Three AAN Writers Honored by PEN USA West

Dan Savage's book wins first place for its personal look at adoption.

Alternative newsweekly sex and advice columnist Dan Savage won first place in the creative nonfiction category of the PEN Center USA West writing awards. Savage was honored for his memoir, “The Kid (What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant),” about the tribulations surrounding the adoption of his son.

Two other AAN writers — Brendan Bernhard of LA Weekly and Melinda Roth of Riverfront Times — were named finalists in the journalism category. Both entries were also honored in the AAN editorial contest: Bernhard’s “Poetry and Los Angeles at the Millenium” tied for first in the Arts Feature category of the AAN contest, while Roth’s “Dead Dogs Walking” picked up an honorable mention in the Feature Story category.

The PEN USA West winners were announced last month.

This is the 18th year PEN USA West has recognized writers from the Western United States. The organization presents awards in several categories, including fiction, research nonfiction, poetry, children’s literature, translation, drama, teleplay and screenplay.

Here’s a little about each of the award-winners:

Dan Savage
“The Kid” is Savage’s second book; the first was a collection of “Savage Love” columns that he syndicates through The Stranger. Savage, who is also an associate editor with the Seattle-based Stranger, couldn’t be reached for comment. However, his animated assistant Mark Duston, spoke for him.

“He’s actually kind of shy when it comes to this sort of thing,” Duston said. “It’s a double-edge sword. He loves it, but it makes him uncomfortable.”

Melinda Roth
When Roth arrived in St. Louis last year after covering the government beat in Baltimore, she felt out of her element.

“At the time, I had just made the transition,” Roth said from the Riverfront newsroom last month. “New Times had just bought us. I was desperately looking for some kind of story. I had seen these packs of dogs running around the highway.”

Then she met on the Internet Randy Grim, who made it his life’s mission to rescue St. Louis’ feral dogs. This meeting led to her award-winning story,”Dead Dogs Walking.”

“When I wrote that story, it was the first featurey thing I had ever done,” Roth said. She added that she obediently followed the writing technique in Jon Franklin’s book “Writing For Story.”

Roth was approached about writing a book on the subject, so while the dogs are still squatting in St. Louis’ abandoned buildings, their story may yet reach a larger audience. “I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this,” she said.

Brendan Bernhard
Bernhard is no stranger to awards. For three consecutive years now, he has won or tied for first place in the Arts Feature category of the AAN awards. This year’s winner takes a look at poets and poetry, or the lack thereof, in the City of Angels. “I don’t think that LA is the poetry capital of the world,” Bernhard noted dryly.

Bernhard said he was surprised to discover that he was a finalist in the PEN USA West competition, since he didn’t even know the article had been submitted by his editors.

“This article took a look at LA poets,” he said. “I was just looking at LA and wondering how a poet would look at it. That got me started.”

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