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.


Lyndsey Ellis_2016LitAwardeeLyndsey Ellis
Joseph Henry Jackson Award
For the manuscript, Bone Broth



Mauro Javier Cardenas _2016LitAwardeeMauro Javier Cardenas
Joseph Henry Jackson Award
For the manuscript, The Other Graces by Asimov



mai c. doan
James D. Phelan Award
For the manuscript, the book of extractions



Obi Kaufmann
James D. Phelan Award
For the manuscript, California, A Field Atlas



TomasMoniz_2016LitAwardee_1Tomas Moniz
Mary Tanenbaum Award
For the manuscript, Origin Stories: A Lyrical Essay



Lisa Marie Rollins_2016LitAwardeeLisa Marie Rollins
Mary Tanenbaum Award
For the manuscript, COMPASS




Opal Palmer Adisa is an award-winning poet and prose writer with 14 titles to her credit, including the novel, It Begins with Tears (1997). Her selected works include I Name Me Name (Peepal Tree Press, 2008), Playing Is Our Work (WWAC Publishers, 2008), Until Judgment Comes (Peepal Tree Press, 2007), Eros Muse: Poems & Essays (Africa World Press, 2006), Caribbean Passion (Peepal Tree Press, 2004), The Tongue Is a Drum (2002), and Leaf-of-Life (Jukebox Press, 2000). Adisa has been awarded internationally acclaimed artists residencies, such as Instituto Sacatar in Brazil and Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito.

Aya de Leon is a writer, performer, hip hop theater artist, and poetic activist. She is the director of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People at UC Berkeley, where she teaches poetry, spoken word, and hip hop. Her work has received acclaim in the Village Voice, Washington Post, American Theatre Magazine, the Oakland Tribune, and San Francisco Chronicle. De Leon was named “best discovery in theater” by the SF Chronicle, and received a Goldie award in spoken word from the SF Bay Guardian. She has taught spoken word and poetry at Stanford University and has been a guest artist in residence at the New York Theatre Workshop. She received a BA from Harvard University and a MFA in fiction from Antioch University in Los Angeles.

Jewelle Gomez is a writer and activist and the author of the double Lambda Award-winning novel, The Gilda Stories from Firebrand Books. Her adaptation of the book for the stage was performed by the Urban Bush Women and toured to 13 U.S. cities. The script was published as a Triangle Classic by the Paperback Book Club. Gomez’s fiction, essays, criticism and poetry have appeared in numerous periodicals, including The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Village Voice; Ms Magazine, ESSENCE Magazine, The Advocate, Callaloo and Black Scholar. Her work has appeared in such anthologies as Home Girls, Reading Black Reading Feminist, Dark Matter and the Oxford World Treasury of Love Stories. She is the recipient of a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, two California Arts Council fellowships, and an Individual Artist Commission from the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Evan Karp is the founder and executive director of Quiet Lightning, which the Los Angeles Review of Books called “collective alchemy.” He is the founding editor of Litseen, recognized by the New York Times as a near-comprehensive source for the Bay Area literary events. He writes literary columns for the SF Chronicle, SF Weekly, and SF/Arts and his writing has also appeared in The Bay Citizen, Guardian UK, and BOMBlog. Karp is also the co-creator and host of The Emerald Tablet’s “Under the Influence” and “Call and Response” series.

Truong Tran is a poet and the visiting Professor of Poetry at Mills College. His publications include, The Book of Perceptions (Kearny Street Workshop, 1999; finalist in The Kiriyama Book Prize), Placing The Accents (Apogee Press, 1999; finalist in the Western States Book Prize for Poetry), dust and conscience (Apogee Press ,2000; awarded the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Prize), within the margin (Apogee Press, 2004) and Four Letter Words (Apogee Press, 2008). He is the recipient of three San Francisco Arts Commission’s Individual Artist Grants, an Arts Council of Silicon Valley grant, a California Arts Council Grant, a Creative Work Fund grant and a Fund For Poetry grant. His collection, Dust and Conscience was translated and published in Spanish in 2010. The following year, Tran presented both his visual and literary work at the Smithsonian Gallery in Washington DC and was the United States representative at the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Oscar Villalon is the managing editor of Zyzzyva Journal and the former book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.  He reviews all forms of literary art as an editor, including poetry, fiction, non- fiction, and essays.  Villalon’s reviews and essays have appeared in VQR, Black Clock, the Believer,, the Los Angeles Times, and the

 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.