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Stanford Report, April 17, 2002

University jointly sponsors new Saroyan Writing Prize to honor emerging authors

Stanford University Libraries, in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, announced today the launch of the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing ("Saroyan Writing Prize") for newly published works of fiction including novels, short stories, dramas or memoirs. The Saroyan Writing Prize, which is planned as a biennial event, is meant to encourage new or emerging writers rather than recognize established literary figures.

Entries competing for the Saroyan Writing Prize will be received from April 17, 2002, through January 31, 2003, at the Stanford University Libraries. Entries are limited to works published in English in book form and available for purchase by the general public. The winner will be awarded a prize in the amount of $12,500. Finalists and the prizewinner will be notified by mail and announced publicly at an official award ceremony in late spring 2003. The official entry form and rules are available at

Stanford University Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation have established the Saroyan Writing Prize Committee, which will administer all nominations. In addition, a group of distinguished judges will be responsible for reviewing qualified entrants, nominating finalists and recommending the Saroyan Writing Prize winner.

Because of its criteria and focus, the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing hopes over time to join the ranks of other notable literary awards/prizes such as the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, Wallace Stegner Award, PEN/Faulkner Prize for Fiction, PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction, National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

"We see the Saroyan Writing Prize as an integral activity in our custodianship of the Saroyan archive," said Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian. "We remain deeply engaged with the literary arts as well as the medium of the book. The proper role of research libraries is not merely to build, preserve and provide navigation for its published and archival collections, but also to present and promote -- 'push' in the idiom of information technology -- the resources and points of view manifest in those collections. The prize is another way to focus on writing in general and Saroyan's writing in particular."

"William Saroyan committed his entire life to writing, and his work produced internationally acclaimed books and plays," said Robert Setrakian, chairman of the William Saroyan Foundation. "It was Saroyan's desire to establish a writing prize to encourage and perpetuate the art he so loved, so it is only fitting that the Writing Prize be launched during the first William Saroyan Festival." The festival continues in Fresno, Calif., through May 5 (see for details). "Saroyan remains one of Fresno's most beloved sons, having given the literary world a unique, rich perspective of Central California and its inhabitants during his creative years of writing," Setrakian said.

Saroyan, an American writer and playwright, was a Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winner best known for his humorous short stories about the experiences of immigrant families and children in California. Much of Saroyan's other work is clearly autobiographical, although similar in style and technique to fiction. The fourth child of Armenian immigrants, Saroyan battled his way through poverty and rose to literary prominence in the early 1930s when national magazines began publishing his short stories, including The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, My Name Is Aram, Inhale & Exhale, Three Times Three and Peace, It's Wonderful. He moved on to writing plays for Broadway and screenplays for Hollywood. Some of his most notable works include My Heart's in the Highlands, The Time of Your Life, The Beautiful People and his silver screen adaptation of The Human Comedy.

Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources supports the teaching, learning and research mandates of the university through delivery of bibliographic and other information resources and services to faculty, students and staff. It is tackling the challenges of the digital age while continuing the development, preservation and conservation of its extensive print, media and manuscript collections.

The William Saroyan Foundation officially was founded by the author on Dec. 30, 1966. Since then, distinguished professors, business executives and high-ranking government officials have accepted appointments to the foundation's board of trustees. Commencing in 1990, the trustees set a goal of bringing together into one single archive Saroyan's entire literary estate. A decision finally was made by the trustees to offer Stanford the assembled Saroyan Literary Collection with provisions that would safeguard one of the rare treasure-troves in American literature in perpetuity to carry on the legacy of Fresno's own native son, William Saroyan.

During his career, writer and playwright William Saroyan won both a Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award. University Libraries hold the Saroyan Literary Collection and have helped launch a new writing prize in his name. Photo courtesy Special Collections, University Libraries