The 5th Annual Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction Gala Awards Ceremony at Guild Hall was held on Thursday, September 1 as part of Dan’s Literary Festival. Back for its second year, the Dan’s Papers Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction was also awarded. It was no surprise that the house was standing room only as this year’s ceremony featured keynote addresses by Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Robert Caro and Carl Bernstein. The event was made possible by sponsors Barnes & Noble, Ben Krupinski, Bridgehampton National Bank, Montauk Rumrunners, Nestseekers and Serafina, bolstered by supporters Alec Baldwin, Marc Goldman, Carol Konner, Joan and George Hornig, Jerry Cohen and Jean Shafiroff.
To open the proceedings, the crowd was entertained by Perlman Music Program alumni Thomas Mesa on cello and Alexandra Joan on piano. The duo performed works by Camille Saint-Saens and Niccolo Paganini.
A tan and relaxed Caro shared that he himself was an “emerging writer” for seven difficult years while writing The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, his first bestseller and winner of both the Pulitzer and the Francis Parkman prizes. He stressed that he “deeply believes that the writing, the quality of the prose in nonfiction writing is as important as it is in fiction” in order “to endure to reach future generations.”
Bernstein revealed, for the first time in public, how it was that he and Bob Woodward arrived at the approach to their retelling of the Watergate Scandal in their bestseller All the President’s Men. The author of A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton also shared his firm belief that the press have a responsibility to “give readers the best attainable version of the truth” at all times. He added that “truth is often complex—the meaning changes when you move the words and when you move the paragraphs.”
Emmy Award winner Dick Cavett read the two grand prize winning pieces. Cavett quoted Mark Twain, “ripped off” Milton Berle by his own admission and appeared to be having a great time.
Dan Rattiner, who calls himself the “referee” in this literary contest, presented the Grand Prize in the 2016 Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction to Richard Weissmann for “Bonacker Ghosts.” This tale recalled the romance and the drudgery of the now outlawed practice of haul-seining on the East End.
James K. Phillips, inaugural winner of the Grand Prize in Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction (for “Magic Shirts” in 2012), presented the Grand Prize in the 2016 Dan’s Papers Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction to Bernard Casserly for “Some Things I Remember.” The story was written from the perspective of a six-year-old Casserly, as he tried to understand his father’s unavoidable absences from the family home as a professional fisherman. Phillips had to dash immediately following this ceremony to perform in the 70th Annual Shinnecock Indian Powwow in Southampton.
Local author Daniel Simone presented Runner Up in the 2016 Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction to Mira Johnson for “Town Harbor” and Simone announced that the Runner Up in the 2016 Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction is Ruth Hoberman for “Rosy-Fingered Dawn at Louse Point.” Dan’s Papers CEO Eric Feil presented the Judges Choice Awards in the 2016 Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction to Lesley Green Leben for “Just a Groom,” Michael Golub for “The Indian Giver,” and William Hill for “Hanging with Dad.”
Visiting Professor at Stonybrook Southampton Andrew Botsford presented the first Runner Up in The 2016 Dan’s Papers Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction to Giulia Mascali for “Another Taste of Espresso.”
Mystery writer Chris Knopf, who has served as a judge and has appeared at the awards ceremony every year, presented the second Runner Up in The 2016 Dan’s Papers Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction to Alexandra Upton for “The Aftermath.”
The Judges Choice Awards in The 2016 Dan’s Papers Emerging Young Writers Prize for Nonfiction went to Katherine Merz for “Beach Magic; ”Nicholas Knab for “Town’s End” and Alexandra Jordan for “Slyvan Summer.”
A large reception was held in the hall following the ceremony with food provide by Mazzu’s Catering. Fifty attendees paid to also attend an intimate book signing in Guild Hall’s Wasserstein Family Gallery with Bernstein, Caro, Cavett, Rattiner and Simone. These authors and guests then dined at Serafina East Hampton.
Truly, a good time was had by all! Have you polished your 600- to 1500-word essay for the 2017 contest yet?