The late Sonny Mehta’s widow, Gita, endowed graduate writing programs in England and the United States.

The University of East Anglia campus, viewed from Earlham Park in Norwich. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Andres Garcia M

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

Gita Mehta: “Giving writers freedom, time and support”

As Publication prospects as readers know, the loss of Sonny Mehta at age 77 in December 2019 was felt by some to be a pivotal moment in the evolution of the international industry. At a March 2020 memorial service at Holy Trinity in London, Penguin Random House Global CEO Markus Dohle called Mehta, the longtime head of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, “a central figure in my professional life. “.

Sonny Mehta

Today (August 1), Paul Bogaards, former executive vice president and associate publisher of Knopf and Hall of Fame, announced that four international students have secured initial places in two programs named in honor of Mehta.

  • The Sonny Mehta Scholarship Scheme is based at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, well known to our readers for some of its translation programs run in partnership with the National Center for Writing. In East Anglia, Zui Kumar-Reddy received a prose fiction scholarship and Perla Kantarjian received a poetry scholarship.
  • The Sonny Mehta Creative Writing Fellowships are at the highly regarded Iowa Writers Workshop USA at the University of Iowa. In this program, Bader Al-Awadi was named a Poetry Fellow and Waseem Rashid was named a Fiction Fellow.

Mehta’s widow, novelist and documentary filmmaker Gita Mehta, has created an endowment to support the programs, which give preference to applicants from countries that are underrepresented in parts of the conversation and the international publishing industry. . The East Anglia program says Gita Mehta’s donation is valued at US$2 million.

In a prepared statement, Gita Mehta is quoted, saying, “These endowments align with Sonny’s belief as a publisher, giving writers the freedom, time, and support they need to continue their work.”

Penguin Random House author Donna Tartt is a donor of the new programs and is quoted as follows: “I am excited about the young writers who will come out of these programs. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Sonny’s memory.

Interested individuals can join Tartt in donating to the programs. Information on donating to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop scholarship is here, and donating to the East Anglia scholarship is here.

East Anglia program feedback

The Sonny Mehta Fellowship Program at East Anglia is designed to provide fully-funded scholarships in the university’s Masters of Creative Writing courses to writers from India, the Indian subcontinent, North Africa, the Middle East and those who identify as Roma. The program refers to Gita Mehta’s initial donation as “exceptionally generous”.

Perla Kantarjian

Perla Kantarjian, with a site here, is a Lebanese-Armenian writer, journalist and editor with writing appearing in over 30 publications. Her cross-cultural work currently explores multilingualism and transgenerational emotional legacies.

Commenting on her success in obtaining a scholarship, Kantarjian is quoted, saying, “In Beirut in crisis, nobody cared about poetry, let alone poets. With the political and economic turmoil exacerbated by the pandemic, there seemed to be no dreams to step into, until my Gmail refreshed to summon a ‘congratulations’ email from the University of Ottawa scholarships office. ‘East Anglia.

“At first I thought it was a scam, despite spending hours perfecting my application months ago.

“Maybe they sent it to the wrong person, I thought. Such perfection can’t be mine. But it was.”

Zui Kumar-Reddy

Zui Kumar-Reddy comes from Bangalore. She says her primary interest is “to access the silent subordinate through the (slightly modified) Kantian lens of the sublime, while acknowledging spiritual transcendence as a mode of exercising agency.”

The program says Kumar-Reddy is “eager to use her writing to reframe issues of life, love and death in an increasingly radicalized India.

“She initially pursued a science education, but her experience of having two artist parents revealed to her the lack of opportunities for the arts in India, so she changed her focus.”

Iowa Program Feedback

A view of the 2006 installation added to the original Dey House from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Image: OPN Architects

On the Iowa Writers’ Workshop MFA program website, we read: “One poet and one fiction writer will be selected to receive the fellowships, which will provide support for travel and visa costs, tuition, a stipend subsistence and other associated expenses for one year of study at the workshop. The graduate scholarships are funded by a $2 million endowment from Gita Mehta.

Lan Samantha Chang, director of the workshop, reportedly said, “We are very grateful to Gita Mehta for allowing us to offer the extraordinary support of the Sonny Mehta Fellowships to international writers. The presence of these writers will greatly enrich the creative community of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, inside and outside the classroom.

Waseem Rachid

Newly appointed Companion Waseem Rachid from Kashmir has a BS of studies in Chemistry, Zoology and Botany from Kashmir/Amar Singh College. He is a math teacher and speaks English and Urdu, as well as Kashmiri.

His work focuses on the contested region of Kashmir and the impact of the region’s political controversies on citizens, the focus of a collection of stories he is to produce as part of the Iowa program.

He was previously a recipient of a fellowship under the South Asia Speaks mentorship program, where he worked with novelist Karan Mahajan.

Bader Al Awadhi

Bader Al Awadhi is Arabic speaking, born and raised in Kuwait. He majored in English and studied British and African-American literature and poetry at Loyola Marymount College in Los Angeles.

Although he started out studying engineering, he said, “From the moment I sat down in that first course in algorithms and applications, I found myself distracted by a desire, not a house. physical ; but for the sense of belonging I felt in the creative world.

In Iowa, he is expected to be working on a collection of poetry, The Fertile Crescentexploring “the complexities of navigating and understanding one’s homosexuality as an Arab, both in the Middle East and in the United States, and all that comes with this unique intersection of identity”.


More information about Publishing Perspectives on the late Sonny Mehta is here, more about us in the UK market is here, more about the US market is here, and more about scholarship programs in the international industry of editing is here.

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for CNN.com, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.