Drue Heinz Literature Prize Gets $1 Million Endowment

from Poets & Writers magazine, 1997

The University of Pittsburgh has received a $1 million endowment from the Drue Heinz Trust to fund its Drue Heinz Literature Prize in perpetuity. The endowment was given in recognition of Fred Hetzel, who served as the director of the University of Pittsburgh Press for nearly three decades.

"This will allow us to continue to support the art of short fiction by publishing and publicizing some of the very best contemporary writers," says Ed Ochester, director of the creative writing program at the University of Pittsburgh and the prize's administrator. "It is a vote of confidence in the judges and the quality of work they select. "

Established in 1981, the Drue Heinz Literature Prize is given for a collection of short stories by a writer who has published a book-length collection of fiction or three short stories in national magazines. The winner receives S10,000 and the winning manuscript is published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Previous winners include Geoffrey Becker for Dangerous Men (1995), Jennifer C Cornell for Departures (1994), and Stewart O'Nan for In the Walled City (1993).

In an era when commercial publishing houses are publishing less and less short fiction, winning the prize can make a big difference in a young author's career. "Many past winners have been able to sell their subsequent books to large publishing houses," says Ochester. "It gives them an imprimatur that the industry respects." Becker's first novel, Bluestown, is forthcoming from St. Martin's Press. O'Nan's second novel, The Names of the Dead, was published this year by Doubleday.

Throughout the prize's 15-year history, distinguished fiction writers, including Margaret Atwood, Raymond Carver, and Robert Penn Warren, have served as judges, and these more established writers have helped to spotlight talented writers at the beginning of their careers. "They can remember when they were starting out and they want to help," says Ochester. "Writers are a generous group."

Drue Heinz, the director of the trust, is the publisher of The Paris Review, the international literary quarterly, and the former publisher of Antaeus. "Her commitment to short fiction is not only monetary," says Ochester. "She is a person who cares about books. She makes an effort to be involved with the contest on a continuing basis."

The University of Pittsburgh Press publishes 60 to 80 books a year, including the Pitt Poetry Series, which releases approximately seven titles a year, and the annual Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner.

Manuscripts may be submitted for the Drue Heinz Literature Prize during July and August only and must be postmarked no later than August 31. For more information on the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, write to the University of Pittsburgh Press, 127 North Bellefield Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260.