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G&A: The Contest Blog

The MacArthur Foundation announced today that authors Karen Russell and Donald Antrim are among the 2013 MacArthur Fellows. The five-year, no-strings-attached "genius" fellowships, which were increased this year to $625,000 each, are given to individuals working in a variety of disciplines to pursue future work. 

Karen Russell is the author of three books of fiction, including her debut story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006); the novel Swamplandia (2011), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and, most recently, the story collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove (2013), all published by Knopf. She was named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 in 2009.

Donald Antrim is the author of the novels Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World (Viking, 1993), The Hundred Brothers (Crown, 1997), and The Verificationist (Knopf, 2000), and the memoir The Afterlife (2007). He is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University in New York City.

In the following videos from the MacArthur Foundation, Russell and Antrim discuss the inspiration for their work, and what receiving the fellowships will mean for their writing and their lives.

After a week of longlist announcements in the categories of poetry, nonfiction, and young people’s literature, the National Book Foundation wrapped up its announcements late last week with the much-anticipated longlist for the foundation’s fiction prize.

The finalists are Tom Drury, Pacific (Grove Press), Elizabeth Graver, The End of the Point (Harper), Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers (Scribner), Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland (Knopf), Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth), James McBride, The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead Books), Alice McDermott, Someone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge (The Penguin Press), George Saunders, Tenth of December (Random House), and Joan Silber, Fools (Norton).

As the foundation notes, the list includes “four [previous] National Book Award winners and finalists, a Pulitzer Prize winner and finalist, recipients of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and a Guggenheim fellowship, and a debut novelist.” Among a list of favorites like Pynchon and Saunders, Anthony Marra’s debut, published this past May, has received much praise, and Lahiri has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Charles Baxter, Gish Jen, Charles McGrath, Rick Simonson, René Steinke judged.

Frank Bidart’s Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Lucie Brock-Broido’s Stay, Illusion (Knopf), and Brenda Hillman’s Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (Wesleyan University Press) topped a poetry longlist marked by debut poets. The lists in each category, including nonfiction and young people’s literature, were announced on the Daily Beast.

The foundation also recently named its annual 5 Under 35, and announced that E. L. Doctorow will receive the 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and Maya Angelou will receive the 2013 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

The National Book Award shortlists in each category will be announced October 16, and the winners will be named at the foundation's annual awards ceremony in New York City on November 20.

The Durham, North Carolina–based Carolina Wren Press has launched the new Lee Smith Novel Prize, which will include $1,000 and publication for a novel by a Southern writer, or about the American South. The deadline is October 15.

Novels by an author originally from, currently living in, or writing about the South are eligible. Original and previously unpublished works of at least 50,000 words, written in English, may be submitted via Submittable by October 15.

The prize was established in honor of award-winning Southern writer Lee Smith, the author of ten novels and four story collections, whose forthcoming novel, Guests on Earth, will be published in October by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

“It is our hope to find and promote novelists from the South and their novels,” the Carolina Wren Press editors write on the website, “and, in the process, to explore and expand the definition of Southern literature.”

Founded in 1976 in Chapel Hill by poet Judy Hogan, Carolina Wren Press is an independent nonprofit press whose mission is, simply, “new authors, new audiences.” The press publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature, and sponsors two other annual contests, the Doris Bakwin Award for books by women writers, and the Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series, given for a poetry collection. Visit the website to read an essay by Hogan on the history of the press.

In the video below from Algonquin Books, Lee Smith discusses the inspiration for and creation of her forthcoming novel, which is based in part on historical events that occurred North Carolina.

The New York City–based Academy of American Poets has announced the winners of the 2013 poetry prizes, an annual awards series through which over $200,000 is given to poets at various stages of their careers.  

Former United States poet laureate Philip Levine has been awarded the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement. The $100,000 prize is given annually by the Academy for “outstanding and proven mastery of the art of poetry.” Levine’s collections include Ashes, which won the National Book Award in 1979 and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1980; What Work Is, which won the National Book Award in 1991; The Simple Truth, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995; and, most recently, News of the World (Knopf, 2009). Levine, a former Detroit autoworker, was appointed to the poet laureate post in late 2011.

Carolyn Forché has won the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which offers a $25,000 prize for “distinguished poetic achievement.”

Patricia Smith has been awarded the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, a $25,000 award given for the best book of poetry published in the previous year, for her most recent collection, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, published by Coffee House Press in 2012.

