A Sunday Conversation with Sharon Rab

Founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize shares her passion for literature

“As a teacher, I saw many students changed by literature. I witnessed the power of literature to open minds, change opinions, and motivate readers to explore ideas that they wouldn’t necessarily conceive of by themselves,” says Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize grew out of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, at which was negotiated terms to end the 3½-year Bosnian War. In 1999, community leaders created the Dayton Peace Prize to recognize individuals who contributed to the negotiation.

Rab, who volunteered on the Dayton A Peace Process board, formed after the accords, suggested the idea of a literary peace prize. “I received the green light to research the idea, and discovered that there was not a literary prize for peace-based works in the United States,” Rab explains.

In 2006, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize (DLPP) was established as the first and only annual U.S. literary award given in recognition of writers, of fiction and nonfiction, whose work promotes peace through works that lead readers to, as the prize’s website (www.daytonliterarypeaceprize.org) states, have a “better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions and political points of view.”

In the six short years since its inception, the prize has gained stature around the world.

Rab, who retired from teaching after 30 years of serving as an English teacher at Fairmont High School and 14 years as an adjunct instructor of composition at Miami University, is particularly passionate about literature that “helps move the world toward peace and understanding.”

She is a strong believer in literature’s power to do just that — and in Dayton as the perfect place to recognize and celebrate that power, and not only because of being the site of the Dayton Peace Accords.

“Dayton is a city of intelligent, insightful readers,” Rab states. “Through my public access TV show, ‘Writer to Writer,’ I have had the privilege of talking to many writers who come to town to read and sign at Books & Co. As a result, I’ve heard numerous comments about the warm, intelligent reception writers receive in our town.”

Rab is also a writer. Her novel, “Paper, Scissors, Rock” was only one of 10 novels (unpublished) shortlisted for the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

This year’s DLPP awards dinner will be held on Sunday, Nov. 11 at the Schuster Performing Arts Center in Dayton, and will acknowledge winners and runners up in nonfiction and fiction as well as to the 2012 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award Winner, Tim O’Brien, author of “The Things They Carried,” a novel about the Vietnam War, as well as other works of fiction and a memoir. Nick Clooney— journalist, author and activist — will emcee the event.

Upcoming Literary Events In Conjunction with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize

• Winners of the Writers For Peace contest, sponsored by the Robert Dizney Writing Center at Antioch University Midwest, will read their works at Antioch University Midwest (900 Dayton St., Yellow Springs), on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 4 p.m.; discussion will follow the reading. This event is free and open to the public.

• Conversation with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Winners will take place at Books & Co. at The Greene on Sunday, Nov. 11, (10:30 a.m. registration; 11 a.m. program.) RSVP to peaceliterature12@att.net by Wednesday, Nov. 7; $10 donation in cash or check to DLPP Foundation at the Registration Table at the event. Authors include 2012 winners Adam Hochschild ( Nonfiction for “To End All Wars”); Andrew Krivak (Fiction for “The Sojourn”); Ha Jin (Fiction runner-up for “Nanjing Requiem”); Annia Ciezadio ( Nonfiction Runner-up for “Day of Honey”); and special guests Kati Marton, author of “Paris: A Love Story” and Wilbert Ridea, author of “In the Place of Justice” (2011 Nonfiction winner).

• Numerous other events in conjunction with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize are taking place in November at Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton, Wright State University, Earlham College, Edison Community College, Clark State Community College, and Dayton Art Institute; to view the calendar, visit www.daytonliterarypeaceprize.org, click on Outreach (top right) and then Community Events.

Other Literary Events this Week

• Poet David Lee Garrison will read from his newest collection, “Playing Bach in the DC Metro,” at Wright Library, 1776 Far Hills Ave., Oakwood (937-294-7171) today, 2-3 p.m.; free and open to the public.

• Wednesday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m — attorney turned comedian and novelist Karen Bergreen shares her wit and her newest novel, Perfect is Overrated, at the Boonshoft Center for Jewish Culture and Education, 525 Versailles Drive in Centerville, as part of this year’s ongoing Dayton Jewish Cultural Arts and Book Festival. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door; visit www.daytonjewish.org or call 937-853-0372 for more information or to order tickets.

• Friday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m. — Richard Paul Evans introduces his new novel, “A Winter Dream,” at Books & Co. at The Greene. Evans is a best-selling author of numerous novels such as “The Christmas Box.”

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