Monday, April 09, 2007


Prizes and Awards give value to works – value beyond that which we assign to it or that which Amazon statistics and royalty statements assign.

The Pritzker Prize is given annually to architects. It is an international prize.

Specifically, "The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture."

Winners have included Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Robert Venturi, Rem Koolhaas, Thom Mayne and this year's Richard Rogers. A Pritzker not only recognizes staggering talent, but human qualities.

In 1974 Avery Fisher established Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Artist Program, which includes the Avery Fisher Prize and Avery Fisher Career Grants to give outstanding musicians significant recognition. The program is recognized as one of the most prestigious in the music world.

This year's winner is violinist Joshua Bell. (See Miss Snark's blog for an outstanding story about Joshua Bell.)

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation annually awards fellowships – commonly referred to as "Genius Grants" to all sorts of folks in the United States of America.

Specifically, "The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work."

Recent winners have included:

Mattias Zaldarriaga, Cosmologist analyzing faint signatures of the Big Bang and developing valuable interpretive tools to piece together the early history of the cosmos.

Edith Widder, Deep-Sea Explorer inventing technologically innovative, unique devices for observing and collecting data from the ocean’s depths to reverse the worldwide trend of marine ecosystem degradation.

Terrence Tao, Mathematician bringing technical brilliance and profound insight to a host of seemingly intractable problems in such areas as partial differential equations, harmonic analysis, combinatorics, and number theory.

George Saunders, Short Story Writer satirizing and humanizing the moral dilemmas faced by Americans in the twenty-first century.

Oh, wait a minute – a writer! George Saunders is a writer!

Yes, writers are eligible for some of the most prestigious prizes in the world. These prizes are career-makers and guarantee the recipient fame and fortune. Specifically, the Pulitzer Prize includes a Gold Medal in the Public Service category and cash awards of $10,000. The Nobel Prize in Literature includes ten million Swedish kronor (about $1,437,000.00.) Mac Arthur Fellowships are $75,000 in unrestricted funds. The Pritzker Architecture Prize includes a Bronze Medallion and $100,000!

Okay, there are some pretty big prizes out there. There are prizes which include publication and a tee shirt, too. Some prizes you can be nominated for (the Derringers for short mystery & crime stories, for example) and some which have selection committees you never see (the Nobel is one of these.) Some writing prizes are genre-specific, like the Hugo and Nebula Awards for science fiction, the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Silver Daggers for mystery, the RITA & Golden Heart and RNA awards for romances, the Spur for westerns, and the Newbery and Caldecott for childrens' literature.

Some prizes, like the James Tiptree, jr. Award, which is presented annually to a work that explores and expands gender roles in science fiction and fantasy, are even more specific.

Of course, the Man Booker Prize has for thirty-nine years been one of the most prestigious prizes for authors of literary fiction. Restricted to authors of the British Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe, US citizen authors are ineligible for the Booker Prize and its 50,000 pounds sterling cash award.

Every piece you write and submit has the potential to be a prize winner. Whether you write novels, short stories, plays, poetry or non-fiction, there is a prize committee out there waiting to see your work. You can be the best in your field or the best in your genre of the best in your town. Never forget that you can be the best for that one shining moment, and that every work of yours can be the one that gets the blue ribbon.

I have never won a major prize for anything, but I did get nominated twice (years ago) for a Derringer. The new short list for the Derringer was announced yesterday and although my eligible story did not make the cut, I am delighted to see the names of many of my friends and acquaintances. I will vote with pleasure for my favorites.

Let me see your name on the short lists next time. Write the best you can each time. Strive for improvement in your craft and polish those gems until they shine. Then submit – you can't get published if you don't submit.


The desert garden in bloom – the new grevilia and the baby-blue feathered rosemary at the end of the drive.

The new elliptical trainer – it hurts, but is so good for me. I am strengthening my left side daily – in very small doses at first.

A small falcon on my fence. The cats were surprised and alarmed.


Bernita said...

"Write the best you can each time."
Yes. Prizes are frosting, not the cake.

Anonymous said...

FYI The Pritzker comes with a $100,000 prize.

Kate Thornton said...

Bernita - love that frosting!

Anonymous - thank you - I had heard that it did, but their website makes no mention of it! And $100,000 is nothing to sneeze at! (I live near a work of archictectural art by Thom Mayne, a recent Pritzker winner)

Susan Flemming said...

Hello Kate,

I just discovered your blog recently from a link in your signature on AW.

It must have been fun to be nominated for the Derringer. That's an award, along with a couple of others that I hadn't heard about.

And you're right... the Joshua Bell story was an interesting read.

Also... the Three Beautiful Things you post at the bottom of each blog entry... what a wonderful reminder to look for the beauty in life.

Fred Charles said...

Hi Kate, Fred Charles here. I'm adding you to my blog roll.

Kate Thornton said...

Thank you Susan - I hope you visit often!

And Fred, what a pleasure to see you! Thank you very much!

Sandie said...


I read your blog, Awsome!
LOVE your house!! One of my bestest ever memories is TEA with you at H.G.!! AND those paintings, gardens, & old books! The best!!

Wonderful to reconnect!
Miss you! .. Email me!
Sandie (of JG)