David Stuart MacLean (nominated by Ladette Randolph of Ploughshares)

The PEN Emerging Writers Awards were established to promote talented up-and-coming authors whose writing has been featured in distinguished literary journals across the country, but who have yet to publish book-length works.

Thanks to a generous gift from the anonymous donor who sponsors the PEN/W. G. Sebald Award for a Fiction Writer in Mid-Career, PEN will provide prizes to three promising new writers—one fiction writer, one nonfiction writer, and poet—at a crucial early moment in their careers. Each recipient will be awarded $1,660 and honored at PEN’s annual Literary Awards Ceremony.

Candidates for the Emerging Writers Awards are nominated by the editors of approximately 20 to 25 print and online journals, who will submit letters of nomination and writing samples on behalf of promising writers whose work they have published. The list of journals will be selected by PEN’s Awards Committee, in consultation with the donor, to represent a rich and diverse range of literary voices and perspectives, and will be reviewed annually.

2011 Judges

Reif Larsen, David Lehman, Robin Romm

From the Judges’ Citation

“In his riveting personal essay, ‘The Answer to the Riddle is Me,’ David Stuart MacLean writes with exceptional clarity about a most incoherent subject. While studying on a Fulbright in India, MacLean suffered Lariam-induced amnesia, forgetting where he came from, what he was doing in India, and most of the people in his life. MacLean writes in terse, taut prose that juxtaposes, and so highlights, the internal chaos of this extremely unusual event. Perhaps even more notable than the unity and clarity of the prose is its effortless pacing. The essay immediately delves into the mystery of MacLean’s memory loss (‘On October 13, 2002, I woke up in a train station in Secunderabad, India with no passport and no idea who I was . . . ‘), and then methodically reconstructs what the world looks and feels like in this disoriented state. Though the origin of the amnesia gets sorted out, the questions it puts in motion have deeper implications, implications that haunt long after the piece ends. MacLean’s ability to grapple with both the facts and the emotions of a circumstance in a tight, suspenseful narrative suggests a rich and auspicious future for him.”


Chester Phillips (nominated by Hattie Fletcher of Creative Nonfiction)