Competitions and Prizes

One of the Saroyan Foundation’s key mandates is helping to advance the careers of young and developing writers.  In service of this goal, the William Saroyan Foundation provides funding to underwrite two prestigious international writing prizes:


The William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

The William Saroyan Foundation and Stanford University Libraries jointly award the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, a biennial competition for newly-published books.  True to the Saroyan Foundation’s goals, the prize is intended to encourage new or emerging writers, rather than to recognize established literary figures. 

Two prizes of $5,000 each are awarded, in the categories of Fiction and Nonfiction.  Judges are high-profile writers representing an eclectic mix of styles and points of view.  The most recent judges’ panel included:

Sumbul Ali-Karamali is the author of The Muslim Next Door: the Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing, a 2009 Bronze Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Awards that was chosen for Silicon Valley Reads 2012;

Heidi W. Durrow is the New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin Books), a debut novel which received writer Barbara Kingsolver's 2008 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Literature of Social Change and was hailed as one of the best novels in 2010 by the Washington Post.

Elizabeth McKenzie, whose short story collection, Stop That Girl, was short-listed for The Story Prize, and was a Newsday and Library Journal top ten Book of the Year, and whose novel MacGregor Tells the World was a listed as a “Best Book of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle.  

Fritz Kasten is a performing musician with bands that included Vince Guaraldi, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and the Joy of Cooking, as well as a record company executive and producer

Hank Saroyan, whose thirty-five year career in entertainment has run the gamut from performing, to writing, producing, directing, and composing for television and features. He is one of few directors with Emmy Awards for directing in live-action (William Saroyan's The Parsley Garden) and animation (Jim Henson's Muppet Babies).  Hank is William Saroyan’s nephew.

For more information about The William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, click here.


The Saroyan/Paul Human Rights PlaywritingPrize

The Saroyan/Paul Human Rights Playwriting Prize is awarded in partnership with the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance.  The Prize of $10,000 is awarded biennially to the original play that best explores socially and politically charged themes about Human Rights /Social Justice. The aim of the prize is to harness theatre's ability to make a relevant impact on our global society today.  It is open to entrants from around the world.

The most recent judges’ panel is made up of:

Neil McPherson has been Artistic Director of the Finborough Theatre, London, since 1999, and has twice won Best Artistic Director in the OffWestEnd Awards, as well as an award from The Writers' Guild for Encouragement of New Writing. His first play, I Wish to Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide, was presented at the Finborough Theatre in 2015, and an excerpt was also performed concurrently in Los Angeles at The Kirk Douglas Theatre. I Wish to Die Singing won Best Play Award, 2015, in the UK Studio Theatre Awards. The script is published by Oberon Books. Neil trained as an actor at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and the National Youth Theatre.

Rob Drummer is a dramaturg and director who leads all new writing activities and playwright discovery/development at the Bush Theatre. He was the first Literary Manager for HighTide Festival Theatre, where he discovered and developed playwrights including Luke Barnes, Laura Poliakoff, and Vickie Donoghue. He directed Luke Barnes’ Eisteddfod (Latitude), Endless Poem (London 2012 Festival), and Perish (HighTide & Public Theater, New York). Rob has worked with playwrights at theatres including The National Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Contact, York Theatre Royal, Manchester Museum, Theatre 503, and Company of Angels. He was one of the first recipients of the Artists’ International Development Fund from the Arts Council & British Council, for his work while travelling to South Africa to collaborate with theatres there.

Simon Levy has been the Producing Director for the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, since 1993. In this role he acts as a director, playwright, and producer. He is the recipient of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's Milton Katselas Career Achievement Award in Directing, and has been nominated for the Fichandler Award. His stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby, finalist for the PEN Literary Award in Drama and published by Dramatists Play Service, has been produced internationally and is the only adaptation authorized and granted exclusive rights by the Fitzgerald Estate. His directing and producing credits include over 90 productions in LA and San Francisco, with  upwards of 200 awards attributed to his work. Recent directing credits include The Painted Rocks at Revolver CreekReborningCyranoA House Not Meant to Stand, and Opusand Photograph 51.

For more information about The Saroyan/Paul Human Rights Playwriting Prize, click here.