Thursday, September 11, 2008

Aura Estrada Prize for Spanish Language Women Writers

An open letter from novelist Francisco Goldman:

Dear Friends,

Last July 26th, 2007, when my wife Aura Estrada died, I vowed to somehow start a prize in her honor. Nearly 14 months later, that prize is becoming a reality. This has happened thanks to the hard work and devotion of many friends who loved Aura, and because of the contributions of so many who were moved by her story.

Aura, at the time of her death, was a 30-year-old PhD student at Columbia University as well as a student in the Hunter College MFA program, where she was studying fiction-writing under Peter Carey and Colum McCann, and where, as the recipient of a Hertog Fellowship, she was also a research assistant to Toni Morrison. Writing in Spanish, Aura had already begun to publish essays and stories in some of Mexico and Latin America's best magazines, and she was also beginning to publish in English, in Bookforum and The Boston Review.

The Aura Estrada Prize will be given every two years to a female Spanish-language writer of creative prose, 35 or younger, living in Mexico or the United States. This unique prize will combine a cash award with residencies in writers' colonies and publication in Spanish language Granta. You can read much more about the prize and Aura's life and writing at and at
As you will see if you peruse the website, the prize has generated an extraordinary response, inspiring the participation and generosity, in many different ways, of writers such as Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, and younger friends of Aura such as Junot Díaz, Susan Choi, Rivka Galchen and so many others. The Oaxaca-based artist Francisco Toledo, probably Mexico's most renowned contemporary artist, is producing a special once-only design of 15 signed and numbered works of his "Papalote" series just for the Aura Estrada Prize. These, and rare signed special editions and books by García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Henry Miller, Colm Toibin and others will be available through the prize website. We are also, for one thousand dollars (or more!) a piece, offering dinners-- in the homes or in the restaurant of the hosts' choosing -- with writer friends such as Jon Lee Anderson, Junot Díaz, Gary Shteyngart, Colm Toibin and (they will come to your dinner together) Susan Choi and Jhumpa Lahiri or Rivka Galchen and Heidi Julavitz.

Aside from the New York Sept 18th benefit, Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt are coming to Oaxaca, Mexico to headline a benefit and reading for the prize on November 6th and 7th. This will inaugurate what will be an annual Aura Estrada Reading, by an American or English writer, at the Oaxaca Book Fair. There are plans to nationally televise, on the equivalent of Mexico's PBS, Paul and Siri's reading and parts of the event. We are also hosting a benefit art auction at famed Mexico City jazz club El Zinco on November 25th (the U.S. Embassy is helping us bring down a first rate jazz performer) and the prize will be officially announced at a press conference, with the participation of Gabriel García Márquez, at the Guadalajara Book Fair on December 1st.

I hope that this prize will interest the great community of literary bloggers and readers! We've worked really hard, and as we are all total amateurs at this, we are amazed that we are actually pulling this off! Please take a look at and help spread the word and help up attract donations, especially for the writers' dinners and art, book and manuscript auctions!

Thanks! Saludos to all,

Francisco Goldman (speaking here on behalf of the Aura Estrada Prize Committee)