2012 Finalist Judges

Alan Cheuse (photo: Evan Cantwell)
For nearly three decades writer and critic ALAN CHEUSE has been known as the “voice of books” on National Public Radio, and he has emerged over those years as a writer in his own right, the author of numerous novels and story collections, a memoir, a collection of travel essays, and a book of critical essays. Alan has edited several anthologies, brought out essays, reviews, articles, and short stories in national magazines and newspapers, and, with novelist and essayist Nicholas Delbanco, he recently published a major new literature text-book — Literature: Craft & Voice.

Alan has served on National Book Award and Pulitzer juries, won honors of his own from the National Endowment of the Arts and elsewhere. His 2008 novel To Catch the Lightning won the Boston-based Grub Street National Prize for Fiction, and he currently serves as University Professor at George Mason University and as a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

His recent books are Song of Slaves in the Desert (a novel) and Paradise, Or, Eat Your Face (a trio of novellas).


April Smith
APRIL SMITH is the author of the critically acclaimed FBI Special Agent Ana Grey novels -- North of Montana (featured in TIME), Good Morning, Killer (“Critic’s Choice” -- PEOPLE Magazine), Judas Horse (starred reviews, Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly), and White Shotgun, to be published in hardcover June 21, 2011. She has also written a standalone thriller, Be the One, about the only female baseball scout in the major leagues. April is currently working on another Ana Grey novel and she is the writer and executive producer of Good Morning, Killer, a two-hour movie for TNT based on her novel of the same name. She is published by Alfred A. Knopf and Vintage Crime/Black Lizard. Her books are also available as e-books.

April Smith was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, Boston University cum laude and With Distinction in English Literature, and Stanford University, from which she holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Aside from writing novels, April is a successful television writer/producer, having produced and written for award-winning dramatic series such as Cagney and Lacey and Chicago Hope, mini-series, and movies of the week, including TV adaptations of The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three and Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue. Her most recent credit is the Stephen King mini-series, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, for TNT. She has received three Emmy Award nominations and two Writer’s Guild Award nominations. For more information, go to www.aprilsmith.net.


Christopher Cerf
CHRISTOPHER CERF Cerf is an author, editor, composer-lyricist, record and television producer, and co-founder and president of the educational media production company, Sirius Thinking, Ltd. Cerf has won three Emmys and two Grammys for his musical contributions to Sesame Street (for which he has written over 300 songs since the show’s debut in 1970); spent eight years as a senior editor at Random House, where he worked with such diverse authors as George Plimpton, Andy Warhol, Ray Bradbury, Abbie Hoffman, and Dr. Seuss; and was a charter contributing editor of National Lampoon. In 1993, Cerf renewed his ties to Random House when he assumed the role of Chairman of the Modern Library's Board of Advisors.

Cerf’s newest book, co-authored by Henry Beard, is Encyclopedia Paranoica, an “alphabetized, intensively cross-referenced, guide to everyone and everything you should be afraid of or worried about.” It will be published by Simon & Schuster on November 20 – that is, if the world doesn’t end before that date.


Kenneth A. McClaney
KEN MCCLANE, is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature and a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University, where he has taught English, African American literature, and Creative Writing for 34 years. He is the author of eight poetry collections, Out Beyond the Bay; Moons and Low Times; At Winter's End; To Hear the River; A Tree Beyond Telling: Poems Selected and New; These Halves Are Whole; and Take Five: Collected Poems, 1971-1986. In 1992 he published a volume of personal essays, Walls: Essays 1985-1990. A new essay collection, Color: Essays on Race, Family, and History appeared in 2009 from the University of Notre Dame Press. The University of Notre Dame Press reprinted Walls, with a new introduction, in 2010.

Professor McClane's poetry and essays have appeared in many anthologies, including The Story and Its Writer, The Best African American Essays; The Art of the Essay; Bearing Witness: Selections from African-American Autobiography in the Twentieth Century; The Anatomy of Memory; Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Woman in Literature; The Jazz Poetry Anthology; The New Cavalcade; You've Got to Read This; and Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African-American Poetry. His essay "Walls” was selected for The Best American Essays 1988 and The Best American Essays (college edition) volumes. McClane’s introduction to James Baldwin's novella, "Sonny's Blues,” was broadcast on PBS in its GED Connection Series and he appears in a recent BBC documentary on Vladimir Nabokov. In 2002 he received the Distinguished Prose Award from the Antioch Review for his essays published in the magazine since 1985; in 2010, his collection Color: Essays on Race, Family, and History was awarded the Gold Medal for the best book of essays published in 2009 by Foreword Reviews Magazine.

Mr. McClane has been a visiting professor at Colby College, Williams College, where he was a Henry Luce Visiting Professor, Washington University (St. Louis), and a Dr. Martin Luther King Distinguished Professor at the University of Michigan and at Wayne State University. He has served on the Board of Trustees of Adelphi University, and on the Board of Directors of the Tompkins County Library Foundation, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities, and the Tompkins County Community Foundation, where he was a Founding Board Member.



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