Every year, Seattle Arts and Lectures honors two members of Seattle's literary community with the Prowda Literary Champion Award. The selection committee includes upstanding members of the community: Elliott Bay Book Company's Rick Simonson; Linda Johns from the Seattle Public Library; local author Jennie Shortridge; Christine Foye of publisher Simon & Schuster; and SAL’s Executive Director, Ruth Dickey. Past recipients include the owners of Open Books, Friends of the Library's Chris Higashi, and Book-It Repertory Theatre. The award is named after SAL's founder, Sherry Prowda, who helped bring national prominence to Seattle's literary scene.
This year's Prowda Literary Champion Awards go to members of the media. Mary Ann Gwinn, who until recently served as the book section editor at the Seattle Times, is the recipient of the individual award. "When I got the job of covering books and authors for the Seattle Times in 1998,” Gwinn told Seattle Arts and Lectures when notified of the award, “I considered myself one of the luckiest journalists alive, because Seattle arguably has the most vibrant literary culture in the country" with its thriving network of readers, bookstores, and librarians.
The other Prowda Literary Champion Award for the year goes to a media organization — in fact, to the website you're reading right now. Foye explains in the press release:
Books are our vessels for these ever-evolving ideas, and it is crucial to shine a light on authors and their books who are exploring and critiquing our culture in the moment. For these reasons, we thought it would be especially appropriate this year to honor Mary Ann Gwinn and The Seattle Review of Books for their remarkable work in bringing rational discourse to the fore in a time of great irrationality.
SRoB cofounder Martin McClellan, associate editor Dawn McCarra Bass, and I are honored by this news. We're humbled to share the spotlight with Mary Ann Gwinn, who has been passionately chronicling the literary life of this city for longer than some of us have lived here. Gwinn has been a true and consistent champion, and her body of work inspires us to do what we do every day.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the selection committee and SAL, and also to acknowledge that this award truly belongs to all the people who make SRoB possible: our amazing columnists and contributors, all our fantastic sponsors — and of course, we want to thank you for taking the time to support our sponsors and read our site regularly.
The awards will be given at a fundraising gala for Seattle Arts and Lectures at the Four Seasons on Thursday, March 22nd. Tickets, which support all of SAL's brilliant programs, are available through their site. Maybe we'll see you there?