Two Rona Jaffe Foundation Graduate Fellows in Creative Writing, Julia Pierpont and Rebecca Dinerstein—currently enrolled in New York University’s Creative Writing Program— have recently joined the ranks of published authors.
In recognition of the special contributions women writers make to our society and culture, celebrated author Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million to emerging female writers.
Extending its mission, in 2008 the Foundation began establishing fellowships for women writers at several distinguished cultural and educational institutions throughout the country. Designed to nurture the talent of exceptionally promising female writers during the early stages of their careers, this support includes the Rona Jaffe Foundation Graduate Fellowships in Creative Writing at NYU.
As recent Rona Jaffe Foundation fellows Pierpont (2010) and Dinerstein (2011) each received as incoming students full tuition scholarships plus stipends of approximately $25,000 to perfect their craft under the guidance of NYU’s acclaimed graduate faculty -- which boasts such luminaries as Anne Carson, E.L. Doctorow, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jonathan Safran Foer, Sharon Olds, Zadie Smith, and Charles Simic. This marks the first time that recipients have sold books while still students in the NYU Creative Writing program, which is directed by Deborah Landau.
“Although it is very exciting to hear about the publishing success of our fellows at NYU, the goal of our fellowships is to provide support and opportunities for gifted women writing students to attend NYU’s program unfettered by financial worries so they can take full advantage of all the program has to offer,” says Beth McCabe, Foundation trustee and director of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program. “Our fellowships also allow Deborah Landau to attract some of the most talented applicants to her program and ultimately choose NYU. It is our hope that other foundations and individuals will consider funding fellowships of this kind.”
Her first collection of poems, Dinerstein’s Lofoten, was recently published by Aschehoug, Norway’s leading publisher. A haunting sequence of lyrics composed in both Norweigan and English, the book documents Dinerstein’s experience living in Lofoten, an archipeleago in the Norwegian Sea located ninety-five miles above the Arctic Circle, surrounded by high, snowy mountains.
Pierpont’s debut novel, Among the Ten Thousand Things, which will be released by Random House later this year, centers on the break-up of a New York marriage over a summer. Celebrated novelist Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), a Distinguished faculty member in the NYU Creative Writing Program, says that Pierpont has “as sharp and humane an eye as anyone writing.”
Landau spoke to the tremendous value of these fellowships: “This invaluable support, made possible by the Rona Jaffe Foundation, has been instrumental in contributing to the success of these new authors. We are most grateful for the support of the Rona Jaffe Foundation for supporting these extraordinarily talented women as they pursue their graduate studies in Creative Writing at NYU.”