Well, it is the morning after the midnight August 14 deadline, and at the last minute hundreds more authors sent essays into the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction competition hoping to win one of the $10,000 in prizes. Why so many wait to the very end, I do not know. But they do. Perhaps they think a good essay sent in early in the contest will be forgotten toward the end. Indeed, this is probably the largest nonfiction contest in the country in its sixth year.
Between now and the awards ceremony at the John Drew Theater in East Hampton on Thursday, August 31, there is lots we have to do. Art Director Gen Salamone has to create advertising and the event program. CTO Dennis Rodriguez has to reveal the voting—entering was online only.
We have to arrange to dress the stage. Our marketing team of Brittany Barbarite and Chris Sandstrom, who are in charge of so many details, have to go get the flowers and stage décor; arrange for the grand piano onstage to be tuned for the 15-minute opening classical concert given by pianist Weiyian Chen, an alumni of the Perlman Music Program on Shelter Island; arrange for the 12-foot-high image of the Peter Max painting that will grace the scrim onstage, the access to the trophies, the envelopes to be opened, the checks to be written, the gift of Nooks from Barnes & Noble to the winner, the cocktail party and the book signing in the garden afterwards.
Signees will include authors Gail Sheehy, Dava Sobel, Daniel Simone and others. There will be wine and other drinks and light fare from Southampton Social Club and Union Cantina, complimentary to all who attends the awards ceremony.
Among those assembling in the Green Room at the John Drew Theater will be those giving the keynote speeches—Pulitzer Prize finalist Dava Sobel, who authored such best-sellers as Galileo’s Daughter and Longitude, and award-winning author Gail Sheehy, who wrote the transformative work Passages—plus hardworking judges Daniel Simone (author of The Pierre Hotel Affair) and Professor Andrew Botsford of Stony Brook University. And the acclaimed actress who will read the winning entries to the audience—Academy Award winner Melissa Leo.
Len Riggio, the Chairman and CEO of Barnes & Noble, hopes to be there—Barnes & Noble was very helpful to us with the judging and is our major sponsor. We hope to have Manhattan Media Chairman Richard Burns, who thought of this contest, on hand. I will be there too (also signing books), as will Dan’s Hamptons Media CEO Eric Feil, who will, as part of the show, host an onstage interview with Montauk lobstermen John Aldridge and Anthony Sosinski, who’ve written the book A Speck in the Sea.
Sosinski was asleep onboard their fishing boat, the Anna Mary, one night when Aldridge fell overboard. When Sosinski awoke and found his friend not on board, one of the Coast Guard’s largest searches—it also included practically the whole Montauk fishing fleet—went out looking for him and, after nearly half a day, found him hanging onto a buoy, still alive. A Speck in the Sea is not only an incredible book, it will also be a movie from the Weinstein Company. Montauk’s own Nancy Atlas was inspired by the whole event to write the song “The Tale of Johnny Load,” and we’re also looking forward to seeing her onstage with Aldridge and Sosinski.
A 14-page “run of the show” script I wrote is the bible for this event—everyone involved will have a copy, including Sebastian Paczynski and his technical lighting and sound crew at the theater. We expect a full house, as we have had in the past, consisting of eager entrants hoping to win and excited fans of literature wanting to be part of this historic event.
We will be announcing three “Judge’s Choice” awards, two runners-up awards ($500 each) and Grand Prize awards in two categories—the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction ($5,000) and the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Emerging Young Writers ($3,000). Much like at the Oscars, their names will be announced and the winners will come up onstage to receive their awards and prizes.
What a great day this will be. Everyone who wishes to attend is welcome to come for free—seating is first-come, first served. Doors open at 3:30 p.m., the show begins at 4 p.m. Join us!