Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative Offers Opportunities for Booksellers

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The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative is a fun way for booksellers to connect with customers throughout the yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Prizes, which honor the year’s best in journalism, literature, drama, and music.

The Campfires Initiative is a joint venture with the Federation of State Humanities Councils, which has awarded grants to 46 state humanities councils for Pulitzer-themed projects. Bookstores, schools, historical societies, other organizations, and individuals are encouraged to host events that inspire conversations about the values represented by Pulitzer Prize-winning works.

To learn more about how getting involved in the Centennial Celebration can help booksellers connect with their customers and increase book sales, Bookselling This Week spoke with Pulitzer Prize administrator Mike Pride, an author, historian, and former editor of New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor, who served as a member of the Pulitzer Prize board for nine years before being named administrator in 2014.

Bookselling This Week: What is the benefit to booksellers in taking part in the Pulitzer Prizes’ Centennial Celebration and Campfires Initiative?

Mike Pride: Pulitzer Prize-winning books have stood the test of time. The selection process regularly elevates public esteem for authors, poets, and dramatists, and their works. The 100th class of winners will be announced on April 18. This will create excitement about the winners and finalists. But as reflected in the content we are publishing regularly at Pulitzer.org, the centennial is an occasion for celebrating the classics that have won the prize and giving readers a peek from our files about how some of them were chosen.

BTW: How can booksellers work with the Prizes to connect with their customers?

MP: Booksellers can create a Pulitzer section or shelf in their stores, by genre, year, or category, and take pictures! Encourage readers to consider all things Pulitzer by making the shelf obvious and offering related book clubs or reading challenges.

Stores are also encouraged to promote the Pulitzers and their own events and displays on social media using the hashtag #Pulitzer100, so the centennial’s organizers can find them and so others can, too. Booksellers and their customers can follow the Pulitzer Prizes on social media at Facebook.com/pulitzerprizes, Twitter.com/pulitzerprize; and Instagram.com/pulitzerprizes. Pulitzer centennial logos are available here for use in store promotions and displays.

Booksellers can also make Pulitzer’s own Pulitzer100 reading challenge available. A number of bookstores and libraries are already using it, and centennial organizers are working on read-throughs (entire genres) that can be printed or otherwise distributed.

Another idea for booksellers is to take pictures of readers with Pulitzer Prize-winning books and quote them in posts online. They can also encourage readers to take their own images of their bookshelves at home or what snacks they make for book club (with a copy of the book included).

Choosing a Pulitzer winner for a “one book” event through the store is also another option.

BTW: Are Pulitzer Prize-winning authors available to appear at stores for readings or signings, and if so, what can booksellers do to make that happen?

MP: Pulitzer has asked past prize winners to make themselves as available as possible during the centennial. Booksellers can e-mail Nancy Earle at ne222@columbia.edu for suggestions and contact information for Pulitzer Prize-winning writers.

BTW: A key focus of the Prizes is good journalism and its indispensability to democracy. What are other key values/ideas behind the Pulitzer Prizes, and why are they important today?

MP: The genius of Joseph Pulitzer’s idea for the prizes was to wed journalism with literature and the arts. The centennial reminds us how the central themes of American life flow through all disciplines.

Consider race and social justice. Read the prize-winning journalism of the Civil Rights era or To Kill a Mockingbird or The Race Beat by Hank Klibanoff and Gene Roberts. Read the prize-winning biographies of Martin Luther King or the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, or Natasha Trethewey. See a play by August Wilson or Suzan-Lori Parks. Look at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographs from Ferguson. There is also music on this theme. The compelling idea is that we have a chance through the full exercise of the freedoms of speech and the press to see where we are as human beings and change course if need be.

BTW: Can you personally suggest a favorite Pulitzer-winning title (or two) for booksellers to hand-sell?

MP: There are so many! How about three? Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels inspired me to write about war from the soldiers’ perspective. Katharine Graham’s Personal History showed a woman’s courage to find — and be — herself in a man’s world. I love poetry — among recent winners, Kay Ryan’s The Best of It drew me into a world I did not know.

To learn more about how the Pulitzer Prizes can help organize and publicize your store’s event, check out the Centennial Campfires Guidelines  or e-mail Pulitzer100@pulitzer.org.