NO CAREER IN MODERN AMERICAN LETTERS has been at once so brilliant, varied, controversial and productive as that of Norman Mailer. Among the most influential writers of the second half of the 20th century, Mailer achieved fame at an early age with his first book, The Naked and the Dead (1948), and by the time he won his second Pulitzer Prize for The Executioner’s Song in 1980 he was often referred to as the American Tolstoy. Few writers matched Mailer’s intelligence and intensity. And none have written on such a high level in so many genres and on such varied subjects. Mailer wrote a dozen novels, twenty works of nonfiction, a few stage plays, screenplays, and television miniseries, hundreds of essays, two books of poetry, and a collection of short stories. Novelist Joan Didion said of his work, “There was no voice like his;” calling him “a great and obsessed stylist.” Time magazine acknowledged, “For a heady period, no major public event in U.S. life seemed quite complete until Mailer had observed himself observing it.”
Mailer began his writing career as a student at Harvard in 1939. After graduating in 1943, Mailer reported for duty in the army. In January 1945 Mailer landed on the Philippine island of Luzon, where he began taking notes that would become the basis for his novel The Naked and the Dead.
On May 2, 1946, he was discharged from the army and he began writing his novel in a bungalow on a deserted expanse of beach outside Provincetown on Cape Cod. For the next six decades, Mailer would regularly return to Provincetown to write. He wrote some or all of 30 books there, becoming a part of the town’s cultural heritage. Provincetown had become for him what Key West and Cuba had become for Hemingway. In 1990 Mailer made Provincetown his permanent home, becoming what the locals call a “year- rounder.”
“I swear that Norman Mailer’s spirit continues to inhabit 627 Commercial Street because I could almost hear him pacing his office in the attic, swearing, snoring, typing, faxing. He lives on, pushing and prodding us newbie writers to get our voices out into the world.” –Martha Chang (2009 workshop participant)
The Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony, a non-profit organization for educational purposes, has been established to honor Norman Mailer’s work and lifelong interest in and commitment to writers and writing programs. The Mailer House in Provincetown served as the Center’s and Colony’s headquarters for the first four years for students, fellows, writers and scholars from all over the world.
The Center operates under the leadership of a distinguished Board of Directors consisting of Lawrence Schiller, Tina Brown, and J. Michael Lennon and will soon expand its Board so that the Center has a diversified leadership. A group of councils composed of writers, scholars and educators offer consultation to the Board on literary, academic and administrative matters. Joan Didion, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Günter Grass, William Kennedy, Colum McCann, Salman Rushdie and Gay Talese sit on the Writers Council. Kennedy and McCann also join Nicholas Foulkes, Dylan Jones, and Dr. Thomas Staley on the Advisory Council to the Board. Da Chen, David Henry Hwang, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amitava Kumar, Suketu Mehta, and Anchee Min sit on the Asia Council. Ted Conover, Anne Fadiman, Lee Gutkind, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Barbara Lounsberry, Sigrid Nunez, Jay Parini and Writers Council members Colum McCann and William Kennedy serve as judges for the Mailer Student and Teacher Writing Awards.
The Colony offers competitive fellowships in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, with direction from distinguished mentors and guest speakers. A set of creative writing workshops explore what Mailer called “the spooky art of writing” in a diverse set of genres and sub-genres: dramaturgy, screenwriting, poetry, fiction and young adult fiction, historical narrative, memoir, and literary journalism for print and web. The Center has developed partnerships that began offering workshops in New York City in 2013 and Salt Lake City in 2014. In 2018, the Center partnered with Wilkes University’s Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing.
In celebration of writers at all stages of their careers who embody the inquisitive spirit of Norman Mailer, the Center awards a slate ofwriting prizes. The Mailer Prize honors those who have made tremendous contributions in writing and publishing; previous winners are Joyce Carol Oates, Don DeLillo, Barnet Lee Rosset Jr., Robert A. Caro, Billy Collins, Ruth Gruber, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Dr. Maya Angelou, Salman Rushdie, Junot Diaz, David Halberstam, Toni Morrison, Orhan Pamuk, Keith Richards, Michael Hastings Arundhati Roy, Gay Talese, Jann Wenner and Elie Wiesel. In conjunction with the National Council of Teachers of English, the Center also recognized promising student writers in high school, two-year and four-year colleges, as well as to middle school and high school teachers for original creative writing. Prizes for the Mailer Student and Teacher Writing Awards included cash awards and scholarships and fellowships at the Colony.
To keep the programs alive, The Norman Mailer Center needs to be supported by an endowment to sustain the Center’s operations. The Center supports the Colony’s fellowship, workshop and retreat programs, as well as being the repository for Mailer’s personal library of some 4,000 volumes with the author’s handwritten notes and observations.
The Board of Directors invites the participation of those who seek to support the arts and understand the significance of The Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony. All inquiries may be addressed to:
Lawrence Schiller, President and Co-Founder
Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony
353 Pineville Rd, Newtown, PA 18940
(646) 374 3940 • (818) 445-6652 • LSchiller@NMCenter.org
A non-profit organization for educational purposes.