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STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, JULY 20, 2005… Stanford University Libraries, in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, announced the winners of the second biennial William Saroyan International Prize for Writing Tuesday, July 19, during a ceremony on the Stanford University campus. Established to encourage new and emerging writers, the Saroyan Writing Prize is awarded for newly published works in two categories; fiction (including novels, short stories or drama) and non-fiction (including works of biography, history or the environment).

Entries were launched on November 5, 2004 and deadline for receipt was February 28, 2005. Entries were limited to books published in English and available for purchase by the general public. Official entry forms and rules are available for reference at

The 2005 Saroyan Writing Prize received 125 qualified entrants. One winner in each category was awarded the $12,500 prize, narrowed down from four fiction finalists and three non-fiction finalists.


Fiction: The Laments by George Hagen
Non-fiction: The King of California by Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman

Fiction Finalists:
The Calligrapher by Edward Docx
The Laments by George Hagen
Bloodvine by Aris Janigian
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

Non-fiction Finalists:
The King of California by Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman
Chasing the Sea by Tom Bissell
The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin

A group of distinguished judges were responsible for reviewing qualified entrants, nominating finalists and recommending the Saroyan Writing Prize winners. Fiction judges included: Eavan Boland, Burt Prelutsky and Hank Saroyan. Irish poet Eavan Boland is a Professor in Humanities at Stanford University and has published eight volumes of poetry. She has also received the Lannan Award for Poetry. Burt Prelutsky’s writing background is varied and extensive. He has written for major magazines, served as movie critic for Los Angeles Magazine, wrote a humor column for the L.A. Times and has written for major TV series. Hank Saroyan is a two-time Emmy-Award-Winning writer, story editor, producer and director and has worked for over 25 years in the entertainment industry spending the last 15 years primarily in family entertainment.

Non-fiction judges included: Steven Leveen, Geoffrey Nunberg, Ginger Rhodes and Richard Rhodes. Steven Leveen is owner of Levenger, a catalog company specializing in upscale products for readers and writers. Prior to starting Levenger, Leveen worked as a journalist for McGraw-Hill in New York City. As a senior researcher at the Center for Study of Language and Information at Stanford University and a Consulting Full Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University, Geoffrey Nunberg has written scholarly articles on a range of topics and has published books and articles on linguistics, other language and policy topics and technology. Ginger Rhodes is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area specializing in trauma treatment. Prior to becoming a psychologist Dr. Rhodes was a journalist and producer for public radio. Richard Rhodes is the author of twenty books including The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Award. Rhodes has received numerous fellowships for research and writing, has been a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT and is currently researching nuclear history as an affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

The first William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, in 2003, was awarded to Jonathan Safran Foer for his novel Everything is Illuminated (Houghton Mifflin, 2002). Foer was named the winner, receiving the designated prize of $12,500.

"As custodians of the Saroyan Archive, we consider the Saroyan Writing Prize to be an important and integral activity to fulfilling that role,” said Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian. “As a research library, we go well beyond merely accumulating, preserving and providing access to archival collections. We are also called to promote the scholarly and intellectual resources that present themselves in those collections. The Saroyan Writing Prizes in Fiction and Verity are powerful and meaningful ways promote the creative output of emerging authors whose drive to express themselves through writing is every bit as intense as William Saroyan's."

William Saroyan, an American writer and playwright, is a Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winner best known for his humorous short stories about the experiences of immigrant families and children in California. Much of Saroyan’s other work is clearly autobiographical, although similar in style and technique to fiction. Saroyan was the fourth child of Armenian immigrants. He battled his way through poverty and rose to literary prominence in the early 1930s when national magazines began publishing his short stories, such as The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze, My Name Is Aram, Inhale & Exhale, Three Times Three and Peace, It’s Wonderful. From short stories, Saroyan then moved on to writing plays for Broadway and screenplays for Hollywood. Some of his most notable works include: My Heart’s in the Highlands, The Time of Your Life, The Beautiful People, as well as his silver screen adaptation of The Human Comedy.

“It was Saroyan’s desire to establish a writing prize to encourage and perpetuate the art he so loved,” said Robert Setrakian, Chairman of the William Saroyan Foundation. “The William Saroyan International Prize for Writing will continue Saroyan’s legacy by honoring emerging writers who share Saroyan’s passion of writing acclaimed books, plays and short stories.”

Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources supports the teaching, learning and research mandates of the University through delivery of bibliographic and other information resources and services to faculty, students and staff. It is tackling the challenges of the digital age while continuing the development, preservation and conservation of its extensive print, media and manuscript collections.

The William Saroyan Foundation was officially founded by the author on December 30, 1966. Since then, distinguished professors, business executives and high-ranking government officials have accepted appointments to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Commencing in 1990, the Trustees set a goal of bringing together into one single archive his entire literary estate. A decision was finally made by the Trustees to offer Stanford University the assembled Saroyan Literary Collection with provisions that would safeguard one of the rare treasure-troves in American literature in perpetuity, carrying on the legacy of Fresno, California’s own Native Son, William Saroyan. For more information visit or

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