The 2021 PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony was held on December 3, 2021, and celebrated Charles Baxter, the 2021 winner of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Awarded annually to writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story is one of the nation’s most significant literary prizes for the short story form.

This ceremony featured a reading, an in-depth conversation, and an audience Q&A about Charles Baxter’s work. The event also featured remarks by Janna Malamud Smith, Bernard Malamud’s daughter. The evening was hosted in partnership with the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University.

DATE | December 3, 2021 at 7:30 PM ET

LOCATION | Online Event

Headshot of writer Charles Baxter, a White man wearing glasses and a black shirt
Charles Baxter
Headshot of Lisa Page, a Black woman wearing hoop earrings and a pink top
Lisa Page
Headshot of Deborah Tannen, a White woman with short hair in a black top
Deborah Tannen


“Bernard Malamud once said, “You can’t eat language but it eases thirst.” Language isn’t food but words can work like water. They can revive us, renew us, quench our thirst for fresh perspective and for surprise. The short stories of Charles Baxter work like water.” – Lisa Page

“I thought if a story is good enough and strong enough, it stays with you. It doesn’t go away, it becomes a permanent thing in your imagination… I don’t think stories are like one-night stands. I think they are very important moments in your life that you do not forget.” – Charles Baxter

“I like art that isn’t fast all the time. I think it’s possible that we’re all beginning to suffer from motion sickness and speed sickness… I feel that what I want is a kind of art that takes its time and that allows me to pay attention, rather than to be surprised and shocked and amazed all the time.” – Charles Baxter

“I enjoy giving this award each year, not only to be part of honoring an outstanding contemporary writer, but because it offers me the occasion to call my father to mind and to share him with you… In truth, I now think he would be honored to be in the pantheon of all the winners. He would certainly enjoy it. I can see him pausing in his reading, taking the pen he kept at hand, and underlining words or sentences that did freshly and well what he admired or aspired to do himself.” – Janna Malamud Smith