20 Writers to Watch

Another response to The New Yorker‘s 20 under 40 list, this time from Dzanc Books. Dzanc polled “nearly 100 independent publishers, agents, editors, bloggers and reviewers” and went through two rounds of voting to come up with 20 Writers to Watch: An Alternate List.

is a staff writer for The Millions. Her most recent novel, Station Eleven, was a 2014 National Book Awards finalist. She is married and lives in Brooklyn. www.emilymandel.com.


  1. I like this list, and yet find myself a little puzzled that Paul Harding didn’t make the final cut. If winning a Pulitzer for your debut novel doesn’t make you a writer to watch, what does?

  2. Biased list. A lot of those writers are published by Dzanc (which the writer of selfsame is associated with).

  3. Several have commented on the lack of diversity in the Dzanc list. The New Yorker list was much more diverse. Could someone tell me if all 20 writers on Dzanc’s list are indeed white? If not, who’s not? Thanks.

  4. Jonathan – Their methodology seems sound, but I find myself wondering if the decision to include agents in the voting could have weighted the list in favor of Dzanc. They reached out to people they know in the industry, and if you’re a publisher, it stands to reason that many of the agents you know are going to be the ones you’ve worked with; in this case, agents who’ve placed writers with Dzanc. But that said, the only writer I’ve actually read on that list is Laura van den Berg, who’s possibly the best short story writer I’ve ever read, so I’ll stop well short of arguing that any Dzanc writers shouldn’t be there.

  5. Not Sure —

    They are all white. This is unlike The Millions’ alternate list of 20 Under 40 and The New Yorker list. In addition to the racial and ethnic diversity of The New Yorker, 7 of their 20 are from other countries: Nigeria (Adichie), Peru (Alarcón), Latvia (Bezmozgis), China (Li), Ethiopia (Mengestu), Yugoslavia (Obreht), and Russia (Shteyngart) And native born African-Americans like Packer and Adrian, Hispanics like Alarcon, and Asian-Americans like Bynum.

    The Dzanc 20 is less diverse than any Republican president’s cabinet.

    If they’re going to concentrate on indie presses, how could they omit Tao Lin? He’s more an indie press “writer to watch” than anyone on their list. But, oh, he ain’t white.

  6. It’s probably worth bearing in mind that the parameters of the Dzanc list are different from the parameters of the New Yorker list. Dzanc focused solely on North American writers.

    Given that non-white authors were recognized in early rounds of voting, the suggestion that Tao Lin didn’t appear on the list because he isn’t white is startling to me.

  7. I used to admire Dzanc, but I lost all respect for them after I read this list. Almost all of these writers are either published by Dzanc or close personal friends of the publishers of Dzanc.I have always respected the way Dzanc has done everything they could to promote their writers and friends, and independent publishing in general, but this is going too far. How can you accuse the New Yorker for being exclusive, and then publish an “alternative” list of all of your friends?

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