"In the Distance" and "On Trails" win the 2018 Stanford Libraries’ William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Hernán Diaz and Robert Moor are the 2018 winners of the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.  The prize, established in 2003 by Stanford Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation, commemorates Saroyan’s life and legacy, and just as importantly, honors emerging authors who have found a distinctive creative voice. Diaz and Moor will each receive a $5,000 award.  

Diaz won in the fiction category for In the Distance (Coffee House Press), which follows a young Swedish immigrant who finds himself penniless and alone in California. In search of his brother, the boy travels east against the current of emigrants pushing west, meeting naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, swindlers, Indians, and lawmen. Diaz defies the conventions of historical fiction and genre, offering a probing look at the stereotypes that populate our past and a portrait of radical foreignness.

In an interview with Diaz about In the Distance, the online journal The Nation wrote, The prose is as unbroken as the horizon. . . . It’s as if Herman Melville had navigated the American West, instead of the ocean.”

Moor was inspired by a 2009 hike thru the Appalachian for his breakthrough book On Trails (Simon & Schuster), which claimed top seat in the nonfiction category.  Moor explores the paths that lie beneath our feet, shines a light on the many paths that connect our world, and illuminates the ways in which those paths guide our lives.

“On every scale of life,” Moor writes, “from microscopic cells to herds of elephants, creatures can be found relying on trails to reduce an overwhelming array of options to a single expeditious route. Without trails, we would be lost.”

Stanford’s Deputy University Librarian Mimi Calter, who also oversees the administration of the Saroyan Prize, was enthusiastic about the selections.  “The styles of both Diaz and Moor engage readers—differently but both effectively,” said Calter, “They are well deserving of recognition and remind us why it is important to give attention to new literary voices.” 

Finalists to Diaz and Moor include:


The Traders by Scott Shibuya Brown (Black Lawrence Press)

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran (G.P. Putnam's Sons)


Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here by Angela Palm (Graywolf Press)

Shakespeare in Swahililand: In Search of a Global Poet by Edward Wilson-Lee (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This year’s distinguished panel of judges included Minal HajratwalaElizabeth McKenzie, and Abby Smith Rumsey for the fiction category and Mark Arax, Hank Saroyan, and Barbara Warnock for nonfiction.  Additionally, nearly 200 volunteers, many Stanford alumni, participated as readers for the over 200 submissions. 

Calter also offered praise for the volunteers.  “The devotion of the judges is quite admirmable, in fact it is their commitment, and those of our alumni and library friends who serve as readers, that keeps this Prize moving forward,” she added.  Calter also noted how the Prize has provided great opportunities for alumni to stay connected to campus and the Libraries well after graduation.  

Two former Saroyan Prize winners have books slated for release in 2018.

Margalit Fox, the recipient of the 2014 Saroyan Prize for nonfiction, takes readers through the thrilling murder case where the creator of Sherlock Holmes channels his fictional character to become a real-life detective to exonerate a German Jew wrongly convicted of murder in Conan Doyle for the Defense.  And in October, Kiese Laymon, who received the 2014 Saroyan Prize for fiction, is set to release Heavy, a powerful and provocative memoir that explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation.

For more information on the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing visit https://library.stanford.edu/saroyan

ADAA Announces Judges for Saroyan/Paul $10,000 Playwriting Prize

LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA) recently announced the honorary jury for the 2016 cycle of the biennial Saroyan/Paul $10,000 Human Rights Prize in Playwriting. 

The judges are Rob Drummer, associate dramaturg and director from the Bush Theatre in London; Neil McPherson, artistic director of the Finborough Theatre in London since 1999; and Simon Levy, artistic director of the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles since 1993. All three judges will preside over the three finalist scripts in 2016.

The preliminary evaluation of scripts has begun, as synopses have been pouring in from around the globe. The synopsis submission period for the contest has been extended to Feb. 7.
Playwrights whose submitted synopses meet ADAA’s guideline specifications will be chosen by the selection committee to submit their full scripts from March 1 to April 24. Scores will be awarded to each script based on excellence of writing and for furthering the theme of “human rights/social justice.”

Lori Jakiela and T. Geronimo Johnson win Stanford’s 2016 Saroyan Prize for Writing

The biennial literary award given by the Stanford Libraries was awarded to two writers who draw on their personal experiences in their work.


Lori Jakiela and T. Geronimo Johnson, the two winning authors of the 2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, pull from personal and real-world experiences in their literature.

Such a writing technique characterized the award-winning work of the late literary legend Saroyan, for whom the prize is named. The Stanford University Libraries administers the prize every two years.

Jakiela’s Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe (Atticus Books, 2015) is the story of one woman’s search for her birth mother coupled with the parallel story of her own motherhood and her own re-making. She explores what it means to be a mother, what it is like to have two very different blood connections and what it means to form a family.

Review: In ‘Ithaca,’ Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks Reunite for a War Story

Review: In ‘Ithaca,’ Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks Reunite for a War Story

“Ithaca,” Meg Ryan’s directorial debut, is a quiet, bittersweet adaptation of the William Saroyan novel “The Human Comedy,” a story about a 14-year-old named Homer who delivers telegrams in the small town of the film’s title. It’s 1942, so many of those telegrams contain the worst possible news for the families of soldiers.

Tom Hanks teams up again with Ms. Ryan in the cast, she as Homer’s mother, he as the father who has recently died. This story, though, is the flip side of the war movies and mini-series Mr. Hanks is generally associated with — it’s a story of the home front, not of the cacophonous battlefields. In any case, Ms. Ryan and Mr. Hanks are bit players here; the real focus is Alex Neustaedter, a relative newcomer who does a creditable job as Homer (a role played by Mickey Rooney in a 1943 film version).

Intellectual Renaissance Foundation Founded by Arthur Janibekyan Buys William Saroyan’s House

In 2015 the foundation acquired William Saroyan’s house, located in 2729 Griffith Way, Fesno, California, aiming to turn it into house museum. The foundation plans to collect books, furniture items, paintings and souvenirs, as well as some personal items, related to William Saroyan. 

The visitors of the house museum will be offered tours with a guide, as well as an opportunity to use the open-air library. A special cinema hall will be constructed, where the museum will organize movie screenings of documentary movies about William Saroyan, as well as some feature films, based on Saroyan’s works. Within the framework of the project the saroyanhouse.com web site will be launched, which will present Saroyan’s life and cultural activities, as well as notify the visitors about the future events taking place in the museum.