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Court Strikes Down Ban on Prisoners’ Speech

A federal judge this week invalidated a Pennsylvania law that gave victims of violent crimes the power to silence the speech of the criminals who hurt them. Two lawsuits had been filed challenging the law as a violation of the First Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner agreed that the law restricts the speech of not just criminals but anyone who distributes their words, including radio producers who quote them and newspapers that publish interviews with them.

In an amicus brief filed in one of the lawsuits, the American Booksellers for Free Expression and others argued that former criminals have produced many important books, including The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

The Pennsylvania law was passed last year as a result of public outrage that Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence for killing a police officer, was able to record an address that was played during commencement ceremonies at Goddard College in Vermont.

Pennsylvania officials have not said whether they will appeal the decision.

2015 Edgar Winners Announced

On Wednesday night, the Mystery Writers of America hosted its 2015 awards ceremony in New York City. Among the night’s winners were:

  • Best Novel: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster/Scribner)
  • First Novel by an American Author: Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton)
  • Paperback Original: The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Albani (Penguin Random House/Penguin Books)

The complete list of winners is available on

National Endowment for the Humanities Announces New Grant

A new grant opportunity from the National Endowment for the Humanities aims to connect communities large and small with the arts and humanities. The new “Humanities in the Public Square” grant, which is part of NEH’s The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square initiative, will fund public forums and programs and create educational materials to engage the community on today’s important issues.

The NEH Humanities in the Public Square program will award grants of up to $300,000 to institutions for projects that incorporate a public forum engaging humanities practitioners in discussion with a public audience around a contemporary theme; public programs that use creative formats to engage the public or specific audiences in sustained conversations on a chosen theme; and/or the creation and dissemination of educational resources in the form of digital resources or curricular materials.

The NEH, an independent federal agency that funds research and learning in history, literature, and philosophy, will be accepting grant applications for this funding cycle until June 24. Application guidelines and a list of FAQs for the Humanities in the Public Square program are available online.

Lambda Literary Selects Emerging Writer Award Winners

Lambda Literary has chosen  LGBTQ writers Daisy Hernandez and Anne Balay as the winners of this year’s Dr. Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award, which honors authors whose work “enlarges the presence of the working class and of immigrants in the LGBT community.”

Hernández, who starts this fall as an assistant professor in creative writing at Miami University in Ohio, is the author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir and coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. She has written for The AtlanticColorLines, the New York Times, and NPR’s All Things Considered and Code Switch, and her essays have been published in the Bellingham Review, CultureStrike, Fourth Genre, Gulf Coast, and Hunger Mountain.

Balay, who has worked as a car mechanic, an English professor, and a truck driver, has written for The Journal of Popular Culture, Oral History Review, and American Literary History, and is set to start as a visiting assistant professor at Haverford College. Lambda Literary said that her writing “tells the stories of silenced, invisible queers…blend[ing ] scholarship and activism in writing that is engaging, accessible, and transformative.”

The awards will be handed out on June 1 at the 27th Annual Lambda Literary Awards ceremony in New York City.  

James Beard Foundation Announces Award Winners

The James Beard Foundation announced the winners of its 2015 Book, Broadcast, and Journalism awards last week. This year’s winners in the book category include Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition by David Sterling (University of Texas Press) which was voted Cookbook of the Year, and Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan), for American Cooking.

The complete list of winners is available on the James Beard Foundation website.

Booksellers on Judges Panels for 2015 Kirkus Prize

Three booksellers — Stephanie Seales of Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth, Massachusetts; Nicole Magistro, owner of The Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards; Colorado; and Marie de Vaure, book buyer for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California — have been selected for the judges panels for the 2015 Kirkus Prize.

The pre-publication book review journal bestows an annual prize of $50,000 in each of three categories: Fiction, Nonfiction and Young Readers™ Literature. Seales will be joined on the Young Readers™ Literature panel by Jamie C. Naidoo and Jon Scieszka, while Magistro joins Megan Labrise and Colson Whitehead on the Fiction panel. Du Vaure will judge the Nonfiction category with Meghan Daum and Clayton Moore.

The judges will select six finalists in each category from titles publishing between November 1, 2014, and October 31, 2015, that receive a starred Kirkus review. The finalists will be announced on September 30, and three winners will be announced at a special ceremony in Austin on October 15.

Nevada Writers Win Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award

Nevada fiction writer Joseph Langdon and poet Rosemary Powers have been chosen by Poets & Writers to receive the 2015 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award.

Each year, Poets & Writers selects one state (or Washington, D.C.), and invites writers to apply for the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award (WEX), which aims to provide promising writers a network for professional advancement. To date, more than 80 writers from 37 states have participated in the contest.

Poets & Writers lets WEX winners identify agents, editors, authors, and others in the literary field they would like to meet. In October, the organization sends the winners on an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for a potentially life-changing series of meetings.

Past winners of the WEX prize include Sue Monk Kidd (The Invention of WingsThe Secret Life of Bees), Elaine Beale (Another Life Altogether), and Mona Simpson (My Hollywood).

This year’s judges were Marie Myung-Ok Lee for fiction and Aracelis Girmay for poetry. Excerpts from the winning manuscripts can be found online.

President of HarperCollins Children’s Books to Retire

On Thursday, HarperCollins announced that Susan Katz, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, will be retiring after 28 years with the company. Suzanne Murphy, president and publisher of Disney Book Group/Disney Publishing Worldwide, will succeed Katz, starting on May 20.

Since becoming president of the Children’s Division in 1996, Katz has more than tripled its revenues, according to HarperCollins President and CEO Brian Murray, who announced Katz’s resignation in a memo to staff. During Katz’s tenure, the division also received a combined 65 Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King awards and honors.

Before joining HarperCollins in 1987 as publisher of the College Division, Katz also had at Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Random House.