Jillian Weise won the James Laughlin Award for her recent collection, The Book of Goodbyes (BOA Editions, 2013). The $5,000 prize is given to honor a poet's second book.

John Taylor received the $25,000 Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Fellowship for his translation of Selected Poems by the Italian poet Lorenzo Calogero.
Cynthia Hogue and Sylvain Gallais received the $1,000 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award for their translation of Fortino Sámano ("The Overflowing of the Poem"), by Virginie Lalucq and Jean-Luc Nancy.

Visit the Academy of American Poets website for more information and submission guidelines for the 2014 awards.

In the video below, Philip Levine reads a selection of poems, including "What Work Is." Also listen to a podcast of Levine reading his poem "The Mercy."

At a press conference in London this morning, the Man Booker Prize Foundation announced the shortlist for the 2013 prize. The winner, who will receive 50,000 British pounds, or approximately $75,000, will be announced October 15.

The finalists are:

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus/Reagan Arthur Books)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
The Harvest by Jim Crace (Picador)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (Viking)
The judges selected the six finalists from a longlist of thirteen announced in July, a list that judge chair Robert Macfarlane called the most diverse in recent memory. The shortlist maintains that diversity, with the novelists hailing from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland, and Zimbabwe, and the time periods and settings spanning the biblical Middle East (Tóibín), contemporary Zimbabwe (Bulawayo), 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace), and modern Tokyo (Ozeki). The oldest author on the list is Jim Crace, at 67; the youngest, Eleanor Catton, is 28.

“It is an exceptionally international and exceptionally varied shortlist,” Macfarlane said. “What connects them is connection. They are all about ways of connecting: technological, familial, emotional and in one case elemental. There are also inevitably about connections in reverse: loss, grief, separation, exile and dispossession. In some ways, these novels are all about the strange ways in which people are brought together and the painful ways in which they are held apart.”

The Man Booker Prize is given annually for a book of fiction published in the previous year and written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the British Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland.

The City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) is currently seeking the city’s next Poet Laureate. Applications will be accepted until September 30.

Poets who are residents of Philadelphia, and who are able to demonstrate both a significant body of work and a record of commitment to community service, are eligible to apply. Using the online application form, applicants may submit four poems (up to ten pages total), a list of publications, a résumé, an artistic statement, and three references. Applicants may also submit up to three links to videos of public readings or performances. Applications must be completed and submitted online.

The Philadelphia Poet Laureate position was established in 2012 "in order to give one talented poet the opportunity to publicly represent the city in the medium of poetry and to serve the art form and field of poetry within the city.” The Poet Laureate will serve a two-year term, from January 2014 through December 2015, during which time they will be expected to raise awareness of poetry and creative writing within the city of Philadelphia through public events, readings, and community service activities, and provide mentorship to the city’s Youth Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate will receive a stipend of $5,000 over the two-year term.

The city's inaugural Poet Laureate position has been held since January 2012 by poet and retired Temple University professor Sonia Sanchez. Her term ends in December.

The Poet Laureate Governing Committee—which is comprised of writers, editors, professors, and arts organization professionals from the Philadelphia area—will review all applications and make its recommendation to the mayor. Visit the OACCE website for more information and complete guidelines.

The Chicago–based MacArthur Foundation announced last week that it will increase the value of its annual fellowships—also known as “genius grants”—to $625,000.

Previously, grants of $500,000 have been given through the MacArthur Fellows Program to individuals working in various fields including literature, music, visual art, science, and medicine. Past winners—nearly nine hundred since the program's inception—have included poet Kay Ryan and fiction writer Junot Díaz. The foundation last increased the grant amount in 2000.

“We looked at many benchmarks and decided it was time to make an adjustment,” said Cecilia Conrad, vice president of the Fellows Program, who cited inflation as one factor in the decision to increase the grant amounts.

Established in 1970 by philanthropists John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, the MacArthur Foundation bestows the unrestricted five-year grants to individuals based not on their past accomplishments, but instead on their potential.

“We believe the program inspires people from all walks of life to think about how they can use their own skills and ideas to make the world a better place,” Conrad wrote in a recent report on the inspiration and impact of the fellows program.

There is no application process for the grants, and recipients are nominated anonymously. The 2013 fellows will be announced September 25.

In the following video from the MacArthur Foundation, 2012 Fiction Fellow Junot Díaz discusses his work and the impact of the grant.

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