Interview: Al Woodworth on the 2022 Amazon Literary Partnership Grants

In News by Porter Anderson

The Amazon Literary Partnership—in the States since 2009 and in the UK since 2019—funds writer- and diversity-supportive programs.

Al Woodworth. Image: Amazon Literary Partnership

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

This Year’s Grants Awarded to 74 Organizations
Readers of Publishing Perspectives are familiar with the Amazon Literary Partnership program, which annually awards grants to nonprofit literary organizations in the United States. There’s also a parallel, younger program in the United Kingdom, and on June 30, Amazon UK announced its 28 recipients, several of them known to our readership including the Society of Authors, the Scottish Book Trust, the National Centre for Writing in Norwich, and English PEN.

Today’s (July 19) listing of US award recipients of more than US$1 million in overall grants comprises 74 literary nonprofit companies in the United States. The partnership program is designed expressly to offer funding support, as its descriptive text puts it with writers and diversity in the lead: “to empower diverse, marginalized, and underrepresented voices, helping writers to create, publish, learn, teach, experiment, and thrive in 2022 and beyond.”

Included in this year’s list are 10 first-time grant recipient organizations. And for a fourth time, there are two major groups receiving grants of US$140,000 each with which they’ll create sub-grants for “literary organizations supporting poetry groups and literary magazines.” One of these major recipients is the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), which itself has just announced three prominent publishing players it will honor in November. The other is the Academy of American Poets.

Since the Amazon’s program was begun in 2009—then under the direction of Jon Fine—it has disbursed some $15 million on grants. After Fine’s departure from Amazon, Neal Thompson oversaw the program’s work for several years before Alexandra “Al” Woodworth was named to manage the Amazon Literary Partnership in 2019.

Personable and committed, Woodworth has given Publishing Perspectives her input on the 2022 list of awardees, saying, “As always, the Amazon Literary Partnership is excited and humbled by the vital work these organizations do on behalf of writers. We believe in supporting not just previous grant recipients, but also new organizations that are pushing boundaries and making an impact in the communities they serve.”

This year’s grant awardees, all told, operate in at least 30 of the 50 American states. The number of new recipients on the list below will be effectively tripled, when the 10 new recipients now on the list are joined by 20 more chosen by those two larger groups, CLMP and the Academy of American Poets.

Woodworth points to some of the new grant recipients among the 10 she has announced today for this year:

  • Arte Publico Press is based in Houston and specializes in contemporary and recovered literature by US Hispanic authors.
  • Based in Baltimore, CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth is literary arts organization “founded on the belief that kids’ voices matter.” The program works to give young people “the skills of successful writers and create opportunities to amplify their own voices.”
  • Georgia Writers Association’s John Lewis Writing Grants, inspired by the late civil rights icon, awarded annually in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The purpose of these grants is to “elevate, encourage, and inspire voices of Black writers in Georgia.”
  • And Minnesota’s VONA—Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation—is the “premiere multigenre workshop for BIPOC Writers” [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color]
Woodworth: ‘Amazing To Watch so Many Programs Grow’

One of the familiar organizations on the list is the Aspen Institute‘s Aspen Words program which, under Adrienne Brodeur‘s direction, awards the Aspen Words Literary Prize, well known to Publishing Perspectives’ international audience as an award regime dedicated to serious issue-driven literature.

“We’re committed to supporting these vital organizations that are not only pillars in their communities but also serve the landscape of literature at large.Al Woodworth, Amazon Literary Partnerships

“We’re thrilled to support many returning recipients,” Woodworth says. “It’s been amazing to watch so many of these programs grow, expand, and change the course of so many writers’ lives.

“We’ve been the sole supporter of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35″ program [for younger authors] for more than a decade now,” she says. “It’s such a terrific program that celebrates five debut fiction writers annually—and the honorees are truly leaving a lasting impression on the literary landscape.

“Previous honorees, including Brit Bennett, Charles Yu, Bryan Washington, Karen Russell, and Phil Klay, have become bestselling authors, MacArthur ‘genius grant’ fellows, the winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, and have been contenders for the Pulitzer Prize, PEN/Faulkner Awards, Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and more. We can’t wait to continue to read the work of this year’s fellows—Alexandra Chang, Joseph Han, Crystal Hana Kim, Clare Sestanovich, and Alyssa Songsiridej.

“Another organization we’ve supported for more than a decade, “Woodworth says, “is National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. Over the years, the program has continued to reach more and more writers—all over the country and [in many parts of] the world.” 

“We work with the Academy of American Poets, but we also support their Poem-A-Day program, which is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring annually more than 250 new, previously unpublished poems by today’s talented poets. It’s a joy to wake up and read a poem or listen to one. Since its inception, Poem-A-Day has grown to 320,000 subscribers.”

Woodworth points out that so many organizations have had to “pivot and adjust their programming in light of COVID-19, and it’s inspiring to see how organizations have evolved and become even more focused on the communities they serve. House of Speakeasy’s Book Mobile is a great example of this.”

Paul Morris, the House of Speakeasy executive director, Woodworth says, has told her that its grants in the past four years have allowed the program to give away new books regularly in “book deserts” in parts of New York City and in 18 other cities the program went to in 2019. And during the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Morris said, an increased level of funding from the Amazon program supported the program’s ability to get free books, book bags, and school supplies to students and families hard hit by the virus’ outbreaks.”

