The Rona Jaffe Foundation  //  Celebrating 25 Years of Supporting Emergent Women Writers

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2019 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards Celebrated with Guest Speaker Jacqueline Woodson

A festive and celebratory crowd joined The Rona Jaffe Foundation on September 12th in New York City to mark its 25th anniversary and congratulate the 2019 Award Winners.

L-R: Debbie Urbanski, Magogodi oaMphela Makhene, Sarah Passino, guest speaker Jacqueline Woodson, Elizabeth Schambelan, Nicolette Polek, and Selena Anderson. Photo by Star Black.

Award-winning writer Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming, Another Brooklyn, Red at the Bone) was the guest speaker. Her remarks can be found here on Electric Literature.

2019 Guest Speaker — Jacqueline Woodson. Photo by Star Black.
"This is what humanity looks like. Each day we remember that our work is our gift and our tool for creating change—that with this gift comes deep responsibility. Not to write what sells but to write what matters. To write against our own erasure. To write so no one should ever feel like they’re walking through this world unseen. And unnamed." –Jacqueline Woodson

The 2019 winners Selena Anderson (fiction), Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (fiction), Sarah Passino (poetry), Nicolette Polek (fiction), Elizabeth Schambelan (nonfiction), and Debbie Urbanski (fiction/nonfiction) each received $40,000. Their full bios are here.

The program—the only national literary awards program of its kind devoted exclusively to women—was created by celebrated novelist Rona Jaffe to identify and support women writers of unusual talent and promise in the early stages of their writing careers.

The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards are given to writers of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Since the program began in 1995, the Foundation has supported 158 outstanding women writers for a total of $2.9 million. Past recipients of the Writers’ Awards such as Rachel Aviv, Elif Batuman, Eula Biss, Lan Samantha Chang, Vievee Francis, Rivka Galchen, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, ZZ Packer, Helen Phillips, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Namwali Serpell, Solmaz Sharif, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Syzbist, and Tiphanie Yanique have since received wider critical recognition, including Poet Laureate of the United States, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lambda Literary Award, the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award, the Caine Prize for African Writing, the Rome Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and the Whiting Writer’s Award.