Newberry Library Announces a $25,000 Chicago-Specific Book Award

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The new award, with its inaugural presentation set for next summer, is open to submissions both in fiction and nonfiction.

The facade of Chicago’s Newberry Library, founded in 1887. Image: Newberry Library

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Deadline for Submission: January 31
As many book and industry award programs as there are in world publishing, one approach seen less frequently has surfaced today (August 3) with the announcement that the Newberry Library and the Pattis Family Foundation are creating a book award for “published works that transform public understanding of Chicago, its history, and its people.”

While this new prize isn’t internationally positioned, it reflects a trend we tend to see in awards toward a broader base of eligible genres and formats. The eligibility guidelines say a title can be put forward “whether fiction or nonfiction,” as long as it “that promotes public understanding of Chicago,” is available for purchase by consumers either in hardcover or paperback.

Another example of this sort of range is the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize in Wales, which welcomes many formats, including “commercially published English language poetry, [a] collection of short fictional stories, fictional novel or novella, radio script or screenplay.”

And there’s a trend for this kind of range in such awards for younger writers, as well. The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year program in London, now associated with the Charlotte Aitken Trust, is available for submissions in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

What’s interesting about the city focus here is that it reflects a move in some markets toward a less centralized industry. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Manchester-based Portico Library Prize recognizes work about “Northern lives and landscape across fiction and nonfiction” in the UK as major players in publishing open new venues outside the traditional London hub of the industry. Publishing Perspectives readers will remember that HarperNorth is an example of this, based in Manchester.

“All subject areas, disciplines, and genres are eligible,” the guidelines read, “including but not limited to: history, biography, the social sciences, art, architecture, poetry, drama, graphic novels, or fiction.”

Along with a cash award of US$25,000, a winner will give a lecture or conversation followed by a private reception at the program’s award presentation, held at the Newberry. The first presentation is to be made in July. Books going into contention for that 2022 award will need a 2020 or 2021 publication date, and nominations can come from authors, publishers, or members of the public.

Daniel Greene

In a prepared statement, the Newberry Library’s president and librarian, Daniel Greene, is quoted, saying, “Our goal in this partnership with the Pattis Family Foundation is to bring attention to books that reflect the Newberry’s mission of supporting inquiry and learning across the humanities.

“The Newberry encourages all readers to use our collections and experience our programs and exhibitions.

“This book prize will embody the same openness and accessibility by considering a range of publications that help audiences see Chicago in new ways.”

And Lisa Pattis, who directs the foundation, talks in her remarks about partnering “with the Newberry to celebrate and honor a book annually that deepens the understanding and appreciation of Chicago, its history, and its people.

“We believe the Newberry, with its commitment to advancing the collective understanding of our city and its role in the world, is ideally situated to highlight exceptional books that help us understand Chicago from unique and different vantage points.

“We look forward to a long and productive partnership which will draw attention to the great work of the Newberry as well as the authors receiving the awards.”

The Newberry, founded in 1887, is a research and reference library created from a gift left by Chicago businessman Walter L. Newberry. Its collection comprises some 1.6 million books, 600,000 maps, and as many as 5 million manuscript pages, covering “six centuries of human history, from the Middle Ages to the present.

The renovated first floor of the Newberry Library features exhibition areas for the collections. Image: Newberry Library


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here, more on the United States’ market is here, and more from us on libraries is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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