Explaining the Mission

While it’s perfectly clear when you read or hear it, that focus on diversity and service to writers isn’t always immediately clear to some who look at the Amazon Literary Partnership’s list each year for the first time and see such familiar players as Words Without Borders (with its newly activated site) and PEN America and the translation publisher Deep Vellum.

We ask Woodworth if it’s ever difficult helping people—inside the industry or outside—understand the mission of the grants program she directs.

“We’re committed to supporting these vital organizations,” she says, “that are not only pillars in their communities but also serve the landscape of literature at large. We know it takes a village to raise a writer, so to speak—from children’s programs to workshops and residency programs, to the literary magazines and small presses that publish and pay authors for their work, to the speaking venues and award programs that help share their work with their readers—all of these organizations help writers thrive over the entire journey of their career. We’re honored to provide this funding.

“Over the years, we’ve received more applications and we’re excited to see all the amazing work that organizations are doing on behalf of writers, and especially those focused on underrepresented and marginalized voices.”

Here’s the list of US-based organizations awarding grants this year from the Amazon Literary Partnership, and we’ll follow that with the UK list. Again, you can find out more about the American program here, and more about the recently awarded UK beneficiaries here.

2022 Amazon Literary Partnership US Grants

In our list of Amazon Library Partnership grants for this year, an asterisk refers to a first-time beneficiary.

  • 826 New Orleans* (LA)
  • 826 Valencia (CA)
  • 826DC (DC)
  • 826NYC (NY)
  • Academy of American Poets (NY)
  • Archipelago Books (NY)
  • Art Omi (NY)
  • Arte Publico Press* (TX)
  • Asian American Writers’ Workshop (NY)
  • ASJA, American Society of Journalists and Authors (NY)
  • Aspen Words (CO)
  • Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) (MD)
  • Brooklyn Book Festival (NY)
  • Center for the Art of Translation (CA)
  • Centrum (WA)
  • CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth*(MD)
  • Chicago Humanities Festival (IL)
  • City of Asylum (PA)
  • CityLit Project (MD)
  • Clarion West (WA)
  • Coffee House Press (MN)
  • Community of Literary Magazine and Presses (CLMP) (NY)
  • Community-Word Project (NY)
  • Creative Writing Program, University of Washington (WA)
  • Deep Vellum (TX)
  • Empowering Latino Futures (CA)
  • Georgia Writers Association* (GA)
  • Girls Write Now (NY)
  • Graywolf Press (MN)
  • Hedgebrook (WA)
  • Heyday (CA)
  • Highlights Foundation, Inc.* (PA)
  • House of SpeakEasy Foundation (NY)
  • Hub City Press (SC)
  • Hugo House (WA)
  • Humanities Washington (WA)
  • Hurston/Wright Foundation (DC)
  • Indiana Writers Center (IN)
  • Kundiman (NY)
  • Lambda Literary (NY)
  • Lighthouse Writers Workshop (CO)
  • Literary Freedom Project* (NY)
  • LitNet (NY)
  • The Loft Literary Center (MN)
  • MacDowell (NY)
  • Milkweed Editions (MN)
  • Narrative 4 (N4) (NY)
  • National Book Foundation (NY)
  • National Novel Writing Month (CA)
  • PEN America (NY)
  • Poets & Writers, Inc. (NY)
  • Red Hen Press* (CA)
  • Restless Books (NY)
  • Roots. Wounds. Words (NY)
  • Seattle Arts & Lectures (WA)
  • Seattle City of Literature (WA)
  • Seattle Escribe* (WA)
  • Shout Mouse Press (DC)
  • The Cabin (ID)
  • The Center for Black Literature (NY)
  • The Center for Fiction (NY)
  • The Moth (NY)
  • The Telling Room (ME)
  • Torch Literary Arts* (TX)
  • Torrey House Press (UT)
  • Town Hall Seattle (WA)
  • Transit Books (CA)
  • Turtle Point Press (NY)
  • Ucross Foundation (WY)
  • Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA)* (FL)
  • Words Without Borders (NY)
  • WriteGirl (CA)
  • Writers in the Schools (WITS) for Houston (TX)
  • Yaddo (NY)
2022 Amazon Literary Partnership UK Grants
  • Africa Writes (Royal African Society)
  • Arkbound Foundation
  • ArtfulScribe
  • Arvon
  • Comma Press
  • Creative Future
  • Edinburgh World City of Literature Trust
  • English PEN
  • Fighting Words Northern Ireland
  • First Story
  • Hosking Houses Trust
  • Kernow Education Arts Partnership
  • Literacy Pirates
  • Literature Works
  • Ministry of Stories
  • National Centre for Writing
  • New Writing North
  • New Writing South
  • Papatango Theatre Company Ltd
  • Royal Society of Literature
  • Scottish Book Trust
  • Serendipity (Serendipity Artists Movement Ltd.)
  • Super Power Agency
  • The Literature Prize Foundation
  • The Margate Bookie
  • The Society of Authors
  • The Writers’ Summer School
  • Writing East Midlands

More from Publishing Perspectives on Amazon is here, more on the Amazon Literary Partnership program is here, and more on issues around the work of authors 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 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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.