Colin Dwyer

Updated at 3:13 p.m. ET

"I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider."

From a list of 20 nominees, the contenders have been whittled to just five.

The inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize unveiled its finalists Monday: Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward; What We Lose, by Zinzi Clemmons; Mad Country, by Samrat Upadhyay; Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid; and What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, by Lesley Nneka Arimah.

The first day back in the classroom went quickly. The half-day for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was their first at school in two weeks — but what the day lacked in length, it balanced with heartbreak and hope.

For the first time since a gunman claimed the lives of 17 of their classmates and teachers, wounded 14 others and took aim at many more, the survivors gathered again Wednesday to resume studies the killings put on pause.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani opened an international conference Wednesday in Kabul with a substantial overture to his government's longtime antagonist: If the Taliban comes to the negotiating table and recognizes Ghani's government, the Afghan leader would in turn offer the insurgent group a role as a legitimate political party and release Taliban prisoners.