Lawrence Sanders Award serves as capstone to reading series

Author Jane Smiley seeks at Vancouver Writers Fest in 2014.

Martina Bretous/News Director

The Lawrence Sanders Award was created to show where a life of literature can lead and this year, it will honor Pulitzer prize-winning author Jane Smiley.

“It’s the best way to have, as a Creative Writing Program, of making what we do in our classrooms more visible … So much of what you do [as a writer] happens alone,” said Wade. “‘You’re writing by yourself and then you come to classes, workshop, talk about other writers’ work and use other writers’ work as models to emulate, but even that happens in this cordoned off space that everyone outside of the class doesn’t see.”

The award, which Wade says is the only one of its kind, honors writers of fiction who have achieved market success in both commercial markets and literary contexts. This year, the program honors award-winning author Jane Smiley, who will participate in a book reading and a Q&A session with Les Standiford, Creative Writing Program director on Thursday, March 30.

“Jane Smiley is someone who has been on our watchlist of writers for a while and we approached her … and she was very gracious and receptive,” said Wade. “She’s one of our people who we’ve wanted to honor for a while and this is the year that it works.”

Part of the process in planning the event is finding someone who meets the criteria —which includes the writing genre and date of the event— and is willing to accept the award “within the limits of what the award can pay,” Wade says. She adds that the program also encourages and requires students to work in multiple genres while getting their MFA so it’s important to find writers who exemplify this.

“She [Smiley] has a brilliant academic satire called ‘Moo’ and she has a young adult series,” said Wade. “She not only meets all of the criteria and graciously accepted the award, but on top of that, she’s someone who represents more than one genre too.”

Wade recalls only reading books from authors who were deceased in high school and says it’s exciting to highlight current writers who are able to connect with students by coming to Universities and answering questions about their work.

“It makes the whole thing seem so much more real, not something that’s happening in a vacuum but something that’s immediate and has often a social justice component, representing different subject positions in the world and literature,” she said. “It just makes it more meaningful for everyone, readers and writers.”

The event acts as a capstone to the ‘Writers on the Bay’ reading series, Wade says, which includes two alumni book readings in the fall, student literary awards in the spring and book reading with three outside writers who’ve achieved literary success.

“Our students can see ‘I can submit for student literary award [and] if I go through the graduate program, I can come back as an alum and have a reading. If I continue in the writing life … I can be a part of the ‘Writers On the Bay’ or something like it and then, at the culmination of my career, I can end up in a reading context like the Lawrence Sanders Award’ … it shows every stage of a writing career,” she said.

The event, which will be at the Biscayne Bay Campus in the Wolfe University Center Ballrooms from 8 to 9 p.m., is free and open to the public but tickets are required. For more information, visit


Photo retrieved from Flickr

About the Author

Martina Bretous
Afro- Caribbean. Communication Arts Major. Cat lover. TV Junkie.

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