The Townsend Prize for Fiction, Georgia’s oldest and most prestigious literary award was created in 1981 to honor James “Jim” L. Townsend, founding editor of Atlanta magazine; associate editor of the now-defunct Atlanta Journal and Constitution’s Sunday magazine; columnist; writing teacher; and all-out self-described devotee of the “wonderful world of publishing.” Townsend was an early mentor to some of the state’s most lauded men and women of letters, including Pat Conroy, Terry Kay, William Diehl, and Anne Rivers Siddons.
The Townsend, as the prize has affectionately become known, is presented biennially to a Georgia writer who has published an outstanding work of fiction during the preceding two years of its awarding. The Chattahoochee Review, the literary journal of Georgia State University’s Perimeter College, and the Georgia Center for the Book are the prize’s administrators, responsible for organizing book selections, judging and hosting the award’s reception at which the prize’s winner is announced. Georgia State University’s Perimeter College is the Townsend’s custodian and principle sponsor. Each winner of the Townsend Prize for Fiction receives a check for $2,000 and a silver tray commemorating the achievement.
Reflecting its namesake’s renown for nurturing the talents of budding writers of all stripes, such noted authors as Alice Walker, Ha Jin, and Terry Kay—whose writing covers a wide range of themes and possesses local, regional, and international appeal—have been winners of the award. In the prize’s more than 30-year history, it has become distinguished for its recognition of authors whose works embody excellence and originality in language, along with a depth of human insight.