The Pulitzer Prize for Letters

The Pulitzer is probably best known for its journalism awards, however the 20+ categories include books.  Winners receive $10.000 and a WHOLE lot of instant press. The category for books is known as the “Letters” category, and is grouped into the following sub-categories:

Letters, Drama, and Music

  • Fiction– for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.
  • Drama– for a distinguished play by an American playwright, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.
  • History– for a distinguished book on the history of the United States.
  • Biography or Autobiography– for a distinguished biography or autobiography by an American author.
  • Poetry– for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American poet.
  • General Non-Fiction – for a distinguished book of non-fiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category.
Per Wikipedia, which did a more concise summary than the Pulitzer site:

The Pulitzer Prize does not automatically evaluate all applicable works in the media, but only those that have been entered with a $50 entry fee[3] (one per desired entry category). Entries must fit in at least one of the specific prize categories, and cannot simply gain entrance on the grounds of having general literary or compositional properties.[3] Works can also only be entered into a maximum of two prize categories, regardless of their properties.

Each year, 102 judges are selected[by whom?] to “serve on 20 separate juries” for the 21 award categories (one jury for both photography awards). Most of the juries consist of five members, except for those of “public service, investigative reporting, beat reporting, feature writing and commentary categories”, which have seven members.[4] For each award category, a jury makes three nominations. The board selects the winner by majority vote from the nominations or bypass the nominations and select a different entry with a 75% majority vote. The board can also vote no award. The board gets no compensation for its work. The jurors in letters, music, and drama get a $2000 honorarium for the year, while each chair gets $2500.[4]

[edit] The difference between entrants and nominated finalists

Anyone whose work has been submitted is called an “entrant”. The jury selects a small group of “nominated finalists” and announces them together with the winner for each category.

Because it amuses me, HERE is a link to the entry form for the Letters categories.  The only limitations seem to be that the book be published in hard or soft cover in the US, by a US Citizen (except for the History category), and meet the guidelines stated above. How’s that for open-ended?

Anyway, the awards are run by Columbia University, per the will of Joseph Pulitzer. His bio is really entertaining, click HERE for the full version. My favorite highlights:

-his first newspaper job was at a GERMAN language paper.

-an immigrant, the awards named for  him are only open to US citizens

-he worked so hard and such long hours that he eventually went blind and was physically infirm.

-at one point he was accused of libel against T. Roosevelt. He was later proved right, and became an advocate for a free, impartial, and unbiased press.


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