), Zoë Wicomb (2013), Noëlle Janaczewska (2014), Aminatta Forna (2014), Nadeem Aslam (2014), Helon Habila (2015), Teju Cole (2015), Helen Edmundson (2015), Jerry Pinto (2016), Abbie Spallen (2016), Ali Cobby Eckermann (2017), Erna Brodber (2017), Carolyn Forché (2017), Ike Holter (2017).

Speaking about her award, author of the novel Kintu, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi said, “This prize for me is like having been working without pay for a long time and then someone comes along and says, ‘Will a salary for the past ten years do?’ Then you’re left speechless.” She also spoke about how her novel was rejected by British publishers who considered the work ‘too African’. Kintu is her debut.

Olivia Laing spoke about her win: “I barely have words to express how thrilled I am: it means a great deal to have my work, which is so much about transgression and difficult feelings, recognized in this way. I’m also intensely moved to be a recipient of a prize that honors the loving queer relationship between Donald Windham and Sandy Campbell.”

American poet and teacher, Cathy Park Hong said: “The Windham-Campbell Prize is an extraordinary gift. I’ve always struggled to find pockets of time to write—before class, early morning before my daughter wakes up, during weekends. But now, I have the opportunity to write as if I have all the time in the world.”

Director of the Windham-Campbell prizes, Michael Kelleher said: “The day I make the call to notify award recipients is the highlight of the year, as each cycle I hear how much of a difference it will make for them”. “Six years on, we can now to see the impact the prizes have on these writers’ lives, careers, and their work. The feeling is magical.”

Integral to the Windham-Campbell award is the statement that, “The mission of the prizes is to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.”

The prizes are judged anonymously, as prizewinners are nominated without their knowing until final announcement.