Apr 23, 2013  |  NYC.gov

Mayor Bloomberg today announced the winners of New York City's second annual literary awards. The NYC Literary Honors aim to highlight the important role of authors and scholars who have demonstrated a lifetime of achievement and for whom New York has been a central inspiration.

The Literary Honors celebrate the role that great words and great works play in the City's cultural life as well as the role the publishing industry plays in the City's economy. Mayor Bloomberg presented the 2013 Literary Honors, in a ceremony at Gracie Mansion, to Toni Morrison for Fiction, Calvin Trillin for Non-fiction, Jon Scieszka for Children’s Literature, John Ashbery for Poetry, Jules Feiffer for Humor, Morton Janklow and Lynn Nesbit for Literary Life, and Alice Markham-Cantor for Student Writer. The 2013 NYC Literary Honors awards were underwritten through a generous donation from Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

"We created the NYC Literary Honors to underline the important role great words and great works play in New York City's cultural fabric," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Those who give us the very best of language – the authors, writers, poets and scholars – deserve our gratitude, our support and recognition."

"Writers in all five boroughs inspire and educate us, while publishers, editors and agents enable them to connect with readers around the world," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin. "I'm thrilled for this opportunity to recognize some of the remarkable individuals whose literary contributions help make New York so extraordinary."

The nominating committee included Commissioner Levin, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the heads of the City's library systems. The ceremony featured a reading by each award winner.

The Mayor also mentioned the 2013 Global Partners Junior Creative Writing Contest, a writing contest for Global Partners Junior students. Global Partners Junior is an award-winning student exchange program that connects New York City youth to their peers around the world through the internet. Students must submit an original fictional short story that takes place in a New York City neighborhood – anywhere throughout the five boroughs. Stories should highlight the NYC setting and include a character that is a either a foreign tourist or a new immigrant living in New York. First place winners will receive laptops; second place winners will receive tablet computers; third place winners will receive e-readers. Award winners will be celebrated at local ceremonies and have their work showcased at the Brooklyn Book Festival, an international book festival that brings together writers and readers of all ages. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/globalpartners/youth.

2013 Literary Honors Awardees

Toni Morrison – Fiction

Toni Morrison is recognized as one of the most influential writers in American literature. In 1993, she was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her ten major novels—The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, Love, A Mercy and Home—have earned extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. In 2006, Beloved was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as the best work of American fiction published in the last quarter century.

She is the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emerita, at Princeton University. She was appointed the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the spring of 1989 and held the post until 2006. Prior to her appointment at Princeton, she held the Schweitzer Chair at SUNY Albany, and was a senior editor at Random House for 20 years.

Ms. Morrison is a trustee of the New York Public Library and a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a member of Cities of Refuge North America and the Author's Guild, where she served on the Guild Council and as foundation treasurer. She served on the NEA National Council of the Arts for six years.

She has degrees from Howard University and Cornell University and honorary degrees from numerous other institutions, including the University of Oxford and the Sorbonne.

Calvin Trillin – Non-fiction

Calvin Trillin was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and currently lives in New York City. He graduated from Yale in 1957, did a hitch in the Army, and then joined Time. After a year covering the South from the Atlanta bureau, he became a writer for Time in New York.

In 1963, he became a staff writer for The New Yorker and from 1967 to 1982, he produced a highly praised series of articles for The New Yorker called ""U. S. Journal." From 1978 through 1985, he was a columnist for The Nation, writing what USA Today called "simply the funniest regular column in journalism." From 1996 to 2001, he wrote a column for Time. His columns have been collected in five books.

Since 1990, Mr. Trillin has written a piece of comic verse weekly for The Nation. His books have included memoirs, comic novels, a collection of murder pieces from The New Yorker, and an account of the desegregation of the University of Georgia. Three of his antic books on eating were compiled in 1994 into a single volume called The Tummy Trilogy.

He has been a trustee of the New York Public Library and of Yale University and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

John Ashbery – Poetry

John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927. He earned degrees from Harvard and Columbia, and went to France as a Fulbright Scholar in 1955, living there for much of the next decade. His many collections of poetry include Quick Question (2012), Planisphere (2009) and Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems (2007), which was awarded the 2008 International Griffin Poetry Prize. Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) won the three major American prizes – the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award – and an early book, Some Trees (1956), was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series.

The Library of America published the first volume of his collected poems in 2008. He has published numerous translations from the French, including works by Pierre Reverdy, Arthur Rimbaud, Raymond Roussel, and several collections of poems by Pierre Martory. Active in various areas of the arts throughout his career, he has served as Executive Editor of ARTnews and as an art critic for New York Magazine and Newsweek; he exhibits his collages at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery (New York). He taught for many years at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and Bard College, and in 1989-90 delivered the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard.

Mr. Ashbery has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and was a MacArthur Fellow from 1985 to 1990; most recently, he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation (2011) and a National Humanities Medal, presented by President Obama at the White House (2012).

