At a gala ceremony in Manhattan on Tuesday night, the center presented a lifetime achievement award to Nesbit and a prize for best first novel to Winslow for “In West Mills.” Atwood, Hulu senior vice president Craig Erwich and producer-showrunner Bruce Miller were on hand to receive the center's inaugural “On Screen” award for best adaptation of a literary novel, given for the Hulu miniseries based on Atwood's dystopian novel “The Handmaid's Tale.”
The Center for Fiction is a not-for-profit organization based in New York City.
Sales for literary fiction have struggled in recent years, a slump many in publishing blame on the nonstop headlines that keep the reading public distracted. Nesbit's clients include historian Robert Caro and investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, but on Tuesday she urged a “shout out" for fiction as a way to see beyond the current “Reality TV” world. “Handmaid's Tale” actress Ann Dowd, who introduced the “On Screen” award winners, remembered reading Atwood's novel when it came out in the 1980s and being immediately transported by her “beautiful prose” even as she was frightened by its depiction of a theocracy in which women are almost entirely suppressed.
Atwood noted that some women's rights protesters have held up posters saying “Make ‘The Handmaid’s Tale' Fiction Again.' Atwood suggested a different choice of words, noting that in a country like her imaginary Gilead she would not be permitted to give her speech and those in the audience would be banned from attending.
“Let's say instead 'Keep ‘The Handmaid's Tale' Fiction.'” Atwood said. “That's where it belongs.”