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The jury is comprised of one Aspen Institute stakeholder, a literary scholar or social scientist, an Aspen Words stakeholder, and two notable authors who have written fiction that aligns with the goals of this prize. They will read the twenty longlisted titles and determine the five finalists and the winner. The longlist will be determined by a preliminary Selection Committee

2018 Aspen Words Literary Prize Jury

carterstephen Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of law at Yale University, and a long-time Aspen Institute moderator. At Yale, he teaches courses ranging from Intellectual Property to The Law and Ethics of Warfare. A graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, he served as law clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He has published seven non-fiction books, including God’s Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics, and Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy. His first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, spent 11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. His fifth novel, The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, was published in 2013. Professor Carter is a member of numerous learned societies and has received eight honorary degrees.

fullertonJessica Fullerton earned her BA from Western Reserve University and St. Peter’s College, and a Masters in Library Service from Columbia University. She is a professional reference librarian and Marin City Children’s board member and tutor. A resident of Aspen, Colorado, she has been a longtime participant in Aspen Words year-round programs. She serves on the Board of Trustees for the Aspen Music Festival and for the Aspen Animal Shelter, and is a lifetime member of the NAACP and Compassion & Choices. A co-chair of the Fullerton Family Foundation, her major interests include education, early childhood and reading preparedness, wildlife preservation and environmental issues, and Planned Parenthood.

klay-head-shot-webPhil Klay is a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War and the author of the short story collection Redeployment, which won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction. He was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Prize and named a National Book Foundation ’5 Under 35′ honoree. In 2015 he received the National Book Critics’ Circle John Leonard Award for best debut work in any genre, the American Library Association’s W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction, the Chautauqua Prize, and the Warwick Prize for Writing. A graduate of the Hunter College MFA program, his writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and the Brookings Institution’s Brookings Essay series.

nelsonalondra-smallphotoAlondra Nelson is president of the Social Science Research Council and professor of sociology at Columbia University. An interdisciplinary scholar, her lectures and publications explore the intersections of science, medicine, and inequality. Her widely praised book, The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome, was published in 2016. Her first book, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination, received the 2013 Mirra Komarovsky Award and was a finalist for the 2012 C. Wright Mills Award. Her edited works include Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History, and Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday LifeA Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of California at San Diego, she earned her M.Phil. and Ph.D. from New York University.

Dow0061293. Winner of the Folio Prize for DT News. Picture shows the winner of the 2015 Folio Prize, Akhil Sharma, picture to illustrate a Gaby Wood interview. Location the Folio Society, London, WC1.  Picture date 24/03/2015Akhil Sharma immigrated to the United States when he was eight, and studied at Princeton University, where he earned his B.A. in public policy at the Woodrow Wilson School. He was awarded a Stegner Fellowship to the writing program at Stanford, where he won several O. Henry Prizes. His first novel, An Obedient Father, won the 2001 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2001 Whiting Writers’ Award, and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His second novel, Family Life, is mostly autobiographical and won the 2015 Folio Prize and the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award. He has also published stories in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Best American Short Stories anthology, and The O. Henry Prize story anthology. Sharma is an assistant professor in the creative writing MFA program at Rutgers University-Newark.

2018 Aspen Words Literary Prize Selection Committee

The Selection Committee is responsible for narrowing down the total submissions (there were 144 in 2017) to create the longlist. 

LehrerLinda Lehrer has spent her career in both media and education. She received her Ph.D. in English from Brown University, where she taught courses in drama and American literature. She has also taught journalism and writing at Fordham and New York University. As a journalist, Dr. Lehrer reported for the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune. As Director of Communications for the Aspen Institute, Dr. Lehrer helped organize the first Bipartisan Congressional Retreat. Her own program, Life Changes: The Next Step, helps people find new ways to think about taking the next step in their lives—both professionally and personally. Linda Lehrer is currently the Director of New York Public Programs for the Aspen Institute.

NiarchosNicolas Niarchos currently works at the fact-checking department at the New Yorker. He also writes on refugees, international affairs and food. He is a graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, and Yale University. He lives in Upper Manhattan.


WuKyle Lucia Wu is a writer based in Brooklyn. She is the co-publisher of Joyland, a PEN prison writing mentor, and has an MFA in fiction from The New School. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Interview Magazine, and elsewhere