By Judith Schwartzstein, Vice President for Publicity, Sarah Lawrence College
Apr. 5, 2017: Judges of the second annual Sarah Lawrence International Audio Fiction Awards presented awards to the winners of this year's competition at a ceremony held at New York Public Radio's Greene Space in Manhattan.
"Homecoming" by Eli Horowitz, Micah Bloomberg, and Mark Phillips of Gimlet Media took the top award in one of the only awards programs for original fiction made for listening. Sarah Lawrence had announced six finalists earlier this month chosen from more than 200 submissions. The works represent a variety of radio dramas from psychological thrillers to musicals to pieces that blend fact and fiction.
Welcome to Night Vale performed, and its founders, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, served as masters of ceremony for the evening, which was streamed live.
The brainchild of Sarah Lawrence College writing faculty member Ann Heppermann and co-founder Martin Johnson of Stockholm, the Sarah Awards are helping to establish the genre of audio fiction as a pillar of creative story making.
"This year's entries show how the field of audio fiction has evolved quickly in the one year since 'the Sarahs' launched," said Heppermann. "Not only did we see an increase in the number of submissions over last year, we also saw an increase in entries coming from around the world. But the most significant development was the increase in entries coming from established podcasting networks, which are starting to create more radio dramas that include well-known Hollywood actors."
The top three winners of the competition in order were:
Other finalists were:
Executive producer of Radiotopia from PRX Julie Shapiro said: "Audio fiction is on the rise and the Sarah Awards are right in step, highlighting the best and most creative work being made in this realm around the globe. Honoring these stories and the producers behind them is helping evolve the field at the highest level and bringing visibility and critical discourse into the mix while encouraging and inspiring the best producers out there, emerging top talent, and a new generation of avid audiences."
Heppermann believes the awards' success signals the continued growth of radio drama in the United States and around the world. "It's an exciting time for both creators and listeners alike," she said. "By using the term 'audio fiction,' we hope to expand the concept of narrative fiction made for the ear."
The judges were Daniel Alarcon, writer and executive producer of NPR's Radio Ambulante, a Spanish-language podcast; Malin Axelsson, artistic director of Swedish Radio Drama; Ellen Horne, an executive producer on the Audible Original team and former executive producer of Radiolab; Rikke Houd, an independent Danish radio maker; Al Letson, the host of public radio's first investigative journalism show, Reveal; Tony Phillips, vice president of on-demand content at WNYC and a former commissioning editor at BBC Radio 4 and the World Service; and Nelly Reifler, author, editor at Post Road, and faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College.
The award, which comes with cash prizes of $4,000, also brings the winners visibility for their works, which will be aired on Serendipity, the monthly podcast of works that won Sarah Awards.
"The Sarah Awards, much like the mission of Sarah Lawrence College, are about celebrating, rewarding, and cultivating new talent while encouraging experimentation with a groundbreaking art form," said college president Karen R. Lawrence.
About the Sarah Awards
The Sarah Awards are sponsored by Sarah Lawrence College. The college has cultivated the talents of visionaries like Yoko Ono, Meredith Monk, J.J. Abrams, Alice Walker, and many others. Sponsorship of the Sarah Awards recognizes the college's commitment to furthering the intersection of the narrative, arts, and technology.
The co-founders, Ann Heppermann and Martin Johnson, have developed a collaboration supporting the Sarah Awards that includes a partnership with KCRW and Acast. Serendipity, the pioneering podcast launched in July of 2015, has been downloaded more than 100,000 times to date.
Ann Heppermann, a member of the Sarah Lawrence writing faculty, teaches audio fiction and narrative journalism and is a documentary artist, reporter, and producer whose stories air nationally and internationally on National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous shows. Her Peabody award-winning work has aired on numerous public radio shows, including This American Life, 99% Invisible, and Radiolab. In 2011, she was named a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow. She hosts the fiction podcast Serendipity with Martin Johnson.
Martin Johnson is the creative director at Ljudbang productions in Stockholm and a radio producer, journalist, sound designer, and author. In 2008, he won Prix Italia for his documentary My Father Takes a Vacation. His work has been broadcast around the world in England, Canada, USA, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Finland, Norway, and Ireland. His collection of essays called The Ocean was published in 2012 to much critical acclaim and is translated into several languages. He has written several radio drama plays.
Pictured here (L to R): Vijay Seshadri of Sarah Lawrence Writing Program, Eli Horowitz, Mark Phillips, Micah Bloomberg, Ann Heppermann, and Martin Johnson.
Photo courtesy Judith Schwartzstein, Vice President for Publicity, Sarah Lawrence College