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NEW YORK (AP) — A literary prize that provided vital support to Tracy K. Smith, Eula Biss and more than 100 other women early in their writing careers has been discontinued. Administrators of the Rona Jaffe Writers' Awards cited “significant” costs in running the program, founded in 1995.
“The Foundation’s board feels that we can use these funds resulting in even greater impact by supporting vital literary, educational, and cultural nonprofits that serve creative artists and the literary arts more comprehensively as their core missions,” according to a recent post on the Jaffe Foundation's website.
For the past quarter century, the Jaffe Foundation had annually awarded six or more women grants up to $30,000 each to give them more time to write. The awards were established by Rona Jaffe, a novelist who died in 2005.
Biss, known for her award-winning essay collection “Notes from No Man's Land” and other nonfiction, received a Jaffe grant in 2002. On Tuesday, she called it a “major turning point” in her career that enabled her to break a “cycle” of part-time jobs and to focus on writing.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the Jaffe Award changed my life. The fact that this award was specifically for emerging women writers made it particularly important,” she told the AP.
One of the 1995 recipients, poet Erin Belieu, said that that “nothing was more important” to her early development as a writer than the award and Jaffe's “support and generosity.”
“She gave me the space and time just when I needed it to delve deeply into my poetry, allowing me not to work three jobs in Boston simultaneously just to barely make rent,” Belieu said.