Jules Feiffer – Humor

Jules Feiffer began a career as a cartoonist-writer at The Village Voice in 1965, and later contributed to Playboy, Esquire, The New Yorker, and other publications, that influenced more than two generations of cartoonists, and radically shifted reader's expectations of what to expect in a comic strip. Mr. Feiffer satirized the shifting mores and anxieties of a fast-changing society with subjects including Cold War America, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Revolution, and men and women on the run, toward and away from each other.

He won, among other awards, a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1986. His plays, Little Murders and The White House Murder Case, won Obies and Outer Critics Circle Awards and his animated cartoon, Munro, won an Academy Award. He has written and illustrated many children's books; his first, The Phantom Tollbooth, which he illustrated for Norton Juster, is now considered a children's classic. His own first novel for children, The Man in the Ceiling, is currently being adapted by him and composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa into a Broadway musical. He has illustrated four children's books for his daughter Kate Feiffer, and in the spring of next year, will have a new picture book of his own, Rupert can Dance, a story of a dancing cat. In 2014 his first noir graphic novel, Kill My Mother, is scheduled for publication, as well as Out of Line, The Art of Jules Feiffer, from Abrams Art Books.

Mr. Feiffer has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from The National Cartoonist Society and the Writers Guild of America. He has been honored with retrospectives at The New York Historical Society, The Library of Congress, The School of Visual Arts, and the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. He is a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters and The Dramatists Guild Council, and is a visiting professor at Stony Brook Southampton College.

Jon Scieszka – Children’s Literature

Jon Scieszka was born in Flint, Michigan, the second oldest of six boys. After attending high school at Culver Military Academy, something he detailed in his autobiography, Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka, he earned his undergraduate degree from Albion College and his Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction from Brooklyn College and Columbia University.

He worked a series of odd jobs, including painting apartments all over the five boroughs, then taught elementary school in Manhattan. Mr. Scieszka started as a first grade assistant teacher, graduated to second grade homeroom teacher, and eventually taught sixth, seventh, and eighth grade history and mathematics. Drawing inspiration from his second graders, who were some of the most creative and honest readers he'd come across, Mr. Scieszka collaborated on his first book, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! with illustrator Lane Smith. The book became a modern classic and has been translated into 14 languages. It was noted by Publishers Weekly as one of the bestselling children's books of all-time, as was Mr. Scieszka's next award-winning collaboration with Mr. Smith, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.

Mr. Scieszka is the founder of Guys Read, a literacy initiative designed to inspire boys to read by connecting them with material they will want to read. He also oversees and edits the Guys Read Library of Great Reading, an ongoing collection of original short pieces, organized by topic, that includes some of the biggest names in children's literature.

In 2008, Mr. Scieszka was named the country's first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. His active two-year term ended in 2010, but he still enjoys making reservations as Ambassador Scieszka.

Morton Janklow and Lynn Nesbit – Literary Life

Morton Janklow was born in New York City in 1930 and graduated from Syracuse University in 1950. He earned his law degree from Columbia University in 1953, where he was awarded the Medal for Excellence, and after passing the bar that same year, became a corporate lawyer in New York. In 1972 he became a literary agent and quickly earned a reputation as a proponent for author’s rights in the publishing industry. In 1982 he founded the Morton L. Janklow Program for Advocacy in the Arts at Columbia University and later established the Morton L. Janklow Professorship of Literary and Artistic Property Law, which he also teaches.

Lynn Nesbit grew up in Dundee, Illinois, and graduated from Northwestern University in 1960 with a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from the College of Speech and Drama. She attended the Sorbonne from 1958–1959 and the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures course following graduation from Northwestern. In the fall of 1960, she joined the Sterling Lord Agency and in 1965 moved to create, and run for 23 years, the literary department for what later became International Creative Management. In 1991, Ms. Nesbit was a recipient of the Matrix Award, presented by New York Women in Communications, Inc. She received the Alumnae Award of 1994 from the Alumnae Board of Northwestern University. She has served on many prominent boards and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation.

Janklow and Nesbit Associates was founded in 1989 and is based in New York City. Mr. Janklow and Ms. Nesbit represent both fiction and nonfiction writers. Among their many distinguished clients are President Jimmy Carter, Henry Louis Gates, Anne Rice, the estate of Michael Crichton, and 2012 NYC Literary Honors awardee, Robert Caro.

Alice Markham-Cantor – Student Honor

Alice Markham-Cantor is a senior at the Beacon School, a public high school in Manhattan. She has won multiple writing awards through Scholastic's Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, including national recognition for her first novel in 2012. Her works have been published in YCTeen Magazine, Huffington Post and on AOL.com.

In addition, the Mayor will induct the second annual class of historic NYC Literary Legends, including:

  • Horatio Alger, Jr. (1832-1899)
  • James Baldwin (1924-1987)
  • Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
  • Damon Runyon (1880-1946)
  • Maurice Sendak (1928-2012)
  • Piri Thomas (1928-2011)
  • Kay Thompson (1909-1998)


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