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Best Books In America: The Pushcart Prize

What does one-half of a star television duo do after her stint on a 10-year series ends? Support fabulous writers, of course.

At least, that’s what Kathryn Erbe, who played detective Alexandra Eames on the hit show “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” for the last decade before its conclusion earlier this summer, has chosen to do. This well-known actress has signed on to appear at a fundraiser for the Pushcart Prize anthology of literature at Guild Hall this Saturday, July 23 at 8 p.m.

For those who know Erbe, her decision to appear at the event may not come as too much of a surprise. This extremely sweet woman describes herself as an “avid reader,” and shares that she’s “just so happy to encourage what they do.”

The widely respected Pushcart Prize writing collection has been published annually by the Puschart Press since 1976. This small press combs through nominations submitted by literary magazines and book editors to select the best pieces of writing available. These submissions include everything from a single poem to a chapter from a novel, and with such loose requirements for its pieces the press can have a wide selection of excellent literature from which to choose. Their high standards ensure an exemplary compilation every year that readers everywhere look forward to reading. [expand]

The Pushcart Prize anthology has garnered much praise through the years by representing some of the best modern literature in its pages. Many prominent authors first gained recognition through their publication in this anthology, including John Irving, Andre Dubus, Mona Simpson and Rick Moody, as well as one of Erbe’s favorite authors, Raymond Carver.

The Pushcart Prize makes its presence known out here on the East End with its annual summer fundraiser, this year called “Speaking in Tongues: A Benefit for the Pushcart Prize.” Organized by WordTheater, a nonprofit organization that aims to celebrate literature through oral storytelling, the event raises money to encourage the continued publication of The Pushcart Prize Anthology. In addition to Kathryn Erbe, other celebrity guests performing at Saturday’s event include Kevin Corrigan (The Departed), Denis O’Hare (The Proposal) and CCH Pounder (Avatar).

Erbe’s 10-year presence on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” led to a close working partnership with her on-screen partner, Vincent D’Onofrio. “I’m just so proud of the longevity that we’ve had, and really proud of the partnership that Vincent and I had,” she says. The pair played off each other for years in a way that won the show many followers, though as Erbe says, the acting is “deceptively difficult and deep.”

But it always comes back to the story. Erbe explains that the appeal of acting for her comes in her ability to “pretend to be someone other than [herself].” This recognizable actress actually started her career on the stage, when she auditioned for and received a role in a Broadway production of Grapes of Wrath. Now that Erbe’s show has ended, she may return to her career roots, saying, “I really would love to do more theatre.”

Literary aficionados know the excitement that comes with discovering a new author, a new genre, a new story. The way our hearts start to speed up, the words conveying a new idea or emotion that we have never read before. For many, this experience comes most poignantly in the respected Pushcart Press. Join bibliophile Erbe and others this weekend for what promises to be a wonderful event to support some of the best writers of our time.


This weekend’s “Speaking in Tongues: A Benefit for the Pushcart Prize” will take place at Guild Hall, 158 Main St., Easthampton on Saturday, July 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $100/95 members for prime orchestra and a VIP meet and greet, $45/43 for orchestra seating and $25/23 for balcony seating. Visit or call 631-324-0806 for more information. [/expand]

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