Ready, Set, Write! 2016 Dan’s Literary Prize Begins April 1

Dan's Papers Literary Prize 2016 logo
Photo: Kritchanut/iStock/Thinkstock

April 1 is the opening day for entries into the 2016 Dan’s Papers $10,000 Literary Prize competition. The contest continues for the next four months, and during this time writers are invited to start tapping away on their keyboards, producing nonfiction pieces about the eastern end of Long Island—all with an eye toward creating outstanding works of writing and the chance to be in the running for some of the $10,000 in prize money.

Over the months ahead, our judges will grade all the entries. At various times one essay is in front and then another and then another—it’s a real horse race until the final day.

There are actually two competitions running simultaneously: the Dan’s Papers $6,000 Literary Prize for Nonfiction and the Dan’s Papers $4,000 Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction. Entries for both are only accepted online, through, where you’ll also find the contest rules, videos and speeches and keynote addresses from prior award ceremonies at Guild Hall, our collection of digital books containing all past entrants, and the groups and individuals who are participating and helping to make this competition a success.

The competition closes on August 12, which gives our judges time to tally their final votes and determine the winners in time for the gala awards ceremony. This grand celebration takes place on Thursday, September 1 at the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall in East Hampton, where the first-prize winners, runners-up and Judges Choice Awards are presented for each competition. The winner of the Dan’s Papers $6,000 Literary Prize for Nonfiction is awarded $5,000; and $3,000 goes to the top choice in the Dan’s Papers $4,000 Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction. The runners-up in both competitions get $500 each, and the Judges Choice honorees receive a special gift bag.

Anyone can enter the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction for just $25. Entry into the Dan’s Papers Emerging Young Writers Prize is reserved for writers ages 25 and younger, with a fee of only $10. In both competitions, the word limit is between 600 and 1500 words, and each piece must reference the East End in some meaningful way. From time to time during the year, Dan’s Papers publishes favorite essays from prior years of the Literary Prize in its pages, chosen by our editors. These are not only the winners, but pieces that were outstanding for one reason or another and deserved to be showcased for our readers.

This is the fifth year of this competition, and every year has been an exciting celebration of writing and writers. In this year of political turmoil, we have chosen as keynote speaker Carl Bernstein, the Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of All the President’s Men, the book (and then the movie) about the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, and The New York Times bestseller A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Speakers at the awards ceremony in the past have included double Pulitzer Prize winner author Bob Caro, National Book Award winner E.L. Doctorow, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winner Jules Feiffer, bestselling author Walter Isaacson, and National Book Award-winner Tom Wolfe. One of the most memorable moments each year is a reading of the winning entries, which has been done by both Emmy-winner Pia Lindstrom and Academy Award-winner Mercedes Ruehl. Our esteemed supporting cast, both onstage and behind the scenes, has included Alec Baldwin, Len Riggio, Barbara Goldsmith and others. Major funding for the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction is provided by Barnes & Noble.

Last year we expanded the awards ceremony day into a full-on literary festival. The Perlman Music Program offered a short classical work of live music as a preface to the evening, and a fine catered reception was held for all in the Guild Hall garden. Then, Dan’s Papers hosted the inaugural Dan’s Fields of Dreams event, where famous author-athletes took the stage for a roundtable discussion about their books and lives. The Hamptons International Film Festival curated a film shown that night, And Everything Is Going Fine, a documentary about monologist Spalding Gray, followed by a lively audience-participation discussion.

This is an exciting competition designed to find and support writers in this community, to celebrate their talents and expose them to our audience. We hope you enjoy all this as much as we enjoy presenting it.

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In celebration of the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize, we also hold a series of readings once a month, year around, currently at the Southampton Arts Center on Jobs Lane in Southampton village. Known as the Dan’s Papers Literary Salon, these gatherings offer a chance to hear writers reading their own works—usually three or four essayists are invited to participate. Our next Salon will take place on Saturday, April 16 at 5 p.m. Admission  and reception are free. I hope to see you there.

For complete contest rules and information, visit

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