The Center for Fiction honored Distinguished Editor and Publisher Susan Kamil and recognized the generosity of the donors to a successful fundraising campaign that guarantees crucial funding for the Emerging Writer Fellowships. By naming the Fellowships after Susan Kamil, we are commemorating a beloved editor and publisher who devoted her considerable talents to the championing of young writers.
The evening featured tributes to Susan Kamil by Andy Ward, Publisher of Random House and Kamil’s chosen successor, and by author Elizabeth Strout; a public reading by the 2020-21 class of Emerging Writer Fellows; and an introduction to the next group of writers who began their Fellowships on October 21st.
A total of 145 donors from the literary community contributed to the Susan Kamil endowment, including cornerstone founding gifts from Penguin Random House and The Karpfinger Agency. The Center for Fiction/Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellowships also receive generous annual support from the Jerome Foundation, the Amazon Literary Partnership, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnerships with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
The Center for Fiction/Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellowships annually provide a diverse group of nine early-career, New York City-based writers with grants; editorial mentorships; monthly dinners with eminent editors, agents, and authors; access to the Center’s Writers Studio; a Master Class on Performance and Public Reading, sponsored by Audible; two public readings in The Center’s performance space; and ongoing support in establishing their literary career.
Susan Kamil’s life’s work was supporting authors to write at their best. An internationally regarded subsidiary rights director before becoming an editor, beginning in 1993, she led the storied revival of The Dial Press, and went on to master successive senior publishing and editorial positions at Bantam Books, Random House, and Penguin Random House for more than a quarter century. An inspiring publishing leader for the Random House imprint, she also personally acquired and edited the works of dozens of debuting and established authors, among them Salman Rushdie, Elizabeth Strout, Annie Barrows, Allegra Goodman, Sophie Kinsella, Sting, Gary Shteyngart, Hisham Matar, Patrick Ryan, Hannah Tinti, Helen Simonson, and Ruth Reichl.
Susan Kamil was “one of the most fiercely devoted and influential fiction readers and editors of the last three decades,” in the view of prominent literary agent Julie Barer. Says Gina Centrello, President and Publisher of Random House, “Susan was an inspiring editor, who guided her cherished authors through the creative process with the greatest insight, energy, and care.” In a tribute published in the New York Times Book Review, Ruth Reichl wrote, “Susan didn’t just read your manuscript and offer suggestions; she became your collaborator, your partner. With Susan, a book was an ongoing conversation, and she filled every page of every manuscript with questions, suggestions, comments.”
Susan Kamil died on September 8, 2019, at age 69.
Elizabeth Strout is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Olive, Again, an Oprah’s Book Club pick; Anything Is Possible, winner of the Story Prize; My Name Is Lucy Barton, which was adapted into a Broadway play starring the Tony-nominated actress Laura Linney; The Burgess Boys; Olive Kitteridge, the inspiration for the Emmy Award-winning HBO series and for which Strout was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. Her new novel, Oh William!, will be published this month. She lives in Maine.
Photo Credit: Leonardo Cendamo
Andy Ward is the Publisher of Random House. Before that, he served as editor-in-chief for five years under Susan Kamil. Among the books he has edited are When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Edison by Edmund Morris, and How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue.