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G&A: The Contest Blog

PEN American Center has extended the deadline for the 2014 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, a biennial award of $25,000 given for an unpublished novel that “addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships.” The new deadline is January 15.

U.S. writers who have had at least four publications (including single short stories or essays) are eligible. If a writer has previously published a book, it must not have sold more than 10,000 copies. Using the online submission system, writers may submit a manuscript of at least 80,000 words with a résumé or curriculum vitae and a $25 entry fee. Eligible manuscripts may not be under consideration by a publisher.

Sponsored by the New York City–based literary advocacy and social justice organization PEN American Center, the Bellwether Prize was established in 2000 by novelist, essayist, and poet Barbara Kingsolver, who also funds the prize. Kingsolver is the author of fourteen books, including The Poisonwood Bible (Harper, 1998) and most recently, Flight Behavior (HarperCollins, 2012). In addition to the cash prize, the winner of the Bellwether Prize also receives a publishing contract with Algonquin Books. The winning manuscript will be chosen by a panel of three judges, including one editor representing Algonquin and two distinguished literary authors selected by PEN’s Literary Awards Committee in consultation with Barbara Kingsolver. The prize will be presented at PEN’s annual Literary Awards Ceremony in New York City in the fall of 2014.

Past Winners of the prize include Donna Gershten in 2000 for Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth (HarperCollins), Gayle Brandeis in 2002 for The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), Marjorie Kowalski Cole in 2004 for Correcting the Landscape (HarperCollins), Hillary Jordan in 2006 for Mudbound (Algonquin Books), Heidi W. Durrow in 2008 for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin Books), Naomi Benaron in 2010 for Running the Rift (Algonquin Books), and Susan Nussbaum in 2012 for Good Kings Bad Kings (Algonquin Books).

Visit the PEN American Center website for complete guidelines.

Photo credit: David Wood

The Chicago–based Poetry Foundation has established a new annual award for poetry criticism. The $7,500 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism will honor book-length works of criticism published in the previous year, including biographies, essay collections, and critical works that consider the subject of poetry or poets.

Submissions are currently open for the 2014 prize, which will be given for a work published in 2013. Publishers may submit books for consideration by February 1. There is no entry fee.

“This must be one of the great historical moments for poetry, as there are so many thriving poetry presses, reading series, and astonishing new poems,” said Poetry Foundation president Robert Polito in a press release. “The Poetry Foundation supports poets through Poetry magazine, our website, and a Chicago reading series, among numerous other ways, both public and behind-the-scenes. But we also are deeply engaged by conversations about poetry, and this award for an outstanding critical book is an exciting addition to our roster of poetry prizes.”  

Books may be submitted for consideration using the online submission form, and must include the author name, title, publisher, and publication date. Two copies of the final book should be mailed to the Poetry Foundation, Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism, 61 West Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60654.

The winner of the inaugural prize will be celebrated at an awards ceremony on June 9, 2014, in Chicago.

The Poetry Foundation’s annual poetry awards include the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which is given to honor a living U.S. poet for lifetime achievement; and the newly expanded Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships, which recognize the work of five young poets.

The National Poetry Series (NPS), the Princeton, New Jersey–based nonprofit organization that has helped publish early books by poets such as Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Marie Howe, and Terrance Hayes, may be at risk of closing.

Daniel Halpern, the NPS’s founding director, reports that because the organization has been unable to meet its annual fundraising goal, whether or not it will be able to continue programming into next year is uncertain.

Established in 1978, the National Poetry Series sponsors the publication of five poetry collections by emerging writers each year. The annual NPS literary awards program accepts unsolicited manuscript submissions through its open competition, and a panel of established poets selects five winning books to be published by participating presses. Recent judges have included John Ashbery, Nikky Finney, Campbell McGrath, D. Nurkse, D. A. Powell, Patricia Smith, and Dean Young. The NPS subsidizes the publication of each title, and pays each winning author a stipend of $1,000. Despite the tenuous state of the organization, submissions for the 2014 series are still open and will be accepted until January 1. Complete submission guidelines can be found on the NPS website.

Participating publishers have included those both large and small, including Akashic Books, Coffee House Press, Fence Books, HarperCollins Publishers, Milkweed Editions, Penguin Books, and the University of Georgia Press.

In a letter sent to supporters, Halpern says that a total of $25,000 is needed by the end of December to pay staff salaries and rent. He writes that the organization, which operates on an annual budget of less than $100,000, has been unable for several months to pay either the rent of its office or the salaries of its two employees.

Contributions to support the National Poetry Series can be sent by mail to National Poetry Series, 57 Mountain Avenue, Princeton, NJ 08540. Visit the website for more information.

The Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Award, a new prize established by the San Francisco State University–based Fourteen Hills Press, will be given for a poem with a “truly inventive spirit.” The winner will receive five hundred dollars and publication in Fourteen Hills. The deadline is January 1.

