The 2020 Prowda Literary Champion Award Winners
May 6, 2020
We’re so honored to present Amy Wheeler, outgoing Executive Director of Hedgebrook, and Books to Prisoners as the seventh annual Prowda Literary Champions. Their vital work sustains our community of readers and writers, and opens our minds to new ideas and possibilities to create a more just, compassionate world. We hope you’ll join us in supporting them both by making a #GiveBIG gift today, on May 6th: you can donate to Hedgebrook here, and donate to Books to Prisoners here.
Since 2014, The Prowda Literary Champion Award, selected by a group of literary visionaries, has celebrated the individuals and organizations that make Seattle an outstanding place for writers and readers. The Prowda Literary Champion Award is named for Sherry Prowda, SAL’s founder and first Executive Director. It was created to honor Prowda’s vision of a future in which imaginative acts such as reading, writing, and creative thinking are indispensable to a curious, engaged, democratic society, and her leadership as a champion of the literary arts.
Amy Wheeler is a playwright, theatre artist, teacher, and arts nonprofit leader. She led Hedgebrook, based on Whidbey Island and in Seattle, for 16 years—most recently as Executive Director (2006-2019), and previously, as Board President (2003-2006). Under Wheeler’s leadership, the renowned Pacific Northwest nonprofit organization grew from a writers-in-residence program supporting 60-80 women writers a year and a Playwrights Festival, to a global community of several thousand influential alumnae who are authoring change in the literary, theatre, film and music worlds, as well as every sphere of public discourse through their TEDTalks, OpEds, blogs, podcasts, webinars, on Broadway, in concert halls, and stadiums, and even in Congress. Hedgebrook’s commitment to equity is embodied in the more than the 80% of alumnae who identify as women of color, LGBTQ+, or gender non-conforming.
Born and raised in Oklahoma, Wheeler holds a B.G.S from the University of Kansas, an M.F.A from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts. She’s taught playwriting at the University of Iowa, Cornish College of the Arts, Freehold Studio Theatre Lab, Hugo House, and in ACT Theatre’s Young Playwrights Program. As a playwright, Wheeler is an alum of Hedgebrook and Yaddo. Her plays have been produced and developed nationally, including at The Guggenheim Museum and The Greenwich Street Theatre in New York, Seattle’s Theatre22, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Portland Center Stage’s JAW West Festival and Stark Raving Theatre. Two of her plays are published in Rain City Project’s Manifesto Anthologies.
Books to Prisoners is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster a love of reading behind bars, encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-empowerment, and break the cycle of recidivism. They believe that books are tools for learning and for opening minds to new ideas and possibilities, and they engage incarcerated individuals with the benefits of reading by mailing tens of thousands of free books to inmates across the country each year. In 2015, the City of Seattle recognized Books to Prisoners as a Human Rights Leader.
Books to Prisoners was founded in the early 1970s and is sponsored by Left Bank Books. As one of the largest and oldest prison book projects in the country, Books to Prisoners works in partnership with other groups that support prisoner literacy and promote social justice. Though their headquarters are in Seattle, they have three associate organizations—Portland Books To Prisoners, Books To Prisoners Olympia, and Books to Prisoners Spokane—who offer opportunities for volunteers and donors outside of Seattle.