THE PEN/BELLWETHER PRIZE, which was established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver and is funded entirely by her, was created to promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The $25,000 prize is awarded biennially to the author of a previously unpublished novel of high literary caliber that exemplifies the prize’s founding principles. The winner also receives a publishing contract with Algonquin Books. Manuscripts are judged blind, to avoid any form of bias; the identity of the author of the winning manuscript (and all other submissions) is not known by any judge or prize administrator until after the decision is finalized. Manuscripts are judged by a rotating panel of authors whose work exemplifies the type of literary fiction this prize seeks to support. Previous judges include Russell Banks, Ursula K. LeGuin, Barry Lopez, Toni Morrison, John Nichols, Ruth Ozeki, Anna Quindlen, Paula Sharp, and others.
The prize is designed to be a career-founding event for writers with outstanding literary skills, moral passion, and the courage to combine these strengths in unusually powerful fiction. For more information, updates, and the application form, see the PEN site.
Other Winners: Donna Gershten, 2000 for Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth (HarperCollins); Gayle Brandeis, 2002, The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins); Marjorie Kowalski Cole, 2004, Correcting the Landscape (HarperCollins); Hillary Jordan, 2006, Mudbound (Algonquin Books); Heidi W. Durrow, 2008, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin Books); Naomi Benaron, 2010, Running the Rift (Algonquin Books); Susan Nussbaum, 2012, Good Kings Bad Kings (Algonquin Books), Lisa Ko, 2016, The Leavers (Algonquin Books).