Using the online submission system, poets may submit one poem of up to ten pages in length. The winning poem will be published in the Spring 2014 issue of Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review. Students currently enrolled at San Francisco State University are ineligible. All entries will be considered for publication. There is no entry fee.

The award was founded in honor of poet and translator Stacy Doris, who died in 2012 after a battle with cancer, and whose “inventive spirit is legendary,” the Fourteen Hills editors write. “Every book she wrote created a new poetic world with unexpected poetics.” The award will be given for a poem that posseses Doris’s “spirit of creative invention and inventive creation; engaging wit and ingenious playfulness; discovery in construction; and radical appropriations based on classical forms.” Chet Wiener will judge. 

Established in 1994, Fourteen Hills Press publishes two volumes of its literary journal each year, as well as the annual winner of the Michael Rubin Book Award, a first-book prize given each year in alternating genres. General journal submissions of poetry, fiction, and art are open until January 1.

The Fence Books Ottoline Prize—given for a poetry collection by a woman writing in English who has published at least one previous book of poetry—includes a $5,000 cash prize and publication by Fence Books. The deadline is November 30.

Using the online submission system, poets may submit a manuscript of up to eighty pages with a twenty-eight dollar entry fee. All entrants will receive a subscription to Fence Magazine.

Poet Brenda Hillman, whose most recent collection is Seasonal Works With Letters on Fire (Wesleyan Poetry Series, 2013) will judge. The winning collection will be published by Fence Books in the spring of 2015.

Established in 2001 as the Motherwell Prize (and later renamed the Alberta Prize), the recently rechristened Ottoline Prize has been awarded to poets such as Harmony Holiday, Chelsey Minnis, Ariana Reines, Sasha Steensen, and Laura Sims.  

Fence Books is a branch of Fence Magazine, a literary journal and nonprofit organization founded in 1998 by editor Rebecca Wolf and affiliated with the University at Albany and the New York State Writers Institute. The press publishes books of poetry, fiction, critical texts, and anthologies, and sponsors three other book prizes for poetry and prose.

Last night at a ceremony in New York City, James McBride received the National Book Award for his novel The Good Lord Bird, published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, this past August.

Victoria Will/Associated Press

A surprised McBride took the stage and said that he had not prepared a speech, as he hadn’t planned on winning. Considered the underdog of the shortlist, he beat out finalists Rachel Kushner, for her novel The Flamethrowers; Jhumpa Lahiri, for her novel The Lowland; Thomas Pynchon, for his novel Bleeding Edge; and George Saunders, for his short story collection Tenth of December. Charles Baxter, Gish Jen, Charles McGrath, Rick Simonson, and René Steinke judged.

McBride, the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir The Color of Water and the novels Miracle at St. Anna and Song Yet Sung, said he wrote his latest novel, about the journey of a young slave in the 1850s, amidst the death of his mother and the dissolution of his marriage.

The poetry award went to Mary Szybist for her collection Incarnadine, published by Graywolf Press. George Packer won in nonfiction for The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The award in young people’s literature went to Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck.

Maya Angelou received the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, a prize that was presented by Toni Morrison. E. L. Doctorow received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. 

The winners of the National Book Award each received $10,000. The awards are given annually by the National Book Foundation for works of literature published in the previous year.

The National Book Foundation will kick off National Book Awards Week tonight in Brooklyn, New York, with its annual 5 Under 35 celebration, during which five emerging fiction writers under the age of thirty-five will be honored for their work.

The 2013 5 Under 35 honorees are: Molly AntopolThe UnAmericans (Norton, 2014), selected by Jesmyn Ward; NoViolet BulawayoWe Need New Names (Reagan Arthur Books, 2013), selected by Junot Díaz; Amanda Coplin,The Orchardist (Harper, 2012), selected by Louise Erdrich, the 2012 National Book Award winner in fictionDaisy HildyardHunters in the Snow, (Jonathan Cape, 2013), selected by Kevin Powers; and Merritt TierceLove Me Back (Doubleday, 2014), selected by Ben Fountain.

Carrie Brownstein, a musician and the co-creator, writer, and star of Portlandia, will host the event. Author Colson Whitehead will DJ, and Fiona Maazel, a 2008 5 Under 35 honoree and author most recently of the novel Woke Up Lonely (Graywolf Press) will moderate a conversation with the writers.

Established in 2006, the 5 Under 35 five program honors five young fiction writers each year, who are selected by past National Book Award winners and finalists. The program has recognized emerging writers such as Téa Obreht, Karen Russell, and Justin Torres. Each of the winning authors receives a cash prize of $1,000. For the first time in the program’s history, the selected authors are all women.

The annual National Book Awards ceremony—during which the winners of the 2013 National Book Awards in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature will be announced­—takes place this Wednesday night in New York City. For live coverage of tonight’s 5 Under 35 celebration follow Prize Reporter on Twitter, and stay tuned to the G&A Blog for continued coverage of National Book Awards Week.

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