Literary Awards

The distinguished Joseph Henry Jackson, James D. Phelan, and Mary Tanenbaum Literary Awards offer $2,000 to each qualifying literary artist for their outstanding work based on the submission of an un-published manuscript in-progress. Submissions may be in any one of the following literary forms: fiction (novel or short stories), nonfictional prose, poetry, and spoken word. The Awards are intended to encourage emerging artists who are either California-born or currently residing in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, or San Mateo County. In addition to the cash award, winning manuscripts are permanently housed at The Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley.


JacksonJoseph Henry Jackson (1894-1955) moved to California after WWI and was editor of Sunset Magazine from 1926-28. From 1924-1943 he hosted the radio program “Bookman’s Guide,” and from 1930 through the remainder of his career, he served as the literary editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, where he gained national prominence. Jackson also wrote and edited over a dozen books, many concerning California history. He served on several literary boards, including the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Harper Prize Novel, and the Pulitzer Prize. Jackson was always interested in discovering and encouraging new writers. In his honor, his friends established the Jackson Award for emerging writers. The San Francisco Foundation began administering the award in 1957.

James Duval Phelan (1861-1930) was born, raised, and educated in San Francisco before entering the family banking business. In 1897, he was elected as mayor of San Francisco and subsequently re-elected twice. He earned a great reputation for drafting a new city charter and beautifying the city through new parks and playgrounds. He was later elected to the U.S. Senate where he served from 1915 to 1921. During his lifetime he encouraged and financially aided writers, artists, and musicians, for whom he provided continued support through his will. The San Francisco Foundation began administering the award in 1935.

Mary Tanenbaum (1914-1997) began her career as a journalist after graduating from Stanford in 1936. Her first job was reviewing books with Joseph Henry Jackson for the San Francisco Chronicle. Tanenbaum’s articles on literature, travel, fashion, and personalities appeared in the Chronicle, The New York Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. The one-time award was made permanent in 2000 by her husband Charles, in memory of Tanenbaum’s legacy as an author. The San Francisco Foundation began administering the award in 1987.

There are no applications for the Literary Awards. These awards are by nomination only. The Foundation identifies nominators who are established Bay Area literary artists and who possess extensive knowledge in the various genres that the Awards seek to recognize. Because these awards are designed to support emerging writers, the jurors are asked to give equal value to the excellence of the submission and to the potential of the writer to contribute to the literary field in the future. Winning manuscripts are selected by a jury of distinguished writers, poets, or publishers who review submissions devoid of the authors’ names.


Alyss Dixson
Awarded the Joseph Henry Jackson Award
For the manuscript, The Club

Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene
Awarded the Joseph Henry Jackson Award
For the manuscript, From May to October

Heather Smith
Awarded the Mary Tanenbaum Nonfiction Award
For the manuscript, 12 Short Histories of the Bison in Golden Gate Park

Meilan Carter-Gilkey 
Awarded the James D. Phelan Award
For the manuscript, Carnival

Moon Flower       
Awarded the James D. Phelan Award
For the manuscript, Love and the Lost Nation

Shideh Etaat
Awarded the James D. Phelan Award
For the manuscript, Ali the Fortunate (and All His Broken Things)

2015 JURY

Tisa BryantTisa Bryant is the author of Unexplained Presence, a collection of hybrid essays on myth-making and black presences in film, literature and visual art; she’s also co-editor/founder of The Encyclopedia Project. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Essay Press’ e-chapbook series, the Reanimation Library’s Word Processor series, and in Letters to the Future: An Anthology of Innovative Writing by Black Women.  Her writing has also appeared in artists catalogs for Laylah Ali, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Cauleen Smith and Suné Woods.  She teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the California Institute of the Arts.

Niels-Hooper-HeadshotNiels Hooper is Executive Editor at the University of California Press, responsible for History and Cultural Studies. Prior to joining UC Press he worked at Verso Books in New York, at first running North American publicity, sales and marketing, and later joining Verso’s editorial board and becoming the US General Manager. Recent books on his list include Rebecca Solnit’s bestselling Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Grace Lee Bogg’s The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, Joshua Bloom & Waldo Martin’s Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (winner of the National Book Award 2014) and Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination.

Alejandro Murguia Foto, Lit AwardsAlejandro Murguía is the author of This War Called Love, (City Lights Books; winner of the American Book Award) and The Medicine of Memory: A Mexica Clan in California, University of Texas Press. Currently he is a professor in Latina Latino Studies at San Francisco State University. Last year City Lights Books released his new book Stray Poems. In May 2014 the SF Weekly named him Best Local Author. He is the author of the short story “The Other Barrio” which premiered at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival in February 2016. He is the sixth San Francisco Poet Laureate and the first Latino to hold the post.


Learn more about our previous awardees, and for more information about the Art Awards Program at The San Francisco Foundation, please contact us at 415.733.8500 or email us.