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PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay aims to preserve the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature. The winner receives a  $10,000 prize.

Ursula K. Le Guin, No Time To Spare (houghton Mifflin Court)

Winner of the 2018 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

From Theo Downes-Le Guin’s speech: “My mother was very suspicious about Internet’s ability to engage her into relentless conversation about her writing, but she set aside her reservations when it came to blogging. No Time to Spare combines the unique intimacy of the letter with a polish of a published essay.”

No Time to Spare is the last book by Ursula K. Le Guin, a person who fiercely believed in the possibility of literature, especially the imaginative literature, to change the world by imagining new worlds. She may have left us, but her visionary words never will.


Reviews and Praise

“Ursula K. Le Guin’s mastery of fiction has remained so consistent throughout her decades-long career, it’s easy to overlook her accomplishments in other forms … No Time to Spare, a new book that assembles some of her most cogent ruminations on everything from gender politics to anthropology to, yes, science fiction and fantasy.”–NPR



“I got a questionnaire from Harvard for the sixtieth reunion of the Harvard graduating class of 1951. Of course my college was Radcliffe, which at that time was affiliated with but was never considered to be Harvard, due to a difference in gender; but Harvard often overlooks such details from the lofty eminence where it can consider all sorts of things beneath its notice.”


Read more from No Time To Spare


2018 Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award Finalists

You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages, Carina Chocano (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
IndieBound | Amazon

Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, Lauren Elkin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
IndieBound | Amazon

Alpine Apprentice: A Memoir, Sarah Gorham (University of Georgia Press)
IndieBound | Amazon

No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
IndieBound | Amazon

Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West, Robert Leonard Reid (Counterpoint Press)
IndieBound | Amazon


2018 2018 Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award Judges

VINSON CUNNINGHAM joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2016, writing on various different subjects. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, and many others, where he wrote a column called “Field Notes from Gentrified Places.” He teaches in the graduate writing program at Sarah Lawrence College and has lectured, conducted conversations, and served as a panelist at MoMA, Museum of the City of New York, and more.
JAMES FALLOWS, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States, once working as President Carter’s chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. He is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 35 years and in that time has lived all over the world.
GILLIAN TETT serves as US managing editor of the Financial Times. In 2015, Tett was given an honorary doctorate from Lancaster University in the UK. In 2014, she was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards and was the first recipient of the Royal Anthropological Institute Marsh Award. Her book Fool’s Gold won Financial Book of the Year at the inaugural Spear’s Book Awards. Tett’s latest book is The Silo Effect.

Submission Guidelines

Please note that PEN only accepted submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors were not to submit their own book for this award.


  • Eligible titles must have been published by a U.S. trade publisher between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017.
  • Candidates were permanent U.S. residents or citizens. No restrictions on the candidate’s age, publishing history, or reputation. 
  • No restrictions on the subject matter of the essays. 
  • Individual essays permitted to be previously published in magazines, journals, or anthologies.
  • Authors were not to submit title for any additional PEN American Center awards. (PEN/Faulkner and PEN/Hemingway Awards are not considered PEN American Center awards.)